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Best of Clare Fitzgerald

Gaming Guru

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Improve your online poker play with "The Myth of Poker Talent"

1 December 2016

Mr. Fitzgerald himself graces the cover.

Mr. Fitzgerald himself graces the cover.

I received a review copy of Alexander "Assassinato" Fitzgerald's The Myth of Poker Talent: Why Anyone Can Be a Great Poker Player back in September when it was first published. Despite my best intentions to get through it quickly and write a review in a timely manner, I quickly discovered that sitting down and trying to rip through it in one sitting is just about the most useless possible way to approach the book.

The Myth of Poker Talent is part software tutorial, part strategy guide, part autobiography and part sarcastic tough-love life advice from its author. Focusing on primarily on online play, the bulk of it is dedicated to teaching the reader how to use various software programs to analyze the profitability of decisions.

While there are specific plays discussed, Fitzgerald is adamant that you shouldn't ever just take his word for anything and that it's important to use the tools at your disposal to do the math and see if it checks out. This is probably the biggest strength of the book, and the thing that will prevent it from becoming too rapidly outdated, barring any of the software programs he discusses becoming obsolete. In fact, considering the publishing cycle of print books, it's entirely possible that at least one play discussed in this book is already outdated. Doing the homework should let you find out what it is.

For those not yet ready to invest in the roughly $465 worth of software recommended in this book all at once, there's still plenty of useful material to master with a pen, paper and calculator — not to mention all the free tools available online, from equity calculators to flashcard apps — although I am assuming here that anyone else waffling over dropping $35 on Flopzilla is currently not raking it in at the tables and is still working on their fundamentals. The book is not aimed at people with zero poker knowledge or experience — there's no overview of the rules, or starting hand charts, or any of that stuff you see in 101-level poker books (of which I have read at least three this year) — but it doesn't assume any prior understanding of the game, as in the logic of how it all fits together and how to go about thinking about situations.

Although there is a lot of it, none of the math involved is more complicated than eighth-grade math. Fitzgerald is very adamant on this point, since he claims he was pretty bad at ninth-grade math. (I appreciated this, since that's the same grade level that I stopped learning math at. Must be a Fitzgerald thing.) Anything that involves distilling down several pages' worth of eighth-grade math is outsourced to CardrunnersEV, but you should still be able to understand basically what CardrunnersEV is doing for you.

While the first couple chapters focus on the tech and tools and the last few chapters cover things like bankroll management and general life advice, the middle 200+ pages are broken up into chapters on specific types of plays — C-betting, check-raising, donk betting, etc. — which are broken down mathematically, logically and with much scolding of other players for acting without thinking. Instead of one chapter on preflop play, like I've seen in other books, there are three: one on jamming/re-jamming, one on preflop raising, and one on preflop three- and four-betting. So far I'm finding this useful because it allows for very tightly focused study when you go back to review your weak spots. (My game is still mostly weak spots, but I've been focusing on the preflop chapters and it really has helped me actually think about hand selection rather than just memorizing all the starting hand charts I've seen around.)

Applying the lessons from this book to live play is a bit of a challenge, but is still doable, at least in broad strokes. Much of the analysis Fitzgerald performs is based on HUD stats, which are obviously not available at live. However, reading through the reasoning for what each stat tracked on a HUD means, why it's important, and what a player can do with that information did lead me to change the way I was taking notes at the table. Even over the course of just a few sessions, the results were illuminating.

I recommend getting a pencil and paper -- and maybe a highlighter if you're fancy -- and working your way through the book chapter by chapter. Stop and do every math question asked before reading ahead to the answer. Get flashcards. (One helpful reader has already created a flashcard set based on this book on Quizlet.) And don't take it personally when Fitzgerald inevitably calls something you've done stupid, because it probably was stupid. And that's perfectly fine and normal, because, as the book's title argues, you don't need to be naturally talented — you just need to keep working until you learn to do fewer stupid things.
Improve your online poker play with "The Myth of Poker Talent" is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Clare Fitzgerald

As Casino City's copy editor, Clare diligently proofs articles, columns and press releases posted on the Casino City family of websites, as well as the entire library of print publications produced by Casino City Press. She has editorial experience in several industries, but gaming is the most fun so far. She graduated from Clark University in 2010 with a degree in English and Creative Writing.
Clare Fitzgerald
As Casino City's copy editor, Clare diligently proofs articles, columns and press releases posted on the Casino City family of websites, as well as the entire library of print publications produced by Casino City Press. She has editorial experience in several industries, but gaming is the most fun so far. She graduated from Clark University in 2010 with a degree in English and Creative Writing.