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mersenneary's picture
Essential Reading List

In my poker videos, I focus heavily on making gameplay decisions because of your equity in the hand and the actual results your strategy will give you, and not wasting your time (and your money) with all of the flawed poker psuedo-thinking that holds people back. I believe in the same thing when you're studying the game. The truth is, there are a lot of things you can read or watch that will do absolutely nothing for you. Half the battle is figuring out what's actually worth spending your time studying and how you can really turn studying into success.

Part of the benefit from this form of group coaching is that you won't have to worry nearly as much about spending time working hard to study and review the game without actually getting anything out of it because you're not reading the right things, not getting the right advice, and not truly developing your poker mind. In this forum you pay for direct access to me, and because of that I can help with the filter of what's valuable to spend your time on and what won't actually get you anywhere.

A lot of this targeted support you'll get from your group coaching session and the personalized help I give to questions posted in this forum. To give you a general background, though, I thought you might like it if I wrote up a list of recommended reading. These are threads or articles that made a big impact in helping me get to where I am and are very much worth reading.


Chapter 1: Rumnchess' 2010 Thought of the Year

Let's start with some easy dessert reading. In this post, rumnchess talks about the what it means to be successful in poker and attempts to weight how important natural talent, work ethic, professionalism, and life balance are in your poker career. The post is laced with humorous details and anecdotes (which makes it a good introductory reading), but there are some important points I want to make sure you get from it.

The first is the self-awareness that rumnchess displays. He's able to look at some of his decisions and call them "quite bluntly a disgusting display of recklessness and poor money management" and "the most painful thing for me to talk about". I think it's really important to try to figure out as best you can what you do have, and what you don't have as a poker player. The only way to get from where you are to where you want to be is to try to figure out where the hell you are anyway.


Chapter 2: Hince says "You suck at poker".

Because you're here, you probably have already been willing to come to grips with the fact that you're not as good at poker as you want to be. Every time I study the game, that's the reason why: I fall short of how good I want to be. Still, even people who can accept that often have a really hard time getting advice about their game. To them, it's too personal. In the past, I told a student he was losing tons of value in limped pots, and really playing them extremely sub-optimally. He had hired me largely to coach him the shove/fold math of endgame, and got extremely upset when I suggested there were serious leaks worth looking at in other aspects of his game, too. He wasn't ready to hear that he was playing poorly, because it completely shook up his confidence about the rest of his skills.

As Hince says, "You are not as good as you think you are. But that is okay. In fact, it is amazingly powerful if you can truly understand just how much you suck. It's even more powerful if you can understand why you suck". Be okay with the fact that you're not where you want to be. That's the only way you can do anything about it.


Chapter 3: Ed Miller: Your biggest leaks

OK, now that we've established all that, enough psychology talk. Let's focus on what you probably really want to know about: Your leaks. This Ed Miller post is an old one buried deep in the 2+2 archives, doesn't even mention Heads Up (or even no limit!) poker, and yet I think is foundational to how you should approach improvements to your play. Basically, I think a lot of people spend way too much time discussing rare situations where it's very difficult to know what to do - the truth of the matter is that these situations barely matter in terms of their effect on your long term winrate. It can help to discuss them because it sometimes develops good poker thinking, but analyzing these glamorous/sexy hands often does quite a lot less good than more basic situations/pervasive concepts that come up over and over again.

Opening percentage, limping frequency, OOP flatting ranges, 3bet ranges and sizings, c-betting frequency, barreling frequency on various texture types, c/r bluffing frequency, betsizing: Making sure you're doing all these optimally versus various opponent characteristics is far more important than whatever tricky spot you've never seen before and had no idea what to do. Let's go through a hand history and talk about the basics (skip to Chapter 10 for a good example of what I mean).


Chapter 4: I talk about 22 Flawed Reasonings people use to defend bad plays in HUSNGs. (Part 2 here)


Inspired by experiences private coaching and reading the 2+2 strategy forums, I discuss flawed thought processes people use to defend bad plays. The introduction I used sums up this articles importance pretty well:

"When I give poker advice, either on the 2+2 strategy forums or privately, I ask players to include the reasoning behind their decisions. After all, the point of asking about a situation is not to learn how to play it if ever occurred exactly the same way, but to figure out the concepts that really matter so that they can be applied to a wide variety of difficult spots. Perhaps most informative is when people give me explanations that are largely irrelevant to the situation, or demonstrate serious flaws in their broader understanding of the game. These are opportunities to produce the "aha!" type moments that can lead to significant improvements.

This article chronicles 22 different reasonings HUSNG students have given me when explaining their actions, along with why they each suggest the chance to get better. Some of them are misapplied to far too many situations, and some of them should never be applied at all. Most are about in-game decisions, and a few have to do with a broader approach to the game. Throughout, the common theme is that each incorrect rationale focuses too little on calculating EV, relying instead on emotional heuristics or misconceptions about theory."


Chapter 5: Luke, turn off your targeting computer.

One thing people are often surprised to learn about me, considering how much I focus on the math of poker and on your opponent's frequencies, is that I very rarely use a HUD. This article is another old one from the archives that points out some benefits of not doing so. To be clear, I'm in no way suggesting that it's a bad idea to use a HUD, as more information is never a bad thing if you use it appropriately. Still, the point stands that there's no substitute for actually paying attention when you're attempting to maximally exploit your opponent, rather than just expecting your software to do it for you. Again, I'd suggest skipping ahead to the final chapter of this recommended reading list and taking a look at one of spamz0r's HH reviews - now THAT'S how you break down an opponent.

