If you don’t know who Tommy Angelo is, you should read his respected book Elements of Poker. If you want a reason to read it, check out these reviews:
“Finally I have a legitimate reason to buy an iPad.”
– Phil Galfond, about the ebook release of Elements of Poker
“Elements of Poker is the best poker book I’ve ever read.”
– Jay Rosenkrantz
He’s also written a book called A Rubber Band Story (And Other Poker Tales) and he’s currently working on another poker philosophy book that’s slated to come out in 2015. Tommy has coached Phil Galfond, David Benefield, and Ashton Griffin on the mental aspects of poker. You can learn more about him on his website: http://tommyangelo.com/, or on Wikipedia.
I got the idea to ask Tommy to write a foreword for Verbal Poker Tells around the time it was being released, after he gave me a nice review of the book. It was always my intention to do a reissue of VPT a few months down the line (in order to fix the inevitable typos and logical errors) so adding a foreword would fit into the schedule nicely. Tommy was nice enough to agree to do it, and his foreword is below.
I’m a process guy. I like the doing of it, whatever it is, whether I’m writing a book, or rinsing the dishes. And I like learning how other people do things. More so book writers than dishwashers. Especially book writers who claim to be able to show me my opponent’s cards.
Because that’s what the title of this book promises, doesn’t it?
If my opponent says X, then he has Y.
But Mr. Elwood, how can you be so sure?
Let’s pretend you and I wanted to write a book about the relationships between the words people say and the cards they turn over. And we wanted our book to have scientific heft. How might we accomplish this task? What process would we use?
The scientific one. We would categorize what gets said and what doesn’t get said in various poker situations – such as being reraised before the flop, or facing an all-in river bet. Then we would mine our data for patterns, and we would present our conclusions.
But where would we get our data?
We could take notes while we play, and it wouldn’t even look weird because everyone would assume we were texting. And we could ask our best poker buddies to collect data on verbal tells when they play. And we could interview players and ask them for their opinions on what means what at the table.
You know what? I don’t think I want to write this book with you. It’s nothing against you. I’m sure you’d be an excellent collaborator. It’s our data. It’s too subjective. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good data. I mean, I do think we would be able to draw trustworthy conclusions from it. But a wider sampling would put us on firm ground, scientifically speaking, and then I’d be sure we had something legit to offer.
Imagine if, in addition to our direct and indirect experiences, we had access to thousands of hours of video of people playing poker. And we could see every player’s hole cards. And we could listen to the banter. And we could rewind. Can you imagine a better resource for researching verbal poker tells? I can’t. And that’s why I got excited when Zach told me what he had done:
I watched hundreds of hours of televised footage of poker games, taking notes, transcribing the dialogue, and building my database. I came up with codes for different verbal patterns. After watching thousands of hands and collecting and coding all the verbal behavior into a spreadsheet, I used the codes to go back and re-examine the hands that had the same code. The patterns that were the most reliable were the ones I put in the book.
I trusted the information in this book even before I read it, because I trusted the process that extruded it. And I trusted Zach to deliver his content efficiently, because he had done so in his first book.
Verbal Poker Tells met my high expectations. The content is gold, and the structure is well suited for all attention spans, long and short. I love the way each section of hand examples begins with the conclusion, in italics. First I get the low-hanging fruit, and then, if I want to climb the tree, I can read on. For example: When a player makes an immediate exclamation about new cards that have just come out, it is unlikely that the player holds a strong hand. Do I need to know more? Not really. But if I want to, it’s there.
One more, just for fun: Verbal methods of checking are more correlated with weak hands.
It’s like following a trail of gems, reading this book. Plus there’s entertainment value in Zach’s use of transcripts from hands featuring poker’s rockstars. I found it fascinating to learn the real meaning behind the lies told by my favorite players.
What happens next? What has Zach done to the future of poker?
I’ve written before about the information war and its two fronts. First is the capture and exploitation of information. That is the purview of Zach’s two books, and he has covered everything a hungry player needs to know.
The other battlefront is the struggle to be unreadable, unexploitable, inscrutable. It’s an arms race, and whoever sends the least information wins. So yeah, I think I can predict this book’s effect on the war.
It’s going to get quieter.
– Tommy Angelo, live game specialist and author of Elements of Poker