We couldn’t be more excited to bring you this week’s episode, because Doug Hull is here to discuss his upcoming new book, More Poker Plays You Can Use. The sequel to Hull’s acclaimed debut as a solo poker strategy author is a literal wealth of information that low-stakes live cash players will use to dominate games for years to come. The book is based on Hull’s years of experience grinding $1/$2 games and analyzing the mathematics of poker strategy, even developing his own software release (Flop Falcon) to help players build flop intuition. Don’t miss this exciting preview with one of poker’s most respected strategists and authors.
Hey Doug, thanks for joining me today on the podcast. I’m really excited about this one because we’re going to talk about your new book. Tell me all about More Poker Plays You Can Use.
Doug: The title was pretty much given after the first one, so that just happens. Of course, the third one in the series would be “Yet, More Poker Plays You Can Use.” I think after that, it gets ridiculous, and it will just be “Poker Plays You Can Use Part Four” because “Yet, Even More Poker Plays You Can Use” just isn’t going to work for me.
Zac: It’s a whole saga now. For those of our listeners who haven’t read your first book, Poker Plays You Can Use, this is actually how you and I met. I wrote a review on Amazon for the book, and we randomly met, and we’ve been working together ever since, but give us a little background on why you wrote the first book and why you’re writing this sequel.
Doug: Okay, so I had been a student of Ed Miller, and after we had been working together for a while, I was definitely getting there, and I started asking him if he needed help with marketing much like you asked me or I asked you if you would help us with the marketing, but the same thing, and so we ended up started talking, and the idea of a collaboration on a book made sense. That’s where Poker Plays You Can Use started. He said he’d be my editor for it, so he did the editing and did a lot of great work for me, making sure the dumb hands got cut out and thrown away, making sure the missions were in there. There’s a lot of Ed Miller’s hand in that book.
Zac: There were a couple of really exciting new things in that book, and I’ve read a lot of poker strategy books. The way you presented hands for one was very unique in this charts that were very easy to read, but secondly and I think most importantly, you had exercises in the back of the book where people could actually go and run these plays at their local low-stakes cash game. Is that something that you’re planning on doing for the new book as well?
Doug: Yeah. I’ve got missions for the second book. Those were incredibly popular. People love reading the books, but then the question is, “What is the next concrete thing that I can do to help my game? What do I physically do right now?” That’s what missions were all about. Ed had given me the idea of this. Actually, if you go and read the afterword of Playing the Player, he actually refers to the idea of missions, and he says, “Yeah, I should’ve put him in the book,” and so when he told me I needed missions, what he did was … One of the missions should be go out and bluff $500 on the river today. He’s like, “Make that a mission.”
It’s pretty hard in a one-two to ever get to the point where you’ve got a river bet of $500, but the idea was there. Make this hard to do. Make this something that you are going to spend your entire day looking for that spot to make a big river bluff, and when you start really looking for those spots, they appear. They’re there. They’ve always been there, but you’ve overlooked them. When your mission on that day is to go out and make a big river bluff shove, you’ll find it.
Zac: Definitely a challenge there. I haven’t done that one yet. I’m looking forward to it maybe.
Doug: Yeah. Only if it works, so the missions this time are all based on off-table, non-computer work. That’s something that a lot of my people wanted. A lot of these missions could be done with computer, but what I found is a lot of computer-phobes are in the group of people that come to me for coaching, and so I wanted to find ways for them to work off-table without falling into Flopzilla or Flop Falcon for hours and hours. Just stuff you can do with paper, pencil, and a deck of cards.
We’ve got one mission, which is the basis of the rest of them, is make up eight characters. I’ve got eight of them built into the book that you can use, but you can modify them for your own, so like there’s a picture of this sweet old lady who has a really loose opening ranger, but her three-betting range is exactly aces, and I go through and describe her. I’ve got a picture of her. It’s actually a picture of my dear sweet grandma that you see in the background right there when she was much younger, and that is Nonie. That is going to be the stereotypical, weak, passive player. Sorry, grandma.
Then, there is going to be like … Who are some of my other characters that I put in there? There is Ellery who’s my grandpa, but he is old man coffee. He got all the ranges and all of the stereotypes of old man coffee, and so we’ve built a bunch of these characters. Most of them are pretty bad. There’s a couple of good ones, and what you do is like for one of the missions, you lay these characters out at a table, and you deal them hands, and you play them as they would play them.
That’s why I give opening ranges that are different for each of these players like Charles Lee, your superstitious player who feels lucky a lot. His racing range and his Olympian ranger are exactly the same, and they’re both huge, and just depending on how he’s feeling, do seven might be a limp. It might be a raise. Who knows? It’s how Charles Lee is feeling that day. He might raise aces. He might limp them. You never know, and so we’ve got all these different characters out there.
