How To Play Poker by Peter Arnold

Title: How to Play Poker

Author: Peter Arnold

Published: 2003 by Hamlyn

Length: 176 pages

Subject: Absolute basics of poker.


I never really intended to read this book. I just kind of stumbled upon it at the library and decided I could review it for this site. I remember I immediately thought it would suck, but after flipping through the pages a minute I thought, "It can't be that bad." Oh man, I was worse than right. I was wrong.

To be fair the book started relatively strongly. There was a cool anecdote on the first page about Wild Bill Hickcock that I'll quote for you here:

Dead Man's Hand

One of poker's best-known legends is that of Wild Bill Hickcock, who made the mistake of playing poker in a gambling saloon in Deadwood in 1876. For once he didn't take a seat with his back to the wall. A gambler called Jackie ‘Crooked Nose' McCall, who had been hired by other crooked gamblers to kill Hickcock because they feared he might be made marshal of Deadwood and clean up the game, walked in and shot Wild Bill in the back of the head with a Colt 45. Bill died clutching his hand, which was found to be two Aces and two 8s (some say all black), with the odd card either the Queen or Jack of diamonds. From that day, pairs of Aces and 8s have been known as "Dead Man's Hand".

For me this little story was especially cool as the HBO original series Deadwood is one of my favorite TV shows. The first season of the show told a slightly different version of Wild Bill's demise. (As a small example of the difference, Jack McCall is not known for, or nicknamed because of, his crooked nose, but his, in the words of Wild Bill, "droopy cunt eye.")

Unfortunately, however, that was the best part of the book. So I guess I just saved you $10. The way I see it, you owe me $10.

I guess I should clarify. If you know absolutely nothing at all about poker and you are just at this site for no good reason, then maybe Peter Arnold's How to Play Poker would be useful and worth buying/reading. If you understand the ranks of the hands (Royal Flush is the best, etc.) and the sequence of play (Flop-Turn-River), then you pretty much know enough to skip this one.

It's a shame, too, because it's a nice looking book. I just can't imagine there's a very big market for poker books written for people who have never played poker.

½ out of 4 aces

(Reviewed by T.)

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