“Making the Final Table” Review

[LL] “I’ve always dreamed of playing in the World Series of Poker, but it would actually require a lot less travel to play in the World Poker Tour”, Leroy the Lion remarked.

[RR] “Sure, they have a festival at Foxwoods every year”, Roderick the Rock suggested.

[SS] “Sorry, it’s not there anymore”, Stan the Stat corrected. “The closest stop is now the Borgata in Atlantic City.”

[RR] “I wouldn’t think any less of you if you a won a WPT bracelet instead of a WSOP bracelet!”

[LL] “Would be pretty cool if a bunch of us drove down and tried to get in through a satellite.”

[RR] “How much are the entry fees?”

[SS] “The cheapest ones are under $100.”

[LL] “I’m ready; I just finished reading Erick Lindgren’s Making the Final Table. Okay, I’d never be good enough to play in the WPT just by reading that book. But it did put the thought into my head.”

[RR] “It’s a book just about playing on the WPT?”

[LL] “Well, most of the advice covers any Texas Hold ‘Em game but is framed in the context of the WPT. After a brief introduction to the World Poker Tour, Lindgren gives intermediate level advice about playing on the tour, referencing actual tournament setups, blind structures, and even the television lights.

Mike Sexton’s Shuffle Up and Deal, published the same year, gives more of the history of the WPT, but Making the Final Table is a level higher skill-wise.

Lindgren takes a very aggressive approach. Because tournament payouts tend to be top-heavy, he’s willing to bust out early trying to get a big stack, and he’s willing to keep gambling as the event goes on to get to the final table well-equipped. He has no interest in min-cashing or reaching the final table last in chips.

Like Daniel Negreanu, Lindgren believes in the small ball approach to poker. He plays more hands than most, prefers to keep pots smaller before the flop, and uses his superior hand reading skills after the flop. Because he has a wider range than his opponents, he can almost always reasonably represent a hand that hit the flop.

In middle position, Lindgren will play any cards that can flop big, like Ace-Jack or Jack-Nine suited, while in late position, he will play almost any two cards for at least a call.

Other good sections of the book include the most common postflop mistakes (and how to take advantage of them), what to consider when trying to steal the blinds, what to expect if you reach the final table, and how to play heads up.

While the advice specifically addresses the World Poker Tour, most of the book is applicable to any poker tournament.”

Title Making the Final Table
Author Erick Lindgren
Year 2005
Skill Level Intermediate
Pros Good introduction to the World Poker Tour, especially if you want to play on it. Solid, wide-ranging, intermediate-level advice.
Cons Less than a hundred pages on strategy1, far too short (and low level) to prepare you to play on the WPT.
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. The first couple of appendixes waste 22 pages on instantly outdated WPT ranking lists of Millionaires and Money Leaders that are no more than trivial historical curiosities.
Tags:
Categories:

“How I… Won Millions at the WSOP” Review

[LL] “Annie Duke’s biography, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP, mostly alternates between poker and personal chapters. The poker side starts with the history of playing cards in China in the 9th century but then primarily recounts the 2004 World Series of Poker $2,000 Limit Omaha 8-or-Better tournament. The family side begins with Duke’s parents’ initial meeting and their family life in New Hampshire before Duke moves to New York City, Philadelphia, Columbus (Montana), and Las Vegas.”

[RR] “Sounds like the book covers a lot of ground.”

[LL] “It does. I don’t really like the format as the two tracks aren’t parallel chronologically or any other way, but I suppose it caters to the younger generation’s shorter attention spans.

Growing up in New Hampshire with her intellectual parents, older brother Howard Lederer, and younger sister Katy, who had told her own version of the story two years earlier in Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers,1 Duke paints a picture of a somewhat dysfunctional family, primarily because of her mother’s drinking (she dreamed of being an actress, not a housewife).”

[RR] “Every family seems to have its problems, but poker players definitely have rougher childhoods than most.”

[LL] “I’m not so sure of that; I think the worst ones just stand out. Nevertheless I wouldn’t trade my childhood for most of theirs. After Duke survived hers, she followed Howard to New York City. He had already joined the poker and gambling world, but Annie was focused on school until she met, proposed to, and married Ben Duke.2 Only when she was off in Montana questioning her career choice did she take up poker, with technical and later financial help from Howard.

