In Decide to Play Great Poker, Duke and Vorhaus Deliver as Expected

decide_to_play_great_pokerAnnie Duke has become somewhat of a pariah in the poker community. When she was a regular on the tournament circuit, defeating Phil Helmuth on the Tournament of Champions on ESPN and winning the NBC National Head’s Up Championship most poker fans and a decent number of pro players had positive things to say about Duke. On Celebrity Apprentice, there were a lot of member of Team Annie.
There were others, most notably Daniel Negreanu, who were definitely not members of the Annie Duke fan club. Some cited her call for the Ladies Event to be eliminated from the WSOP. Others pointed to her involvement with Ultimate Bet. But by and large, there was no big fallout until the Epic Poker League came around of which Duke was the commissioner. The EPL was a debacle of grand magnitude and eventually declared bankruptcy. Duke’s salary was reported to be around $300,000 and her management was called inept at best.
While this is not the normal introduction to a book review, it is important background, especially for players that are new to poker. Even though you don’t see Duke competing often, nor on ESPN features or at EPT events, her book, written with John Vorhaus, Decide to Play Great Poker should be part of your poker library.
Before you even open the book, be prepared for some horrible editing. While it doesn’t pervade the book, it does pop up. Ignore it, you don’t read poker books for prefect style.
Duke is a very good poker player. Her results are not all the result of lucky hands.
The strategy and suggestions made are not groundbreaking. However, Duke takes the time to give reasons and examples as to the reasoning behind the strategy. She asks and answers the question “why” throughout.
The tenor and tone of the book is set in the first chapter, where Duke writes “The First Rule is There are No Rules.” In every chapter familiar concepts and situations, like position, hand selection, and the play on different streets are discussed. Instead of giving absolutes, Duke provides suggestions and explains the reasons behind making the suggested play.
The book promises that Decide to Play Great Poker “teaches you how to identify and analyze those variables, interchange them within basic game-situation templates, and become knowledgeable, comfortable, and confident in any poker situation.” The book delivers on this promise admirably.
As the authors state, “the decisions to be made during a hand of poker involve extraordinary complexity, so rules alone won’t get this difficult job done.” The theories they advance actually help to “reduce uncertainties and make your decisions easier for yourself.”
The book is most helpful to newer players and, unlike many poker books, can be applied to ring games and tournament play.
More experienced players may not get as much from the book. One of the aspects that is most interesting about poker is that to win you must always improve. For these players the book is worthwhile if only for its ability to make you question your moves and motives.

About The Author

Chris Miller has been a contributing editor for dozens of publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print and broadcast outlets, including Rolling Stone. He is an avid poker player and lives in Richardson, TX.

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