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Zen and the Art of Poker by Larry W Phillips

Release date: 10th December, 1999
Publisher: Penguin Putnam

List Price: 9.99
Our Price: 8.99
You Save: 1 (10%)
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In terms of topics such as which starting hands to play/consider/reject, calculating probability and basing decisions on it, strategies based on stack depth or tournament blinds structure, or even peripheral matters such as bankroll management, it would be fair to say that this isn't a poker book at all.

What it is, though, is a thought-provoking series of mini-lectures on the mental state(s) required for tackling the game, including patience, detachment of ego, the controlled use of aggression and a willingness to use your opponent's momentum against him. And if that sounds more like a martial art than a game, you've pretty much got the hang of what the book is about.

As you might expect from a book with 'Zen' in its title, it can be a touch mystical, gnomic and even apparently self-contradictory. Just as books of proverbs and fables generally contain the advice that 'fools rush in' but 'he who hesitates is lost', or 'many hands make light work' but 'too many cooks spoil the broth', you will find elements of pick-and-mix in this volume. But not, to be fair, very many.

The book has also been criticised by some for 'stating the obvious'. But then poker is often a game of the obvious - the problem being that we ignore what is under our noses. It may be obvious that it's a bad idea to go on tilt, but that doesn't stop millions of us doing it, and any advice that might help us avoid that pitfall is surely to be welcomed.

If you've even the slightest suspicion that an aggressive attitude or lack of composure may be holding back your otherwise sound knowledge of the game, this book is well worth reading - and then dipping into again whenever you feel yourself lapsing.


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