“Bicycle Blackjack and Poker” Review

[LL] “Despite a 2007 copyright date and no indication that the book is based on any older material,” Leroy the Lion conjectured, “Bicycle Blackjack and Poker appears to have been written in the 1970s with very minor updates since then. No general poker book written after Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event championship could possibly dedicate just eight short sentences to Texas Hold ‘Em, the most popular poker variation in the world.

Blackjack gets just sixteen pages, so this is primarily a poker book. But by page count Five-Card Draw gets the most coverage followed by Five-Card Stud and then Seven-Card Stud. That should give you an estimate for the approximate date that the text was written.1

In the end, Bicycle Blackjack and Poker is a short rules reference that’s no better than what you could find on most poker web sites or these Wikipedia articles. Its biggest selling point is probably its cute front and back covers, which resemble a playing card box that’s been squashed a little flatter, taller, and wider.”

Title Bicycle Blackjack and Poker
Author U.S. Playing Card Company
Year 2007
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Very basic primer on how to play blackjack and poker.
Cons Appears to have been written over three decades earlier with very minor changes.
Rating 1.5


  1. Five-Card Draw was already on its way out when the World Series of Poker began and was only contested from 1978 to 1982. Five-Card Stud had an even shorter, earlier run from 1971 to 1974.

“Power Hold’Em Strategy” Review

[LL] “Daniel Negreanu’s Power Hold’Em Strategy seems quite imposing at first glance with over 500 pages”, Leroy the Lion warned, “but you can pare it down if you aren’t interested in one or more of its six sections:

  1. A Simplified Strategy for No-Limit Hold’Em Tournaments by Evelyn Ng.
  2. Winning at High-Limit Cash Games by Todd Brunson.
  3. Playing No-Limit Hold’Em Online by Erick Lindgren.
  4. Short-Handed Online No-Limit Hold’Em Cash Games by Paul Wasicka.
  5. Mixing It Up by David Williams.
  6. Small Ball by Daniel Negreanu.

For example, I wouldn’t even bother reading the first section unless I wanted to teach it to a Hold ‘Em beginner.”

[RR] “Or you could just lend them the book to read that section themselves”, Roderick the Rock suggested.

[LL] “Probably would have been a better idea, since I already had too much contradictory advice floating around in my head. Well, I can’t unread it now. And anyway, it had some good suggestions that I should take to heart.”

[RR] “Really? Oh, it’s probably Kill Phil longball.”

[LL] “It is, but I didn’t mean that part specifically. I meant that we should only raise or fold preflop. No calling. I’m sure there are some valid exceptions, but that advice alone would probably improve my game. Also, don’t try to pick off bluffs. I’m pretty sure most of my hero calls fail.”

[RR] “You’ll always be my hero.”

[LL] “My Hero, Zero. I haven’t even cashed in your tournament in over a year.”

[RR] “But you seem to do fine in the cash games.”

[LL] “Yes, but they’re not exactly high stakes cash games like the younger Brunson writes about. He still has great points, I thought. For example, Ace-Queen used to be considered a ‘trap hand’ that often lost you big pots, but now that players have loosened up so much, if you have Ace-Queen you’re more likely to dominate your opponent than be dominated.”

Similarly, I don’t play online anymore, but Lindgren’s advice to study your opponent’s betting patterns is completely relevant to live games as well. He recommends taking notes, something that you can do in live games…, but I’d suggest doing it away from the table in casual games so you don’t want appear too studious. He also says you should play as many hands as possible against the weak players, which is universally true.

Wasicka’s online section repeats the note-taking suggestion, one of several times when the independence of the sections leads to overlap. His bankroll management advice is applicable beyond online play as are his tips on handling short stackers, maniacs, and tight players.”

[RR] “But that’s already two-thirds of the book that you could have skipped.”

[LL] “Fortunately, they’re less than half of its pages. The book ends with the good stuff.

Williams’s section on mixing up your play is useful except against the weakest, least observant opponents. Against better players though, you always want to have a good idea about how your opponents think you’re playing, so you can surprise them by playing in the opposite way.”

[RR] “Whenever I try to mix it up, I just get mixed up.”

