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Old 04-29-2017, 03:18 AM   #26
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

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Originally Posted by renodoc View Post
Mason,

Its too bad you didnt grok Elements of Poker. Perhaps doing something outside your box--like going to Burning Man for example- might boost your appreciation for this work.

Eagerly awaiting your review of Mr Angelo's latest tome.
Hi renedoc:

A lot of these things, like Burning Man, can be nice and worthwhile, but the question I always ask is how would something like that help me play my poker hands better? Now this may surprise you, but I do agree that these things can be beneficial to my tennis game, and that's because execution -- spped, timing, and coordination, etc. are involved. But in terms of poker, unless you're mentally tired and need a good vacation, I have my doubts if something like Burning Man would be of much help.

Also, I doubt very much if I'll ever get around to reading Angelo's next book. That's mainly because I have too many other things going and I'm just not able to read as many books as I once did. But you never know.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 04-29-2017, 03:22 AM   #27
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

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Originally Posted by Beverly71 View Post
Mason,
What are your "today's" thoughts on the Harrington on Holdem series?
Hi Beverly:

They're still very solid books and will still be helpful to most intermediate type players who are looking to improve their tournament play.

Are you aware that there is also a newer book, Harrington on Modern Tournament Poker?

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 04-30-2017, 12:22 AM   #28
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Thanks for your response Mason. So which would you recommend to a person who is relatively new to MTT play, and wants to be competitive in today's tournament world...Harrington's original series or his newer book?
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Old 04-30-2017, 02:27 AM   #29
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beverly71 View Post
Thanks for your response Mason. So which would you recommend to a person who is relatively new to MTT play, and wants to be competitive in today's tournament world...Harrington's original series or his newer book?
Hi Beverly:

For someone relatively new to MTT play, I would recommend first reading and studying the original Harring series before going on to the more recent one.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 04-30-2017, 02:52 AM   #30
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Reviews After 1/20/12

The Poker Blueprint; Advanced Strategies for Crushing Micro and Small Stakes NL (7) by Aaron Davis and Tri”Slow Habit” Nguyen. This short book is actually an introductory text for someone who is considering taking poker seriously. So in that sense it’s much more than a beginner’s book since it covers many topics in a much more sophisticated manner than a starting guide would. On the other hand, many topics are either covered too quickly or not at all for it to be considered anything more than an introductory text.

The book begins with some basic poker theory discussions that includes hand ranges, mathematical expectation, and how often a bluff has to work to be profitable. There’s nothing unique here, but this is the type of information that serious poker players should know.

Then we move on to pre-flop play. Now the material becomes much more valuable since pretty good advice is given on what hands to play and how to play them. This includes starting hands from different positions, how to adjust to players still to act, when you should limp, isolating opponents who have already limped in, 3-betting, stealing the blinds, how stack sizes affect your play, and all sorts of playing situations from the blinds. To be a little more specific, I thought the discussion of why you should 3-bet from the blinds against a possible steal with a polarized range was strong, and how you adjust your starting hands taking into account the initial range of your opponent was also well done.

The book then moves on to post-flop play where again a number of topics including continuation bets, your opponent’s perception of your range, floating, 3-betting, and balancing your range are addressed. Much of this material is again pretty good and should give a relatively new player a good idea of what it takes to be a successful no-limit hold ’em player.

Again to be a little more specific, I thought some of the discussions concerning how “dead money” affects strategy in large pots, “way behind/way ahead” situations, as well as a number of other topics were quite good. In addition, I would be amiss not to mention that the text also contans a number of helpful examples.

So given this, shouldn’t The Poker Blueprint get a higher rating? The answer is yes, it really should based on the strong material it contains. But unfortunately, the book also contains some stuff that is either confused or just shouldn’t be there. Here are two examples.

