Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book: Lessons And Teachings In No Limit Texas Hold’em, by Phil Gordon
For quite a few years I have been fond of casually watching Texas Hold’em poker tournaments on television and in person, although recently I have come to be invited more often to such parties for some reason. Not being a particularly skilled or experienced poker player, I have adopted my general pattern of helping to become more skilled on at least an intellectual level and have decided to do some reading to help me become at least a moderately competent player, and this book definitely helps with that. What this book does it it puts the author’s poker expertise in a context of both friendliness and competitiveness with a group of other people. The world of professional poker appears to be a somewhat small world that is clubby with celebrities and also full of friendly rivalries with other competitive people. Since that happens to be a sort of world that I am rather familiar with, it made for worthwhile reading not merely on a tactical or strategic level in terms of playing cards but also on the diplomatic level of setting up the context of card playing.
In almost 300 pages of material the author gives a great deal of insight into his own experiences and wisdom of playing cards, even if I must admit there are things I would do differently–the author tends to prefer heads up play and a certain degree of gamesmanship against his opponents. After a foreword and acknowledgements and introduction the author discusses some poker truths that focus on the need to make smart decisions with incomplete information and show both courage and wisdom with dealing with the repercussions, as well as the importance of position in Texas Hold ’em. After that there is a discussion of what to do before the flop, including studying one’s fellow players and their tells, raising limpers, and what it means when someone raises four times (pocket aces, usually). The author then moves on to what to do after the flop, especially in different conditions that result from the three cards. There is a look at what to do after the turn, whether one helps one’s hand or finds a scare card, and a brief discussion of what to do after the river. There are some discussions on tells, including the way that people project strength when they are weak and vice versa. After that the author offers some worthwhile tournament strategies, some percentages and math, some insights in psychology, and some miscellaneous comments on such matters as not tapping the aquarium and staking and sunglasses at the table.
In reading a book like this there are different layers to the experience. For one, it is worthwhile to see how someone approaches the game. Phil Gordon has friendships with other players and is intrigued by how different people play the game differently, and comments on the fact that how someone should play poker depends in many ways on the specific context of the game and how others are playing as well as how others view you. You can bluff better when people know you to play pretty tightly, and if people don’t respect your calls or raises you can play tighter to take their money based on their disrespect. You should try to control your own behavior and make it difficult for others to read you even as you are observant and read others’ tells. Likewise you should be friendly enough to keep people around who are losing money while remaining aware of the importance of getting your fair share (or more) of the winnings that are going around by taking advantage of positions as well as the goings on of the game. A great deal of enjoyment can come from playing with a calling station, without being one yourself. In reading a book like this, one gets a flavor of how Phil Gordon enjoys his poker, and it’s a pretty amusing place.