Poker: The Real Deal by Phil Gordon
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

Phil Gordon is well known as a professional poker player, having appeared at final tables both on the World Poker Tour and at events in the World Series of Poker. For the last few years he's also been the poker expert on Bravo's popular series Celebrity Poker Showdown. In this role Gordon has been responsible for bringing poker knowledge to a wide audience that otherwise might never have become interested in the game. It's this audience that his book Poker: The Read Deal will appeal to the most.

Unlike many other poker titles available today, Poker: The Real Deal is not a strategy book. To Gordon's credit, he doesn't try to compete with these books by providing non-stop strategic advice the way he does on television. Instead he has put together what might be called a "lifestyle" book, covering a wide variety of topics relating to poker in a general manner. This general approach does mean that some topics won't be covered in the depth that readers might like to see, but Gordon often provides sources of more information when his approach forces him to be brief. Newcomers to the game will appreciate not being overloaded with strategy, and chances are they will also appreciate the light tone of the book: a humorous touch is present throughout, making for a very easy read.

Like any writer covering a rich topic in a general way, Gordon starts at the beginning. The first chapter of the book gives readers a little history of the game. He covers some of the origins of the game and follows it up to modern times, including the legendary heads-up match between Nick "The Greek" Dandalos and 3-time WSOP champion Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson's Super System, and the cult classic movie Rounders. A short chapter follows covering the basics of the game - the cards used, betting, and hand rankings - and then it's straight into the game as it's played today.

"The First Day Of School," the next chapter in the book, introduces important poker concepts such as expected value, hand selection, pot odds, implied odds, position, and semi-bluffing. Following chapters on putting together a home game and thinking like a poker player is an overview of online poker. This chapter can be extremely useful for newer players who have never played for real money in an online room before, as stepping into the world of online poker can be intimidating to newcomers. Just as intimidating for new players is playing in a brick-and-mortar card room, and Gordon gives this topic its own chapter as well. Much of the advice in this chapter will be invaluable to anyone visiting a casino poker room for the first time, especially the points that touch on table etiquette, tipping, and card room quirks such as straddle raises and kill pots. Other chapters covering no-limit hold'em, moving up in limits, tournament final tables, playing as a professional, and the World Series of Poker round out the book.

Perhaps the most useful parts of the book come at the end of each chapter. "Your Defining Moment" presents a table situation that relates to the subject of the chapter it follows and puts the reader in position to make a decision. These small quizzes not only sum up all the material presented in the preceding chapter, but they also prepare new players for the main task involved in poker: making decisions. Once the reader has made a choice, he can read Gordon's expert advice on each situation and learn by comparing the pro's answers to his own. A player learning his way through the game could do much worse than revisiting these chapter-ending segments from time to time.

While the book may be a general look at many different aspects of poker, there is enough specific advice contained in Poker: The Real Deal to help newer players quickly improve their game. And this advice comes from a true expert in the field, making it even more valuable. Phil Gordon has already made a reputation for himself as a great poker player - along with his television job, this book has begun to earn him a reputation as a great teacher of the uninitiated. Those who don't seek more than they'll find in this book should be pleased with what they find.

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