HARRINGTON ON HOLD 'EM RED HOT; BEYOND TELLS TAKES MENTAL APPROACH . August 2005

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HARRINGTON ON HOLD 'EM RED HOT; BEYOND TELLS TAKES MENTAL APPROACH, Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas) and JAMMING AT THE JAMBOREE--PART ONE By Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy

HARRINGTON ON HOLD 'EM RED HOT; BEYOND TELLS TAKES MENTAL APPROACH

By Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

World Series of Poker Champion (1995) Dan Harrington has done it again. The classy, consistent tournament player's latest book, Harrington on Hold'em--Volume 2, The Endgame(450 pages, paperbound, $29.95) has arrived at Gambler's Book Shop as has Beyond Tells (Power Poker Psychology) by James McKenna (253 pages, paperbound, $15.95).

Harrington's first book, Volume 1 Strategic Play was a huge hit and the second (by a way, a third is planned for next year) became the hottest read for serious players virtually overnight. In this work, co-authored by Bill Robertie, a world class chess and backgammon player, the focus is on making moves like bluffing and bluffing pre-flop; moves called the squeeze play; back-alley mugging; slow-playing before and after the flop; adapting to styles and moves while becoming aggressive or conservative.

With simple, short sentences for the most part, the authors offer problems, solution, rationale, examples, clearly, decisively.

Chapters titled Inflection Points and Multiple Inflection Points examine how the strategy for proper play changes as your stack shrinks in relation to the blinds. "Be advised that playing around inflection points is the most important single skill of no-limit hold'em tournaments," the authors emphasize. There is discussion of "... the ratio of your stack to the current total of blinds and antes. This number is crucial, and you must develop a facility for calculating it quickly and easily at a table," they emphasize.

This is truly a book for those good players who want to make the quantum jump to excellent. It must be studied, highlighted, incorporated into your playing style at the earliest opportunity.

The section on Heads-Up Play may be one of the most important in the book. When you get down to it, the difference between winning and losing could be millions. A frightening thought--one false move, one miscalculation worth a fortune.

I can truly understand why so many people wanted to read this book as soon as possible with big tournament action going on. If any book offers one time-saving, money-saving tip, it has accomplished its task and paid for itself.

This book tells you how to get the money.

BEYOND TELLS TAKES MENTAL APPROACH

James McKenna is a psychologist who plays poker and writes about it.

His book, Beyond Tells is designed to help players anticipate opponent behavior by analyzing their physical and mental approaches to the game. There have been other books on the subject, including Caro's Book of Poker Tells(Mike Caro); The Psychology of Poker(Alan Schoonmaker) (; Inside the Poker Mind (John Feeney) and Poker, Sex & Dying (Juel Anderson).

The Missouri-based McKenna says "There's nothing new about most things in life. What is new is learning new perspectives to understand what has always been there.

The book contains 11 chapters, with illustrated examples. McKenna has some interesting things to say about what people say and what they actually mean. One section titled Common Poker Gab is worth remembering because it may be an accidental verbal tip-off to what a player is holding. For example, McKenna says if a player announces, "I'll let you have it this time," it usually means the player is throwing a bad hand away anyway.

How people keep their chips in front of them ("nesting" like eggs) is a good indicator of the type of player they are--the spontaneous player will have an unorganized pile of chips; the player is a "loose" bettor, McKenna says.

Throughout the book there are "detection" lessons. How do you identify different types of players? What they seem to say; how they appear to act; what their body language tells you during and after play may help you correctly react to what they do against you when money is at stake is valuable information.

McKenna's book makes you think, focus, on your own potential tells and the art of picking them up from others. I wish the photos of people acting or reacting in a game were sharper, but maybe that's nitpicking (the photos in Caro's tells book were also shadowy in ways). 

But for someone who's not read anything about body language, McKenna's book will be helpful. Once again, if this book or any book helps improve your game, saves you from making a bad bet or a bad call, then it has paid for itself and done its duty.

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at http://www.gamblersbook.com and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964 by John and Edna Luckman, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)

JAMMING AT THE JAMBOREE--PART ONE By Terrence "VP Pappy" Murphy

"For most experts, writing about playing is more lucrative than playing itself."

--Mark Pilarski

The stars were out at Windsor Casino across the river from Detroit in Canada for Frank Scoblete's "Gambler's Jamboree." And you didn't need a telescope to see them, although Gwen Miller, the gambling astrologer, probably used one. You just needed to pay a fee of $199 for yourself, or $299 for two to attend. Not a bad price for over 42 seminars and a lot of hands-on instructions and all the free coffee you could drink.

When I first heard about the event, I asked VP Pappy, my alter ego, if we should go. "VP, what do you think? Should we go to this gambling thing?" I asked. "Why not?" he replied, "You have a collection of well over 200 books on gambling, many by some of the authors who'll be there, and you probably have read thousands of articles on these subjects. You also might very well have the largest collection of gambling quotes in the world with many of them by the very authors who will be there. And you are a writer yourself, albeit a hackneyed one, and you have been playing in casinos regularly for the past 20 years or so. Think of all those authors that you've always wanted to meet. Think of all the gambling, drinking, eating, joking, and partying I can do while we are there. Think of how much fun I'll have. We can't pass this up!" Most of the time VP's suggestions and schemes usually get me in trouble, but he was right this time. We can't pass this up! This is one of those once in a blue moon opportunities to meet people who can write and speak about gambling a hell of a lot better than I can. I want to meet them Mano y Mano, or Mano y Woman-o in Jean Scott's and Gwen Miller's case. So, let's do it!

