"I'm a bully. I'm a bastard. I push people around," declares author John Vorhaus. The goal of his book, Killer Poker, is to evoke these instincts in readers in order to improve their pokerNick Christenson is widely regarded as one of the best gambling book reviewers publishing today. He is a contributor for Poker Player magazine, and has published in Full-Tilt and Gambling Times. He is also the editor of the very funny 'Casino Death Watch,' which chronicles the comings and goings of casinos in Las Vegas. He is an avid poker and blackjack player. Nick's website is www.jetcafe.org/~npc/ game. Clearly, poker is a game where properly harnessed aggression is rewarded, but "properly harnessed" is key. There's a fine line between bold and foolish play, and it's important not to stray across it.
Vorhaus divides the book into six sections. "What is Killer Poker" provides some background and sets the tone for the book. "Fixing the Holes" talks about the mistakes that poker players make. "Cards in Context" discusses several important poker themes. "The Poker Self" takes a look at what causes people to not play their best. "Being and Becoming" describes some of the ways we can overcome the aspects of humanity that cause us to lose at poker. And "Odds and Ends" aggregates the author's remaining ideas.
There are places where Vorhaus treads over the aforementioned line himself. One of his dictums, "Loose call bad, loose raise good," caused this reviewer to raise his eyebrows more than a little. On the other hand, there is a seed of truth to this statement, and if the readers stop to actually consider the specific situations and examples mentioned in the book, I expect they'll find that the author does not advocate the sort of wild play that it might at first seem. There are a large number of smart, studious, well-meaning players out there whose main fault is that they aren't aggressive enough. Vorhaus' strong shove toward aggression might be just what they need to take their game to the next level. At the same time, I don't expect that the few incidents where the author gets out of line will turn these players into maniacs.
While increasing aggression is half of Vorhaus' message, the other half would be to come to terms with one's own faults and limitations. Then, once these limitations are understood, we can liberate ourselves from them. The author suggests many ways in which the reader can go about identifying their own weak points, and I expect that many players will find performing these exercises personally difficult but ultimately rewarding. There's some good advice here, and on top of this, I very much enjoyed the author's writing style.
While this book would certainly improve the poker games of many players, there's relatively little specific poker strategy in its pages. Vorhaus doesn't spend nearly as much time examining specific poker situations as he does examining poker players' motivations. Killer Poker doesn't contain any new strategic insights, nor does it provide detailed mathematical analysis. To some it might seem like a 260 page harangue along the lines of, "Why did you just call? You should either raise or fold," and this sort of thing might get old after a while. I believe, however, that this is just the sort of kick-in-the-pants that some players need, and for them, this book will be valuable.
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