Early in the book, there is a chapter on “Bankroll Management” which is actually an excerpt from Nguyen’s upcoming poker psychology book. While this chapter doesn’t really belong in this text, I don’t have any real problem with what it states until we get to the following in the “100 Buy-in Rule” sub-chapter:”

One thing I want to be clear about is that I’m not advocating that you take shots in a tough game full of regulars. I’m talking about the situation where you’re feeling good about your game and luck. If that is the case, go for it. You eventually have to defeat them. Why not start now when everything is going your way.

Well, for those who know my history, I spent years explaining why predicting your luck for future events is fallacious, and this one paragraph is enough to ruin this whole chapter. Yes, luck can be measured, but relying on good luck to help carry the day can certainly have the opposite effect if it causes you to de-emphasize skill. And to talk a little statistics, your short term standard deviation can certainly be much higher than your win rate, but it’s the win rate where the effort should be made.

Another confused example appears in the chapter on “Pot Odds” under the sub-chapter header of “Immediate Odds.” Here the authors are attempting to give an example of when it would be correct to call with top pair on the end when a bet of $65 is made into a $70 pot. So that the odds are $135-to-$65 or approximately 2-to-1. Thus they correctly conclude that your hand needs “about 33 percent equity” for the call to be profitable. So far so good.

But the example also states “We think we’re good here about 50 percent of the time,” and when that’s the case you should call no matter what the size of the bet or size of the pot. (The only possible exception would be if so much money was bet that your whole bankroll would be put in jeopardy. But that’s another issue and will not be addressed here.) Of course, if the estimate of top pair was something like 40 percent instead of the given 50 percent, the example would be better. But the way it is written, it can make a relatively new player who is weak in concepts like mathematical expectation think it could be correct to fold a hand that will win the majority of the time.

So this brings us to an interesting conclusion, fix these errors, and there are a few more, as well as improve the editing (which I have not addressed in this review) and this book could easily rate a 9. Also, for someone who’s capable of identifying these trouble spots, but may still be new to no-limit hold ’em, this book is certainly worth more than a 7.

And finally, since this is a Daily Variance book, we need to address the price which according to their website was originally $97.00, a price that in my opinion, is way too much for this material. But that’s not the case anymore. Today, you can purchase the e-book version or the Amazon kindle version for less than $10.00, and at this price The Poker Blueprint is well worth it.

--------------

Reviews After 10/25/14

Jonathan Little on Live No-Limit Cash Games; 1 The Theory (7 + or - 2) by Jonathan Little. The latest entry into the no-limit hold ’em cash game books is this effort by well known tournament player Jonathan Little who seems to be in the process of doing a lot of books, and this is the first one by him that I have read. This is a thorough book in the sense that a lot of ground is covered and clearly shows that the author understands a lot about poker.

However, it’s written differently from the way most good poker books are written. That is, most good poker books work with concepts and then give examples and situations where these concepts can be applied. For instance, if you’re playing against a tight, straight forward player who bets, the right set of concepts (which need to appear in the book) should have you folding most of the time. On the other hand, if your opponent was loose, aggressive and perhaps even somewhat reckless, the exact same concepts will often lead you towards a different play which in this case would be calling or raising much more often.

However, Little’s text is not written this way. What the author does in place of concepts is to describe the situation and then proceeds to tell the reader what he thinks the best strategy is in each of these spots, and since the descriptions of the situations are often quite detailed, the advice can be very complex.

Here’s an example. In “Part 4: The Flop,” in the chapter “Heads-up as the Caller in Position,” in the sub-chapter “When Your Opponent Checks,” the following appears where Little is talking abut what to do when you miss the flop but are against “an opponent who checks and is known to check with a marginal made hand.” Little states to

either give up and check the hand down, or be willing to fire a three-barrel bluff. It feels like a high risk play, but if you know your opponent will always call your flop and turn bets, but fold to your river bet, assuming you must have a strong A to bet three streets, this is a very low risk bluff that will work except when your opponent improves by the river. I mix up my play in this situation, ...

