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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

McKenna's Beyond Traps; Stann's Hollywood Blackjack provoke thought

27 September 2007

If you enjoyed James McKenna's Beyond Tells you'll appreciate his focus in Beyond Traps -- The Anatomy of Poker Success (234 pages, paperbound, $15.95). Too, if you want an offbeat approach to beating 21, Hollywood Dave Stann's Hollywood Blackjack (179 pages, paperbound, $19.99) makes for some fast-paced, colorful reading.

Since poker is a hotter game right now than 21, let's look at McKenna's book first.

The author, a practicing individual and group therapist for more than 30 years, lives in Missouri and has found yet another area where some books barely tickle the surface on the subject of traps. There are 10 major chapters in this work. The author explores "how winners think, what personality traits they possess, and what they build their successes on."

McKenna says "good trappers in poker are hard to identify because they use different traps for different players. In other words, when a player is setting up a trap by checking and then raising, good players know this trap won't work on all players."

The chapter titled Different Bait for Different Prey may be one of the best you'll find in this book. He discusses pigeon-baited traps, fish-baited traps, speed traps, net traps, dirty traps among others.

Most of all, as the book progresses, it makes the reader do some self-examination: are you "feeling-oriented" or "action-oriented" or "reaction-oriented"?

McKenna outlines how to profile other players then follows with ploys to throw opponents off balance with notes about what the "moves" of a winner are.

In some ways, the book's goal is to help you understand yourself and how to change your table persona often enough to set up a smokescreen. It takes a special person to admit they have weaknesses which lead to failure -- because that individual fails to know when to fold or how important position is. So, in a way, McKenna is teaching you how re-make yourself, plus how to vary your play or driving style, like a race car driver who waits for his spot to pass. If you're honest with yourself and willing to change how you play to improve your game, this book will help. Sure, you still need the cards, but a "new you" might make the difference in the long run.

Dave "Hollywood" Stann is not a boring guy. He's talented, opinionated and has an ego that shows. In 11 rock n' roll chapters, he offers his life advice, his adventures, card counting tips, a basic strategy chart and his opinion about why blackjack is dead. Here you'll get his wins and losses as well as some of the characters (often colorful ones) he's met. His heroes include the late blackjack great Ken Uston and the "new journalist" Hunter Thompson.

For the beginner who has many questions, this book may answer many of them. It's a combination guidebook, biography, "identify the minefield" chart and collection of random thoughts about gambling, blackjack in particular and how life can be exciting if you let it be.

You will probably recognize a little bit of the Thompson influence in this "uncensored guide" but there's value here because Stann hits on the truths about the game often enough.

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