“How to Win the World Series of Poker (or Not)” Review

[LL] “Like Richard Sparks, Pat Walsh dreams of playing the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2005. He starts by walking into a bookstore and accumulating a $400 pile featuring strategy books by Phil Hellmuth, Tom McEvoy, Mike Sexton, David Sklansky, and Doyle Brunson, and history books by James McManus, David Spanier, Al Alvarez, and Andy Bellin”, Leroy the Lion explained.

[RR] “Gotta love his enthusiasm”, Roderick the Rock remarked.

[LL] “Sure, but he went into the book store planning to buy just three books!”

[RR] “Oh, then his decision-making needs a little work.”

[LL] “Or maybe he just didn’t realize how deep the water was. His next steps are methodical enough — creating a ledger to track his wins and losses and opening a separate bank account to segregate his money. But then he takes a misstep or two by buying a couple of Texas Hold ‘Em apps for his cell phone.”

[RR] “In 2005? There weren’t any good poker games for phones then.”

[LL] “Exactly my thought.1 They’re only going to teach him bad habits. But if he’s lucky, all he did was throw away $14 as he quickly realizes they’re not worth playing.”

[RR] “He might as well play solitaire.”

[LL] “His choices for live poker aren’t much better: a social game with extremely loose beginners, a club game in a church basement with slightly stronger players but an extravagant rake, and a restaurant banquet room game with players old enough to be hooked up to oxygen tanks (not that that stopped anyone from smoking). Walsh was a winner in all three, but that says more about the quality of his opponents than his own skill level.

Back at home and playing online, he moves up to $20 sit-and-go tourneys and is doing okay, so he ventures back out, this time to a real casino. He plays in a $1/$1/$3 No Limit Hold ‘Em cash game with some weak players who seem to still be playing Limit poker. He wins almost every session then returns for a tournament, where he reaches the final table and finishes fourth for $680.

Unfortunately, he then hits a painful losing streak both live and online that lasts right up until he has to leave for Las Vegas. Fortunately, unlike Sparks, Walsh has a book deal and simply buys into the World Series of Poker Main Event for the full $10,000.”

[RR] “I’ve never heard of him, so he didn’t win or even make the final table.”

[LL] “I won’t give away the ending, but at least he can brag that he outlasted Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, and Chris Ferguson. In the end though, Walsh has to return to his day job, which fortunately he’s very good at. This was the funniest poker book I’ve ever read. Chapter 2 alone contains these nuggets:

  • [p. 24] ‘When I’m bluffing, I turn as white as Tip O’Neill’s inner thigh, tremble violently, and become incontinent. To combat these subtleties, I wear sunglasses, a plastic bag over my head, and Depends.’
  • [p. 24-25] ‘Winnings are profit; losses are just one-time costs that are actually investments in winning. I learned that from Enron.’
  • [p. 28] ‘Limit poker is for guys trying to kill time before they die. The game is flawed and that’s why I lost.’2

Worth a read for the laughs, but don’t expect to learn much poker strategy or history.”

Title How to Win the World Series of Poker (or Not)
Author Pat Walsh
Year 2006
Skill Level any
Pros Humorous look at poker from very low buyin home games to the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Cons Short (160 pages) and mostly lacking in content. Even the end of the Main Event is glossed over.
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. In this author/developer’s humble but very biased opinion, the first good Texas Hold ‘Em game, THETA Poker, came out for the iPhone and iPod touch in 2008. Its successor, THETA Poker Pro now runs on both of those devices as well as the iPad and Apple TV.
  2. Actually, he didn’t initially realize it was Limit Hold ‘Em. That might be a bigger reason for losing.
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“Diary of a Mad Poker Player” Review

[LL] “Like a lot of us, Richard Sparks prefers to be playing poker instead of doing his actual job, which is writing”, Leroy the Lion began. “Struggling with what to write next, he plays online poker as a diversion when the big light bulb illuminates over his head, and he realizes that he can write about playing poker. Specifically, he’ll document how he qualifies for and plays in the World Series of Poker Main Event1 over the next nine weeks.”

