“Poker: The Real Deal” Review

[LL] “Dot-com millionaire Phil Gordon1 may be more famous for his various colored poker books,2” Leroy the Lion began, “but Poker: The Real Deal is his magnum opus (with help from Jonathan Grotenstein, who’s more of a writer than a poker player3). Their 2004 book covers the history of poker, starting with the invention of playing cards, moving on to the basics of Texas Hold ‘Em, and taking you all the way to the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Limit Hold ‘Em, online poker, the rules and etiquette of playing in casinos, and tells are all covered before No Limit Hold ‘Em finally enters the scene for good in Chapter 9 almost three-fifths of the way through the book.”

[SS] “Limit was the main game spread in casinos then, so that’s not a surprise”, Stan the Stat explained.

[LL] “Still, the text is breezily readable, almost making learning Texas Hold ‘Em fun. For example, your possible actions are compared to various tools. Folding is the flathead screwdriver, mundane but your most commonly used tool.”

[SS] “I think Phillips heads screws are more popular now.”

[LL] “Could be. Anyway, after saying that betting and raising are your power tools, the analogy silently disappears. Too bad, because I think the deep stack preflop all-in is like a sledgehammer…”

[SS] “Or maybe the top step on a folding ladder, you know, the one that says ‘do not step here'”.

[LL] “Yep, it could get help you reach your goal, but it’s also a long fall.

The book also has its ups and downs. One of the highlights is that each chapter ends with a short quiz, mostly testing what you’ve just learned4 and pitting you against various villains, the last of whom is Phil Hellmuth. Book recommendations are sprinkled throughout; they’re included to supplement the text, which doesn’t go deep into strategy.”

[SS] “And your verdict?”

[LL] “It’s like a starter toolkit. Neither you nor I need it, but it’s a decent place to begin for a neophyte.”

Title Poker: The Real Deal
Author Phil Gordon & Jonathan Grotenstein
Year 2004
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Well written and logically organized. Informal, flowing style makes a pleasant read.
Cons A fair amount on Limit Hold ‘Em (without even explicitly saying so). Not much depth and more than a few inaccuracies.5
Rating 2.5

Footnotes:

  1. With three friends, Gordon started Netsys Technologies, which Cisco Systems bought for $95 million in stock in 1996.
  2. Phil Gordon now has four colored books: Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book: Lessons and Teachings in No Limit Texas Hold’em, Phil Gordon’s Little Blue Book: More Lessons and Hand Analysis in No Limit Texas Hold’em, Phil Gordon’s Little Black Book: Beginning Poker Lessons and the No Limit Lifestyle, and Phil Gordon’s Little Gold Book: Advanced Lessons for Mastering Poker 2.0.
  3. Grotenstein claims to be a professional poker player but has no entry in the Hendon Mob Database, so he’s apparently a cash game specialist (and even then nothing about his poker playing can be found by Google). On the other hand, Phil Gordon has almost $3 million in lifetime tournament earnings, making him the fifth winningest Phil behind Ivey, Hellmuth, Gruissem, and Laak.
  4. My favorite quiz was one that didn’t: matching poker quotes with the movies they came from (and now I need to see the two of the eight movies I’ve missed).
  5. Most of the errors are the same ones all poker books of the era make: e.g., retelling the Nick Dandolos-Johnny Moss marathon that didn’t happen and claiming that Chris Moneymaker bought in for $40. He also includes the common misspellings of Nick “Dandalos” for Dandolos, Jack “Strauss” for Straus, and “Brian” Roberts for Bryan.
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