No Limit Life by Charlie Shoten
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

Poker is a game of endless fascination because it operates on so many different levels. In many ways poker is a numbers game, completely described by the underlying mathematics of the deck of 52 cards used in the game. But because it's a game played by people, poker is also infused with psychology. It's entirely possible to find players of equal skill with vastly different win rates that can be attributed solely to their different psychological approaches to the game. It's no mistake that the same players make final tables over and over or consistently crush the cash games they play; these are the people who have the mindset necessary to thrive at poker. But how does one achieve such a mindset? Professional poker player Charlie Shoten has the answer in his book, No-Limit Life: you don't need to achieve it, you need to discover that it is already within you.

For those who like to strictly categorize things, No-Limit Life is not a poker book. At least, it's not a poker book in the traditional sense of descriptions of strategy or mathematical analyses of the game. The main focus of Shoten's book is on how we hold on to things that prevent us from becoming who we really are - what Shoten calls Thought Terrorists (TTs) - and how we can learn to overcome them. Or, as Shoten says, the book is about learning to become less of what you are not. In a series of brief chapters he progresses through the causes of TTs, describing in detail how each TT conspires to prevent us from fully becoming our true selves. Not only does this prevent us from performing well at the poker table, but it prevents us from fully enjoying life as well, causing feelings such as jealousy, anxiety, depression, self-pity and vindictiveness. The backbone of the book is Shoten's list of Ten Commitments, his roadmap to easily living a complete life. These commitments - attitude, focus, notice, intention, trust, appear, outcome, forgiveness, notice, gratitude - are so important that the book comes with a wallet card (about the size of your driver's license) with all ten printed on it so you can keep them with you at all times. Memorizing these commitments, and keeping in mind at all times, is the key to eliminating TTs. Without them distracting you it's much easier to see the best choice available to you at any given time. It's very easy to see why this comes in handy at the poker table!

Anyone who is concerned that there is no poker content in No-Limit Life should set aside that fear; there are plenty of chapters that deal specifically with poker concepts. Playing a large stack, playing a small stack, table image, and the six ways of playing a hand are all covered. But what makes this book special is that these concepts are all presented from a point of view that fully embraces the Ten Commitments - their power is demonstrated in how they can be used to eliminate TTs at the poker table and allow you to become the player you really are. As Shoten says, a sculptor starts with a block of marble and removes the parts that conceal a Venus de Milo - you start with who you are today and remove the parts that conceal a poker champion within. If you doubt that you have this power, consider professional player Mark Seif; in the two days after he read No-Limit Life in 2005 he won back-to-back World Series of Poker tournaments using what he learned from the book.

In addition to being a top-notch guide to personal improvement both at and away from the poker table, No-Limit Life is also a quality book in terms of its presentation. The book is printed on smooth, glossy paper and includes dozens of beautiful full-color photographs. The text is large and clean, and on the edge of each page are the keywords for each of the Ten Commitments. Perhaps the most charming feature of the book is the inclusion of the "Guru Charlie" cartoons on pages throughout the book, small illustrations which not only help to further illuminate the points Shoten makes in the book but should also make you smile.

No-Limit Life is an indispensable guide to anyone who wants to live a happier life and play better poker. It is available directly from the author at his website,

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