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Writing helps to stay sharp at the poker table

I am writing a new poker book, tentatively titled “WIN MORE in Texas Hold’em.” It will incorporate much of what I have learned over the years that has helped me become a winner.

It explores poker strategies and tactics, and introduces new concepts such as the Hold’em Algorithm, the Two-Step Process, the Hold’em Caveat, the Esther Bluff, and the Secret to Winning: Don’t Lose. Special features will include a look ahead to the future of poker and comments from poker experts. How to play selected hands should be invaluable.

I discussed my new book with the prominent poker psychologist, Dr. Alan Schoonmaker, a dear friend who I have made through our mutual interests in the game of poker. Al has written dozens of poker books. He cautioned me: Poker books are not selling well these days. Yes, I have noticed how the sales of my two most recent poker books have dropped way off. Nevertheless, Al intends to keep writing about poker.

He explained why he keeps writing poker books even without the financial motivation. I quote his four motives:

• “I enjoy it.

• “It makes me feel alive, smart, and creative.

• “I have a need to express myself.

• “It slows down the aging process.”

Personally, I feel the same way. It’s the same reasons that an artist persists in creating his/her drawings and paintings. It’s the same reasons that a scientist or engineer focuses on solving tough technical problems. As for slowing the aging process, who doesn’t want to stay young and active? Have you read Dr. Schoonmaker’s book, Stay Young; Play Poker?

To Dr. Schoonmaker’s four reasons, I have added three more:

• May help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

• Keeps me mentally active during retirement.

• Writing about poker makes me a better player.

In effect, playing poker and writing about it provide the same types of mental challenge and stimulation, and it goes one step further: It makes me a better poker player — winning more often with bigger pots.

Let me explain. As I write my poker columns, I find myself thinking about the topic, and asking myself key related questions. One important question always comes to mind: Why? Why is this the best decision?

Without giving it a second thought, tossing that question around in my mind, makes me think of the alternatives — so I “teach myself” the best way to play in such situations. Try it; you may find it helps your own poker game.

I have always enjoyed writing. I was drawn to it when I became Sports Editor of my college weekly, the Collegian. That was back in the early 1940’s. It taught me the power of the press. While in graduate school, writing my first engineering article with my professor was a great thrill. As Dr. Schoonmaker says, it made me “feel alive, smart, and creative.” I guess it’s no coincidence that’s the same way I feel when I play poker and make a tough decision that helps me win a big pot.

Never did I anticipate what the consequences would be when retiring from my position as an engineering manager in the aerospace industry and announcing that “my second career” would be playing poker. At the time, I knew that I did not want to become a “couch potato” as many of my friends had. Little did I realize at the time what a great mental challenge it would be — nor how playing poker would come to dominate much of my life, including providing a vehicle for my strong desire to write.

As it has been said many times: “Practice makes perfect.” So, I intend to keep playing poker and writing about the game — hoping to get more skilled at both.

Can you suggest other activities you enjoy that relate to playing poker? Please send your comments to [email protected] A copy of my book on the Art of Bluffing will be shipped to the first two persons with the best comments.