"Many so-called (self-proclaimed) gambling gurus are personable, outgoing, even charismatic...but either incompetent, shallow, or possessed by an urge to pander to those aspects of casino gambling that I think I characterize when I use the phrase, "Secrets the bosses don't want you to know."

--Alan Krigman

I left work on Friday afternoon to meet Dolores, my wife, for the hour drive to Windsor Casino to check into their fine hotel for the weekend. The event was a series of seminars taking place over two days by some of the top gambling authors in the world. Dolores wanted to come along, although she wasn't going to attend any classes, because she didn't want to sit home alone while I'm with VP Pappy partying.

Driving down I-75 towards Detroit at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, the traffic wasn't all that bad for this time of day which was a surprise. On the way there, we listened to Kelly Clarkson's (the first American Idol) "Breakaway" album, which in my opinion of one who has been following the music scene for about 50 years or so, was one of the best albums of 2004/2005. The title song 'Breakaway" made reference to taking risks and chances, something that old VP and I are very used to doing.

I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky And I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change And break away Out of the darkness and into the sun But I won't forget all the ones that I love I'll take a risk, take a chance, make a change And break away

"Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson

Written by M. Gerrard/B. Benanard/ A. Lavigne

Coming off the expressway onto Jefferson Avenue in front of the Renaissance Center in Detroit, we encountered a traffic jam on both sides of the street. There were long lines of cars trying to get into the tunnel to Canada. Any other time we would have just given up, cut down a side street and gone over to one of Detroit's three casinos, but we had no choice this time. Finally, after about a half-hour wait, we drove through the tunnel, through customs, without being stripped searched for drugs or weapons, (which is why I always wear clean underwear when I go to Canada) and drove to Windsor Casino. After checking into the hotel, we headed for the high roller room to play a little $2 Pick'Em (a video poker game) for a while before dinner. I managed to stay even for an hour or so and eventually cashed out $20 ahead. Then it was time for some food downstairs in their food court.

On the way there, I noticed that their beautiful fountain was drained and inoperable. Bummer. Just sitting close by sipping a cool drink and watching the water show has always been a highlight of our Windsor Casino visits. I hoped that this was just a temporary thing, but we were told later by an employee, that the fountain was being taken out, permanently. Knowing this place and how their execs think, (I get private e-mails from former employees) they're probably going to put more lousy paying slots, Keno, and video poker machines in it's place.

"Casinos don't gamble... people do."

--VP Pappy

After a Chinese dinner at their deli-style restaurant downstairs, we played some dollar Pick'Em for a couple of hours and both of us lost. Dollar and up Pick'Em is about all that is left that has the correct pay scale on this game. All the quarter and half-dollar machines have had their pay scales downgraded to an unbeatable percentage. This used to be a good place to play video poker, but management thinks that giving less instead of more is the best way to generate new business and bring back the "rich" Americans again. It doesn't make sense to me, but maybe they're right as it appears that most people don't really notice or care about such things as what a machine's percentage of payback is and keep right on playing until they run out of money. But for me, I won't be back unless it's to see a show in their new auditorium or until they put in some fair quarter video poker games again, which I doubt will ever happen. VP Pappy and I play video poker most of the time and this place now is a giant video poker wasteland.

"Sometimes players get angry when a casino removes machines or reduces benefits. Go ahead and get angry if it makes you feel better. But it's a fact of life and it will continue to happen."

--Bob Dancer

Later that evening, after Dolores hit for $1200 on a dollar slot machine, (yes, miracles do happen) we headed for the hotel's Riverside Grill Bar to celebrate. There, we had a couple of "Jack Murphy's" (a drink created by VP Pappy consisting of coffee, Jack Daniel's, Bailey's Irish Cream, topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate...Yummy!) and retired to our room on the 17th floor. From there the Detroit nighttime skyline over looking the Detroit River was just beautiful and I sat for a long time staring out into the dark contemplating life, liberty, and the pursuit of royal flushes until I started nodding off and had to go to bed.

"Only those with the strongest self-control can avoid being seduced by the hypnotic allure of the casino and the enticing promises of Lady Luck."

--Marvin Karlins

Up at 7:00 a.m. the next morning and ready for the first day of seminars. After registering and heading back to my room for a quick shower, I passed Jean Scott (the Frugal Gambler) and Brad her frugal husband just getting off the elevator. They said they only got a few hour's sleep last night because they checked into the hotel at 2:00 a.m. More on this later. After my shower, I entered the Jamboree Room, a room set up just for contests, freebies, and the sale of many of the author's books. On my left I spied a buffet table loaded with coffee cups, saucers, cream, sugar, and of course, lots of free coffee. After every seminar, I always got a cup of coffee or two and sipped it while waiting for the next class to begin. At the end of each day I was sort of wired from all the caffeine. I felt like how Mick Jagger looks on stage singing "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."

