The only way to improve your poker game is through experience. And the fact is, few players have more experience than the author of this book, who chooses to remain anonymous (and not blow his cover). In The Education of a Poker Pigeon, he reveals the successful strategy that's enabled him to earn a living for forty years doing what he loves. By playing expert poker while hiding exactly how well you play, you can lull even the smartest players into making dumb and expensive mistakes. Here, Anonymous goes further and outlines the steps that took him from pure novice to poker pro, sharing the priceless lessons he learned along the way.
• How to detect a cheater.
• How to manage your winnings.
• How real game strategy works, in venues ranging from illegal card rooms to the World Series.
• How to accelerate your game while avoiding the pitfalls that snag so many players.
Whether you're seriously contemplating going pro or just fantasizing about it, do yourself and your bankroll a favor and learn from someone who's been there, done that, and lived to play--and win--another day!
The author, who remains anonymous in order to avoid the limelight and maintain his cover as a pigeon, has played poker to support himself since 1970. He has played in six World Series of Pokers as well as with such famous players as Stuey Ungar, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Bill Smith. He has also published several mysteries and thrillers.
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About the Author
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THE EDUCATION OF A POKER PIGEON SECRETS LEARNED FROM A LIFE IN HIGH-STAKES POKER
LYLE STUART BOOKS Copyright © 2008 Gray Matter, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter One I Don't Want to Write What You Want to Read
I want to fulfill a lifelong dream and write my autobiography.
You want to read a book chock-full of tips that will help make you a better poker player.
So, are we just banging our heads together? Or tugging away in opposite directions, accomplishing zero? No way. We'll meet both goals. It's doable. Trust me.
Come on, you don't have to be polite. If the exciting tale of how I morphed from an economics major with a brilliant future into a king-of-the-road, leave-town-ahead-of-the-sheriff poker bum won't keep you on the edge of your seat, say so. After all, it's your nickel that we're spending here.
So how 'bout if we compromise? Suppose I sort of write my life story while I slip little poker instruction tidbits into each chapter, or strategy lessons explaining my play in this hand or that hand against this or that big-time professional, and also sprinkle the book with history lessons on the development of Texas Hold 'Em and why it's caught on as the only poker game worth knowing right now and (best of all) put forth some ideas on improving your poker lifestyle that, in the long run, will serve you better than any instruction on when to call, raise, bluff, or fold can ever hope to. I can even include tips on how to detect cheating, and how to spot a game that has a better than even chance of getting robbed by masked folks toting shotguns, so that thereafter you can avoid such games and thus reduce your risk of having your pocket picked or getting shot by hijackers. How 'bout if I do all that? Huh?
What's that? Now you might be interested? I thought so.
Look, I don't care if you're teaching high-level chess strategy or basic toilet repair; the best tool for the teacher to use is his or her experience. I'm still going to advocate disguising yourself as a big fat sucker at the poker table, the same advice that I gave when writing Play Poker Like a Pigeon (and Take the Money Home), but, just as I said in that book, putting the pigeon image across takes a great deal of know-how about professional play. By outlining the steps that took me from a pure novice to a pro-level player, I can help you to avoid the pitfalls that I've experienced and thus put your learning process in warp-speed mode. If you know the right roads in advance, you can eliminate a lot of wrong turns and accelerate your game to a higher level in a much shorter span than it took me.
That's the answer, isn't it? Now I have your full attention. I'm going to entertain you with a few life-experience-type stories while I give you more insights into the intricacies of the game than you ever thought possible.
Okay, you say, maybe you've got something there. But gimme a for instance.
Well here's a for instance. There was the time, way back when, that I looked up from the poker table to see a guy dressed up like a monkey pointing a sawed-off, over-and-under, double-barreled shotgun in my direction, and that's when I made the lightning quick decision to lie facedown on the floor. Or the time when-
Jesus Christ, you pipe up, that's what all the buildup was about? Who wouldn't know to hit the deck with a shotgun staring them in the face? That's no big revelation, and it has zilch to do with how to play poker.
