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The Poker Aficionado: An All-in Compendium of Lore and Legend, Wit and Wisdom, Tips and Techniques

The Poker Aficionado: An All-in Compendium of Lore and Legend, Wit and Wisdom, Tips and Techniques

by Peter Thomas Fornatale

Television's popular Celebrity Poker Showdown, World Poker Tour, and World Series of Poker; the dozens of thriving online poker sites; and magazines like Card Player, whose circulation has doubled recently to 150,000, demonstrate that poker has taken the country by storm. Seventy million Americans now play the game. But the only books


Television's popular Celebrity Poker Showdown, World Poker Tour, and World Series of Poker; the dozens of thriving online poker sites; and magazines like Card Player, whose circulation has doubled recently to 150,000, demonstrate that poker has taken the country by storm. Seventy million Americans now play the game. But the only books available for players and fans are dense, serious strategy guides. Until now.

The Poker Aficionado is a Book of Lists for poker enthusiasts. It includes information as basic as a list of the rank of hands, and as amusing as the most bizarre things used as collateral during a game. Filled with lessons learned from some of poker's biggest names, it features:

• Phil Gordon's ten poker commandments
• Five ways to cheat--and to spot a cheater
• The eight best poker movies
• Mike Caro's nine most common tells
• Amarillo Slim's most famous sayings
• The best snacks to have at a home game, including recipes
• Clonie Gowen on the advantages of being the only woman at the table
• Twelve famous players' good luck charms
• Six secrets to winning at online poker

A richly detailed and whimsically illustrated potpourri of poker insight, The Poker Aficionado will delight poker fans and give players, old and new, plenty to talk about around the table.

Product Details

Broadway Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.08(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Poker Aficionado

By Pete Fornatale

Random House

Pete Fornatale
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0767921844

Chapter One


The Poker Aficionado is a one of a kind compendium of poker lore, facts, figures, nicknames, wit, tips and techniques. Will it make you a better player? Maybe yes, maybe no. But you are guaranteed to learn something. Whether that something is pre flop strategy in Texas Hold'em, the rules for Omaha/8 or the name of the guy who played the coach in Teen Wolf is entirely up to you.

You don't need to read this book cover to cover. The idea is to open to a random page and then take it from there. There's a handy index of topics on page 197 if there's something particular you are looking for.

Much of this book's material comes from outside sources, which are credited throughout the book and in the acknowledgments section at the back. It is highly recommended that you continue your poker education by exploring these sources at some point in the near future. But for now, let's shuffle up and deal.


The best sayings of Amarillo Slim

Someone who isn't too sharp

If it was raining soup, he'd be out in it with a fork.
That boy is lighter than a June frost.
He couldn't track an elephant in four feet of snow.

Something of little value

That ain't worth nine settings of eggs.

A conservative player in poker

Tighter than a nun's gadget.

A person put in shock

He couldn't swallow boiled okra.

A naive person

He's as square as an apple box. He still thinks 69 is the new highway to Dallas.

A close relationship

I'm closer to that boy than 19 is to 20.

Major evidence that proves a point

That's stronger than Nellie's breath.

A sucker who falls for a bad bet

Had taken the bait like a country hog after town slop.
What he smelled cooking wasn't on the fire.

An attractive woman

As pretty as a speckled pup under a red wagon.

A big pot in poker or a lot of money

It had so many chips that a show dog couldn't jump over it.
Enough hundred-dollar bills to burn up 40 wet mules.

The chances of an underdog

Very seldom do the lambs slaughter the butcher.


I'm so skinny I look like the advance man for a famine.

I can see a gnat's keester at a hundred yards.

If there's anything I'll argue about, I'll either bet on it or shut up.

I'm from a good town named Amarillo. The population has been 173,000 for the past 50 years, never varies -- every time some woman gets pregnant, some man leaves town.


There's more horse's asses than there are horses.

You can shear a sheep many a time, but you can skin 'em only once.

You can't always win. Sometimes they milk me like a Rocky Mountain goat. My titties get so sore I can't button my shirt.

Would I like my son to be a professional making a living as a gambler? No, he'd be better off getting him a driver's license and go to driving a dump truck.


Phil Hellmuth, Jr. has won nine bracelets at The World Series of Poker. He's one of the best all-around players in the game today. Phil's books, Play Poker Like the Pros and Bad Bets and Lucky Draws, are essential additions to any poker library. Here he describes common poker foes by picturing them as different animal types.

THE MOUSE: The mouse is extremely conservative. He plays only super-strong hands and rarely bluffs. To him, a pair of eights is a weak hand. He hardly ever raises when someone else has bet, and when he does, it's best to just get out of his way.

THE LION: The lion is also a fairly tight player but he plays with more imagination and style than the mouse. He'll play a wider array of hands and has excellent timing when it comes to bluffing and knowing when he's being bluffed. You could do worse than to play like him.

THE JACKAL: The jackal is what many players would call a "maniac." He's loose an unpredictable and liable to have huge swings in his chip stack since he plays so many hands so aggressively. Be careful of the jackal because there is some method to his madness. When he's timing his raises well and catching good cards, he's going to win a ton of money. But he can just as easily throw away his entire stack.