Notice that this situation is quite complex:

1. Your opponent is known to check with a marginal hand.

2. You know your opponent will always call your flop and turn bets.

3. Your opponent will assume you have a strong ace. (The flop given in the book was A-8-3).

4. Your opponent will now fold the river unless he improves.

That’s a lot of very specific things to know, and instead of this paragraph, there were numerous other paragraphs I could have selected that would have been just as complex.

Now just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the advice cited above. But if you’re someone new to no-limit hold ’em and are looking to get a good foundation from which to approach the game, this book is certainly not recommended. Even though it’s filled with a great deal of good information, it should be extremely difficult for most people new to this game to learn from.

However, I believe that there is an audience for which this text can be quite helpful, and that is the somewhat experienced player who is already having some success at small stakes no-limit hold ’em and who is trying to become a better player. For many people like this who have already grasped most of the important poker concepts that apply to this game, one of the best ways to improve is to talk difficult situations over with a more knowledgeable player. Well obviously, you can’t talk to Jonathan Little, but you can search through this text and most likely find a described situation that will be similar to the one that is giving you trouble.

Put another way, for a more experienced, but still learning player, Jonathan Little on Live No-Limit Cash Games; 1 The Theory can be used like an encyclopedia to look up how to play in tough spots. If used this way, this book should be quite helpful to many players and thus becomes a good source to either confirm that you are playing well (at least in a particular situation) or to give an improved strategy relative to how you are currently playing.

And finally, this also explains why my rating is 7 + or - 2. This text should, as stated above, prove to be too difficult for brand new players to no-limit hold ’em cash games, but valuable to those with more experience who are still perfecting their game.

--------------

Reading Poker Tells (10) by Zachary Elwood. This is clearly the best book ever written on this subject, and if you’re a live player who takes your poker seriously, it should add to your win rate. However, as the author states on page 26:

Tells should seldom be your sole reason for doing something. The large majority of the time you should just be playing your best fundamental poker strategy, just as you would play online, in the absence of live tells.

And I couldn’t agree more.

The text is divided into several sections with the section on tells divided into six sub-sections. They are:

1. Waiting for Action Tells: Weakness
2. Waiting for Action Tells: Strength
3. During Action Tells
4. Post-Bet Tells: Weakness
5. Post Bet Tells: Strength
6. General Verbal Tells

In my opinion, this is a good approach since it mimics the action of many poker games whether limit or no-limit, and the tells in each section are then given in a rough order of importance.

Much of the book is really a discussion of how a player holding a strong hand will tend to behave differently from a player holding a weak hand. Specifically, players with strong hands tend to be more relaxed than players with weak hands who are either bluffing or hoping to stop a bet from their opponent, and this frequently leads to different patterns of behavior. I won’t get into these patterns in this review, you’ll need to read the book for this, but Elwood does caution that you need to correlate tells to how someone actually plays. For example, just because an opponent has characteristics of a bluffer, it doesn’t mean that they are bluffing, and in fact, it could be that this particular person has these characteristics when betting a strong hand.

Now with these comments in mind, I don’t consider this book to be perfect when it comes to Tell Theory, and it’s probably not possible for any book in this category to reach perfection. For example, on page 140 Elwood talks about betting in the dark. This occurs when the preflop raiser, usually in a limit game, bets the flop before it's dealt. Elwood states:

With amateur players, this is almost always going to mean strength. It’s usually a hand like AA, KK, QQ, and maybe even AK, but not often much worse than that.

Well it’s my experience that ace-king is far more likely here than any of the other hands. Perhaps the players that the author has played against behave a little differently from the way they do in Las Vegas, but I almost never see this play with aces or kings.

For those interested, the first time I noticed this tell occurred in a razz game (seven-card stud played for low) that I use to play in back in the late 1980s. It was common for players to bet the river before the last card was dealt when they held something like a made 8 that was also drawing to a 6 or a wheel. So again, they were not betting the strongest possible hands that they could be holding.