Okay, I'll grant that you might have a point, but I don't think that anyone else could have gone facedown with the panache that I did, or that anyone else could've made the decision to do so nearly as quickly. And that's what poker's all about-making lightning quick decisions under fire.
The hijacking example might be a bit hokey, but I've always advocated the lifestyle side of the poker player as more important than any playing skill, and I'll continue to do so until they tote me away from the card room table feetfirst. Plain vanilla how-to-play-poker lessons will no more make a winner out of you than Tiger Woods's swing tips will put you in Sunday contention at the Masters. There's a guy on every golf course in America cruising around daily in sixty-five strokes who hits it just as far as Tiger and usually putts like a haint as well (that's "haint" as in "haunt," a little Southern colloquialism for you-all Yankees, meaning that the guy putts like a ghost, likely the ghost of Bobby Locke or someone similar), but instead of playing the back nine at Augusta on a Sunday in April, this guy hustles people for ten bucks a side and, on the few occasions when he loses, sneaks off into the parking lot to make his getaway while his opponents hang around the clubhouse waiting to get paid. At each and every poker tournament you'll run into the same sort of thing, a string of people who claim to be pros standing around looking for a playing stake or meal handout, and most of those people will know just as much about how to play poker as Hellmuth, Brunson, Harrington, or anyone else in the room. Knowing what cards to play and how to play 'em amounts to about 10 percent of the total picture; controlling one's emotions and managing one's money take up the other 90 percent, and consistent winners understand very well that overall smart living is a thousand times more important than knowing the odds of J10 beating AK in a hand of Texas Hold 'Em. So while I do intend to give you a few playing tips, the more astute among you will pay more attention to the lifestyle suggestions than the playing strategies I'll go into.
So to summarize: In trying to make a living playing poker-or if not trying to support yourself, at least being in it strictly for profit and not for the Wednesday night circle jerk with "the guys"-how you manage your life and money is head and shoulders more important that how much you're lucky enough to win. That's basic my-old-Daddy-told-me-so strategy, right up there with instruction on how to put on your shoes and brush your teeth, and this advice works in playing poker for profit just as it works in any other path that you might choose between the womb and the grave.
See what I mean?
Christ, getting this project off the ground is going to take a little salesmanship. Well, anything that's worth doing is also worth some effort, so maybe I'd better quit acting like the Geico gecko with the jokes and whatnot and get serious.
So consider this (try to picture me assuming a somber expression and going into full-blown teacher mode here): Just about everything that we use today to advance our business acumen or playtime pleasure is the product of evolution that came about as a means to solving a problem, and the game of poker is no exception. The cell phone exists because, in all probability, once upon a time Alexander Graham Bell wanted to talk to his maid without running all over the house trying to find her. In Jolly Old Germany, Johann Gutenberg likely got sick of reproducing manuscripts by hand, so he invented the moveable type that over time evolved into the typewriter and, eventually, Microsoft Word. And in poker's dim dark ages, game runners saw more customers waiting for seats than were actually playing, so they built oblong tables set for ten and-poof-invented Texas Hold 'Em.
Really. Add it up. In five-card draw or five-card stud, thirty-five cards come off the deck in a seven-handed game during the deal (and who hasn't played in some Wednesday night games with "the guys" where no one ever folds and where in order for everyone to draw the dealer ends up shuffling the discards?). In Hold 'Em each player starts out with only two cards, the board consists of only five, and even when Hold 'Em is played ten-handed only half the deck comes into play during a hand. (Here I should point out that opposed to today, where the house cuts each pot for a certain amount-in most legal casino games, state laws prohibit a rake of more than four dollars a hand-old-time backroom game runners "took time." "Taking time" meant that each player had to pay so much periodically in order to keep his seat. Normally this figure was five dollars an hour, with the runner collecting two dollars on the half hour and three dollars on the hour from each player at the table, so by increasing the number of players from seven to ten, the game runners raised their take from thirty-five to fifty dollars an hour, a 43 percent increase.) While Hold 'Em does owe its existence to old-time game runners' greed, modern house games have benefited as well, because a hand of Hold 'Em takes up, on average, less than half the time consumed in a hand of any other form of poker. If you're cutting the pot for four dollars a hand, and you can double the number of hands played per hour, you can double your take as well. So greed rules poker just as it rules banking, but as we all learn as we go through life, greed ain't all bad.
