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Poker peak happens in the mind. Chips and cards are incidental. Thinking and making decisions, putting yourself inside your opponents’ minds, extracting immediate meaning from a web of ranks and suits and relating it to human behavior these things are poker.

Of course students of the game can and must study the details of card play and the principles of poker, in general terms. Inevitably though, as one sits in a game one engages in these activities “inside the poker mind, ” and it is they which determine one’s success or failure. Because I enjoy and am especially interested in these thought processes, I have tried to make them a central part of this book. They are a primary feature of the “strategic thinking ” essays, and appear in varied ways in much of the rest of material. I try to take the reader inside the mind of the player as he explores the game and negotiates the play of hands.

I have paid attention as well to another dimension within the “poker mind” – the impact of emotion on poker play. Here I have drawn on my background in clinical psychology to try to bring a new level of insight and discussion to the topic. You need not be a helpless victim of a tendency to “tilt, ” I provide ideas to help overcome such problems. I do point out though, that tilt is a more complex phenomenon than it may at first appear, and that no self-help approach will eliminate it for everyone. In other essays I simply invite the reader to share what is in my mind as I examine concepts that have been overlooked or under emphasized in the poker literature.

I include material because it should educate, expose illusions which deceive players, or in a couple of instances simply because it ought to provide interesting reading. One of my aims in making this material available to a general readership is to contribute to the growth of poker. This is not particularly altruistic on my part. As a middle and higher limit player I would like to have more games to choose from, I believe, moreover, that some of the remarkable growth of poker in recent years can be attributed to important books which have provided guidance to players wishing to learn the game correctly.

Here, a number of Two Plus Two books have led the way. In its own way I hope the book you are holding will help create new players, while encouraging established players to do the thinking necessary in order to move up the limits. Even though this introduction is being written early in 2000, some of this material has already been the subject of much debate. Certain essays, having appeared in poker digest, have been questioned and discussed vigorously on the Internet. This pleases me. It tells me that my ideas provoke thought and reaction. As hinted above, one of my purposes in writing this book was to do just that. I am glad but not surprised that the material has stood up well to rigorous questioning. Much thought was put into the essays that follow, drawing on what I know from years of winning poker and countless hours of study of this difficult and complex game. I look forward to further discussion.

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