[LL] “Well okay. Then you’ll like the last chapter the best, as I did. Negreanu’s small ball approach is the reason I bought this book, and he doesn’t disappoint, covering a slew of topics for almost 200 pages, longer than his entire last book. The basic concept is simple — keep the pots small with smaller preflop and postflop bets until you have a strong hand — but Negreanu thoroughly explains what this means in terms of hand selection and preflop, flop, turn, and river play. Among the many things he covers are when you should check or bet on the flop, when you should check-raise, and how big your value bets should be.

Title Power Hold’Em Strategy
Author Daniel Negreanu
Year 2008
Skill Level Beginner/Intermediate
Pros Thorough explanation of how to play small ball, plus five other sections that may be useful to you.
Cons Really six books in one by six different authors with some advice repeated multiple times. No index.
Rating 3.5

“Hold’em Wisdom for All Players” Review

[LL] “As much as I love Daniel Negreanu,” Leroy the Lion disclaimed, “I was disappointed by his Hold’em Wisdom for All Players. It’s a book but feels like a collection of poker blog posts.”

[RR] “Which you both read and write all the time”, Roderick the Rock remarked.

[LL] “Yes, but Wisdom has no overriding theme, no continuity, no depth, and no organization.”

[RR] “You’d be happier if you could sort the articles or browse by tag?”

[LL] “With just a little more work, and very little additional writing, Negreanu could have tied the 50 essays together into a cohesive book. Although he did end up creating a great bathroom book, since you can read any chapter at any time in any order.

The articles themselves are mostly pretty good, with my favorites being:

  • ‘Be Careful What You Learn on TV’: Negreanu gambled with his own money on High Stakes Poker but also got paid $1,250 per hour to play.
  • ‘Top Ten Trouble Hands’: Starting hands that can lead you to losing big pots (some of these are repeated in ‘Dangerous Hands to Play, Dangerous Hands to Own’).
  • ‘Where to Sit at the Poker Table’: Where you want to be relative to various types of opponents.
  • ‘The Check-Raise’: An underused weapon.
  • ‘Setting Up a Home Poker Tournament’: Equipment and rules you need to run your own event.

In addition to the trouble hands, there are a bunch of other listicles, starting with the first two chapters: ‘Top Ten Rookie Mistakes’ and ‘Top 5 Reasons Why You’re Losing at Poker’.”

[RR] “I’m sure Stan the Stat would love those.”

[LL] “In general, while most of these articles are well-written, they’re also too short. The book deserved to being double the length of its meager 150 pages, but perhaps Negreanu was saving up some of the good stuff for his voluminous Power Hold’em Strategy, which came out the next year with over 500 pages.”

Title Hold’em Wisdom for All Players
Author Daniel Negreanu
Year 2007
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Occasional pearls of wisdom in an easy read for a strategy book.
Cons Random, overly-brief advice in unrelated essays.
Rating 2.5

“Internet Hold’Em Poker” Review

[LL] “Like Doyle Brunson’s ‘Online Poker’, Avery Cardoza’s Internet Hold’Em Poker seems to have been mostly written to get people playing online poker at a particular site”, Leroy the Lion claimed.

[RR] “I know Cardoza Publishing, but what poker site were they hawking?” Roderick the Rock questioned.

[LL] “Their own: Cardoza Games.”

[RR] “I’ve never heard of that.”

[LL] “And indeed, it didn’t last long, probably only a couple years beyond this book’s publication. Cardoza Games’s web site now redirects to the Cardoza Books store.1

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this one foreshadows what’s inside, as it features a hand holding four Aces, an impossibility in Texas Hold ‘Em.”

[RR] “Undoubtedly a stock photo.”

[LL] “The book makes its next error when it’s still explaining online poker: in the list of ‘Fifteen Advantages of Online Poker’, #12 is ‘You Can Play As a Team’, which is expressly forbidden by pretty much every site. Also, in full knowledge of the cheating that had occurred at Absolute Bet and Ultimate Poker, the book still claims that ‘Online Sites Cannot Manipulate the Software’. It may never happen again at any of the major sites, but it’s completely possible as it would only take one rogue employee.

Despite a section covering the basics of poker, even explaining suits and denominations, this is a fairly thin book for explaining Internet Poker and Texas Hold ‘Em. The cover also teases, ‘Plus 5-card stud, 7-card stud & Omaha’, which get a meager five to six pages each, only enough to list their rules and some very basic strategy. But then, Hold ‘Em doesn’t get a whole lot of specific coverage either as most of the book applies to online poker in general, including 16 pages alone on ‘Getting Into Games’, a section padded with screenshots that were of limited value then and no value now.