I also want to mention one other tell that Elwood addresses. I’ve always known it as the “Look Down Tell,” but Elwood describes it as “ Glancing at Chips” and defines it as “Some players who help their hand will tend to quickly glance down at their chips.” In any case, despite what you call it, Elwood is describing the same tell, and even though it is fairly widespread in the literature (and was first introduced in Mike Caro’s Book of Tells) I have always found this to be a tell of virtually no value, and Elwood writes:

I think this tell is useful in the lowest stakes games. It’s worth mentioning, but you won’t see it much.

Finally, I do want to mention that while this is a terrific book, my opinion of tells is that they are not as valuable as Elwood indicates. Perhaps the reason for this is that tells only have positive value if they make you change your play and are accurate. But if, for instance, you’re going to call anyway, and have a tell that your opponent may be bluffing, this tell adds nothing to your overall expectation (even if it is accurate). So this may be why the author differs with me as to the overall value of tells. But don’t let this comment stop you from getting and studying this book.

-----------------

Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments (5) by Jonathan Little. First, this short book is badly mistitled since it has very little to do with poker tournaments. A better title would have been "Playing Against Different Player Types at Small Stakes Games" since this is what the book is about and can easily be seen by looking at chapter titles such as “Those who play too many hands” and “Those who play too few hands too aggressively.” So given this, how good a job does it do?

Second, and again this goes back to the idea that this text has little to do with tournaments is that virtually all the examples are for when the effective stack is at least moderately large, usually 50 big blinds or a little more. But this situation, especially early in a tournament or perhaps just after the rebuy period has just ended, (and I don’t remember rebuys ever being mentioned) does come up, so having a book that addresses this area is certainly fine.

To see how the book does, let’s take a look at the “Those who play too many hands too aggressively” chapter. Here we’re told that these players can be “much more difficult to play against” and that they will do some bluffing which makes it “more difficult to accurately access their ranges,” and these things are certainly true. And we’re also told that “The primary way to beat them is to induce them to try to bluff you,” and I agree that this is important. This chapter then continues with some examples and includes some additional ideas such as sizing your bet to induce a bluff and bluffing your opponent “when the board is good for your range.”

Now based on the previous paragraph, it sounds like this book is better than my rating of 5, but I also found it filled with a number of small errors which detract from the text. For example, in the same chapter Little writes:

You have to realize that this type of player plays a wide range of hands, meaning they could have anything. Even though they could conceivably connect with many more flops than a tight player, around 2/3 of the time this type of player will miss the flop.

Well, I think the two-thirds number comes from the probability of flopping a pair or better one-third of the time when your starting hand is not a pair. But this opponent can also start with a strong pair, and they can also flop a draw, so the two-thirds number should be too high which can encourage a reader to bluff too often.

A couple of other examples of what I consider to be small errors is in the “Those who play too few hands too passively” chapter where Little states:

While getting in the money is nice, the real goal is to finish in the top three spots, winning a large number of buy-ins.

Actually, the real goal should be to maximize your expectation which in many cases will be getting into the top three spots, but certainly not all of them.

And in the “Those who play too few hands too aggressively” chapter Little states:

Remember, you win a huge amount of equity by staying out of trouble when your opponent has your range crushed.

Here, the author is talking about folding, but you don’t win equity by folding. In fact, your expectation on folding is zero. (This is not quite true in a tournament where the prizes are distributed on a percentage payback basis, but Little never discusses any of this.) So even though the advice to fold is correct in the example, it’s not correct for the reason that Little gives.

Finally, I also want to mention that in some of the examples Little will give a specific opening raise size, frequently 2.5 big blinds, but sometimes different, but never addresses this topic. This omission alone brings the rating down.
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Old 04-30-2017, 03:50 AM   #31
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

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Originally Posted by Mason Malmuth View Post
Hi Beverly:

For someone relatively new to MTT play, I would recommend first reading and studying the original Harring series before going on to the more recent one.

