Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Presentation style in books

In another blog I made some comments about a new book on playing sit and goes. I havn't seen the whole book, but based on what I have seen I'm not impressed by the book.

I've been thinking about it and have dediced that what it is I dislike about the book is style as much as substance. But the reason I don't like the style is based on substance.

A sample chapter posted on twoplustwo has a lot of examples that look like this
Hand 2-23

Blinds: t100-t200, 4 players

Your hand: You (t1,700) are on the button with KsJc. The small blind (t4,500) and big blind (t5,800) have been inactive for several hands, as have you. The blinds will soon rise to t200-t400.

Action to you:The LAG chip leader (t8,000), first to act, makes a characteristic min-raise to t400.

Question: Do you fold, call, or reraise?

Answer: Resteal all-in. There is t700 in the pot, over 40 percent of your stack. You have a decent hand with showdown potential, and the chip leader will often back away from a foiled steal attempt.

In addition, you need to gamble here. With the big blind at over 10 percent of your stack and just about to double, and the blinds hitting you constantly at 4-way play, you need to make a move. A situation like this one, when you have a decent hand and are the aggressor against opponents who have shown little strength, is the ideal place to risk your chips.

The presentation if very mechanistic, no narrative, no story, nothing that holds my interest. My eyes just kind of glaze over when I see this kind of thing and my mind doesn't really process anything as I read it (so much so that I'm not sure I actually read it).

The substansive part about what bothers me about this form of presentation is that it's presumed that you already know what information is going to be important. There's a preset template to put the information in, anything outside that template just isn't given, it's ignored.

Mike Caro wrote something once where he said at any instant during the play of a poker hand there's millions of things going on, from your opponent blinking to a fly landing on the wall. The key to success, he said, is to figure out which one or two things each instant is important to be paying attention to.

It isn't going to be the same one or two things every time.

That's what I think is wrong with that form of presentation. There's no room for the story, for picking out which elements of this particular story are important. Every hand is a story, it's not just a check list of some preset idea of what's going to happen.

Because of that I prefer a hand analysis told in story format.

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5 Comments:

Blogger HighOnPoker said...

"Mike Caro wrote something once where he said at any instant during the play of a poker hand there's millions of things going on, from your opponent blinking to a fly landing on the wall. The key to success, he said, is to figure out which one or two things each instant is important to be paying attention to."

That Mike Caro is a smart guy. Sometimes I think he doesn't get enough credit.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Gary Carson said...

I agree with you, he doesn't get nearly enough credit.

When I was a corporate dweeb, managing a small internal consulting management science group, I remember reading something someone said along the lines of "the mark of good management science work is that once you're through and presented your results everyone nods and says, of course, that's so obviously right we must have known that all the time".

So good management scientists never get credit for doing a good job.

Caro kind of falls into that category. After he's told you, because of the way he told you, everything he said seems so obvious we think we must have already known that.

Sklansky gets more credit than he deserves because he has a knack for taking simple concepts and making them appear complicated, so we have to work so hard to figure out what he's talking about we think it must have been something profound, otherwise we'd never have worked so hard at it.

You see that all the time in people who are critical of my books and praise Sklanskys (and they never mention Caro's work). They claim that you have to read Sklansky's stuff 4-5 times before you understand what he's said, so that means he said something really deep. But, in my case I drive home main concepts by repitition so that must mean the concepts are shallow.

Caro has a big talent for making the complex seem so simple and obvious the first time he says it.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

I think the truth is somewhere in between. Sklansky is not a very good writer (he should ask me to edit him ;-) it's my day job to make bad writers good) but he led the way in presenting concepts that are essential for a holdem player.

I like Caro but some of what he says doesn't seem to apply well to today's online games. The more aggressive 2+2 style seems to work.

Sklansky's no limit book wasn't that well received, and I think for good reason. The whole book seems to work on the principle that you'll stack your opponent if you both hit the flop, but that simply isn't true. Opponents, even bad ones, are not so keen to get their whole stack in that they won't fold a lot of the time they're badly beaten. The book was also a tough read. I'm not convinced Ed Miller knows no limit as well as limit. What I find with his advice is that it would work well against perfect opponents but not so well if they won't oblige you by playing badly.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Gary Carson said...

I think the truth is somewhere in between. Sklansky is not a very good writer (he should ask me to edit him ;-) it's my day job to make bad writers good) but he led the way in presenting concepts that are essential for a holdem player.

Did he really?

He introduced a lot of new concepts in Hold'em Poker, and interesting things. I'm not sure they are essential concepts.

For example, his chapter on "what flop do you want" was new, very interesting, helpful as a teaching tool, but didn't involve any essential conept.

But I don't have a copy of that book anymore so maybe I'm misremembering.

Sklansky writes better than his reputation. He didn't write HEFAP, for example.

1:46 PM  
Blogger DMW said...

Caro's stuff seems real spread out. the book of tells and then a thousand articles.


I'll add my 2 bits. I remember looking at all the poker books in B&N in 2004 when they all fit on one shelf. Anything with small print was immediately sidelined, it just hurts my eyes.

I felt that a poker book should have a section on math, a section on cheating, and good sized print. And that's how I found "The Complete book of HE"

11:02 PM  

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