Not surprisingly, when Texas Hold 'Em first came to pass, there was no such thing as a good Hold 'Em player, because the probabilities and strategies in Hold 'Em were so different from those in any other form of poker. Other than a certain amount of inherent card sense, there is no similarity whatsoever between a good poker player and a good Hold 'Em player, and the exceptional Hold 'Em players evolved over time by taking note of the differences between Hold 'Em and other games and learning how to turn those differences to their advantage. Many years ago I knew the legendary Titanic Thompson for a time-come on, I'm not that fucking old; he was in his seventies and I was in my twenties the first time I ever laid eyes on the guy-and in addition to his reputation for being one of the greatest on-the-spot odds figurers who ever lived, Ti was a brilliant Hold 'Em player, and trust me that the two skills are closely related.
I did a chapter in Play Poker Like a Pigeon called "The Oddball Odds of Texas Hold 'Em," where I elaborated on the differences between figuring odds in Hold 'Em versus figuring odds in other forms of poker and explained in detail why these differences exist. Well, some of the information in this book will be a repeat of what I discussed in the other book, but here I hope to broaden your perspective. I'm going to tell the story of how, early on, I jumped into Hold 'Em games that were far over my head, and, by learning how to compute the odds of this or that happening, eventually adjusted my thinking from stud and draw until I became a pretty fair hand at Hold 'Em as well. And that, dear reader, is the main way that I'm going to shorten your road; if you're already hip to the differences between Hold 'Em and other poker games, you're more than halfway there before you ever take a seat in a casino card room. And if you're one of the myriad players who are consistent winners at stud and draw but can't seem to break through as a Hold 'Em guy, then the lessons in this book are going to be right up your alley.
Now then, am I beginning to hook you? Of course I am.
So here's a final teaser before we move on to the meat of the subject. Another riveting example of what this book holds in store for you has to do with the development of Hold 'Em terminology (and who doesn't want to learn the lingo required to be a really hip and with-it Big-Time Poker Guy, even though as a practicing resident of Pigeonville you shouldn't advertise that you know any of this stuff). If you've started to play quite a bit of Hold 'Em, you've doubtless noticed that older players use different terminology than you hear on ESPN during the World Series. To the real veterans, the "turn" is what the youngsters call the "flop," and what you now know as the "turn" and "river" cards used to be called Fourth Street and Fifth Street. Well the old-time terminology is actually proper Hold 'Emspeak, and the latter-day terms only exist due to the hustlers' desire to draw the suckers into the game. Old-time Hold 'Em hustlers, while they spoke Hold 'Emese quite fluently among themselves, used stud examples in sucking in the pigeons so that it wouldn't occur to the sucker how different the two games really are. Seven-card stud back then was called "Down the River," a name first heard on southbound pleasure boats along the Mississippi. The "turn" card in Down the River was the first upcard (after the two facedown hole cards), and the "river" card was the final card in the hand, always dealt facedown. So the old thieves indoctrinated the pigeons by telling them that in Hold 'Em the first card dealt after the flop was just like the "turn" card in Down the River, and were thus encouraged to use the same strategy that had worked for them in Down the River, even though using seven-card stud strategy in Hold 'Em is certain suicide. Come on in, Mr. Pigeon, the water's fine, the old-timers may as well have said.