Best wishes,
Mason
Thanks again for responding Mason, it's very much appreciated! Do you think someone can compete in their local casino tourney after studying just the original Harrington series or would it be better to wait until the original AND newer book have been read and studied?
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Old 04-30-2017, 03:55 AM   #32
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beverly71 View Post
Thanks again for responding Mason, it's very much appreciated! Do you think someone can compete in their local casino tourney after studying just the original Harrington series or would it be better to wait until the original AND newer book have been read and studied?
Hi Beverly:

At a small buy-in tournament in your local casino the original Harrington series, assuming you study it well, should, in my opinion, give you a nice edge.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 04-30-2017, 04:08 AM   #33
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

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Originally Posted by Mason Malmuth View Post
Hi Beverly:

At a small buy-in tournament in your local casino the original Harrington series, assuming you study it well, should, in my opinion, give you a nice edge.

Best wishes,
Mason
And if one would want to play in say....a HPT event with a $1650 buy-in? Could just reading and studying the original series be enough?
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Old 04-30-2017, 09:15 PM   #34
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Hi Mason,

Are there any PLO books that you would recommend?

Thanks!
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Old 05-01-2017, 01:55 AM   #35
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

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And if one would want to play in say....a HPT event with a $1650 buy-in? Could just reading and studying the original series be enough?
Hi Beverly:

I can't say for sure since everyone is at least a little different. But in my opinion, if you're fairly new to tournament play and you want to participate in something like "a HPT event with a $1650 buy-in," and you do your share of studying, the Harrington series may help you a lot and I certainly recomment them.

By the way, these books are not part of the reviews I'll be putting up in this thread, so let's not sidetrack this thread anymore with these questions.

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 05-01-2017, 02:04 AM   #36
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Verbal Poker Tells (10) by Zachary Elwood. This is the follow up book to Elwood’s excellent Reading Poker Tells, and as such I believed that even though it appeared to be a substantial work, it would be much less valuable due to the idea of diminishing returns. That is, verbal tells, by their nature, would not be worth as much as the standard visual tells and thus this book would be better categorized as supplemental reading as opposed to being something necessary for serious live players. However, as I worked through the book, it became clear to me that this was not the case, that much of this material is quite unique, and that this text does hold much value for those, like myself, who play live. But there is a lot of material here, and it will not be a quick learn.

Instead of giving a standard review, I thought it best to concentrate on one small area of Verbal Poker Tells so that those reading this review could get a good feel for what this book is about and how it works. In fact, I’m deliberately picking an example which in the overall context of this work is nothing special while still providing good information.

On page 349 Elwood gives an example of a hand from the show High Stakes Poker where three players have checked to Mimi Tran on a flop of the A32 where Tran has made bottom set and she makes the statement “They all checked to me? And then she bets $2,000 into a $3,200 pot.

Now from my own experience, I have always understood that when many players get checked to and then act like they don’t know what’s going, and then make a substantial bet, that it’s highly likely their holding is strong. So at first, it would appear that Verbal Poker Tells has taught me nothing since what my action should be (and that is to put my opponent on a strong hand and act accordingly) was already clear in my mind. But I never completely understood why players would make a statement like this.

Elwood writes:

A player with a strong hand sometimes will have an instinct to draw attention to the perceived weakness of other players. The instinct is to subtly imply “I’m only betting because everyone seems weak.” By clarifying the situation, the bettor is making a very subtle misdirection about the possible reasons for their bet.

A player betting a weak hand is unlikely to draw attention to such a situation; a player betting a weak hand wants to get full “credit” for his bet and doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it could be related to others’ weakness.

So we see that this is what the author calls a “misdirection play” and that is the reason for this statement.

Now the reason that knowing this is a misdirection play is important is that these kind of plays/statements come up fairly often in poker, and understanding it here will also help to identify and understand it in many other spots. Thus instead of memorizing one specific tell in one specific situation which won’t add much value to your play, understanding the above should help in many spots and thus be worth a substantial amount in the long run.