Everybody wants a get rich quick scheme or strategy in poker, but the fact of the matter is that a primary part of making the most money you can is not going on autopilot, which means your games will always be more mentally taxing than you would want them to be, because in order to make the best plays you really have to pay attention and learn how to play adaptively.


Chapter 6: spamz0r's review of endgame terminology and strategy

This article helps with the start of the answer of one of the most common questions I get asked: "What is Nash (or SAGE, or Chubokov, or ROFL), and how do I apply it to my endgame strategy"? Throughout, spamz has the right mindset about it: These are tools that help you decide what the right decision is versus a particular opponent, not answers in and of themselves. Spamz explains why NASH is useful despite the fact that people aren't playing perfectly against you, why Chubokov is useful despite the fact that most people cannot see your cards (especially if you're not playing on Ultimate Bet), and talks about a coherant, adaptive strategy that maximizes your expectation rather than just trying to merely be unexploitable.


Chapter 7: Skates discusses a key opponent tendency to focus on when shortstacked

From that starting point, we can talk about how more complicated reads can really help us in HUSNG. For example, in this post, skates points out that one of the post important reads shortstacked is how short your opponent will flat a minraise, rather than just go all-in or fold. This makes a massive difference in your decision making process. If you have A6o 14bb deep from the button, you have two options against the vast majority of opponents: Minraise/call, or openjam. When we open jam, we get an expectation of +1bb from the start of the hand against hands like T8s, K7, QJ, and all that middling junk. However, we have a much worse expectation against those hands if they flat the minraise. Thus, it makes a big difference whether your opponent is going to jam those hands, or flat them. If they're flatting these hands at all, it's generally best to go ahead and openjam, despite the fact that we don't induce this way from hands like K5, 86s, etc. If they basically never flat, there's no reason not to just minraise/call. Skates goes into this in more detail.

(To be clear, against most opponents and readless in an ST, I much prefer openjamming A6o 14bb deep than minraise/calling, precisely because people generally will still flat a decent amount of hands you'd rather fold).


Chapter 8: I talk about the theory behind balanced overbetting vs weak ranges.

As you get more and more well-versed into the theory of why certain plays are optimal versus different ranges, we can start talking about more specialized situations. I included this article - about overbetting with both big hands and bluffs when you know your opponent very likely only has a bluffcatcher - not because it is extremely practical in your everyday games, most of which likely will be against fish, but because it's opened the eyes of students in the past in terms of how we make our opponent's life difficult and why certain plays make sense theoretically, a concept that can be very broadly applied to different opponent types.


Chapter 9: Scansion theorizes about downswings

Variance cripples more winning poker players than most people realize. It doesn't always come in the form of a big martingaling blowup - sometimes it just hits a player who wasn't ready for it and decides to get out of the game and book the remaining lifetime winnings, with no chance of losing anymore. This, I would argue, for someone who genuinely enjoys poker (when not running awfully) and EV stats suggest is still a longterm winner, is often an awful decision, and that a really important skill to develop is learning how to grind through awful stretches and get to the light at the end of the tunnel. "Everybody will eventually run worse than they thought was possible. The difference between a winner and a loser is that the latter thinks they do not deserve it. Some people are able to overcome the delusionality that results from downswings, whereas others are not." All the studying in the world isn't going to keep you from occasionally doing everything right and AK never holding against K7. Learning how to deal with it is crucial.


Chapter 10: spamz HH reviews (One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven).

For the last chapter, I offer the 11 HH reviews that changed my poker life and are a big part of the coach I am today. These reviews did a few things for me. First of all, it was extremely validating to read this detailed level of analysis and see that I completely agreed already with a lot of what spamz0r was saying - that told me I already had a lot of what it took to be a high stakes player. Secondly, though, it showed me just how much goes on in a game that I never even think about, and the level of detail that is necessary to play optimally against your opponents. In my videos, it's been a big focus of mine to talk about how the details fit into the big picture of my opponent's style and how I should play against it. Routinely, I notice that my opponent showed up with two pair, threes and fours after a tough river decision, and fail to note that this meant he called preflop with 34o, which should be cause for drastic changes to my opening, 3betting, cbetting, and all other sorts of ranges. I strongly recommend reading through each one of these, noting where you agree, where you disagree, and what you hadn't thought of before or what you honestly wouldn't have really noticed or done anything about in-game.


I'm going to leave this thread open to let people comment on and ask questions about these readings. I hope you'll get as much out of them as I have.

zZzTILT's picture
Just wanna let you know that

Just wanna let you know that the first part of your "22 Flawed Reasonings" article doesn't seem to work anymore.

mersenneary's picture
Thanks. Here's a quick and

Thanks. Here's a quick and dirty link for now, I'll see if I can get it hosted on the site soon.

impulse's picture
The dirty link doesn't seem

The dirty link doesn't seem to work either.

mersenneary's picture
Yeah that one's dead now, the

Yeah that one's dead now, the first part was just hosted on husng.com: http://www.husng.com/content/22-flawed-reasonings-husng-poker The second should be hosted soon

soulouri's picture
how soon? :)

how soon? :)

mersenneary's picture
He says he'll do it tomorrow.

He says he'll do it tomorrow.

mersenneary's picture
It should now be edited in

It should now be edited in OP.

mrbambocha's picture
You should add Jared Tendlers

You should add Jared Tendlers book too this section.Even if you dont want to buy his book theres alot of good stuff at his homepage.http://jaredtendlerpoker.com/instruction/ Nothing have helped my poker career as much as this book did!