The most useful section in the book may be the appendix on internet poker acronyms, which includes three pages of abbreviations and acronyms you might not know if you haven’t played much online poker.”

[RR] “So the book was pretty much a waste of time…”

[LL] “And paper.”

Title Internet Hold’Em Poker
Author Avery Cardoza
Year 2007
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Decent glossary of internet poker acronyms.
Cons Mostly served as an ad for Cardoza Games, which no longer has online poker.
Rating 1.5


  1. Cardoza Books surprisingly still sells this book for $6.47.

“Take Me to the River” Review

[LL] “Peter Alson is just months away from marrying his long-term girlfriend and has written the screenplay for a movie that’s about to start filming in New York,” relayed Leroy the Lion, “but that doesn’t stop him from going to Las Vegas to play poker for a month. His interest in the World Series of Poker began when he read a Sports Illustrated article while in college in 1976, and now, nearly three decades later, he’s managed to get an advance to write a book about his experience playing in the world’s most famous poker tournament.”

[RR] “Some players scrape up $10,000 to buy directly into the Main Event, some satellite in, and apparently at least once a year, a writer bamboozles a publisher to get paid to play it”, Roderick the Rock suggested.

[LL] “That sounds about right. Alson acknowledges The Biggest Game in Town by Al Avarez (who would write about the WSOP a second time from a player’s perspective in Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beats), Big Deal by Anthony Holden, and Positively Fifth Street by James McManus, but each writer brings his own perspective to the task. Alson was inspired by Alvarez to play poker, and over a quarter century later, to try to qualify for the Main Event via a PokerStars online satellite a la Chris Moneymaker.”

[RR] “That makes sense. It’d be a short story if his publisher bought him directly into the Main Event, then he lasted only a few blind levels.”

[LL] “Agreed. Alson provides the requisite summary of the history of the WSOP from the early days up through Greg Raymer’s 2004 victory, which was the final full event at the Horseshoe1 (conveniently replaying on ESPN on the hotel room television). But his journey begins far from Vegas, on his laptop playing on PokerStars. After a particular tough run, in frustration he deletes the app and, after a break, ends up resuming his quest later on the computer of poker pro Shane Schleger,2 who also gives him advice.

The story returns to Las Vegas, starting with the cliche flying-into-Las-Vegas chapter. Alson had been to the WSOP way back in the late 1980s to cover the World Series of Poker (and the Super Bowl of Poker) for The Village Voice and Esquire and played in the Media Tournament a few times without reaching the final table. He finally played in an open event in 2001 and cashed in one preliminary event; he even played in the Main Event but didn’t cash.

Alson’s actually a pretty good player who honed his game at New York City’s Mayfair Club among others.3 He already knew what M and inflection points were before reading Dan Harrington’s books (the second of which Alson was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of). On the other hand, he didn’t take Harrington’s lessons to heart, as in one event he allowed himself to blind down to two orbits worth of chips (M=2).

One of the most interesting tidbits in the entire book is relegated to a footnote. Alson gave his table the Gambler’s Anonymous 20-question compulsive gambler test, and the table averaged 14 positives, two more than Alson and double the amount needed to be considered a compulsive gambler.

Of all the writer-gets-paid-to-chronicle-playing-in-the-WSOP books, only two have truly happy endings: Positively Fifth Street ends with McManus’s excellent finish, and Alson’s tale, albeit not because of his play in the Main Event. He ends up playing a dozen or so satellites and six WSOP events. You can read the book to find out how he did, but if you’ve followed poker for a while, you already know he didn’t get far enough in the Main Event to turn pro as a poker player. If you seek inspiration though, Alson’s ‘Wayward and Perilous Journey to the World Series of Poker’ (as it’s subtitled) is worth reading more for the journey than the destination.”

Title Take Me to the River
Author Peter Alson
Year 2007
Skill Level any
Pros Vicarious ride to and through the World Series of Poker, ending with the Main Event.
Cons Alson neglects to finish telling the story of the 2005 WSOP Main Event, misspells a few player names, and occasionally loses track of position at the table.
Rating 2.5


  1. In 2005, only the last two tables of the Main Event took place at the Horseshoe, with everything else having moved to the Rio.
  2. Alson is good friends with pro Shane “Shaniac” Schleger, having met in New York, and they trade a percent or two of each other when they play in the same tournaments.
  3. The V.F.W. (Thirtieth and Madison) and the Diamond Club (Twenty-Eighth off Seventh).

