01-29-2007, 09:12 PM
ChipTalk.net Article Writer
Join Date: Sep 2006
Beyond Tells: Power Poker Psychology Review
Title: Beyond Tells: Power Poker Psychology
Author: James A. McKenna
Publisher: Barnes and Noble
Retailer(s): Barnes and Noble
Average Price: $15
Beyond Tells is a book that tries explain how a person’s personality influences how they play poker. McKenna first discusses how people approach and deal with situations in their life, and what this translates to at the poker table. He then delves into play styles, but analyzes them on several different levels and with several different kinds of criteria. In the relevant chapters, he has several “rate yourself” sections that allow you to see where you would fall on his many graphs and charts in terms of player profile, approach to the game, and playing style. If you play with a familiar group, you can use your observations of thier play to rate them as well (I did, and this was one of the most valuable things I took away from the book). A good deal of the discussion in the first part of the book lays out how a winner (in Poker, and in life) thinks, and how a loser thinks; of course you want to think like a winner, and he advises you on how to do that. This section, and some of the later ones can get a bit dry, however in the end, I found it profitable if not riveting. McKenna includes discussions of both 7-Card Stud and Hold’em, with a decided emphasis on cash game play, however I found a lot of his conclusions and assertions can apply to tournament play as well. Pros
- Makes good use of rating scales and charts to analyze personality and play styles. If you are honest with yourself (or make accurate observations about others) the resulting analysis, IMHO, is pretty accurate
- He doesn’t skimp on the psychology; I was not a pysch major, however this is more than enough psychology for me and I think he provides some deeper analysis than can be found elsewhere. He goes into what a tell can mean if given by a particular player, with a particular play style, and argues that not all tells are the same for everyone.
- It may appear superfluous to Poker, but his discussion of the psychology of casinos and gamblers was very interesting. I view it more as an indirect aid to understanding the people who play poker and gamble.
- In the foreword of the book he says that he did his research and writing before Schoonmaker’s The Psychology of Poker was published; some reviews have indicated that is a stronger book. However I have not read it; McKenna recommends it for further reading.
- Certain sections of the book are fairly dry and can approach boring. He also tends to rehash the main ideas, and it can become tedious reading.
- I would not say this is an enjoyable, or fun book to read. However it is definitely not without merit. See below.
If I had to give this book a rating out of 10, it would be about a 6.5. The reason is that it is a book in need of an editor, and the real tragedy is that McKenna’s ideas and approach are good, it’s the presentation that’s weak and unwieldy. The book needs to be a little more condensed, and a little more engaging to read. That being said, I do know that because I toughed McKenna’s book out, I feel like a better poker player, I know I have a better read on the guys at my home game, and I’m more prepared to avoid some of the mental traps that happen when thing’s don’t go as planned at the poker table. That last bit was something I didn’t really expect to pick up from the book, but proved to be the most valuable.