Poker books suck.
The statement may be hypocritical, given I took part in writing one of the too many poker books out there. However, I choose to stand by my opening statement.
Why would I say this however? In fact, I’m partnered with Ed Miller, one of the most prolific authors in the game, for our training site RedChipPoker.com. He’s written more than a handful of best-selling books. Surely, I can’t think his works are of no use. So, what am I saying? I do think poker books have a place in this game. I just don’t know exactly where that place is yet. Sorry Ed.
To put it simply, poker books put players in a box. Once the player is in this box, it is really hard to break them out. Most books provide charts and golden nuggets of information, such as “don’t call with dominated hands,” which players are suggested to abide by. Both these nuggets and the charts should be vanished from existence.
Poker is a fluid game. Game flow dynamics, history, awareness, and frequency considerations are all but a handful of aspects that go into the decision matrix while playing a hand. You’ll also need heart. Unfortunately, I haven’t found one of these aspects, yet alone all of them, to be the corner stone of any published book.
When poker players approach me for help in their game, I find they have hard set poker mantras instilled in their minds. These requirements include answering, “If I raise, what worse will call?” or “Am I betting as a bluff or for value?” These black and white rules are OK, but in a game with so much grey, these rules do nothing but weigh down the player. If they want to evolve, and continue to compete, they’ll need to learn to embrace the grey.
Recently, I was asked how I would approach teaching someone who has never played poker before. Would I preach a tight solid strategy? Would I direct them to some books? Given the title of this article, it’s easy to predict that I wouldn’t direct them towards any books. However, I would not have them implement a tight strategy, including using open-raising charts per position. In fact, I would unleash the beast. I would tell my prodigy to play every hand he or she perceives as playable. Afterwards, they are free to do whatever it is they deem necessary to win the hand.
Just win the hand
This approach in learning will force the new player into tricky spots. They’ll have to learn to dig themselves out, which is an invaluable skill. The easy spots will play themselves. More importantly, they won’t be boxed into some set strategy put forth by an author. Anything goes, and that’s exactly the mindset they will need to succeed in this ruthless game. Obviously, my job will be to smooth out the rough edges. Nevertheless, this task will be a lot more productive than revamping a flawed mindset of a veteran player.
If you want to reach the pinnacle of this game, you’ll have to acknowledge that poker books won’t light the path. In fact, I suggest you remove them from your library. Burn the books and remove yourselves from the box that has held you down.
If not books, then where do we go?
I think the answer for improvement is somewhere between videos, coaching, and trial and error.
Throughout my career, I’ve watched countless hours of poker training videos, maybe more than anyone in the world. I’m serious too. This experience has given me a good base in the theory behind the plays. Whether you sign up for RedChipPoker or any other training platform, the
videos provided will be useful for your progression as a thinker in the game. I suggest, however, you take everything with a grain of salt.
Currently, I have a coach. Is it cheap? No. However, I think I cut my learning curve substantially and can compete with anyone in live Deep Stack No Limit. When I coach players, I get similar feedback. I cut the learning curve. In fact, that’s the goal of any coach. We decrease the time it takes to learn the concepts and teach in a format that best serves the student.
Trial and Error
There is something to be said for simply going after it. Once you get all the mechanics down, and theory is sound, you’ll need to get in there and battle. Take on the best, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Try to set new trends, and never stop questioning your lines. This will make you tough to play against.
Let’s burn the books. Be a trailblazer, and in the meanwhile enjoy the ride.
If you have any questions you can hit me up on the RedChipPoker forum or on twitter @ChristianPoker.