“My 50 Most Memorable Hands” Review

[LL] “A short book deserves a short review, right?” Leroy the Lion asked rhetorically.

[RR] “Sure, if that makes you feel better about your laziness”, Roderick the Rock quipped. “But your shortcut might be shortsighted.”

[LL] “Don’t be short with me. I know my shortcomings.

Doyle Brunson had already had one of the longest and most successful poker careers ever by the time he wrote My 50 Most Memorable Hands in 2007, so the challenge he faced wasn’t finding enough hands to talk about but reducing his stories down to just 50 (less than one per year). The 168 sparse pages fly by so fast, you might wish he’d included another 50 hands.

Highlights of the book (or lowlights depending on your perspective) include cheating, robbery, and murder (and two other deaths at the table), but there’s also a lot of great poker, including high-stake cash games and ten stories from the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Read this book purely for entertainment purposes. If you happen to learn a little poker strategy along the way, consider it a bonus. The frontier days of poker will never return, so enjoy the reminiscences of a legend who has no shortage of short and tall tales.”

Title My 50 Most Memorable Hands
Author Doyle Brunson
Year 2007
Skill Level any
Pros Entertaining variety of stories with a wide cast of characters, covering half a century of poker. Clear hand diagram graphics with a touch of red for the hearts and diamonds.
Cons Hands are not presented in any particular order.1 Some hands lack details and the book is fairly short. Chapter titles appear in Table of Contents but not in the text, where the hands are simply numbered.
Rating 3.5


  1. The hands are supposedly in the order in which Brunson remembered them, but there was no excuse for not organizing them by date or topic.

Related Links:


“Exploiting Poker Tells” Review

[LL] “Following Reading Poker Tells (2012) and Verbal Poker Tells (2014),” Leroy the Lion began, “Zachary Elwood’s third book, Exploiting Poker Tells, came out in 2017 in response to readers’ requests for more examples, which make up the bulk of this book.”

[RR] “Please tell me all about it”, Roderick the Rock requested.

[LL] “Having previously written 666 pages on poker tells, you’d think Elwood would be out of material, but various new tips appear throughout, while discussions on tells with several poker pros add a different perspective. Mostly though, while the two earlier books focused on spotting and deciphering tells, Exploiting Poker Tells tries to show you what to do once you have, with examples from over 130 live poker hands from Elwood’s own play, other players’ recollections, and televised events. No-Limit Hold ‘Em dominates the examples with some Omaha mixed in. The events range from low buyin amateur cash games to $25,000 WPT Championship hands between top pros and cover a wide variety of tells, organized into Pre-Flop, Flop and Turn, and River sections. The Flop and Turn section is about as long as the other two put together not only because it covers two streets but because those streets are more interesting tells-wise. Pre-flop tends to be more straightforward, while the river involves bigger bets but no longer has draws to deal with.

Elwood, who consulted for Amir Lehavot and Max Steinberg during their WSOP Main Event final table runs in 2013 and 2015 respectively, is a former cash game pro who has become the poker tells guy, belatedly replacing Mike Caro a generation later. Even so, he concedes that tells aren’t 100% reliable and usually affect only a few hands per session, less than once per hour, even for an expert like him. Tells are more prevalent in lower stakes games with weaker players and in cash games, where players tend to be more relaxed than in tournaments. The quantity of tells in the book definitely makes it seem like they’re frequently useful, but these have been collected from years worth of play. Actionable tells can sometimes be more frequent if a particular player has a regular, blatant tell though.

Elwood states, ‘An opponent’s behavior should only infrequently sway your decision. For the most part, your decisions should be based on fundamental strategy.’1 He also stresses that most tells are player-specific. In the same exact situation the same tell may mean one thing with one player and the opposite for another, so it’s important to keep track of how each player behaves.

Elwood’s nuggets of wisdom include this river advice: ‘This is a spot where I know I’m calling but I think there can be value in waiting a few seconds and observing an opponent before calling. It’s a chance to observe a player’s behavior when you know you’ll get to see their hand.2

On the other hand, the biggest flaw in some of the sample hands is that Elwood never finds out what his opponent has, so his analysis remains pure speculation. Removing these hands would have increased the overall quality of the book, which is pretty high nevertheless.”

