‘Magician’ reveals his poker secrets

May 15, 2006 12:51 AM

Antonio Esfandiari, a former professional magician, and the first player under 25 to win a first-place poker prize over $1 million, has a dynamite new title, In the Money: Strategies for Winning Texas Hold ”˜em Cash Games (181 pages, paperbound, $15.95).

With baseball moving into a higher gear, number crunchers, computer aces and Bill James followers should enjoy Baseball Hacks: Tips & Tools for Analyzing and Winning With Statistics by Joseph Adler (448 pages, paperbound, $24.99).

Since poker is a bit hotter and more popular than sports betting (until football gets here!), let’s look at Esfandiari’s book, which was co-authored by David Apostolico, the man who previously authored Tournament Poker and the Art of War and Machiavellian Poker Strategy.

Esfandiari, one of the most colorful, charismatic and classy tournament players of our generation, says Lee Jones’ Winning Low Limit Poker help launch his career at age 19, along with a thousand hours of heads-up Texas hold’em. This is a how-to book with some biographical material. You can virtually watch the author move up the ladder to heavier games, finish in the money and win the competition. Some of the advice is simple, but right to the point and logical.

"The best way to make money is to fold ... only play when you have an edge. Cash games are measured over the long term. Every player will have losing sessions and even losing streaks that may last awhile. When you are going through a losing streak, do not let it get to you. Always take time to evaluate your play. If you are making correct decisions, then stay the course."

He talks about observation, practice, the importance of position, challenging yourself, proper bankroll and overconfidence.

This is an author who’s been there. He moves the reader-player along just right, revealing what to expect, finding the right game, finding a level of competition you can handle and what to expect in cash games. One vital chapter compares no-limit (there’s more finesse) to limit games and the adjustment that must be made, both in money and psychologically.

Another section answers the question of how cash games compare to tournament play. After that, he moves into high gear with pre-flop strategy and post-flop play; playing the turn and the river.

By chapter 10 you’ll learn the proper way to play in a shorthanded game, followed by heads-up play, then creating a table image, playing loose, tight, aggressively, playing online and finally how to shuffle your chips like a pro.

Although the book does not illustrate sample or key hands, which would be helpful for those who learn by visualizing what cards players have and how opponents react, it’s a small flaw in a polished gem of a book. You can just feel the love this player has for the game and understand how much he appreciates those who have helped him become one of the most respected feared competitors on the circuit.

Baseball Hacks by Adler came about when the author decided to write a book that teaches you how to take advantage of the many free baseball resources on the Internet. "It’s a book about how to watch, research and understand baseball. It’s an instruction manual for the free baseball databases. It’s a cookbook for baseball research," he says in his preface.

He shows you "all the baseball related stuff you can do free of charge (or close to free)." Also, he tells you how to find him, ask questions, suggest updates for the book (I’m sure there’ll be a few suggestions by bettors), and the credentials of his co-contributors are impressive!

They include Pete Palmer co-author of The Hidden Game of Baseball and Brendon Roberts, senior editor at The Sporting News.

Among the solid seven chapters are Baseball Games from Past Years; Stats from the Current Season; and How to Visualize Baseball Statistics.

For the bettor, Chapter Five, titled Formulas, may be pure gold (about 100 pages worth) since its emphasis includes how to measure batting averages; runs batted in; on base percentage; pitching with earned run average; fielding; park effects; calculating save value and decent holds for relief pitchers.

A solid section of another 100 pages spotlights Sabermetric Thinking including finding clutch players; calculating expected number of wins for a team; measuring skill versus luck; the odds of the best team winning the World Series and fitting game scores to a strength model.

A small section called The Bullpen looks at fantasy leagues and analyzing other sports.

This is a book for the computer whiz/sports fan combination. For those who love new ideas, trigger points for testing a theory, angle, or betting proposition, the book may unearth a treasure trove of potential material.

I can’t guarantee you a winning baseball season as a bettor, but this marvelous time-saving, love-of-the-game-through-numbers compendium should keep mind and fingers busy for countless, enjoyable hours.

These books and more are available from Gambler’s Book Shop (Gambler’s Book Club) on 11th Street in Las Vegas. The store’s web site is www.gamblersbook.com; the toll free phone number is 1-800-522-1777.