[RR] “I think we all had that hope, I mean the qualifying part not the writing part,” Roderick the Rock suggested, “at least before Black Friday.”

[LL] “Yes, he was writing during the good old days of the Internet poker boom. This book went from current events to nostalgia pretty quickly.”

[RR] “So the book hasn’t aged well?”

[LL] “Actually, it has, relative to other poker books written around the same time, such as the ones that feature Limit Hold ‘Em. And hopefully Sparks’s story will be relevant again soon, and we can return to dreaming about turning a few bucks into a WSOP Main Event buyin.”

[RR] “And a huge cash there!”

[LL] “Since Sparks isn’t able to get an advance for the book, his online poker endeavor is funded from the money he already has in his accounts, his credit card, and even a transfer from his wife (who may actually be the best poker player in the family).

His journey is instructional (sometimes for what not to do), as he slips in a fair amount of strategy advice as he discusses hands from his own experiences, Chris Moneymaker, Sammy Farha, and other famous players. Unfortunately, just because he knows what to do doesn’t mean he does it. His satellite attempts continue to be unsuccessful, and an attempt to build his bankroll through cash games does no better.

Even with his days dwindling, Sparks finds time to be a journalist, especially with his investigation of cheating in online poker. He interviews employees from the then-biggest online sites — PartyPoker, ParadisePoker, and PokerStars in that order — all of whom assure him that they have significant controls in place to detect the most likely form of cheating, collusion. Sparks even pulls it off himself, but since he does it at play money tables, he absolves the site for not catching him.2

SPOILER: (select text to see) The biggest weakness of the book is that Sparks fails to qualify for the Main Event and chooses not to buy in for $10,000. Just when the excitement of the book should be peaking, he becomes just another journalist writing about the tourney instead of continuing with his personal experience in the Championship.

Still, Diary of a Mad Poker Player is an enjoyable read with many entertaining and educational side trips, another case where it really is about the journey not the destination.”

Title Diary of a Mad Poker Player: A Journey to the World Series of Poker
Author Richard Sparks
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Well written mix of history (especially the early days of online poker and its legality), strategy, and personal anecdotes.
Cons Too much minutiae about the author, including poker chat transcripts, and not enough about the 2004 Main Event.
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. At least three authors had the idea before him: Anthony Holden, Al Alvarez, and James McManus, but Sparks was the first to write about trying to qualify through online satellites.
  2. The Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet scandal hadn’t been uncovered yet. It’s a bit ironic that the sites focused so much on preventing their users from cheating, but the biggest problems turned out to be internal.
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“Online Ace” Review

[LL] “Scott Fischman’s Online Ace is a much better book about Internet poker than Doyle Brunson’s ‘Online Poker’“, Leroy the Lion pronounced. “It’s thorough, isn’t trying to hawk any particular online poker site, and gives much stronger strategy advice. While Online Poker is best used for kindling, Fischman’s book will survive the decimation and resuscitation of online poker in the U.S.”

[SS] “So you definitely think online poker is coming back soon?” Stan the Stat wondered.

[LL] “It’s already in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. Pennsylvania appears to be next.”

[SS] “I know that California talks about it every year. They could start a domino effect as the multistate market would immediately be significant.”

[LL] “Yes, the Golden State could be pivotal in undoing the damage of Black Friday. Five years before that fateful day, Fischman quotes lawyer Chuck Humphrey: ‘In today’s tolerant atmosphere, the risk of being charged with a criminal misdemeanor [for playing online poker] is far less than the chance of getting a speeding ticket.’ This proved accurate for the players but not for the poker sites themselves, and we’re all still trying to recover.

