Poker for Dummies - Harroch and Krieger

Yes, you read that correctly! It turns out that a 'for Dummies' book is actually one of the better introductory poker books. Why poker? I believe I'm excessively risk averse - I avoid gambling, and while this makes sense for most games of chance where the expectation is less than 100%, this isn't always the case. Given I work for a bank, where the aim of the game is to take risks to make more money, I thought I should improve my own skills in the area.

Since poker is played against other people, and requires some skills, you can create a consistent long-term win or loss rate, so it seems a rather good vehicle to teach me about, well, controlled gambling, and rather more cheaply than by investing in stocks or housing. And the book?

It's not bad. I could have perhaps jumped in more deeply by going for a more mathematical text, but I didn't want to miss out on the assumed basic knowledge, and thought that getting a little basic understanding first would be the way to go. So, a beginner's book it is, and this book accomplishes it fairly well.

Happily, it takes a sensible approach. It always focuses on not losing money, rather than just playing for fun. It goes a little overboard on 'so, you're thinking of going professional?', which seems a little excessive for a beginner's volume, but it does keep focus and provide helpful introductory strategy. Whether it's good advice isn't something I can really check yet, lacking experience!

The only real area of weakness is that it's surprisingly out of date. It talks a little of the internet, but mostly discusses, and talks very little about online gambling. In fact, it recommends a minimum spec PC as being one that runs Windows 95. More than a little out of date. The book does seem to have been incrementally updated - there are references to events in 2003, but it is somewhat disappointing that it's been left to go out of date given that poker does actually appear to be a speedily changing field. There is a book on internet poker in the 'for dummies' range, so perhaps this is where the new effort lies, in which case it does seem rather odd to keep the old title too.

While it's difficult to evaluate, given a beginner's knowledge, it does seem a fundamentally fairly solid book, even if it's let down by some out-of-date content.

Posted 2008-04-16.