Poker Book Report – Play Poker Like a Pigeon and Take the Money Home

  • April 9, 2020

This brilliant little book (213 pages), published in 2007, stands an excellent chance of turning the careful student into a masterfully disguised limit hold’em ninja. He boils the game down into two principles: playing the game, and playing the enemy. He lays out a step-by-step plan about how to look like a total poker klutz, dish out a whuppin’, leave the game with bags of money, and most importantly, leave the distinct impression that you’re nothing more than a donk who lucked out. The game is aimed primarily at a live-play audience. The prose itself is delicious. Our hero is clearly a story teller, and it is easy to believe that he is also a novelist, as claimed.

The book begins by explicitly stating its purpose, in big capital letters: “READ THIS BOOK IF YOU WANT TO AVOID THE LIMELIGHT, YET BE A CONSISTENT WINNER AT THE POKER TABLE.” His self-disclosure perhaps explains some of his motivation deposit via pulsa. He claims to have been knocked out of a WSOP Main Event, just before the final table. He lost to an atrocious suck-out, pulled off by no less than Stu Ungar, who went on to win the bracelet. This appears to have been a revelation to our author: no-limit hold’em, especially tournament style, is a crapshoot, played by those who crave fame. Steady money can be found at the limit tables, especially with cleverly disguised skills. Although I prefer no-limit myself, it is refreshing to see a vastly different perspective, especially one with such good humour.

So, how does one look like a pigeon? The keys involve image management and a basic knowledge of the crazy odds of the game. If you can learn to look at a guy giving you a lecture about a bad beat with a blank stare of confusion, you’re well on your way. If you combine this knowledge with the statistical oddity that any two hole cards will hit a flop hard one time in thirteen, then you have the makings of a donk in disguise. In an average session of limit, take 15 or so stabs at the pot from ludicrously early position with junk. Raise it up. If you hit hard, play it down to the end with all the goofy moves like checking the flop and raising the turn. Then, when the guy in position (who did everything “right” a la Sklansky) blasts you for having no knowledge of poker whatsoever, you just give a confused smile. Whenever you miss, you simply dump your hand, and nobody thinks twice.

My favourite chapter, “Tells Don’t Tell – People Do,” is a critique of tells. The author considers the notion of Kreskin-like powers of reading a villain’s hole cards ridiculous. He offers a detailed analysis of the crucial hand between Sammy Farha and Chris Moneymaker from the 2003 Main Event, suggesting that more attention to the betting patterns of the hand, rather than to the man himself, might have earned Sammy the bracelet, instead of having his stack crippled by a stone-cold bluff on the river. He goes over the players’ behaviours in detail and then replays the same hand as if it were played online, with nothing but betting patterns available. I don’t know if I’m quite convinced by his arguments, especially after reading Joe Navarro, but it’s a good reminder that at least 90% of what you need to know comes from the player’s actions, not from whether he bets with the left hand or the right.

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