What it does is it gives you realistic situations pre-flop to study that are also based on the characters at the table. We’re going to react completely differently if I have raised pre-flop rather than if Nonie has. She’s got aces. You’ve got to react to that. Doug? Eh, he’s got two cards.
Zac: It sounds like you’re really focusing on player profiling in this one, whereas the last one, built more around the fundamentals, bread and butter spots, those types of situation, but am I correct in understand that these exercises are things you can run solitary by yourself, dealing yourself an orbit of cards, and playing through these various scenarios?
Doug: Oh, yeah. These are solitaire. They’re poker solitaire, and what they’re going to do is end up getting you to an interesting spot where you are building their range, or our range, or something of that nature. A lot of times, you don’t even necessarily have any two specific cards. You’re trying to figure out which specific cards you would play like this, so there’s a lot more details in it, but they’re basically hands that you can … or missions that you can accomplish on your own, paper and pencil, and a deck of cards.
Zac: That’s excellent, so tell me a little bit more about the research process. I know when I was out there in Vegas, you were showing me the very detailed notes that you would take as you’re actually in these one-two games identifying these spots. How did you whittle all that down into these core archetypes and plays that you included in the book?
Doug: Oh, the players themselves for the missions, that’s just experience over thousands and thousands of hours. Those weren’t particularly difficult to come up with. For instance, I’ve seen the manuscript already agreed that these stereotypes are very realistic and the ranges are good enough that you can have fun with it when you’re doing the missions. As far as taking notes, most of my notes now are on specific hands, and that video I made for Red Chip during the series, I think it was June or July, it dropped about the mechanics of note-taking at the table shows what I was doing, but when I sat down and decided, “Okay. I need to write or finish writing this book,” I just opened up the voice recorder and I have about 150 hands that I have noted in there, so I just started listening.
When I got one that fit what I was looking for, I would listen to it and go through the mechanics of what’s in that video to get the hand into the tables, and then I would write it up. I still have in my voice recorder hundreds of hands that could be written up, and sometimes, they’re for one book. Sometimes, they’re for another. I often will, in the title of them, put which book I think they’re going to fit. At any given time like at my hard drive right now, I probably got five outlined books that I’m just waiting to write.
Zac: Wow. I know in the past, a lot of poker strategy books were more textbook-oriented. They showed you some concepts, tactics that apply overall to any game you play, but more and more, we’re seeing these books apply to very specific stakes. What stakes does this book apply to? Why types of players? Is it live low-stakes? Is that what you’re going for?
Doug: Yeah, this is live low-stakes. Virtually, all the hands are taken from one-two in Vegas.
Zac: Okay, and so what level of player do you think this book is good for? Are you going to need to come into this book with a lot of knowledge of hand reading SPR various concepts, or is this something that you can pick up and just go?
Doug: I would say that this is going to be … need to be a player that has some pretty decent solid fundamentals. They’re going to have to understand that we’re not playing fit or fold, and if you start applying these lessons or these tactics without understanding, you’ll be able to hurt yourself pretty badly. We’re talking about some floats. We’re talking about airball bluffs sometimes, betting and barreling with good semi-bluffs, and things like that that if you misapplied these, you’re going to be shoveling a lot of money in in some very bad spots.
Zac: A little more behind-scenes on how you put this book together… It can’t just be you. Are you working on this with a group of people, bouncing ideas off with other players? How does that work?
Doug: Yeah, so I had formed a private Skype group of students, former students, colleagues, and so on. As every chapter got written, I would post it up there, and they would read it and do commentary. Generally, what people would have to say about it was very good, and so I would then rewrite it and put it in. By the time this gets out, there were at least eight reviewers that got their input put into it. Then, my professional editor that is going through, and doing the grammar, and putting all the chapters in order to be a cohesive whole, and so on.
What we’re finding in this book is that there’s going to be three major parts. There is hands that are tactical where there is a clear tactical lesson. When a situation like this arises, you can do this. You can take them down. Okay? Then, there is stuff that’s more strategic like, “Okay. There’s not a clear lesson from one hand. What to do here?” Overall, there is a strategic concept.
I’ve heard someone described tactics as what you do in a certain situation, and strategy, what you do when you don’t have a specific tactic that you should be doing. A lot of these more strategic hands are longer, more detailed analysis that applies to a lot of different situations, and then the third part would be the missions, which are off-table physical study.
Zac: Got you. It’s awesome to hear about the behind the scenes, how these things come together, and it really sounds like there’s a lot of work and a lot of at-table work, but you picture the author is sitting alone in front of a computer banging this out, but you’ve spent a lot of time at the table. How do you recommend people use your books in general? How do you recommend someone studies a poker plays you can use or maybe your new book, and then goes and actually applies it to the table? Are they going to take the missions and go in, or is it …?
