A colleague recently mentioned The Tao of Poker by Larry Phillips. What an excellent find and addition to one's inner game library. Some of it reminds me of the wisdom Vic and Laurel have imparted over the years.

The author documents 285 rules for playing. The first couple are right up there with trading truisms-

1) Don't dig yourself into a hole when you first sit down.

2) If you think you are beat, get out.

3) Start with premium hands. When you get them, bet them. If the hand starts to deteriorate, get away from the hand.

4) If you don't think your hand is good enough, it probably isn't.

5) If you do make a mistake, correct it as soon as you can.

6) It's important that a player starts seeing "staying too long on marginal hands" as where the money goes.

7) The money you don't lose from staying too long in a hand and the money another player does lose from doing this is often the profit you go home with.

8) The hand you really want to spend your money on may be right around the corner.

I was also touched by the dedication which is one of the most heartfelt and genuine ones I've read in years. And of course strikes at the core of the trading experience.

""To Mandius…This book is dedicated to my grandson, Mandius, and the poker players of the future. As a friend once observed: They'll be a lot like we were– and they'll go through all the same things. They'll gather around the same green felt tables, suffer the same bad beats, and experience the same agonies of seeing an opponent hit a two-outer. They'll know the feeling of being down to their last dollar as the light comes up in the dawn, as well as the exhilaration of dragging in a mountain of chips on days when the angels hover around them. They'll experience high drama and low drama, hear great stories, experience laughter, and free food.

They'll meet people they otherwise would not have met–great people from every walk of life–some of the best people, it will turn out, they will probably ever know in life. If, as James Earl Jones once said, ' Children are a message we send to a time and place we will never see,' then these are our ambassadors to a poker future yet unseen. Accept this note of well-wishes from those who went before you– a message from the past.





Speak your mind

5 Comments so far

  1. steve leslie on August 20, 2008 7:25 pm

    I also strongly recommend his sister book Zen and the Art of Poker. It contains 100 lessons short yet powerful and is indispensible. Once you learn the mechanics of poker, these books will take you to the next level. Without any question. and if you want to improve your skill in trading, in interpersonal relationships, in many facets of life, it will help you to get there too. Put these two books in your arsenal, study them, and buy into the program.

    It has sections titled:

    I. Fundamentals:
    take the long view

    II. Calmness and rhythm:
    The ego-ess State
    Rhythm: The back and forth flow

    III. Nuts and Bolts
    A few rules on hesitating
    Stealth Sneakiness and Cunning

    IV. Warrior Zen
    Warrior Zen

    V. Emotions and Opponents
    Bad luck and losing
    Steaming and other emotions.

  2. Aaron Brown on August 22, 2008 12:59 pm

    I don’t say this is a bad book, but don’t think it will do you any good if you take the rules as documented truisms. The value in a book like this is to read through and think. Some of the rules will help you, most will be irrelevant, and some you will decide to do the opposite. If you make up your mind at some point to accept or reject all the rules, you will be no wiser at the end than at the beginning, you’ll just have more ways to justify bad decisions.

    Take the first one. The text tells you to “go slow” and “play conservatively” until you “see how other players are playing” and “get yourself into the feel of it.” While this sounds prudent, the flip side is while you’re gathering information, others are gathering information about you. I personally find the opposite works better, start fast and make others react to you rather than figuring out others in order to react to them. I think you should get into the feel before you sit down to play, then play hard from hand one. But I can see the opposite view, and everyone will benefit from thinking it through themselves.

    I also oppose this rule in trading. I think you do your homework and when you’re ready to trade, trade in size. Don’t ramp up after initial success, nor stop if things don’t go your way. Keep a steady risk level, unless your initial analysis is proven wrong.

    A common alternative is to wait too long to get in, get in too small, ramp up too quickly, so your exposure at the reversal is much larger than your average exposure up to that point. You lose more in the crash than you made in the run-up. The steady trader takes her lumps in the crash as well, but she budgeted them from the beginning and walks away with a net profit.

    Again I can see both sides of this. Some people seem to make money chasing hot trades and cutting losses quickly. The thing I can’t see is thinking there’s a simple rule that guides these decisions.

    Another important point is the author specifically targets his advice to low-level poker games with mediocre players. For example, “Unless you are up against players who deliberately. . .try to force you out, it is never a bad idea in poker, at the first sign of trouble, to get away from the hand.” Well, yes, it’s not hard to win if the other players never bluff, nor play aggressively. Poker is hard when other players are good, and that’s when advice matters. In poker, trading and life, one of the hardest calls is when to cut losses at the first sign of trouble, and when to stay in the game until trouble actually shows up.

  3. Ace on August 22, 2008 6:22 pm

    Pretty much agree with Aaron — the advice to me seems marginal.

    Point 1) I assume this means start playing conservatively when you first sit down. Wrong in many cases for a variety of reasons. For instance, in quite a few big tournaments there is a large proportion of “dead money”. If you start playing conservatively you’ll miss picking up your share of it.
    Point 2) “If you think you’re beat, get out” is not always good policy — Even if you’re pretty sure you are beat at the moment, often it’s worth while to attempt to draw out on the opponent(s) or attempt a bluff.
    Point 3) “Start with premium hands…..” There is a concept accepted by almost all good poker players: There are no good poker hands, only good poker situations. If you focus your attention on your hand, as opposed to the situation (which includes opponent playing styles, hand history, stack sizes, and many other factors), it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be better than a mediocre player.
    Point 5) “If you made a mistake, correct it as soon as you can.” I am very puzzled by this bit of advice. First of all you can’t really correct mistakes at poker. Let’s say you accidentally expose your cards when bluffing and they call you. You can’t correct your mistake, the money is gone. At best you can capialize on your image as a bluffer and try not to do it again. On the other hand mistakes (i.e. errors of judgment) in poker can sometimes beefit you greatly. For instance if you call a bet and a substantial raise by solid players in no-limit hold’em with 2-7 offsuit and 3 deuces flop, you are likely to win a lot of chips. Dan Harrington’s fine books on hold’em poker have several interesting examples of this, though none quite so extreme.

  4. Anonymous on August 23, 2008 7:06 am

    It is not my intention to disparage commentary however allow me a bit of rumination.
    There is only one flawless book in existence which of course is a compendium of different writers spanning thousands of years.

    All others are going to fall short. Not one book provides the magic bullet, the perfect arrow, the key that unlocks the holy grail or the code that cracks the great cypher. That does not mean that they do not have value. One does not go to college and take one class. A doctor does not enroll in one semester of gross anatomy and then call themselves a doctor.
    As with all books, they must be judged on their own merits. Wisdom can be derived by the study of almost anything. That is the great message of the hosts of this website.

    Poker, trading, and life are part of a journey not a destination. They are like the horizon, you never reach it.

    Sisypus is an appropriate one to study. He spent his life pushing a huge rock up a hill, only to have it roll back downward just as he approched the summit. There is much to learn from Sisyphus.

  5. Anonymous on September 2, 2008 9:42 am

    Check out Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo


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