--Alex Levine

8:00 to 8:45 a.m. SLOT MACHINES AND VIDEO POKER BASICS with John Robinson

John was a friendly, likeable, good natured speaker who seemed overqualified to be speaking about slot machines. After all, what's there to learn about the no-brainer slots that already hasn't been written or talked about over the years You put your money in, push da button, then put some more money in. Then put some more money in. Then put some more money in. Etc., etc., etc.. (sounds like a pop commercial. "You put da lime in da coke and you drink it all up...) But, with a lot of personal stories and a low-tech way of speaking, it was an informative, fun class. I had a cup of coffee afterwards

9:00 to 10:00 a.m. THE TEN BEST CASINO BETS with Walter Thomason

Walter was a classy looking suit and tie type of guy. He's written many books and given many lectures, but still has that "let's have a drink and a smoke at the bar and talk about it" manner, which was great. I immediately liked him. Although he covered just about all the casino games, it was obvious that this guy loves blackjack! Get him started and he'll start telling blackjack war stories for hours. Essentially, he told us to play slower and save money. Meaning: You can't beat'em, so give'em less. Good job Walter. Another cup of coffee.

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. COMPS, COUPONS, AND CASHBACK with Jean Scott

Jean is someone I already knew. I met her through the Internet and also had dinner with her and Brad in Vegas last year. I also just recently sent her some material that she needed for a new book she is writing on video poker which should be out soon. I'm looking forward to reading it and, if you play video poker, you should be too. Jean is a veteran public speaker and is very calm, cool, collected, and confident when she speaks. Her English teacher background shows. She started out by relating a story of how they just got comped by the airline on the way to this event. They gave up their seats twice because of over booking and were paid, besides free meals, $1200 for their supposed troubles and inconveniences. I should have such troubles and inconveniences. Jean was very humorous to listen to as she went over the comp system, spicing it up with personal antidotes and continually stressing, that if you want something, you have to ask for it. More ca ca coffee.

12:00 to 12:45 WHY SHOULD YOU GET A HOST? with Arman "Pit Boss" Pirim

Arman is a craps specialist and gave a no nonsense lecture with the emphasis on 'How to Get Rated" at the tables and reap some comp rewards when you play. If you want to know something about shooting craps, this is the man to see. A ca ca cup of coffee ee ee , yet again.

1:00 to 1:45 THE ASTROLOGY OF TABLE GAMES with Gwen Miller

Gwen's classes maybe weren't for everyone, but I found them to be interesting and entertaining. When it comes to gambling, old VP Pappy and I have found out the hard way, that you must keep an open mind or you'll never learn anything new. Gwen was very serious in her belief that the planet's positions have an affect on a person's luck. A lot of it seemed to me to be large conclusions based on small facts but, who am I to question? I've lost on the stock market, in the casinos, on the golf course, and on life in general, so I'll listen to anything. Coffffeeee!!

1:45 to 2:30 LUNCH BREAK WITH DOLORES

Dolores is not really interested in learning all the intricacies of gambling like I am. Other than knowing how to play Pick'Em Poker, she generally plays the slots when we visit casinos. She is probably more like the typical gambler in most casinos around the world and seems to have accepted her fate without complaining too much. As Frank Scoblete says:

"We owe slot players a debt of gratitude and a big thank you because they make it possible for us to go all over the country and play our favorite table games."

--Frank Scoblete

2:30 to 3:30 OUR WILD AND CRAZY ADVENTURES IN THE CASINOS with Frank Scoblete and Jean Scott

The "Frank and Jean Show" was an hour of casino war stories told by a couple of near-pro gamblers who have seen a lot of wild and crazy stuff in casinos over the years. Frank has actually seen people die at the craps tables and watched the game go on with people practically standing on the dead bodies. Jean related some adventures early in her gambling career on how she started going after casino comps like a lioness stalking it's prey. Somehow, she wove in that she studied a sex book to, not only improve her marriage, but her gambling as well. Figure that one out. Overall, this was a fun-filled, loose hour of mirth and merriment that broke up the mostly serious study of gambling. Cofffffeeeee!!!

4:00 to 5:00 BLACKJACK TOURNAMENTS: BIG PAYOFFS FOR A SMALL INVESTMENT with Dr. Henry Tamburin

Henry was an excellent speaker who spoke in a very relaxed, confident manner that put the audience at ease. It wasn't hard to tell after a few moments that this guy loves blackjack and especially blackjack tournaments. He explained how tournament play is different from casino play, and how amateurs have almost as good a chance to win some money as the pros do at these short-term events. He also stressed that the key to cashing in at these events was a delicate balance of risk and money management. Cofffffffffeeeeeeee!!!!!

"I've spent so much time in casinos that if you put a coin in my mouth and pulled my arm, my eyes would spin."

--Jessie May

But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gas!

But it's all right. I'm jumpin' jack flash,

It's a gas! gas! gas!

(Jagger/Richards)

That's it for day one. See you for day two in Part Two

Terry Murphy