“Beyond Traps” Review

[LL] “Another year, another book”, Leroy the Lion continued. “James McKenna followed up Beyond Tells (2005) and Beyond Bluffs (2006) with Beyond Traps in 2007. This is at least one book beyond how many he should have written, and it’s beyond me why he thought a trilogy was necessary.”

[RR] “I suppose you aren’t beyond words though?”, Roderick the Rock suggested.

[LL] “That was probably going to be the name of his fourth book, to keep the clever naming consistent. Unfortunately, McKenna is consistently awkward; he refers to ‘table bracelets’ (what the rest of the world calls WSOP bracelets) and the ‘national championship’, which is actually the World Series of Poker Main Event. He denigrates Mike Matusow, who ‘has never won a bracelet at a winning table’.2 What does that even mean? The Mouth had already won two WSOP bracelets between the time the book was written and published and has added two more since.

My favorite parts of the book are the ones that had nothing to do with poker. He relates inspirational sports stories about miler Glen Cunningham, long distance runner Emil Zatopek, diver Greg Louganis, and speedskater Joey Cheek.”

[RR] “But why are they even in the book?”

[LL] “Maybe because he couldn’t shoehorn then in to either of the first two? Actually, they fit in with the sections that belong in a self-help book: ‘Nine Characteristics of Winners’, ‘Heads of Winners’, ‘Shoulders of Winners’, ‘Bodies of Winners’, and ‘Foundations of Winners’. But this isn’t even a decent psychology book that happens to mention poker. I know my own writing isn’t beyond reproach, but it’s beyond question that you can safely skip this book and not worry that you missed anything.”

[RR] “Beyond doubt.”

Title Beyond Traps
Author James McKenna
Year 2007
Skill Level any
Pros Some interesting applications of psychology to poker if you haven’t read either of the two previous books in the series.
Cons Not much value added over his first two books. Often awkward or inaccurate when talking about actual poker hands.3
Rating 2.0


  1. Star Trek: Beyond didn’t come out until 2016.
  2. See page 9.
  3. For example, on page 39 McKenna discusses having a $5,400 stack with blinds at $2,000 and $4,000, a state in which you should never find yourself except in the rare case of losing an all-in to a very slightly smaller stack. And on page 49, he refers to King-Four as having a bad kicker despite the board having given the player two pairs.

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