Two Book Reviews: Dennis Purdy’s “The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’em”; David Apostolico’s “Machiavellian Poker Strategy”

by Lou on November 30, 2005

The two books reviewed in today’s blog are very different in scope and approach, yet each of them deserves a place in your poker library.

The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’em, written by Dennis Purdy and published by Sourcebooks, Inc., is aimed primarily at beginning players. Its innovative approach makes it a great complement to the many other books on poker theory — mine included — that have flooded the market in recent years. The format for Purdy’s work is what we used to call a “workbook” when I was in school, and the author organized his efforts around 150 real-game situations designed to teach the application of strategic and tactical points to beginning players.

The material is presented in a manner requiring the reader to make decisions about sample hands. Answers are provided that explain the correct action to take and the rationale behind each decision. Many of the 150 situations follow a hand from the beginning through its conclusion, so that the reader gets to make a decision before the flop, on the flop, on the turn, and on the river too — just as he or she would in a real game.

One terrific feature of this book is the quality of its illustrations. They are simply presented and logically structured so that the reader is taken from one game situation to the next and is easily able to follow the action by virtue of the illustrations and the narrative, just as if he was sitting at a table watching these same hands transpire in front of him in real time.

The writing is crisp, clear, concise, easily read and easily understood. The questions posed to the reader are unambiguous and cut to the core of each decision. No one reading this book will get lost in tortured syntax, bad grammar, structural errors, and the sort of stylistic bugaboos that bedevil so many other poker books these days.

Any poker player who has read and profited from my own books would probably do well to grab this one. It will take any player — even a complete novice — from the theory he has learned to a setting where he can turn his theoretical knowledge into practical know-how just by working through the 150 problems in this workbook. At $14.95 it’s priced to provide plenty of bang for the buck. If you’re a beginning player, this is a “must have” addition to your poker library.

Machiavellian Poker Strategy — How to Play Like a Prince and Rule the Poker Table, written by David Apostolico and published by Lyle Stuart/Kensington, takes Machiavelli’s time honored strategic and philosophical approach to obtaining and keeping power and exercising leadership, and applies it to poker. In a sense this book is a follow-up to Apostolico’s earlier Tournament Poker and the Art of War, in which he showed players how to use the strategies explored in Sun-tzu’s military manual to dramatically enhance their tournament play.

Machiavellian Poker Strategy — How to Play Like a Prince and Rule the Poker Table aims Machiavelli’s lessons on achieving and retaining power at the poker player who might not have thought about the game in quite this way before. The transliteration of Machiavelli’s writings and ideas into a variety of fields of endeavor is nothing new in and of itself. His principles have been used by politicians, business leaders, and others for centuries, and there’s no reason why these timeless principles will not work just as well at the poker table as they do in the broader game of life.

If you were to attempt to encapsulate Machiavelli, you might choose to do so with the phrase, “the ends justify the means.” Although dogmatically following an oversimplified Machiavellian approach can lead to all sorts of dilemmas in modern life, morality-based dilemmas usually fall by the wayside where poker is concerned. As long as one plays by the rules and doesn’t shoot angles, there are no moral issues at the poker table. The goal of any poker player is to win money, and by following Machiavelli’s pragmatic guidelines the smart, strategic player is able to propel himself to a higher level of discipline and improve his insights into his opponents’ play and his own too.

Apostolico is a corporate lawyer who plays poker whenever he gets the chance. He writes very well too, and his book is easy to read and understand. Although the philosophies of Machiavelli can sound off-putting to the uninitiated — like having to plow through a dense college philosophy text — the author does a bang-up job of making Machiavelli easily understood and appreciated without watering down his message. The nexus between poker and Machiavelli are easily connected dots, and no leaps of faith are required to follow Machiavelli’s principles or Apostolico’s writing.

At $14.95, it’s a terrific buy and a book any thinking poker player will look forward to reading over and over again.

As I mentioned earlier, I recently went on a poker book buying binge. Next up for review is The Book of Bluffs: How to Bluff and Win at Poker, by Matt Lessinger. Stay tuned for a book review just as soon as I finish reading it.

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