Killer Poker: Excerpt

Killer Poker: Strategy and Tactics for Winning Poker Play
by John Vorhaus

Introduction

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I’m a bully. I’m a bastard. I push people around. I frighten them and manipulate them, lie to them, menace them, pressure them, threaten them, mislead them, outthink them, outfox them, run rings around them in every conceivable way. And then when I’m done…

I take their money and go home.

How?

Simple. I play Killer Poker. And once you’ve read this book, you’ll play Killer Poker too. And then it won’t be a question of will you win? but rather how wide a swath of destruction you plan to leave in your wake. You will be a tornado at the table. Foes will see you coming and cower.

Can you picture it? Can you imagine sitting down in a poker game with no fear of your opponents, no matter who your opponents might be? Can you conceive of controlling that game, no matter what cards you happen to hold? Can you picture people actually getting up and leaving the game, rather than tangle with the likes of you? It’s poker glory, and it’s yours for the taking. It is.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, Right, sure, here we go… another poker book that’s going to teach me not to draw to an inside straight. Like I don’t have a shelf full of those in my library already. Maybe you do have a shelf full of those books – and those are worthwhile books after a fashion. But if all they give you are the odds – 11-1 against hitting an inside straight – they’re only doing half the job. Killer Poker gives something somewhat more crucial than numbers: attitude; the psychological weaponry you need to put those numbers to devastating use.

Do you doubt it? Good! It’s healthy to doubt. But even as you doubt, I encourage you to suspend your disbelief. Contemplate, just for a moment, that there’s a better way to go about your game. Imagine that all the strategies and tactics you use in poker – even the ones that already work ­­- can be brought to a higher level. Speculate that you just might become a more complete and more triumphant player than you already are. Conceive of a higher mind.

Your evolution won’t come without cost. In the course of this book, I’m going to ask you to take some unflinching looks at yourself, and ask some hard questions about who you are and how you now play poker. I will ask you to apply brutal honesty to what you do and why and how you do it. I will insist that you understand your poker in the context of your life at large. You might not like that. You might not find it fun.

And hey, guess what, there’s also going to be homework, and you might not like that either. Throughout this book you will find exercises to be done, lists to be generated and flaws to be considered. You’ll be required to write things down. Things about yourself that you might not like to admit. Things about your game that you might not like to accept.

Let me give you an example, so you can see what you’re getting into: Thinking about the last time you played poker, identify and describe both the high point and the low point of your session? I’ll go first:

The high point of my last poker session occurred when I picked up pocket tens on the button. I would have raised any unraised pot, but there were already three raises before the action got to me. I reasoned that I was up against bigger pocket pairs or unpaired high cards, and that I would have to catch perfect on the flop (a ten at least; preferably a ten and no court cards or aces) in order to feel confident about proceeding. Chasing a long shot to the tune of four bets seemed like a bad idea, so I folded. How did the flop come? It doesn’t matter how the flop came. I made the right decision for the right reason. That’s cause enough to feel good about my play.

The low point came when I got mad at this guy for always attacking my blinds. I tried to be patient and wait to play back at him, but overvalued a K-T and re-popped him just out of rage. Although the flop wasn’t favorable, I continued to try to drive him off the hand, a blatant and futile bluff that was rescued by two lucky catches. I let my emotion, not my intellect, control the play of the hand. Even though I got a positive outcome, I played the hand badly and I know it.

Can you do this sort of exercise? Can you think about your latest poker session in a meaningful and analytical way? If yes, then we’ll get along just fine, since it’s my job and joy to help you think about poker in ever more meaningful and analytical ways. If no… if you find that you cannot or will not address the facts of your play openly and honestly… then I’m afraid this book can’t help you, for Killer Poker is interactive in the most fundamental sense: It requires participation from both the writer and the reader. In short, I can’t do my job alone. You’re going to have to work with me.

You may also have to give up some cherished notions that have served you pretty well in the past. You may be asked to sacrifice something that works pretty well for the sake of arriving at something that works much better.

There’s a problem with this, a problem expressed in the old saying, “Good is the enemy of the great.” We don’t give up on systems that work pretty well. It’s only when systems fail that we demand they be replaced. So if you’re a winning poker player now, you may be reluctant to turn your back on your winning ways. But even if you are a winning poker player, I put it to you that your systems have already failed. Failed to extract the last dollar of value out of your game. Failed to turn you into a primal force at the table. Failed to transform you into the one player that all the others focus on or flee in the face of.

Wouldn’t you like to be that player?

Then let’s get down to work. The exact same work that Tiger Woods got down to after he was already a champion. After winning 1997 Player of the Year honors, Tiger spent 18 months retooling his swing. Why? Because he was willing to sacrifice something that worked in pursuit of something that worked even better. And it did work – to the tune of eight major tournament wins in 1999.

That’s commitment to your game. That’s what we need to have.

Yes, there will be cost, but there will be benefit too, and not just the dollars-in-your pockets benefit that probably brought you to this book in the first place. You’ll also derive benefit in terms of balance – in terms of making your participation in the sport of poker generate positive impact on the rest of your life. In becoming a more confident, winning, keenly self-aware poker player, you will become a more confident, winning, keenly self-aware person as well.

Don’t thank me. I define myself through service.

In writing this book and presenting this material, I assume that you already have a fair understanding of poker, and a decent level of expertise. I assume you understand that A-A is a better starting hand than 2-7. I assume you know that big pairs play better against few opponents and that flush draws and straight draws play better in a crowd. I assume you know enough not to drink at the table – even if you don’t always follow your own good advice.

Why do I assume these things? Because this book is not an introductory guide to poker. It’s for people looking to deepen their understanding of the game, and to take their game to successively higher levels. Or let’s look at it this way: Poker is an onion; your comprehension of the game improves as you peel back the layers. This book assumes that the skin has long since been removed and washed down the drain. Now we’re somewhere between the outer layers and the core, moving deeper, ever deeper, toward the heart of poker understanding.

Most of the examples and practical exercises in this book involve limit hold ’em, because that’s what most of us play. You’ll find some references to Omaha/8 and a smattering of stud, but mostly it’s hold ’em, hold ’em, hold ’em, and why not? Texas hold ’em is now the single most popular form of poker in the world, and the game used to determine the World Series of Poker champion. But the underlying principles apply to all forms of poker, so extrapolate according to your need. Whether you’re playing lowball in an old-growth California card room or spit-in-the-ocean at your kitchen table, the underlying mindset of Killer Poker applies: Whatever your goal once was, you now have a new goal. To dominate and crush your opponents. It seems like such a small thing, but in reality, it’s the world.

The world of Killer Poker.

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