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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Three poker books you should have read and still can

9 April 2009

We're not seeing many new titles so far in 2009. Maybe things will perk up a bit as the World Series of Poker action gets near a start in May. For now, though, I'll concentrate on one new book, one classic and one too-often overlooked title, all of which should enhance a poker player's game.

The first title is a fresh one. By the respected Alan Schoonmaker, it's titled Poker Winners Are Different (310 pages, paperbound, $15.95) and subtitled "Get the Mental Edge." Dr. Schoonmaker, who loves to play and loves to write (he also penned Your Worst Poker Enemy and The Psychology of Poker), has compiled two-dozen fast-moving chapters that both challenge and teach.

Schoonmaker discusses the reason people play, how discipline plays a major role in your game and how to manage risks and information while honing your ability to control your focus.

The book is like a course in how to think logically, prepare, concentrate and probe. (After all, poker is a sort of war -- a battle of individual skills versus the skills others bring to the table.) The subject of control is vital. The author emphasizes how winners control the information they transmit as well as how to be deceptive while creating the right images. He then turns to discuss how winning players control their reactions to feelings and how the best players have learned how to act decisively (timing when to be aggressive included).

Truly, poker is about getting the right cards and playing them correctly, but it is about people and reacting to them correctly. Watch the players when you're watching a televised tournament. The best, the long-term survivors and those who seem to cash the most have learned all the tricks and are constantly revising their mode of play according to the ever-changing table environment, shifting gears more times correctly than not.

This is a book to help improve your "inner self" and one to keep you honest in what your goals are and the way you must improve yourself to be among the best.

Tony Guerrera is a respected young author who is not yet a household name, but give him time. His Killer Poker by the Numbers (310 pages, paperbound, $14.95) is subtitled "The Mathematical Edge for Winning Play." Briefly, the book's focus is on making profitable decisions in every betting round, how blind structures and table sizes affect play, how to best utilize concepts like expected value, pot odds and variance. It hosts eight chapters including one on tournament play while other major sections focus on unpaired and paired flops, winning with pocket pairs, drawing hands and shorthanded play. It's a value for the price, so don't hesitate adding it to your poker library.

The late respected John Fox wrote the classic Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon! (343 pages, paperbound, $39.95). A whole generation of players has begun asking about it again. Subtitled "The Complete Psychology, Mathematics and Tactics of Winning Poker," its great value was in explaining and offering ideas on how to confuse opponents. The book has one of the best early Frequency of Distribution of the Hands analysis ever done.

Focus here is on high and low five-card draw (with and without the joker), for hold'em was is in its infancy in regard to popularity. Sklansky's Hold'em Poker classic was published about that time and then the game caught fire. Fox likely inspired author Mike Caro to write his poker "tells" book, thus influencing a whole generation of players to learn about facial expressions, body language and how to use the information profitably.

If you've never read Fox's book, get one while the "gettin's good."
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