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Keep Flopping Aces



Poker for Dummies
with Richard D. Harroch
Contents and More Information
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 298 pages
Date: April 10, 2000
Publisher: IDG Books
ISBN: 0764552325

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Poker for Dummies: The Birth of the Beast

This article originally appeared in Card Player Magazine.

Click for more information on Poker for DummiesThis column marks a celebration of sorts for me. Today, seven months of work is about to be shipped to the printer, and by the time you read this column, Poker For Dummies will either be sitting on the shelves of your neighborhood bookseller or it will be there soon.

Writing this column is easy for me. I just sit down, start at the beginning, and keep typing until I'm finished - some 1,000 words later. Writing a book is another matter altogether. Even with coauthor Richard D. Harroch shouldering half the burden, and guest authors Mike Caro, Nolan Dalla, Kathy Watterson, and Dan Paymar contributing chapters and vignettes, a book is a beast, pure and simple.

Writing a book is not only work, it requires sacrifice. I did not get to play too much poker during the seven-month writing period. I also missed movies, failed to go to dinner with friends, and even passed up the lure of bright sunny days that called me to an aimless and carefree walk along the beach that lies less than a block from my front door. As the months moved slowly along I began thinking of myself as the hermit-in-the-high-rise who seldom came down to the street.

Columns are easily dashed off from the forefront of the mind; books require one to delve into the depths of their soul. Long forgotten thoughts are dredged up and forced forward, then written, edited, and written and edited again until they are at least cogent, and hopefully infused with literary merit.

Writing a Dummies book requires a specials knack that I seemed to get the hang of about three-quarters of the way through the process. Every one of those big, black-and-yellow books that you see on the shelves of your local bookseller is written in a similar style. They are light, witty, informative, humorous, easily read, yet filled with the stuff to instruct raw beginners. Simplifying concepts is not easy; yet the very process of writing for beginners causes a wonderful transformation to occur. The knowledge and sophisticated concepts one possesses become stripped bare until only the essence of the concept shines through - unadorned, yet pure, and possessed of a stark simplicity that gives new and deeper meaning to long-held ideas and truths.

Dummies books are also famous for their lavish use of "boxed" materials - stuff journalists call "sidebars." Like a bunch of handy-dandy cheat sheets, these sidebars pepper the book and add flavor to the stew. But writing them is another exercise in stripping bare ideas until the essence remains and the fat is gone. Working and reworking these concepts was agonizing, time-consuming, and often frustrating, but the payoff for me - in addition to the book itself - is that I believe I am now a much better pokier player than I was when I began this project.

To all of you who would be writers and harbor a book in your hearts, take heed: The column you are reading was dashed off in a morning. If something said in the first paragraph needs to relate to something said at the end, it's easy to bear that in mind. But a book is chapters and chapters, written over a long period of time, which must somehow be integrated so they read as a coherent whole. The difference between book and column is the difference between a symphony and a simple tune. One is much more difficult than the other; and it still mystifies me that I'm able to do this at all.

You can't simply multiply the number of pages in a column by the writing time per page and extrapolate the amount of time needed to write a book. It doesn't work that way, and it's a lesson I've learned with each book I've written. I always expect the effort to be significantly less than it is, and I'm always amazed how much effort is required.

The editing process for a book is much more demanding than it is for a column. Face it, if you've got your commas in the right places, can keep your syntax straight and are marginally literate, there's not much editing required to make a column work. But a book is another story. Good editors are a blessing for any writer, offering another pair of literate eyes to scrutinize words and paragraphs the writer has become all too close to. A skilled editor's hand can enhance the quality of a book significantly. That was particularly true in my case, since the editors were able to ensure that Poker For Dummies was consistent with the Dummies style, tone, and format.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this column, since it's completely bereft of poker content. Maybe it's an act of celebration. Perhaps it's my way of saying, "I'm sorry" to friends ignored during my cloistered months at the keyboard. Or it may just be a word of warning to pretenders and a word of encouragement to those of you who really feel there's a book within you.

If that book is screaming to get out, go ahead and write it. It will be work. More work than you will ever imagine. But you'll grow from it, and your growth will measure the inherent worth of your work.

Poker For Dummies is my third book. My first book, Hold'em Excellence: From Beginner to Winner, was difficult but that did not surprise me. I expected it to be a lot of work simply because I'd never written a book before.

When I finished my second book, MORE Hold'em Excellence: A Winner For Life, I was shocked at the work it required. Having been down that path before, I assumed that I was on top of the learning curve and would be able to dash off a second book in no time whatsoever. I was, I discovered, soundly mistaken.

I realized Poker For Dummies would be a lot of work, and I was ready for it. When the go-ahead letter, the contract, and the first advance check arrived in the mail I was primed, full of ideas and energy, and ready to go. Seven months later I'm staggering into the light at the end of the tunnel, tired, drained, and looking for a soft place to fall.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. But not tomorrow. Maybe in a few months.

Lou Krieger
March 2000

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