Next, this brings us to how this book should be read and studied. Again, it’s a substantial work coming in at over 400 pages with many topics related to verbal tells such as deceptive statements, misdirections, silence, irritation, stumbling over words, last second statements, and lots more. So one quick reading won’t do the trick, and my recommendation is to give this text a slow, thorough reading, and then keep it handy as a reference to look at after you have played and an opponent makes a statement where you are confused as to what it means.

Also, and this is something that the author points out in many spots, these type of tells are not 100 percent accurate. In fact, Elwood gives some examples of where experienced players, who are capable of making tricky statements, will actually reverse some of this stuff against some of their opponents. So you need to correlate their statements to previous actions that these players have taken.

All in all, this is another excellent book by Zachary Elwood. However, unlike his first book, much of this material will not be easy to master, but if you’re a serious live player, especially if the stakes you play at are significant, there is much value to be found here.

---------------

Crushing Small Stakes Poker Tournaments; Volume 4 by Jonathan Little (3). This was part of a series of (I believe) 17 small books. Each one, as far as I could tell, had the exact same introductory material under the chapter titles of “Introduction,” where the author states:

While I am confident the plays outlined in this book will allow you to crush small stake tournaments, you will find as you move up, you will be constantly put in more difficult situations.

“Terminology — Strategic Concepts,” “Terminology — Tournament Stages,” and “Editors Note: How to use these eBooks.”

Then we come to the main material in the book which are the 50 hand examples. And to get a feel for what this exactly is, let’s look at “Situation 16.” The blinds are now in their 8th level of 150/300 and there is a 25 ante. In addition, all the stack sizes are given for a full nine handed table. The Hero holds a queen-nine suited in UTG+1 and we’re told the action folds to him. Then the question is asked “What should Hero do”

On the next page we’re told this is an easy fold and then a couple of sentences of analysis is given where we’re told:

Speculative hands like Q9s are easy folds at this stage from early position. In early position and with a medium stack, Hero is pushing something like 66+, ATs+, KQs, AJo+. Q9s is much too weak.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, the main reason I gave this book a low rating is that to get all the volumes it becomes an expensive way to get some cheap material about small stakes poker tournaments. If all the books were combined into one, and then sold at a reasonable price, my rating would have been much higher. But this statement may not be relevant since, as noted above, these books don’t seem to be available anymore.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:06 AM   #37
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Hi Everyone:

In the May issue of our Two Plus Two Online Poker Strategy Magazine I have written two reviews of poker mindset books:

http://www.twoplustwo.com/magazine/i...ok-reviews.php

Best wishes,
Mason
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Old 05-21-2017, 05:53 AM   #38
Mason Malmuth
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

KingKrab: The Degenerate Journey: From Homeless to Poker Pro (9) by KingKrab. Authors/Publishers sometimes send me a copy of their book to read, and over the years I have a number of these piled uo on my desk. But I do get to them every now and then. One of the books KingKrab: The Degenerate Journey: From Homeless to Poker Pro by KingKrab I recently started to read and discovered that even though this is not the type of book I normally read, it was difficult to put down until I had finished it.

Generally, when I pick up a book like this, I'll quit after a few pages quickly concluding that it's a waste of time. But this book was a little different, and I found many aspects of the narrative quite interesting.

For those who don't know, it's the story of a player who refers to himself as KingKrab, and who has a lot of drug/depression related problems in addition to being homeless some of the time. So the book is fairly negative, more so than I think it needs to be, and also in my opinion has too many four letter words. But on the other hand, there's a lot in here that's worth reading, including descriptions of his opponents, some of his hand strategies, and how he feels many of his opponents view him as a player, and what he needs to do to win in the low stakes no-limit games that he plays in.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the narrative is when KingKrab, after initial success, losses all his winnings and ends up surviving on the streets living the life of a homeless person. But how he gets back to poker and finally becomes successful is the strongest part of the book.

I won't tell any more of the story, but for those of you who want to read something a little different than the normal poker story, this text is highly recommended.
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