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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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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
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

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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
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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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Old 07-05-2017, 01:21 AM   #39
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Revised Tendler Review 4-24-17

The Mental Game of Poker; Proven Strategies for Improving Tilt Control, Confidence, Motivation, Coping with Variance, and More (3) by Jared Tendler, M.S. with Barry Carter. To start this review, let’s first discuss an idea that appears early in the text. It’s “unconscious competence” which Tendler says on page 17:

Unconscious Competence is the Holy Grail of learning, and by far the most important concept in this book.

And in my opinion this is an incredibly silly statement. So what is unconscious competence? Well, without defining it here, let’s say that unconscious competence is what a baseball players uses to hit a 95 mph fast ball or a tennis player uses to his back a 120 mph serve. And looking at the tennis example a little more, once a 120 mph serve leaves a player’s racket, it’s about one-half of a second until his opponent hits it, and there’s no way this can be done consciously.

So why is this unimportant in poker? Well, if all decisions in poker had to be made in a second or two, then this would be a valuable idea, but as any no-limit hold ‘em player can tell you, many decisions take much, much longer than two seconds.

Going back to the 1980s, I was the first writer in the poker/gambling field to link results and variance in a big way, and my approach, as a professional statistician, was to approach this topic from a statistical point of view to show how variance in certain forms of poker can play havoc with your results and produce surprising strategies for expert play. But variance can also affect your mental game and, as it should be, it’s addressed in detail in The Mental Game of Poker.

However, much of the discussion of variance in this book shows an incomplete understanding of the subject. For instance on page 102 Tendler writes:

Though it may not seem like a big deal, just wishing you could control variance means you’re giving up control.

The problem with this sentence is that expert players do things to control and reduce their variance all the time. This includes multi-tabling (on the Internet) where many games of small stakes are substituted for one game at a large stakes, emphasis is placed on reading hands, and playing tighter than optimal which in some cases will lower your expectation by a little but your variance by a lot.

Continuing on page 102:

Let’s assume you have actually run worse than expected and for far longer than the math says is likely, it’s completely reasonable to be pissed off,

Well what does the math say? First, it should be noted that the math says the effect of variance will dissipate over time. That’s because the square root of the variance, known as the standard deviation and from which the statistical properties of your results are derived from, is proportional to the square root of the number of hands played while your results are proportional to the number of hands played. Putting this in understandable English, it means that in most forms of poker, if you have poor results over a fairly large number of played hands, your understanding of strategy probably needs a lot of improvement.

Continuing with the sentence:

but the question is whether that frustration or anger affects the quality of your play.

This is a loaded statement. There are states that players can enter, and tilt is just one of these states, where their games can deteriorate. But all of these states are usually solved by improving your understanding of different aspects of poker including strategy, the short term luck factor, and why poker at times can be counter-intuitive to many players. (See my book Real Poker Psychology for more discussion of all the states.)

Another area where in my opinion there is much confusion is tilt which is also discussed in much detail. One of the problems here is that Tendler addresses many different types of tilt, and in my opinion, while these types can and are often problems for some players, many of them are not tilt at all. In my view, tilt is caused by the inability to process information that gets presented to a player, such as getting several good hands beat in a short period of time, and he can’t understand how this can happen. Thus their minds are not able to solve this problem and their brain can get hung up similar to an infinite programming loop. And it’s my observation that with some people tilt can last for days.

But Tendler has lots of different kinds of tilt, and let’s look at two of them here beginning with what he calls “revenge tilt.” First, it should be obvious what revenge tilt is. However, it usually occurs because a player, for whatever reason, decides that getting revenge on another player becomes top priority. Of course, doing this can also lower your expectation and your poor play can look like tilt to other players. But it’s not.

And the reason it’s not is simply because the player on revenge tilt has usually decided to get revenge for rational reasons, even though playing this way should lower his overall expectation. This often means that if this player is successful with getting his revenge, his play will quickly revert back to a more tight, solid game. Thus, if you as an opponent still think he’s on tilt and adjust your game as if he’s on tilt, it can become costly to you and not to the player in question.

The second type of tilt I’ll look at in this review is what Tendler calls “mistake tilt.” On page 118 Tendler writes:

At a basic level, being frustrated for making a mistake is reasonable.

But the problem here is that poker players usually don’t know when they make mistakes. If they did they wouldn’t make them.

As an example, when a tennis player hits the ball into the net it’s usually clear that he made a mistake, and that’s because the short term luck factor in most athletic sports like tennis is small. But in poker, because of the large short term luck factor, it’s very difficult for a player to ever know, without a good deal of thinking at a later time about exactly how the hand was played, if a mistake was actually made. So in my opinion, the whole idea of mistake tilt is a myth.

Another way of looking at this is that many players get frustrated by losing, not from mistakes they aren’t aware of. And if this idea of mistake tilt was correct, they would also get frustrated when a mistake helps them win a pot, and this doesn’t happen.