Doug: I think the act of reading is so, so important. I recommend that people have a pile of chips, preferably casino chips, and a deck of cards with them while they’re reading a hand. For instance, it is one thing to sit there and say, “Yeah, we should bluff in $250 on this turn card.” Right? But then, people with the fake chips in their own house, when they push out two stacks of red, their heart is like, “Oh, shit,” and it’s like, “It’s just fake chips.” It’s something visceral about actually going through the motions and practicing, pushing out these big bluffs with real chips.
Like whenever I do any of my training, usually, we’re at the Mirage, and I’ve got a set of $1,040 in chips that I go and buy so that when we’re studying hands, we’re not like, “Oh, you’ve got this much back and all these numbers that are hard to remember.” It’s like, “No, let’s put in physical chips and see how this pot is growing.” When I say, “What is the pot size bet here?” we can actually look. It’s right there.
That’s the same thing that I do with those hand charts that were really unique contribution in Poker Plays You Can Use. On any given streak, you can see what the action is very clearly. I find when I’m reading other people’s poker books, they often try and present these hands as a paragraph, and then you’re like, “I see all my notes in the margin,” like, “Okay. My stack is what?” and it makes it very hard to read.
With these, you’ve got the chips in front of you. You’ve got the stack size. It’s cold out on every streak for my books, and it makes it a lot easier to comprehend the lesson of the hand rather than the mechanics of having to figure out what stack sizes are and so on. That’s already done for you.
Zac: Wow, I never thought about that, the act of actually pushing those chips in by yourself as being harrowing and getting used to that, and then I guess you’re saying one of your exercises, bluff the river, that’s along the same lies to really just build up that ability to push those chips in when it actually counts, right?
Doug: Yeah. If you’ve gone and practiced, all right, shove it in, and getting into that mentality of just pushing it in. I think it helps.
Zac: So much of this is being more aggressive and finding spots to be more aggressive, right?
Doug: Oh, yeah. It’s totally a book about aggression just like Poker Plays You Can Use was. Now, of course, there is a section of good folds, but that’s pretty small compared to the “get it in there.”
Zac: Sure. I know that we’re going to have to wait to get the real content here, but can you give us maybe just another sneak preview of something that might be inside the book that our listeners can take away today and maybe start thinking about, so when they get your book, they can say, “Oh, yeah. Okay?”
Doug: Okay, so something interesting happened in that this book was started almost three years ago when I was living in Mohegan Sun … living in Boston going to Mohegan Sun, and so like the first 10 hands that I’d written were located at Mohegan Sun. Now, I’ve been playing full-time for two years when I picked the book back up again, and I go and look at those chapters, and I’m like, “I wouldn’t play this hand anymore like this.”
At the hist of a lot of my readers and people that were looking over the book, they’re like, “Leave those in and give commentary about how … How I played it before was fine, but now, I’ve gotten more aggressive, so I would play this differently now.” It’s like going in a time machine and seeing myself a few years ago where a lot of my students are when they come to me now, and it’s like, “Well, I’ve been there,” and so I lock those hands in with the commentary that, “Yeah, this was a winning line that I recommended and I played, but I think there was a better winning line that I would take now.”
Zac: If I wasn’t excited before, I’m excited now. You’re breaking new ground with these new ways of studying and practicing, and I’m really looking forward. The book sounds like it’s going to come out a little bit later this year hopefully. Where can people pick up the book when it does come out, or maybe where can people get notified of when it comes out?
Doug: If you join the Red Chip Poker mailing list, it will certainly go out there as far as the pre-order goes, and we’ll go from there. Generally, on Red Chip, only the pre-order for physical books. After that, if you want a physical book, you’re just going to have to get it off of Amazon. We found that the … It should be in a physical book.
Other than that original big burst of sales, I’m just not a responsible adult, and I’m not going to make it to the post office to send you your book in any timely fashion, so you can see over my shoulder the stack of books that I still have. There’s all of Miller’s books, my books, and a few from Tommy Angelo up there, but those, if you want them, you’re just going to have to show up at my door.
Zac: That’s an interesting dynamic, right? I bet there’s a lot of readers that just have to get the book on day one so they can have the edge over the people who get it on day two, day 20, year two, right?
Doug: Yeah, and it’s fun because I’m going to have an alternate cover that’s only available in pre-order. I think it’s a really good cover, and that’s what’s going to be available. I’ll just go through and however many I sell, I’ll sign them all, mail them all out at once. As the pre-order, you’ll get the e-book immediately, and then the paper book probably in a week or two because I’ll place one order with the publisher, get them all, sign them, and ship them out, and so that’s about the timeframe I would expect. The e-book, immediately. The paper book, when it’s ready.
Zac: Got you. It’s been great to hear this update on the book. It sounds like it’s almost ready to be complete, and sent to the printers, and making its way out to the public, so we’ll look forward to that and always a pleasure to talk to you, Doug, in the podcast.
Doug: All right. Thank you.