Shoulders of Giants

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
–Isaac Newton

Too much work makes HDouble a dull boy. Unfortunately for this blog, the office
doesn’t inspire new poker wisdom like the grind at the tables. So I thought
now would be a good time to pause in my musings and stand on the shoulders
of earlier poker wizards, and
give you…


Forget Sklansky and Malmuth for now. There’s some inspired writing out there
on the web, writing that forces you to change your thinking about poker.

Tactics and Simulation:

  • Abdul
    Jalib’s Preflop Strategy
    : Abdul’s guide to starting hands was honed
    by simulation after simulation with Turbo Texas Hold ‘Em, and represents
    the foundation upon which I built my game. Although much of his advice
    on "balancing hands" preflop is unnecessary in the ever-changing games
    of online poker, this article remains the best advice on Hold ‘Em you can
    find anywhere. Beginners be warned: the article requires careful study
    and an intermediate knowledge of the game before diving into.
  • Abdul Jalib’s
    Theory of Sucking Out: After you’ve mastered preflop strategy, you
    can learn how to suck out with the best of them from Abdul’s second best
    essay, which focuses on how to play draws after the flop.
  • A New Guide to the
    Starting Hands
    in Texas Hold’em Poker: This guide to preflop play was developed at Carnegie-Mellon
    by a group of sharp computer scientists with a deep understanding of poker
    and simulation. The guide shows the error in Sklansky-Malmuth hand groupings,
    and forces the reader to think hard about hand strength preflop.
  • Blind
    : This 2+2 post from an anonymous poster uses Turbo Texas Hold
    ‘Em simulation to explore optimal blind defense. Andrew
    Prock once remarked
    that blind defense "separates the men from the boys," and this post gets
    the intermediate player thinking towards expert play.
  • Ed
    Miller on Low Limit Hold ’em Tactics
    : Ed Miller (of Small Stakes Holdem
    fame) shows how much tight play can cost you in loose games. For players
    trying to beat the low limit holdem games, this article is a must read.

Psychology and Philosophy:

  • Izmet Fekali’s Playing With the Fish:
    AKA "FAQ
    on How to Play Texas Hold’em in Loosest Games" shows off the wisdom and
    flair of the inimitable Izmet Fekali. Izmet’s site boasts a collection of loose-game
    wisdom built over many years of play, and includes one of my favorite quotes:

    “Optimal hold’em strategy is a defensive one. You make yourself
    unbeatable, you let your opponents bang their heads & weapons
    against your fortress walls. They are not playing optimally against you (they
    are either trying to find cracks in your armor and are zigging and zagging
    around or they are simply stupid and don’t have a clue how to play) and must
    be losing money to you.”

  • Is There an Ideal
    Poker Personality Profile?: Dan Mezick explores the role of personality
    in the success of a poker player, suggesting that introversion may be the
    secret ingredient of the top poker professionals.
  • Sergeant Rock’s "How
    do you win" series:
  • RGP regular Sergeant Rock offers his unique advice on what separates the great
    players from the good players at the table in this four-part
    series, including another of my favorite quotes:

    The most basic thing you gotta do to beat a poker game is…

    “Play Differently Than the Other 9 Guys.”

    …and I like to call this the Delta Factor. May sound silly, or
    too elementary, but basic truths are sometimes like that.
    Suppose that you play *real well* but are in a game where
    everyone else plays EXACTLY like you do. If there were no rake,
    then everyone would break even. Since there generally IS a
    rake, then everyone would lose in such a game.

  • David Ross: A Year in
    Life of an Online Pro: David Ross was the first online pro who documented
    his development as a player, including detailed descriptions of his fluctuating
    bankroll and the psychological effects that these fluctuations had. Ross’ weekly
    2+2 posts illustrate the mental challenges facing a professional poker player,
    and shows why the job of "poker professional" goes along with the quote, "it’s
  • The Best Trip
    Report Ever: The Tiltboys famous trip report reminds us how fun poker
    should be, and is a must-read for inspiration before any trip to Vegas. Beneath
    the humor and hijinks lies a philosophy of life and poker that we all can
    learn from.
  • And although it may not contain as much wisdom as the works cited above, I
    have to include a shameless plug for The Poker Tracker Guide, which can get
    you started on the path towards statistical mastery in online poker.

    Poker is a game of personal battles, but we can face these battles armed with
    the wisdom of the great warriors before us.