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Best of Clare Fitzgerald

Gaming Guru

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'The Total Poker Manual' is a collection of industry, culture information

19 December 2016

Under that glossy cover is a wealth of gorgeous full-color photos.

Under that glossy cover is a wealth of gorgeous full-color photos.

Last week I received an early Christmas present in the form of Eileen Sutton's new book, The Total Poker Manual: 226 Essential Poker Skills, published by Weldon Owen in conjunction with Card Player Magazine.

It was a good Christmas present, and I think other people will also find it a good Christmas present, if you're looking for something poker-related to give to the recreational player or poker-curious newbie in your life. I realize we're cutting it a bit close and you may have already done all your holiday shopping, but if you're like most people I know... then, no, you haven't.

The Total Poker Manual is, first of all, very pretty; a large, glossy tome full of full-color photographs, almost like a coffee table book or an exceptionally large magazine. This makes it an excellent pick for leaving out on a coffee table or other conspicuous spot to pique and then assuage the curiosity of guests who may not know very much about your poker hobby, assuming you still talk to people who don't play poker. It has the added benefit of making poker look both friendly and glamorous, whereas leaving out your heavily notated copy of The Myth of Poker Talent might be off-putting to the uninitiated (and you should be hiding that where no one can steal your secrets, anyway).

The book's content is a grab bag of mostly introductory material to not only the rules and strategy of the game, but to the whole culture and industry of poker. It features interviews and guest articles by several of today's poker luminaries such as Randy "nanonoko" Lew, Brian Rast and Ed Miller; and profiles of several female players, including newer names such as Kelly Minkin and Xuan Liu. It's fun to see a different batch of pros weighing in than the same handful of superstar names that are usually used to bump up a publication's visibility: for example, the foreword is by Andrew Brokos, host of the excellent Thinking Poker podcast (among other accomplishments), which really is a much better endorsement than if it were Phil Hellmuth talking about how the book is nearly as great as he is anyway. While the biggest section of the book is dedicated to no-limit Hold'em, for obvious reasons, mixed games are also covered, as is a lot of more general information about everything from how to host a home game to great moments in prop betting (and yes, Antonio Esfandiari's infamous lunging bet is profiled).

In among the real advice lurk a number of jokes. These sections aren't identified visually; they sit there looking for all the world like regular bits of advice until you start reading them and realize that it can't possibly be a good idea to try and get people to stop giving you unsolicited advice by removing a piece of clothing for every unwanted lesson. I found these hilarious, but if you are especially bad at identifying jokes or are low on common sense, I would suggest running any advice you glean from this book past someone else before you act on it.

While most of the information is real information, it definitely shoots for breadth rather than depth. If you're a serious player, you probably already know most of the things here, and the things you don't know are likely to be on the gossip and history end. The best thing a serious player can do with this book is give it to somebody else who seems curious, and whose curiosity you might accidentally kill if you try to explain everything yourself in impenetrable poker jargon.

As someone who dedicated much of 2016 to reading Poker 101 books (hey, it takes the mind off 2016's . . . 2016-ness), much of the strategy advice wasn't entirely new to me. But I still enjoyed reading it and appreciated the copious illustrations. I also had a good time trying to identify as many of the players in the photos as I could, since they're not all captioned. The tip-by-tip formatting makes it easy to pick up and read exactly as much of it as you feel like, and even to flip around looking for just the fun bits if you want, for example, to just read all the interviews.

This is not so much an entry-level book as it is a lobby-level book: its purpose is to show off its subject in the best possible light, to make visitors aware of all their different options and help them navigate toward where they want to go, and to make them feel comfortable and welcome. In that, it does an excellent job.
'The Total Poker Manual' is a collection of industry, culture information 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.