Don’t read this book!

Book Review

By Raymond T. Akers

This may be the most practical and useful book of poker advice ever. “Exploitative Play in Live Poker” by Alexander Fitzgerald (D&B Poker) skips the usual charts, graphs, and detailed descriptions of hand ranges. After all, Fitzgerald already did that in his previous book “The Myth of Poker Talent.”

This time he delves into the minds and personalities of your opponents. After all, how can you effectively “manipulate your opponents into making mistakes” (as the subtitle says) if you don’t take a good, hard look at whom you are playing and what their tendencies are.

The “villains” in the book are not top pros that you see on TV. Rather, they are the guys and gals that populate your typical poker room, playing for fun and hoping for profit. The “hero” is not Fitzgerald or some other wiz kid that calculates equity, pot odds, and subtle changes in hand ranges on the fly. The hero is just another regular Joe who likes to play poker and wants to get a little better at it. Hopefully, the hero is you.

In the first chapter he makes a statement that should resonate with almost all of us: “It’s hard … to find time to play poker, much less study it,” followed by, “My job is to give you the quickest path to success.”

In Chapter 2, How Homo Sapiens Play Poker, Fitzgerald unashamedly profiles, categorizes, and pigeon-holes players by what you can reasonably expect them to do. Then, as the book progresses, he illustrates ways to exploit these expectations.

If you follow his advice you likely won’t be the most popular person at your table. You won’t hide in the scenery unnoticed, because you’ll be doing things that often befuddle and irritate your opponents. But he points out that 85 to 95 percent of poker players lose money. “So, if we are playing like everyone else, then logically, we are playing like a loser. You will not succeed at poker until everyone at the table is making fun of you.”

Chapter titles include Pre-flop Play, The Three-bet, The Check-raise, The Donk-bet, The Three-barrel, The Overbet, and Boards to Attack. Each of these examines some specific scenarios that you can look for, then take advantage of.

Here is an example “Hand Quiz” from the Check-raise chapter:

Game: Tournament in Baltimore, buy-in $1,000

Hand: Qc-3d

Position: BB

Players: 3

Blinds/ante: 4,000/8,000–1,000

You are fighting for first place. The player on the button is a 25-year-old player, wearing a backwards hat and a basketball jersey. He talks often in poker lingo.

Preflop: Button raises 16,000, 1 fold, Hero calls 8,000

Flop (36,000): Ks-8c-2s (2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets 12,800, Hero … ?

Answer: Hero raises to 40,000

Explanation: This is the classic check-raise. You have a guy opening too much due to short-handed play and age. He is continuation betting this board practically always. Your raise only needs to work 44% of the time, and he’s going to have nothing more than half the time. You also represent a number of hands, because you could be check-raising a king, set, or flush draw. Unless he plans to come over the top or flat with a high card, you’re good to go. Just so you know, that does happen on occasion. But you’ll make a lot of money betting against it.

The book is chock full of these little scenario quizzes and they rate going over again and again until they sink in enough to become natural plays. The other options seem to be: remain in the 85 to 95 percent or “through rigorous analysis and study you can synthesize the hand-reading skills that some top-level pros have.”

I don’t want to be one of the losers, but I don’t have enough time for the second option to be feasible. So, I’ll take “Exploitative Play in Live Poker,” read it several times, and do my best to put these tactics into play in situations where I know what I’m going to do and why. I can only hope most of you don’t do the same!

“Exploitative Play in Live Poker” is published by D&B Poker ( and is available through all good retailers.