The Psychology of Poker
Alan N. Schoonmaker
Reviewed by DanMac on Aug. 27, 2005.
As the title suggests, this book focuses on the psychological aspects of poker rather than providing technical strategy. Instead of focusing on how to play the cards, the focus is on how to play the opponents. All of Schoonmaker's research was conducted observing live games, and his advice reflects that constraint. If you play primary online, some of the information in this book won't be quite as useful.
This book will be most useful for intermediate players. Beginners who lack solid technical skills won't get as much out of this book, and most advanced players will find a lot of the information to be self-evident. Basically, this book is a good investment if you want to play mostly live games, or if you feel that your style is too rigid and want to learn how to properly adjust to different types of players.
This book is from Two Plus Two Publishing and is intended to complement some of their other offerings that tend to be a bit light on psychological strategy. As a result, those who've read some of the their other books by Sklansky, Malmuth, etc., and have developed a strong technical knowledge of the game will benefit more from the advice given in this book. However, as with many topics in psychology, the information can seem quite obvious at times. The amount of advice that will be unique will vary depending on the amount and type of poker that you've played. If you have played in a lot of live games and you are skilled at reading opponents, this book will seem like common sense and will be a waste of your time.
The main assumption throughout this book is that understanding why people play a certain way will give you an advantage at the table. You will be better able to predict their moves and adjust in a way that gives you an edge. With this in mind, Schoonmaker describes how to classify opponents according to how loose or tight and how passive or aggressive they are. Based on these characteristics, he outlines adjustments you need to make in order to beat them.
If you have a tendency to lose often to a certain type of player or want to learn how to make more money off a certain type of opponent, this will be helpful to you. However, part of the advice involves descriptions of how to spot telegraphs (or 'tells') that certain types of players make, which won't help you if you play mostly online. Additionally, it will be harder to put the relevant advice to use online because you won't spend as much time playing against familiar opponents.
The advice in this book can also be turned inward. If you're prone to playing too passively or too loose at times, understanding why you have these tendencies is a good first step towards improving your game.
This book is an easy read that is devoid of annoying psychobabble. The Psychology of Poker is logically organized into chapters describing the nuances of each type of player (loose-aggressive, tight-passive, etc.) before describing adjustments you can make to beat them. A section at the end of the book summarizes all of this information in a concise form that is helpful for reference.
The only blemish on the layout is the inclusion of exercises throughout the chapters that were intended to reinforce the important points. These exercises interrupted the flow of the text and added little to the overall quality of the book.