Have I gotcha yet? If I haven't, I'll bet I'm getting close. So you just try to keep from turning the page to the next chapter. Just try; I dare you. But before you turn the page, do one more little thing. Carry this book up to the cash register, fork over, and add the book to your poker library. This ain't Snake Oil we're selling; it's the real fucking thing. It's cheap at twice the price, and in the long run, you'll be glad that you did.
Chapter Two Don't Shoot-I Fold Already
The monkey who was holding the shotgun told me to lie facedown. I was a blur of motion as I got down on the floor and buried my nose in the carpet. Actually the monkey wasn't really a monkey; he was a squatty guy in jeans and a plain white T-shirt, and he only looked like a monkey because he was wearing an ape mask. Or at least that's what I later heard from other hijack victims. I saw only a furry face, a blunt snout with huge nostrils, and sawed-off double barrels the size of teacups. For all I know the guy might really have been a monkey.
I'd no sooner done as told than the monkey's buddy straddled me, reached into my pockets and took my roll of hundred-dollar bills, then tied my wrists behind me using plastic zip cuffs. The monkey's buddy wore a monkey mask as well. Later, when discussing the incident with the cops, I'd refer to this pair as Monkey One and Monkey Two. Monkey One wore a chimpanzee mask while Monkey Two had dressed up as a gorilla. The two uniformed policemen who took the report didn't think that I was funny. Today I probably wouldn't think that I was funny, either, but back then I had a million of 'em.
I fell victim to the monkeys as I sat alone at the poker table, having come in early to set up in preparation for our nightly illegal game. My partner in crime and I were running the game, chopping the pot for six or seven hundred bucks a night and splitting the profits. We provided rent, utilities, cards, chips, pro-style padded poker table, and food and drinks for the players, and I believe that our total monthly nut came to less than one night's take from cutting the pot. We were also supposed to provide security. In this instance we seemed to have fumbled the ball. As I lay there trembling, I promised God that if he'd let me live through this day I'd never draw another breath outside the law. I suspect that God doubted my sincerity. Given my history, I wouldn't have blamed Him if He had.
The first time I ever gambled was once in high school, when three basketball players separated me from twenty-five dollars on the team bus playing a Cajun game called Boo Ray. To get some idea of what twenty-five dollars amounted to in those days, please know this: I earned my spending money during the summer changing tires in hundred-degree heat for seventy-five cents an hour. I worked sixty-hour weeks from June through August, and my weekly take-home pay was just a shade over thirty-eight bucks. Also on point: Back then we could go to the movies for sixty cents, and the first new car that my father ever bought-a 1955 Buick Super with a Dynaflo transmission-cost thirty-four hundred dollars. Daddy-a pillar of the Church of Christ who didn't approve of gambling, and who wouldn't have bet that fat meat was greasy if his life depended on the outcome-got a sizeable bonus on his job during my senior year, which pushed his income all the way up to a grand a month. Twenty-five bucks to a high school kid in the 1950s was a ton of money.
Excerpted from THE EDUCATION OF A POKER PIGEON Copyright © 2008 by Gray Matter, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsContents Author's Note....................vii
1. I Don't Want to Write What You Want to Read....................1
2. Don't Shoot-I Fold Already....................9
3. Turning the Tables on the Roundballers (or, I Discover Tightass Play)....................26
4. Frat Rats and Other Suckers (or, The Phi Delts Keep Me in Booze and Babes)....................42
5. I Meet Hold 'Em (or, The Intricate Nuances of Playing Jack-Five)....................74
6. Doc Nichols and the Two Fours....................104
7. Out West (or, I Go to Las Vegas and Lose My Way Home)....................143
8. Making Do in Nevada (or, The Life and Times of the Golden Nugget Kid)....................180
9. Back in Civilization (or, Las Vegas Finally Sends Me Packing)....................206
10. Life Among the Amateurs....................215
11. I Lose My Car for Good, and Finally Find Refuge as a Member of the Permanent Pigeons' Club....................226