Fischman, who won two WSOP bracelets during the summer of 2004, was less prescient regarding cheating in online poker. Just a year after his book came out, several accounts on Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were conclusively determined to have cheated by independent analysis of hand recaps.1 In fact, the cheating on Ultimate Bet had begun the year before, while the Pennsylvanian was still writing.2 Of course, even if Fischman had known any of this, he wouldn’t have wanted to denigrate the product he was trying to sell a book about.

The timing was especially unfortunate because this is a good book, covering a wide range of topics including styles of play, the online lobby, online etiquette, chat abbreviations, special online features, hand histories, statistics provided by sites, and record-tracking.

Fischman details his basic strategy for both online and live play. He covers Sit-N-Gos then moves on to Intermediate Strategy and Multi-Table Tournaments. He correctly decries ‘Stop-Win’ limits while okaying ‘Stop-Loss’ limits because losing that much money might negatively affect your play.

As a bonus, Fischman provides brief biographies of a random set of players: Cliff ‘Johnny Bax’ Josephy (who would go on to final table the WSOP Main Event in 2016), Noah ‘Exclusive’ Boeken, Carlos Mortensen, Michael ‘The Grinder’ Mizrachi, Darrell ‘Gigabet’ Dicken, Mark Seif, Thomas ‘Thunder’ Keller, and Eric ‘Sheets’ Haber.”

[SS] “Does this make up for the time you wasted on Doyle’s book?”

[LL] “Kind of. But it’s not like this book was perfect. For example, Fischman expects you to lose your first online deposit then prescribes a risky bankroll strategy to help you go broke!

Nevertheless, as online poker slowly returns to the U.S. legally, Online Ace returns to usefulness state by state.”

Title Online Ace
Author Scott Fischman
Year 2006
Skill Level Intermediate
Pros Comprehensive introduction to online play with intermediate-level strategy.
Cons Nine pages of blank “Session Notes” for you to fill in were a waste of paper. A downloadable PDF would have been more useful and saved trees.
Rating 4.0

Footnotes:

  1. A good summary of the hole card peeking scandal was posted to the TwoPlusTwo forums on May 18, 2008.
  2. See the Wikipedia section on the cheating scandal in the Cereus Network article.
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“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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“Winning Texas Hold’Em” Review

[LL] “Subtitled ‘Cash Game Poker Strategies for Players of All Skill Levels’, Matt Maroon’s Winning Texas Hold’Em is a complete introduction to Limit Hold ‘Em, covering the rules of the game, mathematical expectations, luck, pot odds, implied odds, betting, position, bluffing, semi-bluffing, deception, slowplaying, psychology, starting hands, playing each street, and a few more advanced concepts.”

[LL] “Stan, you would like some of Maroon’s lists, like his eight ‘Reasons to Bet with Cards Left to Come” (but just three reasons not to and just two reasons to bet on the river), and the five requirements for slowplaying.”

[SS] “Absolutely. I love lists. From elemntary school spelling lists to middle school vocabulary lists to college waiting lists and Dean’s lists to everyday to do lists, packing lists, laundry lists, and shopping lists to longer term wish lists and bucket lists.”

[LL] “Like playing the World Series of Poker?”

[SS} “Yeah, someday…”

[LL] “Unfortunately, while this book may help your overall poker game, it focuses on cash games, not tournaments. You might have a better chance of a bracelet in a Limit Hold ‘Em event though, since the fields are much smaller in general.”

[SS] “So you’d recommend this book then?”

[LL] “For playing Limit Hold ‘Em cash games, yes. Otherwise, no.

When this book was published, Limit Hold ‘Em was the most popular cash game spread in casinos. And while most of the advice applies to every type of poker, a No-Limit Hold ‘Em version of this book would be much more useful now, but unfortunately Maroon never wrote it.”

Title Winning Texas Hold’Em
Author Matt Maroon
Year 2005
Skill Level Beginner to Intermediate
Pros Thorough and well-written, with concepts that apply to most varieties of poker. Nicely printed with red and black playing card graphics.
Cons Features the now less popular game of Limit Hold ‘Em.
Rating 3.0
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“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.
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