This poker doctor should make house calls

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Over the years, I have been fortunate to get to know one of the most outstanding gentlemen in our poker world, Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker.

Alan is undoubtedly our leading poker psychologist – and more. His contributions to the world of poker are truly amazing – but rarely discussed!

After earning his Ph.D. in industrial psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, he went on to teach at UCLA and Carnegie-Mellon University. Then, he served as a Research Fellow at The Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, and was a guest lecturer at Yale and the University of Chicago.

At one point, Dr. Schoonmaker was Manager of Management Development for Merrill-Lynch. And then, he served as a consultant for leading industrial clients in 28 different countries!

Before turning to poker, he published many leading books on psychology. These include “Negotiate to Win,” “Selling: The Psychological Approach,” “A Student’s Survival Guide,” “Executive Career Strategy” and “Anxiety and the Executive,” many of which have been translated into foreign languages. The book titles tell the story.

His poker accomplishments and contributions are likewise spectacular. Having established and so well applied his expertise in psychology, our poker world was fortunate he moved into the game of poker.

Alan’s first poker book, “The Psychology of Poker,” quickly became a classic with its unique and valuable advice for serious poker players – both new and well-experienced ones. (After deciding to make poker my second career upon retiring from The Aerospace Corp. in 1991 when I turned 65, it was one of the first poker books I read – over and over.)

This was followed by a series of other poker books: “Your Worst Poker Enemy,” “Your Best Poker Friend,” “Poker Winners are Different,” “The Poker Party is Over: What Will You Do Now?,” “How to Beat Small Games,” and “Ducy?” (co-authored with famed poker expert, David Sklansky).

His journalistic and other poker-related endeavors include being a widely-read columnist for Poker Digest and Card Player magazines; and, then there was his radio talk show, holdemradio.com, with some of the top poker experts sharing their secrets for winning. Alan has also participated in many poker seminars, including one sponsored by the Global Poker Strategy Thinking Society at Harvard Law School. For the benefit of online poker players, Dr. Schoonmaker served on the Royal Vegas Team of experts.

Of special interest

Here are some of the ideas Alan has offered that will help us to be more successful at the poker table. Unlike other poker authors, he usually writes about small games “because that’s what nearly everyone always plays,” he explains. That makes his teachings of value to a wider audience.

The best way to beat the game, he advises, is to use disciplined solid play, rather than focus on brilliant moves.

Regarding many poker experts’ advice to analyze your opponents, Dr. Schoonmaker argues that “the most important person to analyze is yourself because you are often your own worst enemy.” (Interesting psychological thought!)

We all recognize everyone is prone to make mistakes while playing poker. To learn how to stop making these, you must first learn why you make them, he explains.

What are the two most common mistakes? First: Playing too many hands. (Note: As a matter of interest, that’s why I created the Hold’em Algorithm) And secondly: Going too far with them without the proper odds.

A world-renowned psychologist, Dr. Schoonmaker claims “poker is good for you.” Playing the game of poker “can improve study habits, math understanding, logical thinking, concentration, patience, self-discipline, long-term focus, realism, adjusting to diverse people,” among many other valuable skills.

Our poker world is blessed to have Dr. Alan Schoonmaker involved in helping us to better enjoy and benefit from playing poker. Indeed, I would suggest he be considered for both the Poker Hall of Fame and the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Well deserved.

On behalf of our poker world, thank you Alan.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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