Eventually, Duke decides to become a professional poker player, moves her family to Las Vegas, and starts winning. That leads to the other half of the book, where she competes at the World Series of Poker. The book covers many Omaha hands, supplementing their instructional value with occasional insets containing general playing tips.

Overall, How I Raised… is a great look at what makes one of the top female players tick. It’s heavier on the autobiography side than the poker strategy side but can be read for either or both.”

Title How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP
Author Annie Duke (with David Diamond)
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Engaging history plus helpful insets with twenty poker playing tips.
Cons More than you probably want to know about Duke’s health issues.
Rating 3.5

Footnotes:

  1. Katy Lederer’s book doesn’t have enough poker to merit its own review, but she did actually learn how to play and did okay in cash games for a while (no Hendon Mob entry, so she either didn’t play any tournaments or didn’t have any success in them). It is, however, mentioned in chapter 6 and is a very easy read that gives good insight into how Howard Lederer and Annie Duke turned out the way they did.
  2. The actual events took a little longer than that, but not by much. Annie and Ben never even dated! The marriage survived longer than you’d have expected, ending in divorce in 2003 after they had four children.
Tags:
Categories:

“The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King” Review

[LL] “Michael Craig (or his publisher) deserves significant credit for the catchy title of his book, The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King“, Leroy the Lion claimed. “But the Professor (Howard Lederer) and the Suicide King (Ted Forrest) were just two of over a dozen top poker pros who played sky-high stakes heads-up Limit Hold ‘Em against the Banker (Andy Beal) over a few years until Beal gave up his high stakes hobby.”

[LL] “Despite being non-fiction, Craig’s prose is more entertaining than C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, requires more suspension of disbelief than Grimm’s The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, and provides more lessons than Aesop’s The Lion, the Bear, and the Fox“.

[RR] “What about the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[LL] “That depends on how you feel about gambling. I say, ‘It’s not gambling if you expect to win’, so the poker pros did no wrong, except perhaps gambling beyond their means. Beal is pretty innocent too, as it was practically play money for him. With a net worth of about $10 billion, playing with a $20 million bankroll was basically the equivalent of you and I playing penny ante poker.

And he did his homework. He studied, ran simulations, and practiced Heads-Up Limit Hold ‘Em. He did his best to increase the stakes beyond the pros’ comfort level, well beyond the highest stakes that had ever been played in the Big Game, which had shifted to the Bellagio from the Mirage in October 1998 as Bobby Baldwin moved over to his own new poker room.”

[RR] “But the pros did end up winning, right?”

[LL] “Yes, but it’s fascinating to see how close they came to failing spectacularly. Their edge may have been smaller than they realized, and the variance at such high stakes was too high for their bankroll, but under Doyle Brunson’s leadership, they decided the risk was worth the upside.”

[RR] “Bankroll management has been a downfall for many poker pros. But at least it worked out for the Corporation. I take it you recommend the book?”

[LL] “The good, the bad, and the ugly: it’s a fascinating read; except for Beal’s brief returns in 2006 and 2015,1 nothing like this has ever happened in poker before or since. Unfortunately, the story is rather repetitive, much like the game itself. Of all the poker games they could have played, Beal chose Heads Up Limit Hold ‘Em, which is one of the least exciting games if not for the sky-high stakes. It would also be the first poker variation conquered by computers a decade later because of its simplicity.

It’s a unique volume in all of poker literature.”

Title The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King
Author Michael Craig
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Fascinating insider’s account of the highest stakes poker ever played.
Cons A bit repetitive and almost entirely about the relatively simple game of Heads-Up Limit Hold ‘Em.
Rating 3.0

Footnotes:

  1. After the book was published, Beal returned to play the Corporation in 2006 and won $13.6 million. But a week later, Phil Ivey took it all back, plus another $3 million, sending Beal into poker retirement again. Beal played casually after that, only returning briefly to Bobby’s Room in 2015 for a single, $50,000/$100,000 Limit Hold ‘Em heads up match in which he lost $5 million to Todd Brunson.
Tags:
Categories: