“Online Poker” Review

[LL] “One book I pretty much regret wasting my time reading: Doyle Brunson’s Online Poker“, Leroy the Lion opined.

[SS] “Why?” Stan the Stat encouraged.

[LL] “It’s basically a 192-page ad for Doyle’s Room, which was already having difficulties before it shut down less than a month and a half after Black Friday in 2011.”1

[SS] “Sorry, you’re not getting your time back. But did their customers get their money back?”

[LL] “Actually, U.S. players were first told they could no longer play back in 2007, when the UIGEA first rattled the site, and were given the option of moving their funds to Full Tilt Poker. Doyle’s Room accepted Americans again for a while in 2008 and again from 2009 on as part of the Cake Poker Network. In late 2011, the site was bought by America’s Cardroom, which reopened it with a .eu address, leaving all accounts intact.

Unfortunately, even though the site still exists, with the change in the online poker landscape in the U.S., other parts of the book are quite outdated, including lists of where to play, where to learn, and where to discuss poker (pretty much only TwoPlusTwo.com is still around).

Brunson’s lists of ‘Four Reasons Online Poker Is Worse’ (than live poker), ’24 Reasons Online Poker Is Better’, ‘Seven Powerful Plays and Manuevers’, ’25 Online Poker Tips’, and ’10 Key Tips to Winning Online’ are mostly still relevant, but a good chunk of the items seemed painfully obvious to me.”

[SS] “So not exactly my kind of lists?”

[LL] “Maybe with a little editing. But Brunson’s best advice isn’t in any of the lists. In the ‘Winning Game Strategies’ chapter, he advises you to read his Super System and Super System 2 instead. Except for brief sections on physical tells, everything in both books applies just as well to online poker as live games.

Those two books are so far superior to this one, they don’t belong on the same shelf. Brunson was smart enough to cut ties with his eponymous poker room on Black Friday;2 he’d do well to separate himself from this book as well.”

Title Online Poker
Author Doyle Brunson
Year 2005
Skill Level Beginner to Intermediate
Pros Well-edited introduction to playing online poker.
Cons Basically designed to get you to play on Doyle’s Room, which is no longer accessible from the U.S.
Rating 1.5

Footnotes:

  1. The other smaller sites that were axed by the U.S. Department of Justice were: 2Betsdi.com, beted.com, betehorse.com, betgrandesports.com, betmaker.com, bookmaker.com (still exists as bookmaker.eu), funtimebingo.com, goldenarchcasino.com, and truepoker.com (now forwards to the Two Plus Two Poker Forums).
  2. Unfortunately for Brunson, he had already missed his chance to sell out for $230 million.
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“The Best Hand I Ever Played” Review

[LL] “When Ron Rose wrote Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker,” Leroy the Lion began, “he promised to publish a sequel. It never happened, possibly in part because just one year later, ESPN commissioned Steve Rosenbloom to write a similar book for them. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Rosenbloom’s book, The Best Hand I Ever Played, actually exceeds its inspiration with quality over quantity.1

Each of the 52 sections runs two to three pages, with a brief biography, the pro’s favorite poker hand he or she played, and a wrapup2.

The best way to tell how good this book is is simply to list the 52 players interviewed for it: Josh Arieh, Joe Awada, Lyle Berman, Doyle Brunson, John Cernuto “Miami John”, Johnny Chan, T.J. Cloutier, Hoyt Corkins, Kassem “Freddy” Deeb, Martin de Knijff, Annie Duke, Antonio Esfandiari, Scott Fischman, Layne Flack, Alan Goehring, Phil Gordon, Gavin Griffin, Hassan Habib, Gus Hansen, Jennifer Harman, Dan Harrington, Bobby Hoff, Chip Jett, Mel Judah, Thomas Keller, Phil Laak, Howard Lederer, Kathy Liebert, Erick Lindgren, Marcel Luske, Matt Matros, Tom McEvoy, Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, Evelyn Ng, Men Nguyen, Scotty Nguyen, Paul Phillips, Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston, Greg Raymer, David “Chip” Reese, Ron Rose, Erik Seidel, Mike Sexton, Charlie Shoten, Barry Shulman, Gabriel Thaler, Dewey Tomko, David “Devilfish” Ulliott, Amir Vahedi, David Williams, and Robert Williamson III.