[RR] “I can tell you liked the book.”

[LL] “Yes, but not as much as his first two, which were more organized and thorough. This format can be more educational depending on your learning style, and the material is certainly less dry.

This is really a book where you won’t learn much from highlights or a summary; you really need to go through all of the examples, as there’s something in practically every hand that may be useful to you.”

The last section is a 57-question quiz, which is probably easier to take as an online quiz, since the scoring is done for you. The downside is that for answers you get wrong, you’ll need to look at the answers in the book for the page numbers where the topic is covered (an odd omission for the online quiz). If you don’t have the book, you can still take the quiz, and your score will reveal if you’d benefit from reading it.

Elwood claims that this is his final poker tells book, as he’s shifted focus to videos, which can be a better medium for learning tells. Exploiting Poker Tells, like the other two books in the trilogy, doesn’t have photos (let alone audio or video), which is unfortunate.”

Title Exploiting Poker Tells
Author Zachary Elwood
Year 2017
Skill Level any
Pros Explains how to use tells with many real-life examples. Ends with a long quiz that will reveal whether you need to reread this book (and maybe his earlier ones as well).
Cons Not as educational as his first two books. In several hands, he never finds out what cards his opponent holds, destroying the value of those examples. No pictures or videos to show what the tells look and sound like.
Rating 3.5


  1. Page 14. “Some inexperienced poker players can have an inflated, unrealistic sense of what is possible with tells. So I want to reiterate: tells are a minor part of plying strong live poker.
  2. Page 173. “You might notice something that may be useful later on. It’s a chance to build a read.”

“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.

“Beyond Bluffs” Review

[LL] “Just one year after publishing Beyond Tells,” Leroy the Lion began, “James McKenna thought the poker-playing public was ready for a sequel.”

[RR] “I take it we weren’t”, Roderick the Rock inferred.

[LL] “No, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d waited a decade. Beyond Tells was already fairly repetitious, so when Beyond Bluffs repeats what’s in the first book, the tedium is painful. ‘Response-Able’ playing and ‘Bluffing Styles’ both reappear, although the latter gets much more coverage. The 27 tells from Caro’s Book of Poker Tells appear in both books, this time listing the bluff counterparts.

On the plus side, most of his examples have changed from Seven-Card Stud to Hold ‘Em, albeit mostly Limit Hold ‘Em. Unfortunately, McKenna’s grasp of Hold ‘Em is significantly weaker. He repeatedly uses terminology awkwardly or incorrectly, like calling the river the ‘Hold ‘Em Card’, labeling a short-stack’s preflop shove of King-Queen a ‘bluff’, and describing being a ‘Calling Station’ as a ‘technique’.”

[RR] “Well, technically it is bad technique.”

[LL] “If you can ignore the pure poker parts of the book though, McKenna’s expertise in psychology does come through. He takes the four poker player quadrants (Reserved vs. Responsive crossed with Receptive vs. Aggressive) from his first book and applies them to both sides of the bluffing equation. He explains what types of bluffs each type of player is likely to try, and what types of bluffs each type is most susceptible to. This is by far the most useful part of the book and makes it worth reading.

Forced to choose, you should read this book over McKenna’s first one,1 but if the two books could be combined into one and reduced to about a third of the total pages, that book would merit four stars.”

Title Beyond Bluffs
Author James McKenna
Year 2006
Skill Level any
Pros Decent if you haven’t read McKenna’s first book, adding useful information comparing player types to bluff types.
Cons Fairly repetitive of his first book. Often awkward when talking about actual poker hands.
Rating 2.5

[LL] “But wait, there’s more…”


  1. I nevertheless rated the first book higher, assuming that you would read the books in order.

“The Poker Tournament Formula 2” Review

[LL] “In 2008, Arnold Snyder followed up with The Poker Tournament Formula 2, one of the most controversial poker books ever written”, Leroy the Lion opened. “Where The Poker Tournament Formula focused mostly on fast-paced tournaments, PTF2 turns to longer, slower events (40+ minute blind levels). The central premise of PTF2 is that in poker tournaments, each chip you gain is worth more than the one before it.”

[RR] “Wait, isn’t that exactly the opposite of what guys like Sklansky and Harrington say?” Roderick the Rock contested.