On the other hand, I thought his discussion of confidence, both lacking and having too much, was much better. The author, however, does not make a distinction between marginal and expert players. Yes, confidence can go up and down for a marginal player depending on how he has done recently. But this won’t be the case for an expert player who not only understands how the large short term luck factor can work but who (usually) has a long term track record of being successful.

Another way to smooth out the “roller coaster” of confidence is to think in terms of “Sklansky Bucks,” something I suspect Tendler is not familiar with. In addition, Tendler recognizes on page 204:

After a large enough sample, regardless of how you feel about your ability, your results tell the real story.

Of course this is correct. But why he mentions this here and not in the discussion I referenced above on page 102 is curious.

There’s also a much more general problem with this book and with much of the current poker psychology literature. It’s the fact that many of the ideas presented come from the world of sports psychology. But how related is poker to an athletic sport? In my opinion, it’s not close, and that’s because things like speed, timing, and coordination are not part of the game. And that’s because poker is mainly a game of knowledge, and those psychological ideas that may help an athlete perform better should, in my opinion, have little impact on a poker player.

But does this mean that the stuff in Tendler’s book will hurt you? Well, if a marginal player grabs hold of this material and substitutes it for continuing to work on improving their understanding of all things poker, then the answer is yes. But if this is not the case, then it might help a little. And if you’re a high stakes expert looking to gain every possible edge against the many tough players that you’re playing against, then a small improvement at high stakes can amount to a significant amount of money over time.

Positive Poker; A Modern Psychological Approach to Mastering Your Mental Game (1) by Dr. Patricia Cardner with Jonathan Little. This is another book that addresses the mental game as related to poker and like the Tendler book seems to draw many of its ideas from the world of sports psychology. It has so many problems that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

The book is divided into a number of chapters that include titles such as “Developing Exceptional Poker Talent: The Psychology of Expertise,” “Understanding and Mastering Self-Control,” and “Motivation: How to Keep Going when the Going Gets Tough,” and “Mastering Tilt.” And at the end of each chapter there’s commentary by poker player/writer Jonathan Little.

Anyway, I thought the best way to review this book is to just take some concepts out of the text and try to explain what’s wrong with them. So here goes.

Early in the book the following question is asked:

How much would your results improve if you could concentrate better or if you had more confidence in your skills?

The answer to this is simple. Not much if any for the vast majority of players. If you don’t know how to play well, don’t expect to do well. On the other hand, for the relatively small number of experts the answer might be a little bit, and if you’re playing in the high stakes games, a little bit could be a significant amount of money won over time. But this distinction is never addressed in this text.

Immediately following the above statement, and just to show how Positive Poker is misguided right from the beginning we read:

How about being able to finally beat someone who has constantly gotten the best of you?

This statement implies that the short term luck factor is small and of course that’s not the case in poker. That is, if you’re a regular player, probability theory tells us that there’s going to be one or more players out there who you have done poorly against in the past. But it doesn’t mean that your mental game is deficient.

Entering the second chapter, “Developing Exceptional Poker Talent: The Psychology of Expertise” in the “Avoiding the “OK” Plateau” sub-chapter we read:

It will take keeping accurate records of all the hands you play and then analyzing those hands, …

I wonder how anyone can do this, especially those Internet players who play many thousands of hands in a session.

Getting to the fourth Chapter, “Understanding and Mastering Self-Control,” in the bankroll management sub-chapter we are told by a player the author interviewed:

You can’t be spewey in poker and be a winner.

Notice that this has nothing to do with bankroll management. This is understanding not to make negative expectation plays.

In the “Self-Control as a Muscle” sub-chapter we’re told:

Poker is at its core, a self-control game

Really? To me poker is mainly a game of knowledge. Having good self-control but not understanding how to play well won’t get you very far. Isn’t this obvious?

Then there’s a sub-chapter titled “What Does a Twinkie Have to do With Self-Control?” where we read:

If you want the best chance to do well at the table you need to eat a healthy diet.

Now I certainly agree it’s best to eat a healthy diet, but you need to understand that while eating healthy is certainly good, this should impact the execution component far more than the knowledge component. And for this to be important it would mean that a player who had an unhealthy meal would now begin to play some of his hands in an inferior way, and it’s my experience that this is not the case.

What I think is happening here is that this idea is coming out of the sports world where poor diet, inconsistent sleep patterns, stress, etc. can impact things like speed, timing, and coordination which is part of the execution component. But this stuff should have little impact on your knowledge of how to play.

Next we come to the “Sleep Your Way to Increased Self-Control” where we immediately read:

Many people want to play marathon poker sessions, and I guess they think they are able to maintain their A game.

Of course, there is no direct research (that I know of) relating marathon poker sessions to quality of play. But a little later in the book in the chapter on motivation we read:

Phil Laak made history for playing the longest live poker game when he played for 115 hours straight in 2010. He did finish with a profit of $6,766, but I would not recommend playing that many hours regularly.

