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Book Review: Way of the Poker Warrior - Paul Hoppe

Way of the Poker Warrior

Paul Hoppe started his career in poker at the legendary Mayfair club where the film Rounders was set and more recently became known as the Limit hold’em coach at DragTheBar. He is also a fourth-degree black belt with Taekwon-Do International, which qualifies him as a “master.” The Way of the Poker Warrior is his first offering in the poker publishing arena and throughout the book Hoppe provides us with lessons learned from the world of competitive Taekwon-Do which are also applicable to poker.

Every chapter starts with an anecdote from Hoppe’s life as a martial artist, one where a valuable lesson was learnt about his opponent, his approach to the sport or life in general. The lesson is then applied to mirror scenarios in poker. For example in one chapter he talks about how to target his opponent’s weaknesses during a fight and juxtaposes that with targeting player weaknesses with exploitable and unexploitable strategies at the poker table. In another chapter he discusses how he goes about profiling his fighting opponents and what questions he asks himself, much in the same way he does poker players.

I will be honest and say when I first heard about the theme of this book, a large part of me was expecting it to be quite bad. Martial arts is considered very mysterious to those of us that don’t understand it very well and I feared this book would be rife with cryptic clichés about flying like dragons or how in order to win you must first learn to lose. Not only was this not the case, I would actually say the books easiness to understand and its practically applicable advice is one of the books biggest strengths.

Lots of difficult concepts to understand such as game theory, exploitable and unexploitable strategies, calculating EV and levelling actually seem to be easier to explain with these martial arts analogies. There is also a lot of sound advice about how to deal with the different challenges opponents present, for example how to deal with bullies or superior opposition. Throughout the book Hoppe includes poker hand examples that perfectly highlight the points he is making and reinforces the practical value of the book.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the fighting references were completely lost on me because my martial arts experience goes no further than trying the Karate Kid Crane Kick in a school yard, but that doesn’t stop the lessons learned from being very easy to digest. You certainly do not need an interest in the fighting arts to get the most out of the book, though no doubt it would help.

Perhaps one of the most pertinent themes in this book is the importance of always being a student of the game and it offers lots of practical insights into how to embrace learning. How to study on your own, with coaches or friends, how to identify opportunities to learn and areas you need to work on. In fact the book is a tribute to the concept of learning and how valuable it is to always be a student or teacher, rather than a master.

This book isn’t for everyone; I wouldn’t really suggest this book to anyone who has any obvious technical leaks in their game for example, because there are so many more detailed ‘how to’ publications out there. I do think, however, that Way of the Poker Warrior is an ideal companion for anyone whose game needs a bit of a kick start or feel like they are in a bit of a slump. For those people who have been playing the game for a while it serves as a brilliant reminder and guide on how to recapture the enthusiasm for learning poker wisdom that we all had when we first started playing the game.

You can buy it at giantbuddhapoker.com

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