The Psychology Of Poker Alan N Schoonmaker

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'The Psychology of Poker,' by Alan N. Schoonmaker

Alan N. Schoonmaker is not only a poker writer but he also holds a Ph.D. in the field of psychology. Because of this, there is no denying that he is credible enough to publish a book titled 'The Psychology of Poker.' In this poker book, Alan N. Schoonmaker tries to reach the minds of readers who are as curious as him in terms of comprehending the behavior of poker players. The author attempts not only to comprehend the way poker players think but also to analyze factors that motivate them.

'The Psychology of Poker' begins with an introduction by Alan N. Schoonmaker himself. Afterwards, readers are asked to observe their own game, asking them to honestly and critically examine their poker skills and motivations. Asking readers to do such thing is actually a challenge to Alan N. Schoonmaker because we cannot say that 'The Psychology of Poker' is an effective book if readers would not be able to do such a thing. Fortunately, the writing skills of the author are so effective that he is able to guide readers on how to observe their own game successfully.

'The Psychology of Poker' also covers such poker skills as game selection and reading hands. Some might think that these poker skills are not pertinent in gaining a winning edge but actually, they are as important as the other skills that poker players need to hone.

In 'The Psychology of Poker,' a grid system is also mentioned by Alan N. Schoonmaker, pertaining to a system wherein poker players have the chance to be rated. Subjects such as the aggressiveness versus passiveness and loosenes versus tightness are also tackled effectively by the author.

Aside from such topics, Alan N. Schoonmaker also discusses the different types of poker players. Perhaps, he is not able to discuss all types of poker players but nonetheless, he gets to discuss four of those. He gets to analyze in this poker book why some poker players tend to self-destruct in their plays as he also explains explicitly how such self-destruction can be avoided.

Alan N. Schoonmaker has included three appendices in 'The Psychology of Poker.' One of those features a quiz that determines whether the readers have adequate skills to become successful poker players. The other appendix features an article with regard to the importance for poker players to think twice before deciding to turn into professional poker players. The last of the appendices features summaries of each of the chapters included in such poker book.

The book may be titled 'The Psychology of Poker' but a great deal of its contents offers pieces of advice for poker players instead of analysis of the behavior of poker players. Perhaps, this poker book is not aptly titled. Nonetheless, this poker book is still an interesting read.

Poker Book Reviews

The Psychology Of Poker Alan N Schoonmaker

The Psychology Of Poker Alan N Schoonmaker -


Title:The Psychology of Poker
Author:Alan N. Schoonmaker
Publisher: Two Plus Two Publishing
Price: US $24.95
Book Review by:Nick Christenson


'What in the world were they thinking?' I'm sure I'm not the only poker player who has asked this questions literally hundreds of times at the poker table. What drives players to play the way they do, especially if they play badly? What drives each of us to do things at the table that we know are costing us money? In The Psychology of Poker, Alan N. Schoonmaker, who holds a PhD in psychology, attempts to understand what motivates poker players and to understand how they think and why.

After an introduction, Schoonmaker asks the reader to examine their own game, looking at one's own motivations and skills critically and honestly. Of course, if one isn't truly honest, much of the rest of the book won't help, but the author does a good job of guiding the reader toward understanding their true motivations. Poker skills are covered next, including reading hands and game selection, with a discussion about how one's personal tendencies influence these skills. Next, Schoonmaker introduces a grid system on which players can be rated. Tightness vs. looseness and passiveness vs. aggressiveness are discussed, and the reader is guided through the process of rating oneself and other players on this scale.

Check my lottery ticket. The problem is that this doesn't cover the whole picture. As one example, a player can be tight and aggressive, playing few hands but playing those strong, but if these hands are garbage, they won't go very far. There's at least a third axis (and probably several more) that includes good and bad decision making. Counting the number of hands and the proportion of raises to calls can be useful, but it still gives an incomplete picture, and this may lead to an improper strategy. The author does mention the possibility that a player may be of a mixed type, for example, tight and aggressive before the flop, but a calling station from then on. However, the book doesn't give us a lot of information about why these people might play the way they do.

The next four sections cover various types of players focusing on the corners of the grid. We are told what the characteristics of players in each of the zones are likely to be, and some suggestions are made as to what motivates them. This is done from the perspective of analyzing the play of other players in each of these categories, as well as coming to terms with our own game if we fall into any given classification.

After this, the book presents some analysis of ways in which players self-destruct in their games, and what can be done to avoid it. Then we have the conclusion, and finally there are three appendices: A quiz covering whether the reader has the 'right stuff' to play poker well, an article on why an aspiring poker player should think again if they're considering turning pro, and quick summaries of the previous chapters.

Schoonmaker claims that he's not a poker professional by any means, that he is a moderate winner in low limit games. He says that the purpose of his book is to analyze players, not give strategic advice, and that's fine by me. However, I see a great deal of strategic advice in this book. Some of it is quite good, for example, I don't recall seeing the concept of 'buying outs' explained better. Some of it I have some minor disagreement with. The fact that David Sklansky reviewed the book from a strategic angle probably explains the generally good quality of this information. However, there isn't nearly as much information about examining the motivations and methods of other poker players as I would have hoped, which is the author's field of expertise, although what's there is fairly decent.

Another deficiency is that almost nothing is said about the less extreme, 'average' players that don't have tendencies near the edge of the author's grid, which is where we would probably locate the majority of players. While it may not seem interesting to cover the average case, I honestly don't know what a '5,5' player in a local 3-6 Hold'em game might be thinking about, but I'd like to. I was hoping this book would tell me, but it doesn't.

Overall, we probably get a better grounding of the psychology of the people who play poker, both our opponents and ourselves, than we do in any other book. However, the book has more advice on how to play against these people and how to alter our play than it has information on why people play the way they do. I was hoping for more of the latter than I got. However, it is a good book, one that I found worth reading, although the true masterpiece on poker psychology has yet to be written.


While The Psychology of Poker is probably the best book written on the mind of the poker player, there is more strategic advice and less psychology than I would have expected or liked. The book is certainly worth reading, not just to understand our opponents, but also to understand ourselves. However, the ultimate book on poker psychology has yet to be written. I do recommend it, however.

Nick Christenson
Gambling Book Reviews

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