Aces and Kings
Inside Stories and Million-Dollar Strategies from Poker's Greatest Players
Michael Kaplan and Brad Reagan
Reviewed by DanMac on Aug. 10, 2005.
This book is a series of profiles of some the most successful professional poker players. Each profile typically starts by describing how each pro got their start in poker. It then moves into a description of how their unique personalities and tactics have allowed them to make poker a profitable vocation.
Billed as a collection of "Inside Stories and Million Dollar Strategies from Poker's Greatest Players," this book only delivers on the first half of that claim. The stories are engrossing and comprehensive enough to give you a good sense of who these people are and how they approach poker. However, simply knowing what strategies they have employed will not enhance your own abilities. Read this book if you are seeking entertainment, not if you are looking to improve your game.
The primary focus of each profile is the life of the player rather than their techniques. When the discussion inevitably turns to the tactics that have made them millionaires, the discourse provides an overview of their style but rarely reveals detailed aspects of their strategies. Consequently, the book is only thorough enough to classify and partially characterize their styles. This is interesting, but not extremely useful to you as a player. For example, simply discovering that Phil Hellmuth has been successful playing extremely tight won't equip you with the knowledge necessary to productively emulate his approach.
Perhaps the most useful lesson can be extracted from the fact that these players have all employed different strategies successfully. Recognizing that different strategies work in different games, or at different times, is a valuable lesson that is implicitly affirmed throughout this book.
This book does a nice job of presenting interesting information about some of the most prominent names in poker. Even if you are familiar with some of the stories commonly told about these pros, you will likely encounter some unique stories and be impressed with the amount of research that went into the book.
The organization of the book makes it very easy to read. The profiles are presented in such a way that they make a smooth transition from person to person because of the many interactions between the players. Some of the most interesting stories are those involving partnerships and conflicts between these pros.
On the other hand, as detailed and organized as this book is, it still feels surprisingly incomplete at times. Some high profile players (Johnny Chan, Dan Harrington, Gus Hansen, T. J. Cloutier, etc.) are inexplicably absent from the book except for an occasional passing mention in the profiles of other players. However, the cast of pros discussed will be sufficient to keep you entertained.