Category Archives: Books

“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

Footnotes:

  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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“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…”

Footnotes:

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

Footnotes:

  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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“The Poker Tournament Formula” Review

[LL] “In 2006, Arnold Snyder’s The Poker Tournament Formula brought a novel approach to poker tournaments: design your playing strategy around the speed of the tournament. Start by looking at the blind schedule and figuring out how long you would last if you simply folded every hand.”

[RR] “That sounds like M.”1

[LL] “Well, yes, but apparently Snyder hadn’t read Dan Harrington’s book yet. It had only come out a couple years earlier.

Anyway, he converts that to a ‘Patience Factor’ to tell you how much skill the tournament requires (the lower the Patience Factor, the more luck matters as players get short-stacked earlier).”

[RR] “So, if you suck at poker, you want to play in low-patience crapshoot tournaments, and if you’re a pro, you want two-hour blind levels and multi-day tournaments?”

[LL] “That about sums it up. But the precision with which he categorizes tournaments is impressive. And since this is homework you do before you buy into a tournament, doing the math isn’t a problem.”

[LL] “The book proceeds to spell out how you should play in faster tournaments by introducing ‘Texas Rochambeau’. Use your cards (paper) to beat your opponents’ chips (rock). Use your chips to beat your opponents’ position (scissors). Use your position to beat your opponents’ cards. Despite the cycle, Snyder considers position to be the most important, since you’re guaranteed to get it regularly, and cards the least important since you can go long stretches without getting anything playable. Snyder claims, ‘The reason basic position strategy works irregardless of your cards is that you don’t win a fast tournament by betting on your strong hands so much as by betting against your opponents’ weak hands.’2

Snyder wants you to play very aggressively in position against opponents who are just limping, checking, and calling, betting almost regardless of your cards preflop, continuation betting on the flop, and firing again on the turn and river if necessary. ‘All postflop position play is very high-risk, but if you do not make occasional high-risk plays, you’ll never make it into the big money.’3 You need to slow down in multiway pots, however.

Snyder wants you to play fewer hands in early position but still fairly loose: any pair of Sevens or higher and Ace-Jack or better. You should raise when first in and with the better pairs (Jacks plus) and Ace-King with limpers in front, otherwise just call.

In middle position, you can add King-Queen suited down to Jack-Ten suited to the mix. In late position, you can also play the rest of the pairs, Ace-Ten, Ace-Nine suited, and Ten-Nine to Eight-Seven suited.

You should follow Snyder’s position strategy first, then if that would indicate a fold, look at your cards and follow the card strategy.

After the flop, you need to read the board and bet your strong hands, making a pot-sized bet if there are likely draws. Value bet your made hands when you have a straight or better; you can mostly ignore the possibility of full houses in fast tournaments. Don’t slowplay as the best way to win the most chips is to play your good hands fast.”

[LL] “Snyder also talks about player types. Instead of Hellmuth’s animal types (which he says originated with Ken Buntjer), Snyder proposes a slew of categories:

  • Ace Masters: will play any Ace, no matter how bad the kicker
  • Flush Masters: will play any two suited cards, hoping for a flush but willing to bet just a draw
  • Pair Masters: will play any pair
  • Cagey Codgers: mostly play ring games to socialize; like to limp to see a flop
  • Canasta Ladies: most play low-limit ring games; very tight and straightforward
  • Boat People: smart, aggressive and fearless
  • Show ‘N’ Tellers: love to show their cards even when they don’t have to
  • Ball Cap Kids: young, smart, aggressive, and bluff-loving
  • Wimps: tight and fearful of whatever hand fits the board
  • Oafs: weak players, especially tourists.”

[RR] “Not exactly politically correct and way too many. Most players are going to belong to multiple categories.”

[LL] “Other topics covered include rebuys, add-ons, bounties, additional types of bluffs, showing your cards, table image, common mistakes, chopping prizes, satellites, luck, and cheating. And then after all of that, Snyder titles Part Four: ‘The Most Important Chapters in This Book If You Want to Make Money’. This includes bankroll management, estimating chips in rebuy events, crunch time, and ‘What I Can’t Teach You’.

