Book Reviews – Decide to Play Great Poker by Annie Duke and John Vorhaus

Book Reviews – Decide to Play Great Poker by Annie Duke and John Vorhaus

Decide to Play Great Poker by Annie Duke and John Vorhaus – Huntingon Press (2011), 450 pp. ISBN: 978-1935396321, $34.95 When the book “Decide to Play Great Poker” came across my desk, my first question was “Do we really need another poker strategy book?” It was a question I posed to the book’s coauthor John Vorhaus when he was interviewed on the Keep Flopping Aces podcast by Lou Krieger and me. But after reading the book, I can safely say the answer is yes.

 With its clear approach and useful real life examples, making the decision to buy the book could be the first of many good decisions you will be making to move your game to the next level.

 The game play theory and strategy in the book comes courtesy of its other co-author, WSOP bracelet winner Annie Duke, whom Vorhaus describes as the brains of the operation. It was Duke who developed the idea that what players need to improve their game are not stringent rules, but an understanding of the tools at hand—raising, calling, folding, check-raising, etc.—that a player can use in every situation that they will face.

 What is different about this book is that it intends to empower you to not follow blanket rules, such as always raising on the button, playing middle suited connectors in multiway pots, and so forth—but to make the best decision in each situation. The overarching theme is to play “purpose-driven poker.” According to the authors, whatever moves you make in a game require a clear, well thought out reason for making them. In the 400+ page book, Vorhaus and his mentor Duke, show you the reason behind the decisions you face in various situations.

 Here is an excerpt of our interview with John Vorhaus.

 Q: Why the need for another poker book? What was missing in the literature?

 Annie had in mind to do a book based on the way she approaches teaching poker in a classroom setting or in a seminar setting. She seemed to think, and I agreed with her, that a lot of what we find in the poker literature is misguided. It gives you start charts, rules to follow and a script to run in certain situations. Annie’s idea was, “that’s not really what poker is really about. What poker is about is understanding the game on a fundamental level so that you can make better decisions than the other guy.” Then she set out to teach how to think about the game from a decision-making point of view rather than a money point of view. Once you make that change, so many good things happen.

Q: So the premise behind the book is to know why you’re doing whatever you’re doing?

 Exactly. For instance, take the example of raises. What purpose are you serving by raising? The raise should be designed to take control of the action, to gain information, to narrow the field, and make the remaining players be selective. With that way of thinking, I now look at any time I call as not accomplishing any of those goals. We look at the raise in a different way, for the strategic reasons behind it.

Q: Is there anything that is almost invariably true, something like a rule to follow?

 In a book with no rules, this is one that comes close. If you’re going to be in there calling, you should probably be in there raising. And if you’re in there raising, you should probably be leading out after the flop. You should certainly be leading out after the flop if there are only two of you and you have position, and it’s checked to you, because the other guy is waving the white flag. You should probably lead out any time there are just two of you. You put yourself in a situation to collect continuation bet wins.

Mark Brown
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