Poker: The Real Deal

Poker: The Real Deal

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by Phil Gordon, Jonathan Grotenstein

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Like a secret society, poker has its own language and customs — its own governing logic and rules of etiquette that the uninitiated may find intimidating. It's a game of skill, and playing well depends on more than just a good hand or the ability to hide emotion. The first step toward developing a style of play worthy of the greats is learning to think like a

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Like a secret society, poker has its own language and customs — its own governing logic and rules of etiquette that the uninitiated may find intimidating. It's a game of skill, and playing well depends on more than just a good hand or the ability to hide emotion. The first step toward developing a style of play worthy of the greats is learning to think like a poker player. In a game where there are no absolutes, mastering the basics is only the beginning — being able to pull off the strategy and theatrics is the difference between legendary wins and epic failure.

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With 80 million players, poker is the hottest game in America. Nobody knows that better than poker player extraordinaire Phil Gordon, the co-host of Celebrity Poker Showdown, a Bravo show that continues to surge in popularity. Gordon has paired with writer Jonathan Grotenstein to construct the ultimate primer on the game. Poker, The Real Deal includes an introduction to the game's most popular varieties; a guide to the ins and outs of poker psychology; tips on playing percentages and hunches; and even advice on proper table etiquette. The real deal, indeed.

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Gallery Books
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The Real Deal
By Phil Gordon Jonathan Grotenstein

Simon Spotlight Entertainment

ISBN: 0-689-87590-8

Chapter One


... doesn't mean that someone isn't watching you. At the middle-limit tables, assume that you are always being studied. Your opponents' observations will fall into two basic categories.


It's hard to know when you've got them, and keeping them out of your game requires dedicated effort. Always remain observant of what you are doing. Do you look down at your chips before you are ready to make a bet? Or lean back in your seat while waiting for someone to decide whether or not to call your made hand? Do you bet quickly when you're bluffing and slowly when you've got the goods?

Experience is probably your best ally against physical tells, as your hand probably won't be trembling - generally a sure sign of a monster hand - after the fourth or fifth thousandth time you've bet into the river. You might also want to get into the habit of not looking at your cards before the flop until the action gets to you. Not only will it be impossible to reveal any clues to the nature of your hand, but you can use the time to scrutinize all of your opponents for their own tells. Same goes for the flop - watch your opponents instead of the cards. You'll have plenty of time later to see if you connected with the board, but you won't get a second chance to see your opponents' immediate reactions.

Chris Ferguson, the World Champion in 2000, suggests that self-examination is the best way to discover tells in other people. "By observing my own behavior, the way I react in certain situations, I'm able to recognize those behaviors in other people."

Here are some tells for you to look for, both in yourself and your opponents:

Leaning Back

Some players have a tendency to lean back in their chairs after making a bet, waiting for you to decide what to do. They usually have made hands.

The Tremble

Shaky hands mean strong hands. If a player's hands tremble as he makes a bet, proceed with caution.

The Strong Move to the Pot

Players who are loud or physically aggressive in their betting are often bluffing, while those who bet as if they were afraid to wake up the person sleeping next to them are generally looking for you to call. As is the case with many tells, strong means weak; weak means strong.

Looking Away

Another example of a strong/weak tell: When a player, after making a bet or raise, looks away from you, she usually has a strong hand. A player who looks directly at you after a bet is likely on a bluff.

Reaching for the Chips

When a player starts to reach for his chips before you've had a chance to act, he's usually trying to scare you into checking your hand. Fire away.

Looking Down at the Chips

Many players unconsciously glance at their chips when they're planning to bet or raise.

Beware of the Speech

Someone who goes out of their way to make a long, prepared speech after raising you or betting into you on the river probably has the nuts. "Wow, I can't believe it. I'm just really lucky today," or "If I raise you, will you call?" are typical examples.

Silence Is Golden

A chatty player who suddenly shuts up usually intends to play the hand she's been dealt. This is especially true of players in the blinds, making it a good idea to engage them in conversation whenever possible.


Your opponents will constantly be trying to assess what kind of player you are. Are you loose and wild, susceptible to dominant hands? Or are you a rock, easily bluffed out of the pot when you're not holding the nuts?

The type of table image you should be striving for is something that is still hotly debated among poker's more prominent thinkers. Some believe that it's best to seem like a tight, thoughtful player, garnering more respect for your raises (thus increasing the odds that your better hands will hold up) while allowing you to slip a few bluffs into the mix. Others argue that you should play the part of the maniac, forcing your opponents to call you all the way to the river to pay off your winning hands.

One thing everyone can agree on is that you don't want to appear weak. Weak players are bloody chum for the sharks of the poker world.

The best approach is probably to vary your image. This applies both to the types of hands that you play - sometimes it's okay to limp with aces and raise before the flop with your suited 5-3 - as well as the way that you play them. Don't fall into obvious betting patterns that reveal too much about the strength of your hand.


Excerpted from Poker by Phil Gordon Jonathan Grotenstein Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Phil Gordon is a world-class poker player and teacher with two World Poker Tour championships and seven final table appearances at the World Series of Poker. Since 2001 he has earned more than $3 million in tournament prize money. His bestselling previous works, Poker: The Real Deal, Phil Gordon's Little Green Book, and Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book, alongside his teaching and commentary on forty-two episodes of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, make Phil the preeminent poker teacher and writer in the world. Phil currently resides in Newport, Washington with his wife and two young sons.

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