THE ELEPHANT: The elephant is a different type of loose player than the jackal. He's a "calling station": he never folds when he's supposed to, so don't bother bluffing him, ever, because he won't believe you anyway. He's a guy that most players will do very well against -- except the jackal, who continually tries to bluff against him.

A rare bird indeed, the eagle is one of the top 100 poker players in the world, and you might not ever sit across from him. You'll find him wherever high-stakes poker is played.


Now, mind you, despite a recent tongue-in-cheek example I wrote about in my column, this won't come up too often. But there is an example where it could happen and would absolutely be the right play. Let's say you're in a super-satellite tournament and you have 30% of the chips. The top eight players win seats for The World Series of Poker and there are nine players remaining. A player with more chips than you moves all-in. This is a time where it would be correct to fold pocket aces.

After all, the top eight players get all paid the same in a super-satellite. Why risk getting eliminated when you're only a four-and-a-half to one favorite or less? Your other option--to fold and wait for someone else to go broke--is the right play here. It just goes to show you, never say never in poker!


1. CALIFORNIA SPLIT: A pair of degenerate horse players/poker players get in a tough spot and end up in a game in Reno with it all on the line. You've got to love any movie that was partially filmed at Santa Anita and features a cameo by Amarillo Slim. Robert Altman (MASH, Nashville, The Player) directed and George Segal and Elliot Gould (Monica and Ross's dad on Friends for those of you born post-1980) starred.

2. HONEYMOON IN VEGAS: Nothing says "I love you" like losing your fiancee in a card game in Vegas. Yeah, it was fixed but try telling that to Sarah Jessica Parker. A really great movie, particularly the card scene that features Max's dad from Rushmore, Jerry "The Shark" Tarkanian, and an Asian Elvis impersonator. This film contains some of Jimmy Caan's best work. Seriously.

3. MY LITTLE CHICKADEE: Perhaps the first film to prominently feature poker. You might not think it now, but six decades ago the screen pairing of Mae West and W.C. Fields was a big deal. Stranger still, the two apparently wrote the screenplay together for this sucker. Though that sounds about as likely as being dealt a royal straight flush.

4. THE CINCINNATI KID: This one's a classic. Great cast, cool plot. And you get to see what Phil Gordon calls "the greatest bad beat in the history of poker cinema." Steve McQueen gives his typical awesome performance and Edward G. Robinson is truly "the man."

5. A BIG HAND FOR THE LITTLE LADY: Long before Annie Duke, there was a woman kicking ass at the poker table. But first she had to learn to play. This one's a very goofy comedy western. Look for Burgess Meredith (the Penguin, Rocky's manager) sitting at the table.

6. COOL HAND LUKE: One guess where Paul Newman's character got his nickname. If you said "the poker table," you got it right. Even more impressive than Luke's prowess at the table, however, is his ability to eat hard-boiled eggs.

7. ROUNDERS: A movie that might have set box office records had it been released just a few years later, one could argue that this picture's release helped launch the poker boom and created thousands of wanna-be Mike McDermott's. In other words, the film that launched millions of dollars worth of dead money. The film's a must-see, and features John Malkovich doing everything short of chewing on the scenery as Matt Damon's foil.

8. McCABE AND MRS. MILLER: Altman again. You think he likes cards? This time we're in the old West, but this isn't like any old West you've seen before. Warren Beatty is awesome as McCabe, a card hustling entrepreneur who has a background as a gunfighter and a killer -- or does he?


The simplest way to enter the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) is to visit Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas and pay $10,000. Do that and your name is posted to the board and you've got a seat at the Main Event.

Harrah's has now created a WSOP Circuit, with five tournaments feeding qualifying players into the Main Event based on a points system, transforming the month-long poker event into a year-round sport. Buy-ins for these tournaments range from $500 to $10,000. While there are even more affordable options to get a seat at the main event, bear in mind that as the entry fees decrease, the number of opponents you'll face increases proportionately -- meaning it's going to be tougher to qualify.

There are also a number of other tournaments that will allow you to qualify for the WSOP, known as satellites. These are usually one-table affairs with a buy-in of around $1,000 (plus the "juice" which is typically about $60), where the winner goes on to the big dance. There are also prequalifying events known as super-satellites, which will typically cost about $200 but you'll have to beat a lot more opponents.

Not willing to leave your house in pursuit of your seat at the WSOP tables? No problemo. You still have a shot at the glory a la Chris Moneymaker (2003) and Greg Raymer. Again, the cheaper the buy-in, the bigger the field. Moneymaker entered an Internet super-satellite for $39 and Raymer's online buy-in was still only $160. Their success just goes to show that players can find myriad ways to win a WSOP seat with only an Internet connection and a little luck. Internet satellites and super-satellites can be found in online poker rooms and are structured just like the land-based competitions, without all the staring.



Excerpted from The Poker Aficionado by Pete Fornatale
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.

Meet the Author

PETER THOMAS FORNATALE is a freelance writer and editor who has coauthored two books about pop culture, Who Can It Be Now? and Say Anything. He lives in New York City.

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