This group, which now includes fourteen Poker Hall of Famers, has won ten WSOP Main Event championships and finished second eight times.”

[RR] “Still no Johnny Moss”, Roderick the Rock complained.

[LL] “Well, he couldn’t be interviewed for the book since he’d been dead a decade already.

My only real complaint about the book is the choice of the inaccurate ‘Best’ in the title. The hands may be the pros’ favorites or most memorable but many required little or no skill and so could hardly be described as ‘Best’. But it’s an excellent read that is as entertaining today as it was when it was published.

Title The Best Hand I Ever Played
Author Steve Rosenbloom
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Wide variety of entertaining and educational stories from 52 poker pros. Excellent use of sidebar to define glossary terms.
Cons Could have used a little better editing.
Rating 4.0

Footnotes:

  1. Rose’s book features 89 players, 37 more than the 52 here. Coincidentally, 37 players appear in both books, meaning 52 are in Poker Aces that aren’t in Best Hand. { April 4, 2018 Update: alas, my count was off. Poker Aces has 51 players who aren’t in Best Hand, while Best Hand has 14 that aren’t in Poker Aces }.
  2. The wrapup section is called “The Rake”, which in poker is the fee that the house collects from the players, but here refers to the lesson you should have learned from the story.
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“Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker” Review

[LL] “In 2004, poker pro Ron Rose wrote a mini-poker player encyclopedia called Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker, featuring 89 players from around the world”, Leroy the Lion explained. “Each player gets two facing pages, including three photos,1 two quotes (usually from the player but not always), and brief sidebars covering biographical details (like birth year and place, colleges, and previous jobs) and poker accomplishments.

[RR] “How did he pick those 89 players, and why not an even 100?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[LL] “Rose selected players from four categories:

  • Phil Hellmuth’s Champion of the Year rankings
  • Card Player magazine’s best players of the year
  • Poker in Europe’s player of the year stats
  • Other famous players he wanted to add

So, yes, he could easily have added eleven great veteran pros like Crandell Addington, Johnny Moss, Puggy Pearson, and Jack Straus to get to an even 100.”2

[RR] “What, no Johnny Moss?”

[LL] “I think he preferred players who were still fairly active on the tournament scene.

Unfortunately, this means the book contains a fair number of players whose peak of fame was neither bright nor long. Fourteen years later, more than a few of the names3 are unrecognizable to all but the most ardent poker fans. I doubt many current poker fans can pick Paul Phillips (#16 on 2003 Champion of the Year list) or Asher Derei (top European player) out of a police lineup, but that doesn’t mean that their stories aren’t enjoyable.

Still, the big (9″ x 11.5″) but fairly thin (180 pages) book is fun to read or just browse, making it a very good coffee table/bathroom book.”

Title Poker Aces: The Stars of Tournament Poker
Author Ron Rose
Year 2004
Skill Level any
Pros Brief biographies and stories from a wide range of poker pros around the world.
Cons Because of the rigid format, the feats of the more accomplished are squeezed, while the lesser players biographies are sparse. Includes many European players who aren’t that well known in the U.S.
Rating 3.0

Footnotes:

  1. There are four exceptions: Joe Beevers, David Benyamine, and Erick Lindgren get four photos, while Chris Karagulleyan gets only two.
  2. My guess is that he couldn’t get the rights to photographs cheaply enough (or maybe he wanted to save some great players for the sequel).
  3. That includes Rose himself, who had a career year in 2003, winning the WPT World Poker Challenge in Reno for $168,298, the WSOP $1,000 Seniors No Limit Hold ‘Em for $130,060, and the World Poker Tour Battle of Champions for $125,000 for the three biggest cashes of his career and his only WSOP and WPT bracelets. He apparently retired from competitive poker shortly after a second final table in the Seniors event in 2006.
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“Tournament Poker and the Art of War” Review

[LL] “Like Larry Phillips’s 1999 Zen and the Art of Poker and 2003 The Tao of Poker, David Apostolico’s 2005 book, Tournament Poker and the Art of War, compares poker to an entirely different discipline, quotes from famous old books, and repeats itself over and over again”, Leory the Lion analyzed. “But the Sun Tzu-inspired book is the best of the three, as poker is much closer to war than it is to mindful meditation!”

