Friday, April 18, 2008

Book Review: "The Poker Mindset" by Ian Taylor & Matthew Hilger

I’ll save you the trouble of having to scroll to the bottom of this review to see if I recommend this book or not and just tell you now - I love this book!! It is truly amazing in what it did to my attitude towards the game of poker. This is not a technical book that shows you how to make better plays and directly improve your game. It is a psychological book that puts poker in perspective and should indirectly improve anyone’s game.

The “indirect” part comes in that this book has the capability of lessening or even eliminating tilt from the game of all but the most stubborn poker players. Therefore, less tilt means better decision making, which breeds more success. The authors, Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger, have come up with a complete concept that they call “The Poker Mindset”. The elements of this concept include certain thoughts and attitudes that must be followed to benefit from the concept as a whole. The first such concept element is understanding and accepting the realities of poker. It basically says that one must realize that even pocket Aces lose 20% of the time. As with life, there is almost nothing in poker that can’t happen. As I like to say, “Even condoms are only 99% effective.”

Other elements of the Poker Mindset include playing for the long term, desensitizing yourself to money, leaving your ego at the door, and others that I will save for the reader to discover. The authors layout the entire concept and its elements in such a way that left me saying to myself “I never thought of it that way.” and “Now I understand where my tilt comes from.” I’ve read other sources on combating tilt and how tilt comes to be, but I’ve never fully grasped how to handle the whole thing until reading this book.

One point from the book that I found particularly interesting is how we as humans often make the mistake of “projection”. In poker, this means we sometimes assume that our opponents think the way we think. Doing this can not only cause a player to lose the hand by making the wrong decision, but most likely will cause them to tilt and affect their next, and possibly future play. “How can he call my PF raise with 97 offsuit?” is a perfect example of mistaken projection and, from what I read in the forums, is quite common. It made me think of how this also applies to everyday life and how I am guilty of it. “How can they do something like that?” is something we’ve all said to ourselves without thinking about how people don’t all think like we do.

I also like the section of the book about downswings. The book points out that the common belief among many poker players that a downswing is some mystical occurrence that magically appears and disappears is false. A downswing is just a period in which a player loses at a faster rate that normal. A downswing has no definite beginning or end and can be caused by luck, tilt, or bad technique. The book says that a player should combat a downswing by analyzing his play to make sure the downswing is not caused by those latter 2 factors.

The only thing that didn’t please me about the book is that I don’t recall it mentioning much if anything about tilt during a tournament or how to handle it. To me, tournaments have the extra element of the time a player has to invest to win or cash in an event. This book has helped me better handle bad beats and bad players getting lucky, but bubbling a tournament after investing 3 or more hours of my life to playing solid poker is something I’d like to be able to handle a bit better. I guess one can try to apply the same concepts to tournament time in that a player has to accept that they won’t win or even cash in every tournament they play and that they need to emphasize their good decisions over any “waste of time” they may feel after busting out.

In conclusion, I think this is one of the best books an intermediate poker player can buy. Whether a calm player or a tilty one, I guarantee this book will help anyone with the psychological part of the game of poker if they buy into the concept of the Poker Mindset. A beginner may want to develop his understanding of the game a little bit more before picking this one up, but even an expert player could benefit from the structure that the Poker Mindset concept can bring to someone who has “lost their edge” or wants to maintain it. This book has completely changed the way I look at poker and has introduced me to ideas that I have never ran into anywhere else. I will definitely recommend this book to EVERY poker player I know.

1 comment:

Guittars said...

Nice review. Thought you drew out the key points of the book well. I read this book a couple of months ago and, like you, I found it had a huge impact on how I approach the game.

However, I've been keeping quiet about it as I don't want to let other people know how good it is!