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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Internet Poker Books

1 October 2003

Overheard countless times: "Hold'em's the same as seven-card stud except all the players use the same five upcards."

Not yet overheard: "Cyberpoker's the same as live poker except you can't see your opponents."

There's no denying this: People are going to play poker on the Internet.

They're going to log on to some cyberpoker site so for any number of personal reasons, the main one probably being their inability to access a public cardroom at any hour of the day and night. But that's not the only reason. In an Internet game a player doesn't have to toke the dealer, doesn't have to tolerate a bad dealer, doesn't have to stand in line on be put on a waiting list, and can change games at will. In an Internet game a player can play more than one game, even at more than one casino at a time, without regard to dress code and never be reprimanded for eating a glazed donut and getting the cards all sticky. In an Internet game a player can compete with high-stakes players who have been hired to promote the site, can participate in tournament action, can play for really small stakes, and can get often get advice from professionals.

If you round up a dozen Internet poker players and ask why they play on the Net, you could conceivably get two or three dozen‹or more‹different responses.

But if you corralled a dozen people in general, you might not find a single one who even knows that Internet poker exists. Out of another sampling, you might find people who have tried and failed miserably at Internet poker.

But, anyone who plays poker eventually learns about the abundance of games lurking inside their desktop units and eventually they're going to visit a site. Once there, many will indeed participate.

That's where the trouble could start because too many will assume the game on their screen is the same as their game at the Taj or the ŒShoe or Bellagio or local Native American casino. And that's why serious poker players are fortunate to have four books to help reduce any fearfully steep learning curves and assist in recognizing the vast differences between live action style and cyberstyle poker.

The four titles are:

• Internet Poker: How to Play and Beat Online Poker Games by Lou Krieger and Kathleen Keller Watterson

• Internet Texas Hold'em: Strategies from an Internet Pro by Matthew Hilger

• Killer Poker Online: Crushing the Internet Game by John Vorhaus

• Poker on the Internet by Andrew Kinsman

Of the four titles now available to potential (and current) Internet players, all assume the reader/player has enough computer and Net surfing capability to find his or her way around the Interent via keyboard and mouse. Except for mentions of AOL (America Online) and it's semi-free play, don't expect any of the books to tell you how to turn on the computer, log on to the Internet, choose a browser, or even type in a URL.

This is good, sort of -- but it's also an oversight, I think, to neglect this important issue.

Just this weekend, for example, I helped a friend set up his new computer. A long-time AOL user who had been using the Web for sports stats and information, his new computer and high-speed connection came with, what else, Internet Explorer. I was surprised that someone who had been using the Net for so many years was totally unfamiliar with the independent IE browser.

Additionally, I think I have talked to fifty people in the last few years about gaming software they've purchased. In almost every case, the problems they were experiencing were not with the software or even with the computers they were using but with their lack of familiarity of the computer itself. Lacking intuitive skills or neglecting to follow instructions usually leads to complete frustration.

Granted, these books are about playing poker, not about how to use a computer. But I think it's important for prospective readers to know that if they are not computer savvy, they should cover that territory before attempting to put their money on the line.

One thing you don't have to worry about with at least three of these books is how to play poker. While Hilger's book concentrates on hold'em, Kreiger/Keller-Watterson, and Kinsman all provide basic poker instruction. All three also provide details of how cyberpoker is similar to and different from live action poker. Vorhaus, on the other hand, dispenses with the basic computer and poker lessons, preferring instead to jump right into the battle with plenty of personal experience lessons. Like Kinsman's, his book is ideal for the player who has read the other two books, has been online and played either for free or for money, and is now ready to attack the game most aggressively. These two authors teach you how to run to the best of your ability after the other have taught you how to stand, balance, and walk.

I'm fairly certain a person with average computer skill can jump into cyberpoker and succeed. I'm just not sure it's wise to try it.

As suggested by Krieger/Keller-Watterson and Kinsman, beginners should familiarize themselves with the etiquette of online poker by watching some games in progress, by playing in the play money or very low-limit games, and by generally finding a moderate comfort zone before actually putting their money on the line.

I'm also fairly certain a person can shave a good deal time off the learning curve by reading at least one but preferably all of these books. As for me, I'm going through each one of them a second time.
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com