Regularly? It’s hard to make this stuff up, and I would certainly not recommend playing that many hours ever.

At the end of this chapter, Jonathan Little states:

When I am on a prolonged losing streak, I tend to lose my normally strong sense of motivation.

But when on a prolonged losing streak it’s an indication that you don’t play that well since you’re leaving the short run and entering the long run. But we’re told early in the text that Little is “an elite player” and later in the book that game selection is very important. So assuming that Little is game selective, this should almost never happen.

In “Chapter Six: Find your Focus and Improve Your Concentration," in the “Tips to Improve Your Concentration” sub-chapter we read:

You also cannot really control how things are going to go down, so why try.

Of course this isn’t true. There are many spots where your bets and raises will often gain you control over some of your opponents, especially weak players, in many situations.

Now let’s move on to “Chapter Eight: Mastering Tilt.” Here we read:

Happy tilters tend to feel exhilarated and invincible when things are going their way. Their happiness bubbles up and often affects their play by causing them to play too many hands.

No. These are people who are overrating their ability and thus play too many hands. This is also an example that shows how little the author knows about poker since it’s well known that experts can play a few more hands for profit than their marginal counterparts. Furthermore, these players have not lost the ability to think rationally (which would put them on tilt), but instead are simply, because of the short term luck factor, overrating their ability and believing they’re also in the expert group.

Referring to “passive tilters” Cardner writes:

It’s very unlikely that a person with this profile will make it to the top rungs of the poker world. Even exhibiting the slightest hint of brooding passivity can prevent you from achieving poker success

The statement “unlikely … to make it to the top rungs” is a joke. These are people who are disappointed with their results and are looking for better strategies, and that’s not someone on tilt.

And one more:

This alarm sets off the flight or fight response, which is helpful when you are in real danger.

It seems to me that if this was true, we would see plenty of fights in the poker room and this almost never happens. In addition, we would occasionally see someone grab their chips and run out of the poker room, and I’ve never seen that.

And for my final example, I want to go back to the idea that much of what appears in the text probably comes from the sports world. Early in Positive Poker, we’re told:

By now, nearly everyone has heard of the 10,000 hour rule: in order to become an expert you must put in 10,000 hours of practice.

I consider this the first highly unintelligent thing that appears in this book. 10,000 hours would make sense if you needed almost an instance response for a very large number of situations, and notice that this is similar to what Tendler calls “unconscious competence,” and which he states “by far the most important concept in this book” (and this is referring to Tendler’s first book).

Now I agree that poker does require some work. But since an instant response is not needed, for the majority of people, 500 hours should be plenty. This is most likely an example of confusing an athletic sport with poker, and if your goal was to become, for example, a top tennis player where execution in addition to knowledge is highly important, then 10,000 hours would make sense to me. But again, poker is not an athletic sport.

To finish, I want to note that what is written here is only scratching the surface. It would be easy to add many more pages similar to the above, but there’s no reason to do so.

Crushing Small Stakes Poker Tournaments; Volume 4 by Jonathan Little (3). This was part of a series of (I believe) 17 small books that doesn't seem to exist anymore. 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 exist anymore.
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Old 07-27-2017, 11:16 AM   #40
robert_utk
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Wow. I feel compelled to say thank you to Mr. Malmuth for threads like this.

Question:

Do you feel the majority of bad reviews are because the book is just written and/or edited badly?

Or, are most bad poker books just lacking in actual good advice, or fail to provide the buyer with enough learnable material to justify the purchase?

Obviously there are stinkers lacking in both, but lets set those aside.

Thank you.


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Old 07-29-2017, 07:36 PM   #41
sparks_mandrill
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Quote:
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
Hello Mason,
Just going through this post, your response stood out to me. I've been playing limit for only about 4 months, studying SSHE and now Hold 'em poker for advanced players, but along the way, I dabbled with NLHE and was quite lost, going through Harrington on cash games and Harrington on online cash games. In the end, the original Harrington on Hold'em seemed to be the best primer for a new nlhe player, whether cash or tournament. Unfortunately by that point, I was a bit fed up and returned to Limit (also considering i'll be going to vegas in the next few weeks). My question is as follows: Would you agree that the original HOHE tournament book is best for a beginner NLHE player? I wonder because I will likely return to studying NLHE in the next few months.

Thanks for your time.
Scott
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Old 08-04-2017, 12:06 PM   #42
iamhussler
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Re: Requested Book Reviews

Hi mason I have a bunch of books from years ago and I'm just getting back into poker. If you could tell me which ones would be worth reading still I would much appreciate it.
1: theory of poker
2: ace on the river
3: tournament poker for advanced players
4: little green book
5: kill Phil
6 : every hand revealed
7: HOH vol 1 and 2.
I'm a tournament player and looking into Jonathan littles new books but not sure if they are a waste of time with what I have and by getting experience playing. If you can recommend any you know of that would help my live tournament game it would be much appreciated. Regards Brad.
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