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Elements of Poker Paperback – December 10, 2007
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From the Back Cover
All of my good streaks and all of my bad streaks of every length and depth have had one thing in common. They did not exist in your mind. They only existed in my mind. And this is true for everyone's winning and losing streaks. None of them actually exist. They are all mental fabrication, like past and future. Everything that ever happens happens in the present tense. But how can you have a "streak" in the present tense? You can't. And therefore, if you are in the present tense, which, in fact, at this time, you are, then at this moment there is no streak in your life. There is no inherent existence to streaks. The streak is there when you think about it, and when you stop thinking about it, it goes away. It blossoms and withers, all in your mind. And when your mind invents a streak, you believe it exists, because you believe what your mind tells you. But the truth is there is only the hand you are playing.
About the Author
Poker chose me to be her slave when I was but a boy. For the first 15 years or so of servitude, I complained bitterly about the pain and injustice of it all. Then I became a professional poker player and over the next 15 years, gradually I started to see that everything is always fair. And now I thank poker, my tormentor, for this and hundreds more life lessons.
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Top customer reviews
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I just received my copy yesterday. This book is written from the perspective of how to approach the game of poker in order to play your best more often.
I am familiar with some of the concepts from reading: 1) Tommy's website, tiltless.com, and 2) other articles previewing the book.
Certainly, his Reciprocality essay on his website is pure gold, and parts of it are repeated in the book. Basically, Reciprocality means money flows when you do something different from the norm. For instance, there is information reciprocality. Many players will show their hands from time to time. This gives away information. If you never show your hand, you win the game of information reciprocality. Over time, money flows to you. There is tilt reciprocality. Many players will tilt from time to time. If you tilt less often and for less duration than the norm, you win the game of tilt reciprocality. Over time, money flows to you.
One of the concepts in the book that I find extemely useful: the way to look at position. Basically, according to Tommy, there are 4 positions outside the blinds: Early Position, Hijack, Cutoff, and Button. He eschews the concept of Middle Position. It's all Early, until you get to the last 3 seats to act. He then gives you the percentage of hands you should play in each position, ranging from 10% in Early Position to 40% on the Button.
This one concept will help you play your A game, and avoid your C game, at least preflop.
Another concept I found intriguing - breathing. He spends several pages on breathing and meditation and how to remain calm at the table, which of course will help you win the battle of tilt reciprocality.
I look forward to reading the rest of the book. What I have read so far is certainly thought provoking. This book promises to be among the best poker psychhology texts available.
To discover what we really need in a new poker book, let's first examine what we really don't need. A list of starting hands. A reminder that "tight is right." How to play a flush draw in limit. I could go on.
So what do we need? We need Tommy Angelo's excellent new book that covers 144 "elements" of poker (the title, no doubt, harks to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White). We need to develop our own selection of starting hands, by position; he provides a chart. We need to learn to play "mum poker," which "is not about not talking. It's about not talking about certain things, namely, poker things." We need to learn about "the path of leak resistance" (say, avoiding the pits: "When a poker player plugs the leak, or tries to, he walks the path of leak resistance"). We even need to learn how to fold: not what to fold, but how to fold: you "fastfold" when "you muck your hand as soon as you know you are beat" because (a) it's courteous and (b) it reduces your information outflow.
"Fastfold" is one of the many words and terms Angelo has coined (and his great verbal dexterity makes the book a pleasure to read; lively, entertaining, and interesting as well as instructive). He credits himself with the creation of the word "hijack" for the seat one to the right of the cutoff (because a raised from that seat "hijacked" Angelo from the button). Another one I particularly relished was "bliscipline," a combination of bliss and discipline: "when you are at the table and you are so totally in control of yourself and so totally at peace in the situation that no matter what happens next, you'll still have plenty of resolve in reserve."
"Bliscipline" is what you need to survive and win at poker; bliscipline is what you need to achieve--another Angelo-ism--"tiltlessness." While I still believe the definite work on tilt is Zen the Art of Poker by Larry Phillips (see my review in Card Player, April 25, 2007), Angelo is the new poet of tilt, which he defines as "any deviation from your A-game and your A-mindset, however slight or fleeting." Everybody tilts; "To make money from tilt, you don't need to be tiltless. But you do have to tilt less."
Tilt less; win more. How? "To win at poker, you have to be very good at losing." And that requires practice. Learn to become "hopeless" ("if I am hopeful that I will win, it is inevitable that I will sometimes be disappointed"). Recognize that poker is the "mother fluctuater" (which is "why it's best to not give a fluc"). Understand that the "gray area"--that huge swath of poker where you simply don't know what to do--is just another part of the game. Do not "resist reality": "Extreme resistance is extreme pain."
And we need to learn how to breathe (i.e., mindfully: "to elevate your calmness"). It sounds like New Age claptrap, but Angelo has made me a believer in the power of controlled, conscious breathing, which helps you step away from bad beats and losses: "By eliminating the past, and eliminating the future, we give ourselves this present." Very Zen, but, I think, very true--and very helpful (if you put it to work).
Elements of Poker does offer some traditional strategic on limit, no-limit, and tournament poker. Angelo is eloquently persuasive, for example, about the supreme importance of position, and there's a good section on the "dollar value" of your stack/position in tournament poker. But read this book for its understanding of the more subtle "elements of poker." Then read it again.
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Arthur S (Joesize)