This is a very comprehensive book. It’s also well-written and mostly well-edited, a good read for any tournament player.”

Title The Poker Tournament Formula
Author Arnold Snyder
Year 2006
Skill Level Advanced
Pros Provides a detailed strategy for winning fast-paced No-Limit Hold ‘Em tournaments after giving you a formula for determining a tournament’s speed.
Cons Complicated math with no attempt to provide shortcuts.
Rating 4.0

Footnotes:

  1. Snyder’s chip strategy is to similar to Harrington’s color-coded M strategy but goes into much greater detail about what you should be doing with a big, medium, short, very short, or desperate stack. Unfortunately, he talks in terms of big blinds, meaning that he has to give ranges with and without antes, the latter of which is still inaccurate as ante sizes relative to the blinds can vary greatly.
  2. Page 74.
  3. Page 83.
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“52 Tips Hold ’em Poker” Review

[LL] “I wasn’t much of a writer in college”, Leroy the Lion reminisced, “but Expository Writing was a required course, and I always struggled to meet the minimum length requirements for the papers. On one particular assignment, I couldn’t even get to five pages without starting halfway down the first page, double-spacing, and adding huge margins.”1

[RR] “And if I remember right, you managed to graduate without writing anything much longer”, Roderick the Rock confirmed.

[LL] “Yep. No thesis. Nothing longer than ten pages. Little did I know that I’d be writing 200-page user guides in the near future.”

[RR] “Were you going somewhere with this?”

[LL] “I did have a point… which was that Barry Shulman has also mastered the art of content expansion. Shulman, who runs Card Player magazine with his son Jeff, called his own number to write a ’52 Tips’ series of poker books starting in 2005. The first book, titled 52 Tips for Texas Hold’em Poker, covered just Limit Hold ‘Em despite the more general name. The following year’s sequel was the one I wanted and bought, 52 Tips for No-Limit Hold’em Poker.

Despite physically occupying 135 pages, copious white space (including huge card graphics that take up half a page for each of the 52 tips and an average of almost that much emptiness at the end of each section) means the actual content could have fit comfortably in about 80 pages. What’s in the book is pretty good, but there just isn’t much of it. Almost every piece of advice leaves the reader pondering follow-up questions that go unaddressed.2

On the plus side, the variety is good. Although I don’t agree with all of the advice, you could do worse for an introductory book. This can’t be the only one you read but hopefully leaves you wanting to learn more about the great game of No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em! Just not from Barry Shulman though, as he never did get around to writing a third book for the series.”

Title 52 Tips for No-Limit Hold’em Poker
Author Barry Shulman & Roy Rounder
Year 2006
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Concise, easy to digest articles with sound advice.
Cons Very short, with no depth anywhere.
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. Maybe my mistake was choosing the science writing course. I just didn’t have that much to say about vernier calipers.
  2. For example, how can you cover “Knowing What Your Opponents Are Holding” in a single page? That’s a subject worthy of entire books.
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“Kill Phil” Review

[LL] “Phil Hellmuth may not be the best behaved poker pro, but his results are indisputably excellent, especially in No Limit Hold ‘Em tournaments”, Leroy the Lion conceded. “Blair Rodman and Lee Nelson propose a strategy for turning the tables and putting the pressure on the Poker Brat, Phil Gordon, Phil Ivey, Phil Laak, and any other top player whether they’re named Phil or not.”

[RR] “But without all the gratuitous violence in the Kill Bill standard hand group charts, they’re about three groups apart. The gap is for a good reason: you only flop a flush draw about 11% of the time with suited cards. And that’s not even taking into account the expensive times when you hit your flush and run into a bigger one.

Kill Phil is best suited to beginners who want something that’ll work quickly and players of any skill who have the mentality to embrace the swingy nature of longball.”

Title Kill Phil
Author Blair Rodman & Lee Nelson
Year 2005
Skill Level Beginner/Intermediate
Pros Presents a system that a complete novice can learn in a few hours and have a competitive chance at winning a poker tournament.
Cons Playing style may antagonize opponents and requires more than usual patience.
Rating 3.5
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“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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