WSOP Main Event Champions Playing Cards: The Fours

[LL] “The Fours run from to 1982 to 1985”,1 Leroy the Lion said.

Jack Straus

4

Jack Straus

4
Jack “Treetop” Straus
Born: 1930/06/16 (Travis, TX)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1982)
WSOP Bracelets: 2
WSOP Cashes: 3
WPT Titles: N/A
Live Earnings: $830,269
Poker
Hall of Fame
1988
Quote: “I think Texans just got a lot more guts has a lot to do with it, most other folks just don’t take the heat when you start playin’ real poker. In Texas you grow up playin’ poker, it’s a Texas game.” — Jack Straus (1973 Texas Monthly interview).
  • Nicknamed “Treetop” for his great height (6’7″) and bushy hair.
  • Became the source of the phrase, “a chip and a chair”, when he came back from a single, napkin-hidden chip to win the 1982 WSOP Main Event.

Tom McEvoy

4

Tom McEvoy

4
Tom McEvoy
Born: 1944/11/14 (Grand Rapids, MI)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1983)
WSOP Bracelets: 4
WSOP Cashes: 45
WPT Titles: 0
Live Earnings: $3,042,761
Poker
Hall of Fame
2013
Quote: “No Limit Hold ‘Em. Hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror.” — Tom McEvoy.
  • Was the first satellite winner to win the WSOP Main Event.
  • Helped organize the first smoke-free tournament in 1998 and eventually persuaded almost all tournament directors to ban smoking.

Jack “Gentleman Jack” Keller

4

Jack Keller

4
Jack “Gentleman Jack” Keller
Born: 1942/12/29 (Philadelphia, PA)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1984)
WSOP Bracelets: 3
WSOP Cashes: 24
WPT Titles: 0
Live Earnings: $3,900,424
Poker
Hall of Fame
1993
Quote: “[I quit poker] because it had no more to offer me.” — Jack Keller (September 6, 1987, after retiring from poker for a seat on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, regular work hours, and more time to spend with his two sons).
  • Got into poker while in the U.S. Air Force and made a career of it when he left.
  • Won the 1987 Amarillo Slim’s Superbowl of Poker Main Event for $220,000.
  • Also finished 9th in the WSOP Main Event in 1987 and 8th in 1992.

Bill Smith

4

Bill Smith

4
Bill Smith
Born: 1934 (Texas)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1985)
WSOP Bracelets: 1
WSOP Cashes: 3
WPT Titles: N/A
Live Earnings: $1,055,488
Quote: “Well, holidays and weekends are amateur nights. Real drinkers go out during the week.” — Bill Smith (explaining why he didn’t go out on weekends, quoted in T.J. Cloutier and Tom McEvoy’s Championship Omaha). Cloutier also said in a 1999 interview, “when [Smith] was halfway drunk, he was the best player I’d ever played.”
  • Finished in fifth place in both the 1981 and 1986 Main Events for his only two other WSOP cashes.

Footnotes:

  1. This deck doesn’t really physically exist; the versions here are lovingly crafted from JPEGs, CSS, and HTML.

    Cards may not display properly unless you view this post by itself.

    Stats current as of April 27, 2018.

  2. Caricatures and cards are Copyright © 2018 Robert Jen and were created with help from the iOS app Caricature Me and the MacOS app Photoshop Elements.

{ The Hold ‘Em at Home blog is brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most configurable Texas Hold ‘Em game for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. }

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WSOP Main Event Champions Playing Cards: The Treys

[LL] “The Treys run from to 1976 to 1981”,1 Leroy the Lion said.

Doyle Brunson

3

Doyle Brunson

3
Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson
Born: 1933/08/10 (Longworth, TX)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1976, 1977)
WSOP Bracelets: 10
WSOP Cashes: 36
WPT Titles: 1
Live Earnings: $6,131,775
Poker
Hall of Fame
1988
Quote: “No Limit Hold ‘Em… is the Cadillac of Poker games… And it’s truly a game that requires very special talents in order to play it at a world class level.” — Doyle Brunson (1979 Super System).
  • Became the first player to earn $1 million in tournaments in 1980.
  • Won his tenth bracelet in 2005, eight days after his son Todd won his first.
  • Holds the record for most years between first and last bracelets: 29.

Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin

3

Bobby Baldwin

3
Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin
Born: 1950 (Tulsa, OK)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1978)
WSOP Bracelets: 4
WSOP Cashes: 20
WPT Titles: 0
Live Earnings: $2,319,679
Poker
Hall of Fame
2003
Quote: “Playing poker for a living gives you backbone. You cannot survive without that intangible quality we call heart. The mark of a top player is not how much he wins when he is winning, but how he handles his losses. If you win for thirty days in a row, that makes no difference if on the thirty-first you have a bad night, go crazy, and throw it all away.” — Bobby Baldwin (2001)
  • Wrote the Omaha Eight-or-Better chapter of Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2.
  • Originally a poker host but soon promoted into Golden Nugget management then became Mirage president, Mirage Resorts CFO and CEO, and Bellagio president.

Hal Fowler

3

Hal Fowler

3
Hal Fowler
Born: 1927/01/12 (Vermont)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1979)
WSOP Bracelets: 1
WSOP Cashes: 1
WPT Titles: 0
Live Earnings: $383,500
Quote: “No one — and I mean NO ONE — could have beaten Hal Fowler that day. Not even God. He was just getting the cards and that was that [including making four or five inside straights and cracking Bobby Hoff’s Aces on the final hand].” — T.J. Cloutier (quoted by Des Wilson in Ghosts at the Table, 2008).
  • Disappeared from the poker scene after winning the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud at the 1984 Grand Prix of Poker; Wilson hired a private detective to try to find the reclusive champ, but he’d already passed away in a low-income senior residence in California.

Stu Ungar

3

Stu Ungar

3
Stu “The Kid” Ungar
Born: 1953/09/08 (New York, NY)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1980, 1981, 1997)
WSOP Bracelets: 5
WSOP Cashes: 16
WPT Titles: N/A
Live Earnings: $3,675,321
Poker
Hall of Fame
2001
Quote: “It’s hard work. Gambling. Playing poker. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Think about what it’s like sitting at a poker table with people whose only goal is to cut your throat, take your money, and leave you out back talking to yourself about what went wrong inside.” — Stu Ungar.

Footnotes:

  1. This deck doesn’t really physically exist; the versions here are lovingly crafted from JPEGs, CSS, and HTML.

    Cards may not display properly unless you view this post by itself.

    Stats current as of April 27, 2018.

  2. Caricatures and cards are Copyright © 2018 Robert Jen and were created with help from the iOS app Caricature Me and the MacOS app Photoshop Elements.

{ The Hold ‘Em at Home blog is brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most configurable Texas Hold ‘Em game for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. }

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WSOP Main Event Champions Playing Cards: The Deuces

[LL] “The deck of World Series of Poker Main Event Champions will be complete with 52 cards in 2027 (2021 if repeat champs get a separate card for each victory) and 54 cards including two jokers in 2029, but here are the first 42 cards”, Leroy the Lion announced.

The Deuces cover 1970 to 1975:”

Johnny Moss

2

Johnny Moss

2
Johnny Moss
Born: 1907/05/14 (Marshall, TX)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1970, 1971, 1974)
WSOP Bracelets: 9
WSOP Cashes: 27
WPT Titles: N/A
Live Earnings: $1,254,859
Poker
Hall of Fame
1979
Quote: “You have to learn what kind of hand this guy shows down, what that one’s moves, watch the veins in his neck, watch his eyes, the way he sweats.” — Johnny Moss (1975).
  • Declared the winner of the first World Series of Poker by player vote.
  • Won a record 7 WSOP bracelets in the 1970s for the most in a decade.
  • Oldest player to win the WSOP Main Event at age 66 in 1974.

