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Poker Wisdom of a Champion
by Doyle Brunson

Part I - Poker for the wrong reasons
  • Chapter 1 - The profit comes from people
    • Don't just play your cards, play your people. Play them based on that moment in time, their current mood (which can change by the hand) and the current situation.

  • Chapter 2 - Proving who’s best
    • 1) It takes patience to teach poker, 2) you can't prove you're a poker wizard in two minutes, 3) everything that is now obvious was once obscure. Think back to 10 seconds before something was obvious to understand how a beginner thinks.

  • Chapter 3 - Gambling with girls
    • Be sure to play women the same as you would a man. Don't be afraid of winning and feeling guilty or losing and being ashamed. Many times it is the women that outsmart the men.

  • Chapter 4 - Pride and poker
    • Don't let pride get in the way of good poker plays. Don't seek revenge or try to prove a point. Just play good poker all of the time.

Part II - A Winning Lifestyle
  • Chapter 5 - Never play soft
    • Checkraising is part of poker and without it you lose a very important strategic tool. Secondly, you should always play to win. Even if you are playing your friends, play as you would to win. “Real” opponents are necessary for a good poker game.

  • Chapter 6 - Thoughts about hustling
    • Hustling isn't gambling and isn't honorable. Some people think to be a pro gambler you need to hustle, but you can also be a pro gambler and play honorably (within the rules) and be true to your word.

  • Chapter 7 - Broke is not fun
    • When you're down in your bankroll, never play in a game that makes you uncomfortable. Play a lower limit and work up your bankroll back up. Don't play a higher limit expecting to make it back faster. Most likely you will lose more of it faster.

  • Chapter 8 - Honor in gambling
    • Always be good to your word. You will never be able to play or gamble with people if you become known for not being true to your word. Honor is an absolute must for any pro gambler.

  • Chapter 9 - Are you ready to win?
    • There are 7 key questions to ask yourself before you play poker. Be sure that you are ready to win before you play.
      • 1) Have you had enough sleep?
      • 2) Is there something else you would rather be doing?
      • 3) Are you feeling physically well enough to sit through a movie?
      • 4) Are you so mad at someone that it's interfering with your concentration?
      • 5) Are drugs, alcohol or medication interfering with your logical thinking?
      • 6) Are you emotionally upset?
      • 7) Do you feel you're going to win?

  • Chapter 10 - World class intimidation
    • Many players buy books but never read them. They feel that just owning the book gives them the knowledge and they play poorly with confidence (as if they read the book). Also, always keep in mind what the best possible hand your opponent can have.

Part III – Bad Habits
  • Chapter 11 – Marathon madness
    • Beware of long sessions and becoming tired as your “freshness” will only last so long, even if your opponents are already tired. They may be more used to playing tired.

  • Chapter 12 – Human kindness
    • Beware of playing soft on another player as they may be the one later who busts you out. Play hard all the way to the end.

  • Chapter 13 – A sad tale of superstition
    • Focus on percentages and odds and steer clear of superstition. The most expensive thing a player can bring to the table is a rabbit's foot.

Part IV – Advice at the Table
  • Chapter 14 – Calling: the right motive
    • Be sure to only call when your motives are right, not because you want to get back at another player or to not give them the satisfaction to bluff you. Also, if a player makes a big issue of displaying their hand that they bluffed you with, it's pretty certain that he's not going to bluff you again in the near future.

  • Chapter 15 – Don't take a bluff personally
    • Many people take a bluff personally, as if they were robbed. Don't fall into this trap. It is part of the game. When someone takes a bluff to heart, they will be more apt to call because they don't want to give you the satisfaction of bluffing them again.

  • Chapter 16 – Count ‘em while you can
    • Although Kenny Rogers says not to count your chips at the table, it's probably a good idea to know where you stand and have a rough idea of how many chips you have. If you don't exercise proper chip management, you may lose them and have nothing.

  • Chapter 17 – Power poker
    • First be sure you have complete knowledge of the game, then play aggressively and keep your opponents on their toes. It will keep them on the defense and never know what you are going to do.

  • Chapter 18 – Why raise the limits?
    • People play differently when they are in limits that they are not accustomed to. Generally they play tighter in higher limits and looser in lower limits.
      • 1) When an average player is in a limit higher than feels comfortable, they will play tighter than usual. You will make money by bluffing this player.
      • 2) When an average player is in a limit lower than feels comfortable, they will play looser than usual. These players will lose money killing time in lower limits.
      • 3) When a very loose player is forced to play higher stakes than he feels comfortable, he often becomes a much better player. Mainly because he abandons playing hopeless hands and starts to play more appropriately.
      • 4) When a very tight player is forced to play higher stakes than he feels comfortable, he becomes even tighter. Bluffs will work that much more effectively. By forcing the player into a higher limit you are magnifying their faults.
      • 5) If the game is very loose it works against you to raise the limits. You should keep the limits low and play conservatively.
      • 6) If the game is very tight it works in your favor to raise the limits and play aggressively.

