by Paul 'Dr. Pauly' McGuire - @taopauly
Reading is the key to enlightenment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s online poker or live. If you’re an avid poker player, it’s essential that you frequently read and re-read to hone your poker skills. I’m not just talking about poker books. A wealth of knowledge on a spectrum of topics is well within grasp, but you have to take the first steps and crack open a book.
A college buddy is a relative newcomer to poker and he recently asked me for reading recommendations. I told him to delve into the usual suspects: Super System, The Theory of Poker, The Poker Mindset, and Harrington on Hold’em. Those books are part of the main diet of any successful poker player. I also suggested to my friend that he should read a few non-poker books that sit on the shelves of the library in my office. I loaned him four books that have nothing to do with poker strategy. However, the philosophical themes and the rich characters created by the authors inspired me to take concepts I learned in those books and apply them to my poker game.
Here are four non-poker books that heavily influenced me both as a writer and as a poker player...
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A torn and frayed copy of Robert Pirsig’s novel has sat on my shelf for almost two decades. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” drew me into metaphysics and Greek philosophy. Pirsig’s characters break down the notion of classical vs. romantic views of life as one man sets out on a quest for truth while teaching motorcycle maintenance to his son along the way. I have only one disclaimer—if you have a limited knowledge of Greek philosophy, you might want to brush up a bit before reading this book.
The Gambler. Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors and we have a lot in common. The grandfather of Russian existentialism was also plagued with a degenerate gambling problem. In 1867, Dostoevsky completed this novella under duress. He rushed the ending of “The Gambler” in order to pay off gambling debts. The finished product echoes Dostoevsky’s own addiction to roulette. His vivacious characters are vehicles to describe his destructive fascination with roulette and the dizzying spiral of debauchery that ensued when he sunk into deep debt due to his staggering gambling loses. “The Gambler” is not so much a confession as it is an ominous warning sign.
The Art of War. Written by Chinese general Sun Tzu in the Sixth Century B.C., “The Art of War” is the most popular treatise on war and military strategy. Sun Tzu penned thirteen chapters with a primary focus on adapting to changing battlefield conditions. Sun Tzu’s teachings have influenced several of the most powerful people in the world including the top US military brass, Wall Street bankers, NFL coaches, Hollywood executives, and even a few professional poker players. My favorite line is something I constantly remind myself before I sit down at the poker table, “If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”
The Warrior Within. Bruce Lee is best known for his career as an actor and Kung-fu champion; however, many people are unaware that Bruce Lee was also a poet and philosopher. Lee’s “The Warrior Within” is so powerful that I read it at least twice a year. Lee melded Eastern and Western teachings into a personal philosophy that focuses on overcoming adversity and adapting to changing circumstances. His book preaches discipline, knowing thyself, and living the Zen life. I could not think of a better book to help mentally prepare you for a street fight or a career in professional poker.
Paul ‘Dr. Pauly’ McGuire is the author of the upcoming book ‘Lost Vegas’. You can read his poker blog, Tao of Poker, over at http://www.taopoker.com