[LL] “It is. Snyder’s Fundamental Law of Chip Utility is: ‘The more chips you have, the more each of your chips is worth.’ (Corollary: ‘The fewer chips you have, the less each of your chips is worth.’) Unfortunately for Snyder, his ‘law’ fails at the edge case. It’s undeniable that having one chip is worth infinitely more than having zero chips.”

[RR] “A chip and a chair.”

[LL] “But otherwise, Snyder’s logic mostly makes sense given the top-heavy payout structure of most tournaments. He wants you to build your stack at the expense of busting out more frequently.1

Snyder himself stoked the flames of the controversy by posting several articles online, but the reality is that the combatants can mostly just be viewed as the Loose Aggressive camp (Snyder) vs. the Tight Aggressive (Sklansky, Malmuth, Harrington, et al.) camps. A decade later, Snyder’s style is certainly more popular, but both are still completely playable.”

[RR] “I thought you were supposed to mix up how you play. Not that I know from personal experience.”

[LL] “There’s plenty of room for both Harringbots like you and Snyderites like Carlos the Crazy to succeed, but yes, it might be ideal to be a chameleon and tighten up just when your opponents think you’re loose (and vice versa). But you’ve only played in small, fast tournaments, which is not what Chip Utility really applies to. Snyder believes that you need to have over 100 big blinds for ‘Full Utility’. The range goes down to 15, under which you have ‘No Utility’.

Utility Chip Stack % Utility
Full Utility Over 100 BB 100% Utility
Competitive Utility 60-100 BB 75% Utility2
Moderate Utility 30-60 BB 50% Utility
Low Utility 15-30 BB 10-15% Utility
No Utility Under 15 BB 0% Utility

Your first goal is to have Full Utility. But beyond that, you strive for ‘Dominant Utility’, which is when your Full Utility stack is also double the second biggest stack at your table and at least four times the average. Then you can bully the table.”

[RR] “You don’t even start our tournaments with Full Utility, so I guess I’d have to try this out somewhere else.”

[LL] “The second major section of TPF2 gives a formula for the Tournament Utility Factor, which is the Patience Factor (see TPF1) times the Starting Competitive Factor, which is your starting stack divided by the initial big blind divided by 60. This lets your rate tournaments on how deep they are:

Tournament Utility Factor Rank Notes
0 to 5 Rank 0 Crapshoot
6 to 20 Rank 1 Need to build big stack early or bust trying; crapshoot by midpoint
21 to 40 Rank 2 Full Utility allows Small Ball early only
41 to 60 Rank 3 Small Ball early but ideal for Long Ball
61 to 100 Rank 4 Deep stacked, speeding up about halfway through
101 to 200 Rank 5 Full Utility; Small Ball until final table
201+ Rank 6 Full Utility throughout.”

[RR] “So our tournaments are about… Rank 2?”

[LL] “Yes, that’s what I calculated. It’s not bad for an evening tournament, since we can’t play all night…, at least most of you can’t.”

[LL] “The other main section of the book is ‘Five Phases of a Poker Tournament’, which shows you how to apply his utility factor to the Stack Building, Minefield, Bubble, Money, and Final Table parts of long tournaments. It’s a very long section because for each of the five phases he covers what you should be trying to do with various stack sizes. In summary though, try to get back to full utility or die trying!

[RR] “I take it you liked the book though.”

[LL] “Yes, I think it’ll be good for my game. The main weakness of PTF2 though is that Snyder didn’t put enough into the mathematical foundation of his system. He might have found a way around its zero-chip paradox and come up with a more accurate way to calculate utility. Otherwise, it’s a lot of interesting material to think about. It would certainly help you open up your game a couple notches.”

Title The Poker Tournament Formula 2
Author Arnold Snyder
Year 2008
Skill Level Advanced
Pros Thought-provoking, alternative view on how to play deep-stacked tournaments.
Cons Controversial premise. If you agree with it, this is a great book. If not, you should still read the book to see how some of your opponents might be thinking. Not mathematically grounded with few hand examples.
Rating 3.5


  1. Snyder strongly believes that quadrupling your stack early in a tournament is worth busting out three out of four times for. This is one of his many points in his rebuttal of his critics.
  2. This number is interpolated. Snyder’s numbers in general are vague. He adjusts his utility percent up or down by as much as 25% for circumstances like having an aggressive player on his left or a weak player on his right.

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