  • Chapter 19 – No feel for no limit
    • Strategies that work in limit (strict pot odds, etc.) don't often translate into no limit games or vice versa. When playing no limit (vs. limit) 1) you need stronger hands to bet, 2) you need stronger hands to call or raise and 3) bluffing is a much more powerful weapon. Very often players make the mistake to not alter their game based on what they're playing (limit or no limit).

  • Chapter 20 – Weird games, real money
    • Some people like to play different games. Learning these games will keep you from being viewed negatively by others. Remember, the greatest share of your poker knowledge is adaptable to all games. Learn to be versatile and you'll earn a lot more money. Also remember that poker is more than just a game of strategy and mathematics. It is also a game of public relations.

  • Chapter 21 – Bluffing: the pride and the panic
    • Sometimes people bluff to get credit and attention. They feel it makes them appear to be a great poker player. Other times people bluff out of desperation because they feel they it's the only way to win (panic). They don't give themselves time to think it through and understand if it's really the right time to bluff. The most common reasons for bluffing are the three P’s, 1) Pride, 2) Panic and 3) Profit. Profit is the only one worth bluffing for.

  • Chapter 22 – Working hard to win a call
    • They say a player who is on the fence about calling or folding can often be prodded into calling. This can sometimes be used to your advantage if you want the player to call.

Part V – Advice Away From the Table
  • Chapter 23 – Leave your personal woes at home
    • Never play when you are emotionally affected. One example is a player who was playing very well until his girlfriend comes to the table and says she is breaking up with him. He then continues to play but makes many poor plays as he is thinking about the break up. Then when he has lost all his money, his girlfriend comes back and apologizes. They make up. But he still lost all that money. Sometimes it's best to step away from the table until your emotions are back in check.

  • Chapter 24 – Road games
    • The best way to learn poker isn't by going to Vegas and playing in their tough games. The best way to learn is on the road at the smaller home games and low limit casino games. Then when you're ready, play in the more pro games.

  • Chapter 25 – Being too proud of your bankroll
    • Always be careful about displaying your bankroll in public. Gamblers often carry large amounts of money and if you let others see what you are carrying, it is possible that you will be targeted and robbed. it's nobody's business about how much money you are carrying.

  • Chapter 26 – When speculation makes sense
    • When you find yourself in a situation where you don't know if you have the best of it, it's often worth risking a small amount of money to investigate; particularly if the rewards are many times greater than the initial amount being invested.

  • Chapter 27 – The library robbery
    • There are 5 great fears any gambler must face 1) getting broke, 2) getting robbed, 3) getting arrested, 4) getting cheated and 5) not getting paid. Occasionally people will prefer to disappear than pay off their losses.

  • Chapter 28 – Winning: it's a state of mind
    • Personal mental exercises to get yourself ready to play good poker can be very beneficial. However, be sure you don't go so far as to play tricks on your own mind and allow those thoughts to sabotage your play.

Part VI – Strategy and Tactics
  • Chapter 29 – Shifting gears
    • To be more effective a player must change gears, playing loose to tight or tight to loose, and mix their game up to throw off the other players. Many players change gears fluidly and not quick enough to really confuse their competition. it's more effective to change gears quickly, from first to third skipping second gear. That will confuse those players looking for second gear as a tell that you are changing your play.

  • Chapter 30 – Adapting to the situation
    • You don't always have to call. The main difference between good players and poor players is that good players play their cards and poor players let their cards play them. You control your action. You choose to bet, call or raise. Don't just call because you have 3 aces if you know you're beat. Fold the hand and know you did the right thing.

  • Chapter 31 – First grade hold'em
    • When playing hold'em pay attention to the fact that you only get 2 cards different from the other players. When the board creates a good hand, be sure that it helps your 2 cards exclusively. The board should fit your hand.

  • Chapter 32 – When you play tight, it's your secret
    • You should never expose your hand if you win the pot before the showdown. It will only hurt your ability to bluff or play tight in the future. If you show that you had a good hand, you should plan to call more often in the future.

  • Chapter 33 – Staying in Action
    • Don't risk everything when you are only a small favorite to win. When playing opponents that are weaker players than you, wait until you are a big favorite to win. Being a small favorite means that there is still a chance for luck to take away your bankroll.

