Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Book Reviews

Wow I've learned a lot in the past 2 weeks. I read Hilger and Taylor's Poker Mindset and Schoonmaker's Poker Winners are Different along with watching a lot of videos. I have a completely different outlook with regards to the realities of variance and it has really focussed me on all that matters at the table: making correct decisions.

Poker Mindset started out with the best mental framework I have found for this game. They do a wonderful job of describing just exactly what variance is and how to think about all the down sides there are to it. They don't go into a lot of detail about the upsides of variance because no one really has an issue with that lol. I used to worry about every buyin I lost and feel extremely upset about suckouts and coolers because I had already spent that money before it was even shipped to me ;-)

I got rid of my fear of downswings by realizing I have an oversized bankroll. I got rid of the tilt that showed up after each beat and caused spew by getting rid of that feeling of entitlement. I good sentiment in the book is that our society has become based on this feeling of entitlement: kids passing classes they have no business passing, affirmative action in our post secondary education, every team in the kids' baseball league wins a trophey etc etc.

"You are not entitled to anything at the poker table except cards and a seat if you have the money and the time." It's the only game that, imo, resembles real life as it should be. You can try your best and make all the correct moves and shit still happens and you can't do anything about it but learn and move on.

At the same time, the Law of Large numbers states that if you make the correct moves over a large enough sample, you absolutely must win. So while winners are not entitled to win this hand here or there, they will end up with all the money in the end making this a perfect merit based system. Looking at the game this way has made it a lot more enjoyable for me first because it fits so closely with my real life ideals, and second because this stack here and those five stacks there don't mean anything when I know for a fact that I will eventually win money while my opponents lose money regardless of what happens in this hand. The only goal then becomes to make correct decision after correct decision.

That said, while the first few chapters revolutionized my mindset, I found the rest of the book rather bland. I mostly consisted of a lot of definitions of different tilt inducing scenarios without a whole lot of solutions other than to refer yourself back to the poker mindset and I felt like I was reading a glossary. I realize it was mostly filler because a 30 page book on how to think like a winner just wouldn't sell even though that's all that would be required here.

I then read Schoonmaker's book Poker Winners are Different. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I have his others. Each chapter had me try to objectively rate myself on a number of different topics. It was one of the more realistic poker books I've read. All the math and strat based books assume you are going to play tilt and emotionally free poker, but this one says that is just not going to happen all the time. I was quite happy with a lot of my ratings in the book but it got me to point out a few huge leaks in my thought process and forced me to look at them and think about ways to fix them. For example, I played sub-optimally in bigger games for a number of reasons, and I don't study nearly as much as I should be and I'm now taking action to correct these leaks.

I've been watching a lot of videos lately to try to improve my game and a lot of concepts are really starting to mesh really with my overall strat. I realized just how much value I was missing postflop even though I thought my postflop game was really decent. It was A LOT of value (understatement) and I think that a lot of people pass up truckloads of value for the safe haven of showdown. When I think about it now, you know, this is micro stakes, people aren't messing around when the c/r the turn so why are we ever worried about being bluffed off the best hand?

I think I would like to make a 25nl 6max video and try to highlight some of the postflop value that I've been finding.


  1. You reminded me how valuable poker mindset is. Haven't got it to hand but I think around page 57 sums up the whole book quite nicely.

    If you are looking for something different I recommend 'Mastery' by George Leonard.

  2. I've just finished The Poker Mindset and it's really hit home with me.

    When the going got tough and variance bit me on my arse I used to change sites or games I was playing but not anymore.

    I've completely changed my way of thinking, especially when it comes to losing and downswings, quality book

  3. Hey thanks for the comments and the book recommendation. Definitely going to check it out.

  4. You'll definitely find out that your "variance" decreases as you are able to find or recognize more spots where you have equity or value. I was never one of those kids who got frustrated and tossed the board playing monopoly, and though I do tilt from time to time, you have to approach the game with the mindset of learning how to defeat it. First things first!