[RR] “Oh, I don’t know,” Roderick the Rock countered. “I find meditation extremely helpful after my umpteenth straight bad beat.”

[LL] “Yes, but that’s after you bust out of the tournament. The Art of War is more useful during the event. Maybe it’ll help you inflict some pain on other players instead of suffering yourself.”

[RR] “So, does Apostolico say that getting eliminated from a tourney is like dying?”

[LL] “No, oddly he doesn’t. He’s more focused on general strategies. Big picture. The forest, not the trees.”

[RR] “Such as?”

[LL] “Knowing the enemy and yourself. Planning thoroughly. Deceiving your enemy. Hiding your strength. Attacking your opponent’s weakness. Seizing the initiative. Taking calculated risks.”

[RR] “I see how those all apply to both fields. Did you like the book?”

[LL] “Yes, since I haven’t read Sun-Tzu’s book, The Art of War, I probably learned more about waging war than I did about playing poker. The parallels are apt, much more so than the stretched analogies in both of Phillips’s books. Unfortunately, Apostolico’s sound advice is intentionally lacking in all the details you’d need to put his recommendations into effect in your next poker game without some more serious thought and planning on your part. So, although the book was enjoyable enough (although a long blog essay might have been better), it won’t improve your poker game much.”

Title Tournament Poker and the Art of War
Author David Apostolico
Year 2005
Skill Level Any
Pros Easy read with apt analogies between war and poker.
Cons Very repetitive. General advice only.
Rating 2.0
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“Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’Em” Review

[LL] “I was pretty sure Zen and the Art of Poker would remain unrivaled as the worst poker book I’ve ever read, but Dennis Purdy’s Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’Em is also a contender. Although the book is subtitled ‘Making Winners out of Beginners and Advanced Players’, the material is really for beginners only. Like Maroon’s book, this book covers Limit Hold ‘Em even as it acknowledges that television coverage is all about the No-Limit game (and casinos would soon follow suit).

The two books are very similar in actually being much shorter than they appear because of repetition. But while Larry W. Phillips’s book mostly spews harmless advice, Purdy’s can cause some serious damage to your game.

After less than thirty pages of overview, including inaccurate ‘relative win rates’ of the 169 starting hands,1 the meat of the book contains 150 ‘Practice Situations’. Each hand gets two pages, whether it needs them or not, including a diagram that tells you that ‘BB’ means ‘big blind’ and ‘SB’ means ‘small blind’ all 150 times. What that means is that the book’s 368 pages are effectively much shorter. If you include all the hands that are so similar to each other that the repetition is useless, this effectively becomes a much shorter book that could easily have shed half its pages without any loss.

On some hands, Purdy plays very tightly, but on others he bets like a maniac (e.g., capping the betting with a poor straight draw on a board with a possible flush draw). Mostly he plays too passively. Add in his bad beat stories that we don’t need to hear and errors like miscounting outs2 and miscalculating odds3 sprinkled throughout the book, this book earns a tie for the lowest rating I’ve ever given. If I had to choose, I’d prefer Zen and the Art of Poker, since it least has some entertaining quotes.”

Title Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’Em
Author Dennis Purdy
Year 2005
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Large glossary (30 pages) but with unnecessary padding.4
Cons Covers Limit Hold ‘Em; material wasn’t great to begin with and hasn’t aged well.
Rating 1.5

Footnotes:

  1. Purdy ran a simulation of a million hands, which was clearly far too few. The most egregious error is his claim during hand #136 that Queen-Ten offsuit wins 9.3% of the time but that jumps to 39.4% if suited. Being suited never has that dramatic a difference (three percentage points at best). He also ranks Seven-Two offsuit ahead of a staggering 30 other hands.
  2. Hand #107 states that a straight flush draw has 17 outs, but two of the straight and flush outs are shared, so there are only 15 outs.
  3. Hand #142 compares the odds of a hitting a set on the turn or river to the bet being faced on the turn alone.
  4. Once he’s explained that “Aces full” means a full house of Aces and another denomination, he really doesn’t need to include the other twelve denominations.
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