“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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