Hellmuth's Bad Beats and Lucky a Sure Hit for Poker Fans . November 2004

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Hellmuth's Bad Beats and Lucky a Sure Hit for Poker Fans

Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

Whether you love him or stand back with bewilderment when he reacts to a bad beat on television during a major poker tournament, Phil Hellmuth is tough to forget. Not that he isn't aware of his image. Known as the Bad Boy of Poker, he sometimes comments about trying to reinvent himself into a kinder and gentler Phil. Bad or good, he and his products are popular with poker fans.

His first book, Play Poker Like the Pros, sold like crazy and his newest effort, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws (233 pages, paperbound, $14.95) should do ever better, now that that the popularity of the game has accelerated beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Subtitled Poker Strategies, Winning Hands and Stories from the Professional Tour, this well-priced, entertaining and informative work re-creates some of Hellmuth’s greatest triumphs and worst “how could this happen to me” scenarios. Illustrated and indexed (a smart move for all poker books which reference dozens of names and places so you can find them easily), the book is packed with what might be called episodes—or confrontations—major hands, memorable showdowns and lots of profiles and analysis which Hellmuth has been able to store away in what has to be a virtual photographic mind. (Either that or he’s taking notes like crazy away from the tables).

Hellmuth talks about superstition, extra sensory perception (or that sixth sense which often separates winners from losers); profiling top players (describing Dan Harrington as “…primarily known for playing really tight in the no-limit hold‘em side games…”and John Bonetti “...as a cunning leader with a warrior’s heart”); detailing key turning points in major tournaments; key world class olds (also known as key laydowns) and unusual habits of some world class players (“I am scared of no one at no-limit hold‘em, but I have a healthy respect for ‘Drunk Lane (Flack). When Layne is drinking in this game, he is dead-on with his reads, and has no fear whatsoever…”

He’s faced them all—the aggressive Phil Ivey; the unbelievable Gus Hansen; the class and grace of T.J. Cloutier; the sometimes testy Amir Vahedi. He describes most players as falling into three categories, with third group “the most dangerous.” “They can sit patiently for hours, almost never playing a hand, while letting other players push them around. A half hour later, they have shifted gears, seemingly raising every pot, and the next thing you know, you’re on your way to the rail, never knowing what quite hit you.” He includes himself in this elite grouping.

“They get the money, one way of another, and that’s how we keep score in poker,” Hellmuth says.

It’s been 15 years (1989) since Hellmuth took home the World Series of Poker title. He was a kid then—he’s smarter now—still a noise-maker, perhaps over-emotional in a game where it’s best to hide them. A new generation of wanna-be professionals players should enjoy this book—hopefully they’ll learn something while experiencing one heck of a roller-coaster ride involving high stakes action through the mind of a consistent winner.

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at www.gamblersbook.com and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964 by John and Edna Luckman, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)