Thomas Preston

2

Thomas Preston

2
Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston
Born: 1928/12/31 (Johnson, AR)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1972)
WSOP Bracelets: 4
WSOP Cashes: 12
WPT Titles: 0
Live Earnings: $587,568
Poker
Hall of Fame
1992
Quote: “Seldom do the lambs slaughter the butcher.” — Amarillo Slim Preston.
  • His eleven appearances on The Tonight Show helped popularize poker.
  • Was the master of the prop bet, beating Bobby Riggs in table tennis using skillet paddles and Minnesota Fats in pool using broomstick cue sticks.

Walter Pearson

2

Walter Pearson

2
Walter “Puggy” Pearson
Born: 1929/01/29 (Adairville, KY)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1973)
WSOP Bracelets: 4
WSOP Cashes: 12
WPT Titles: 0
Live Earnings: $443,480
Poker
Hall of Fame
1987
Quote: “The real things to know is that folks will stand to lose more than they will to win. That’s the most important percentage there is. I mean, if they lose, they’re willin’ to lose everything. If they win, they’re usually satisfied to win enough to pay for dinner and a show. The best gamblers know that.” — Puggy Pearson.
  • Invented the idea of a freezeout poker tournament, telling fellow player Nick Dandolos, who told Benny Binion.
  • Became the first player to win three events in one WSOP in 1973.

Bryan Roberts

2

Bryan Roberts

2
Bryan “Sailor” Roberts
Born: 1931/03/07 (Portland, OR)
WSOP Main Event: 1st (1975)
WSOP Bracelets: 2
WSOP Cashes: 3
WPT Titles: N/A
Live Earnings: $266,650
Poker
Hall of Fame
2012
Quote: “If your opponent raises, and you reraise, and your opponent puts in the third raise, and you have two kings, you’re a huge Underdog to most everyone.” — Sailor Roberts (quoted by Bobby Hoff in Dan Harrington’s Harrington on Cash Games: Volume II [back when the game was much tighter preflop]).
  • Born as Bryan but earned his nickname from his four years in the Navy.
  • Won the $5,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Lowball event the year before his Main Event bracelet.
  • Grew up in San Angelo, Texas.

Footnotes:

  1. This deck doesn’t really physically exist; the versions here are lovingly crafted from JPEGs, CSS, and HTML.

    Cards may not display properly unless you view this post by itself.

    Stats current as of April 27, 2018.

  2. Caricatures and cards are Copyright © 2018 Robert Jen and were created with help from the iOS app Caricature Me and the MacOS app Photoshop Elements.

{ The Hold ‘Em at Home blog is brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most configurable Texas Hold ‘Em game for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. }

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2018 WSOP Schedule


[SS] “The World Series of Poker just keeps on growing”, Stan the Stat related. “They added four events to bring the new record to 78; should hit triple digits around 2022.”

[LL] “What’s new?” Leroy the Lion asked.

[SS] “Big blind antes. Doesn’t affect the mix of events, but it’s an efficient way of implementing antes.”

[LL] “The person in the big blind gets hammered though as he has to ante for everyone.”

[SS] “But it’s completely fair, since that same person avoided paying the ante in every other position.”

[RR] “Carlos the Crazy used to have antes in his home tourneys,” Roderick the Rock recalled, “and I hated them becasue they really slowed things down. This is a terrific solution.”

[SS] “They’re implementing it in just eight Hold ‘Em events this year, but I expect big blind antes will be standard as soon as next year.”

[LL] “And not just at the WSOP… Good stuff, but I was actually wondering what the four new tournaments are.”

[SS] “They added a Hold ‘Em and three Omaha events.”1

WSOP Event Comparison: 2017 vs. 2018

By Game Type:

Game Type 2017 2018 Change
Hold ‘Em 42 43 +1
Lowball 6 6 0
Omaha 11 14 +3
Stud 4 4 0
Mixed Games 11 11 0

By Limit Type:

Limit Type 2017 2018 Change
Limit 17 14 -3
Pot Limit 11 14 +3
No Limit 40 42 +2
Mixed Limit 6 8 +2

By Buyin:

Buyin 2017 2018 Change
$333 1 0 -1
$365 1 3 +2
$565 3 4 +1
$888 1 1 0
$1,000 11 10 -1
$1,111 0 1 +1
$1,500 24 24 0
$2,500 4 4 0
$2,620 1 1 0
$3,000 6 6 0
$3,200 0 1 +1
$3,333 1 0 -1
$5,000 3 3 0
$10,000 15 15 0
$25,000 1 1 0
$50,000 1 2 +1
$100,000 0 1 +1
$111,000 1 0 -1
$1,000,000 0 1 +1

[SS] “This year’s WSOP kicks off with the Casino Employees event on May 30 and ends with the million-dollar buyin Big One for One Drop that goes from July 15 to 17. The Main Event is expected to run from July 2 to 14.”

[LL] “Looking forward to it! Always exciting to see who’s going to win multiple bracelets.”

[SS] “And who’s going to break the record for most cashes.”

[RR] “And it would be great for poker if a famous pro and a woman reached the Main Event final table.”

Footnotes:

  1. The new events are the $50,000 No-Limit Hold ‘Em High Roller (Big Blind Antes), the $100,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller, the PLO GIANT – $365 Pot-Limit Omaha, the Mixed $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better; Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better; Big O (5-Card PLO/8), and the $565 WSOP.com ONLINE Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed. That’s actually five new events as one of the $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘Em events was dropped. The $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop also returns to the WSOP, probably alternating with the High Roller for One Drop – $111,111 No-Limit Hold ‘Em. Some other buyins were slightly changed.

Related Links:

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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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“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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“How I… Won Millions at the WSOP” Review

[LL] “Annie Duke’s biography, How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP, mostly alternates between poker and personal chapters. The poker side starts with the history of playing cards in China in the 9th century but then primarily recounts the 2004 World Series of Poker $2,000 Limit Omaha 8-or-Better tournament. The family side begins with Duke’s parents’ initial meeting and their family life in New Hampshire before Duke moves to New York City, Philadelphia, Columbus (Montana), and Las Vegas.”

[RR] “Sounds like the book covers a lot of ground.”

[LL] “It does. I don’t really like the format as the two tracks aren’t parallel chronologically or any other way, but I suppose it caters to the younger generation’s shorter attention spans.

Growing up in New Hampshire with her intellectual parents, older brother Howard Lederer, and younger sister Katy, who had told her own version of the story two years earlier in Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers,1 Duke paints a picture of a somewhat dysfunctional family, primarily because of her mother’s drinking (she dreamed of being an actress, not a housewife).”

[RR] “Every family seems to have its problems, but poker players definitely have rougher childhoods than most.”

[LL] “I’m not so sure of that; I think the worst ones just stand out. Nevertheless I wouldn’t trade my childhood for most of theirs. After Duke survived hers, she followed Howard to New York City. He had already joined the poker and gambling world, but Annie was focused on school until she met, proposed to, and married Ben Duke.2 Only when she was off in Montana questioning her career choice did she take up poker, with technical and later financial help from Howard.

Eventually, Duke decides to become a professional poker player, moves her family to Las Vegas, and starts winning. That leads to the other half of the book, where she competes at the World Series of Poker. The book covers many Omaha hands, supplementing their instructional value with occasional insets containing general playing tips.

Overall, How I Raised… is a great look at what makes one of the top female players tick. It’s heavier on the autobiography side than the poker strategy side but can be read for either or both.”

Title How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the WSOP
Author Annie Duke (with David Diamond)
Year 2005
Skill Level any
Pros Engaging history plus helpful insets with twenty poker playing tips.
Cons More than you probably want to know about Duke’s health issues.
Rating 3.5

Footnotes:

  1. Katy Lederer’s book doesn’t have enough poker to merit its own review, but she did actually learn how to play and did okay in cash games for a while (no Hendon Mob entry, so she either didn’t play any tournaments or didn’t have any success in them). It is, however, mentioned in chapter 6 and is a very easy read that gives good insight into how Howard Lederer and Annie Duke turned out the way they did.
  2. The actual events took a little longer than that, but not by much. Annie and Ben never even dated! The marriage survived longer than you’d have expected, ending in divorce in 2003 after they had four children.
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