Part VII – Home Poker
  • Chapter 34 – Rules for home poker
    • Can a player go all in with what he has, or does he have to match the full amount of a bet? it's usually best to only play with the money on the table.
    • Must you “burn” a card before dealing? Play whatever the rules dictate. In dealer's choice, the dealer lays down the rules for the game.
    • Don't games where players act in turn give the dealer an advantage? Yes, that is why it's a good idea to play a complete round before switching to a new game.
    • Who settles disputes? It should be decided before the games begin who should be the arbitrator. Many times it can be the host or dealer. Or it can be a vote of the inactive players at the table.
    • When should a game adjourn? Always decide ahead of time when the game will end. This will avoid among losers who want the game to continue.
    • Do you need a good excuse to leave a home game, especially if you are a winner? You should never need an excuse to leave a game. It should be understood that if a player wants to excuse himself from the game at any time, he should be allowed to do so.
    • In five card draw what is the maximum number of cards a player can draw, 3 or 4? A player should be allowed to draw up to five cards.
    • Is a verbal bet binding if you decide not to put in your chips? This should be decided before the game, however most world class players will honor a verbal bet and put their chips in.
    • Is a host expected to extend credit to the players he has invited? No, not unless there have been prior arrangements made.
    • If a player lends money to another player, is he obligated to lend money to other players? No
    • When cashing out at the end of a session, who is responsible if chips do not equal the amount of cash? The host or whoever assumed the responsibility of being the banker is responsible. Balancing these transactions is his obligation.
    • Is it legal to have a private home game of poker? Not in most states. Be sure to keep the shades closed ;)

  • Chapter 35 – A home poker dilemma
    • When hosting a poker game there are 3 things that make a game successful 1) making sure enough players are going to show up, 2) establishing the rules and avoid misunderstandings and 3) setting betting limits that are comfortable for those you've invited. Also remember that you are not obligated to lend money to players you've invited.

  • Chapter 36 – Getting more chips than you bargained for
    • Be wary of players who bring similar chips to those you plan to play with. They will take them out and use them when it's time to cash out. it's a good idea to have unique chips (initials, etc.) and make sure that you get all your chips back at the end of a session. It also helps to have ethical friends and only invite people that you trust

  • Chapter 37 – A smooth game and nobody came
    • Rules should grow out of necessity and nothing else. Too many rules and the strict adherence to rules (folding out of turn, etc.) can lead to contention between players interrupt the flow of the game. If a player is constantly complaining about rules and etiquette the other players may not want to play in future games. They just want to play, not worry about minor etiquette problems.

  • Chapter 38 – Home games need leaders
    • Although all players should have a say in the rules and flow of a session, it's important that there be a leader to ensure the entire session is not wasted defining how to play. The leader needs to make sure that rules are defined and get the game going quickly.

  • Chapter 39 – Unfriendly stakes
    • Decide in advance if the poker you play will be friendly or serious. Make sure the stakes and adherence to the rules fit the type of game.

  • Chapter 40 – Sticking with the rules
    • Remember that most home games are called “friendly poker.” Don't lose sight of the friendly part. Three things you should always bring to a poker game is 1) your brains, 2) your bankroll and 3) some good manners.

Part VIII – More Winning Wisdom
  • Chapter 41 – Letting the dog die
    • A player doesn't need an excuse to leave a game, but it's rude when a player constantly quits while he's ahead. One time a player who was winning had his wife interrupt the game saying that the dog was sick and needed to go to the vet, although the dog was fine. He said he would play one last hand before they went and he ended up losing most of his profit during that hand. His wife, oblivious to what happened, pushed him that they needed to leave and he yelled back “leave me alone and just let the dog die!” Also, when playing deuce to seven (Kansas City Lowball) 2 card draws should include both a 7 and a 2 (i.e. 752xx not 753xx).

  • Chapter 42 – Thanks for the pleasure players
    • There is nothing wrong with recreational players. Everyone plays poker for different reasons and recreational players have every right to play how they want to. Never ridicule a player for making a bad play or doing something that you think is obviously wrong. Most of the time these players have other occupations that they are very good at. A doctor would never yell at you for thinking a chest pain was a heart attack, even if it was obvious to him that it was just indigestion.

  • Chapter 43 – Quitting while you're ahead
    • When you have the best of it, you should keep playing. If you feel like you need to take a break, take a break. Sometimes quitting while you're ahead will only hurt your bankroll, since you are winning, you would have most likely kept winning.

  • Chapter 44 – There's no limit like no limit
    • No limit is a type of poker, not a size of the game. A rational player compares the size of the blinds and/or ante to his bankroll before deciding to play. The swings may be bigger, but it doesn't mean that you will lose more money in the end. it's simply a different type of poker.

  • Chapter 45 – The ploy's the play
    • Once someone displayed the title of a book they were reading just after placing a big bet. The title was “How to Bluff Constantly and Win.” This caused the other player to call and lose to a powerful hand and the rest of the night this player had the other players baffled as to if he was bluffing or not. When the player left the game he put the book on the table and someone opened the book and all the pages were blank except for one word, “Don't.” A bluff should only be used when the feeling is right. Not more often than is comfortable.

  • Chapter 46 – Fun with even-money bets
    • Always beware of someone giving you what appears to be an even break. Something unexpected may be lurking just out of sight.

  • Chapter 47 – Should everyone gamble?
    • There are some people that can gamble and others that shouldn't but do. A person who allows their emotions to affect their play or cannot handle the ups and downs associated to gambling shouldn't participate.
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