We Interrupt this Poker Blog…

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”
–Winston Churchill
It’s finally done. After 5 months of hard work, the “side project” I’ve been working on is finally complete. And I think it was worth all the hard work, and I hope it will help all of you loyal readers out there. Before I unveil the details of the project, I think an explanation of how the creation and development of this project is in order.
Back in early 2004, I was using Poker Tracker heavily to review my own play as well as to track the play of my opponents. Since the program was relatively new, I spent a lot of time tweaking the settings and experimenting with different techniques to get the most out of the software. After a while, I’d come up with a standard routine for analyzing my play, and was able to cut my “post-session analysis” with Poker Tracker down to about 10 minutes. Basically after every session, I’d go through a standard process of hand analysis, and it seemed like this was the best way to review my play and learn from my mistakes.
However, I wasn’t sure if I was missing out on any of Poker Tracker’s many features, so I began talking to other Poker Tracker users to find out what they were up to. One online poker veteran had a lot to say on this subject, and forced me to rethink some of what I had been doing. Many phone conversations and instant messages later, both Iggy and I had refined our analysis methods, and I felt that my time with Poker Tracker was more productive.
In August, my protege (the infamous Monk, who is now crushing the shorthanded games and has graduated from my tutelage) dedicated himself to improving his game. The first thing we did was sit down and analyze his 20,000 hand histories in Poker Tracker, pinpointing leaks and weaknesses in his game. I used the same analysis methods for Monk’s hands as I had been for my own, and soon Monk started playing better– tighter and more aggressive. We fell into a weekly routine where he would email me a batch of hand histories and I’d use Poker Tracker to figure out what he wrong (and occasionally what he did right). His play improved dramatically.
Iggy and I received many requests from Poker Tracker users to help them understand some of the more advanced features the software offered, and we were usually able to help. The Poker Tracker help guide covered the basics, but didn’t explain techniques for advanced analysis such as leak-finding and breaking down your play by position.
It seemed that despite the power of the software, many users were too busy to really get “under the hood” and figure out the tricks to making Poker Tracker work for them. The requests for a “Guide to Poker Tracker” kept coming in, and I started to think that there might actually be enough demand to make this something worth putting some serious thought to.
In September, Iggy and I decided that we were going to devote some serious time and effort into developing an advanced manual for Poker Tracker. I dove into the analysis, and came up with an outline for a book that would help poker players extract the most value out of Poker Tracker, and help improve their online game.
As if writing weekly blog posts wasn’t enough, I now had some serious writing on my shoulders. Not only would it require all of my poker knowledge and experience, but there were some serious statistical challenges as well. Sample size is always an issue in poker, and when trying to come up with rules of thumb, a good poker player always has the mantra “It Depends” in the back of his mind. Balancing general rules and situation specific thinking was our biggest challenge, and I spent many hours experimenting with different rules and configuration parameters before arriving at results that I considered satisfying. After that I needed to offer a concise explanation of WHY I chose the parameters I did.
Another challenge with the guide was trying to offer something to the readers already making heavy use of the software. What could we offer to the “expert” Poker Tracker user? Our guide offers many tips and tricks that the average player doesn’t know about, but I wanted to come up with something that even Poker Tracker experts would find worth their time and money.
One of Poker Tracker’s newer features was the “auto rate” players functionality, which allows the user to “label” opponents based on hand histories for their opponents. I found this feature to be the most valuable in Poker Tracker– before choosing a table, you could quickly see the types of players that were sitting at the table. Not only was this a huge help in table selection, but it allowed me to increase my win rate by making tough laydowns and difficult calls based on the auto rate information I had about my opponent during a hand.
2+2 guru BisonBison realized this, and offered a superb post with a generic set of auto rate rules. These rules were great, and offered me a great starting point for developing my own set of rules.
Many sleepless nights later, I had come up with a set of rules that I felt comfortable with. I remember one night, drawing 3-dimensional graphs on my whiteboard in the glow of my laptop. I nearly gave up, thinking that a good set of rules was impossible to come up with. But eventually I was able to condense the set of variables and come up with a set of auto rate rules that seemed to make sense for most opponents. I ran them by Iggy and several other excellent players, and after some experimentation, I was told that the rules were in fact extremely useful. It looked like all those stat classes I took as an undergrad had finally produced something useful.
The auto rate rules are just one component of the book, but I think they are one of the book’s most useful offerings. More important than the actual rules, the book offers a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind them, allowing readers to develop their own set of rules that fits their style of play. Or you can just plug them in and use them, they’ve worked well for me.
After 4 months, I’d finally come up with something that I felt like was both useful and original. But was it good enough for the masses of Poker Tracker users?
Now that the book was looking something like a book, it was time to see what serious online players thought of it. We recruited some of the best minds in poker blogging to review the book, and got some great feedback. There were numerous suggestions on improvements, but overall, they loved it. Even Pat, the creator of the Poker Tracker software, gave it a big thumbs up. Iggy and I breathed a collective sigh of relief, and prepared for the final stages of publication: creating a website and handling all of the fun little things that are involved with publishing an e-book.
So here we are, ready to stick our necks out and give birth to our creation. I’m a little nervous about how it will be received, but I can happily say that I did my best to create something that is helpful to students of the game. The ideas in the book have resulted in me winning many more big bets than I would have without them, and I strongly believe they will do the same for you.
Remember that the book is a work in progress. Neither Iggy nor I have ever done anything like this, so there are sure to be places where the book can be improved. After all, we are poker players, not publishers. But what we’re giving you is worth the asking price: at $20, our book only needs to help you win 20 big bets at $.50-1. I’m pretty sure it can do that.
We are always glad to get feedback and will be constantly working to improve the book. We believe that this book will make you a better poker player and over the long run, help to build your bankroll.
Now go check out the site, and see what I’m talking about: http://www.pokertrackerguide.com.
Much thanks for reading and for all your support.

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