Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Review: Why You Lose at Poker

Why You Lose At Poker (Conjelco; July 2006) was written by Russ Fox and Scott T. Harker. This is their second book together. The two joined forces and wrote Mastering No Limit Hold'em, which focuses on low and middle-limit NL cash games.

Here's some quick bio info on the authors... Harker is primarily an online player, while Russ Fox plays both online and frequents casinos in Southern California. These guys know how to play against and beat erratic online players and crazy Californians. I've played with Russ both live and online and he's got skills, so we're fortunate they are sharing some of their experiences with us.

The foreword was penned by Andy Bloch and he insists, "If you learn why you lose at poker, you'll learn how to win."

Greg "Fossilman" Raymer explained, "Of all the guys in poker you've never heard of, Russ and Scott are two of the smartest. They are long-time winning poker players, and have done a great job of putting that knowledge into this book to help you become a better player. I believe this book will help make anybody who is willing to work at his game into a winning player."

Fox and Harker's latest book came out this past summer and as their title suggests focuses on the 16 main reasons why you are a loser at the tables. In his review on Poker News, John Caldwell mentioned, "The advice is well thought out, but more importantly current and therefore relevant. Since the advice comes from the perspective of losing - rather than how to win, it forces the reader to think about the issues from a different perspective."

He's right. As the majority of poker books preach winning strategies, this book makes you examine your own game for weaknesses. And it wasn't written a decade ago before the recent poker boom and influx of internet players. It was penned early in 2006 and they use realistic hand examples and situations.

Here are the topics covered in Why You Lose At Poker:
The Money You Lose Playing Too Many Hands
The Money You Lose By Not Taking the Initiative
The Money You Lose By Not Recognizing You Are Beat
The Money You Lose Not Taking Other Players Into Consideration
The Money You Lose Making Incorrect Bets in Big-Bet Poker
The Money You Lose With Poor Bluffing Habits
The Money You Lose Making Mechanical Errors
The Money You Lose Playing Only Half the Pot
Losing Because You Don't Have an Adequate Bankroll
Losing Because You Shouldn't Be Playing
Losing Because You Are Not Properly Educated
Losing Because You Don't Understand the Math of Poker
Losing Because You're Playing in Tournaments
Losing Because of Bad Luck
Losing Because You Don't Use Game Selection
Losing Because You've Forgotten the Goal of Poker
Like any poker book, you will not find any earth shattering revelations into playing poker. This book is different, however. Instead of teaching you winning strategies, Why You Lose At Poker draws attentions to the most common mistakes that both pros and amateurs have to deal with on a regular basis. Most of those mistakes are so common that they often go overlooked.

The biggest drain during my recent losing streak was playing too many tournaments. That's why I stopped playing a ton of tournaments over a year ago because I'm not a profitable NL tourney player and I'm a proven Limit Hold'em cash game winner.

For the majority of my poker career, my game selection was poor and I had terrible bankroll management, using 50% of my roll to play at a limit I shouldn't be playing. That high-risk poker playing was dangerous and I'm fortunate I never went broke. These days, my bankroll is big enough that I could sustain a five or six month losing streak without completely freaking out (which I end up doing after three or four weeks anyway). I wish I had this book with me a couple of years ago.

The book also includes Twenty Hands at the Cardroom which focuses on ten Limit and ten NL hands with plenty of analysis and conclusions including different characters (with various poker playing styles and levels of skill) that the authors have played against at some point in their careers.

I read Why You Lose At Poker when I lived in Las Vegas during the 2006 WSOP and I re-read it again before I wrote this review. It is one of those poker books that you should read and reread every few months, regardless if you are winning or losing at the tables.

It seems that majority of poker books are consumed by new players when they first start and they read as many books as possible as part of their poker education. The second group of people who read poker books are intermediate players who are losers. Usually desperate poker players will turn to books during the middle of a horrendous losing streak trying to find a solution to their problems. And they usually don't find much thumbing through Super System or Harrington on Hold'em.

Although the authors never intended on their book to be a Band-Aid to stop bleeding bankrolls, Fox and Harker's highlights reasons why you might be playing like shit. In short, this is a perfect book for a losing poker player because the majority of leaks in your game are simplistic in nature and they help quickly identity those liabilities.

When you develop several of these small problems, the cumulative affect starts to drain your bankroll. You might be able to overcome piss poor bankroll management, playing too many hands, or horrible table selection. But when all three or more weakness frequently appear in your sessions, you're potentially risking your entire bankroll and livelihood as a poker player.

This is a book that should be in everyone's poker library. If you don't have a copy of Why You Lose At Poker, you can order one.... here.

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