For many years, 1989 WSOP World Champion Phil Hellmuth has reveled in his image as the John McEnroe of poker. I have always preferred to think of Phil in comparison to another sports icon. I have always thought it was a better analogy to think of Hellmuth as Dale Earnhardt; an intimidating presence to see near you or at the table. Additionally, much like Earnhardt, there is no middle ground. People either love Phil Hellmuth or they hate him.
When Phil wrote his first book, Play Poker Like The Pros, it was hailed as an excellent primer for new players. It gave great insight into starting cards, position and playing styles. It was also well received by the poker community. Most rank it as a “must have” poker book, even talking about it in the same realm as Doyle Brunson’s “Super/System”.
2004, however, wasn’t the best of years for Hellmuth. Possibly due to a lack of concentration, more than likely to a numbingly intense poker and business schedule, Phil didn’t win a tournament, although he made the final table at a few events. Could it be as well that he was amassing material for his new book?
Bad Beats And Lucky Draws is Phil’s latest book out on the market. It looks as though some of the stories were culled from his CardPlayer Magazine articles, but most seem to be straight recollections. Some people may confuse it with Play Poker, because the two books look similar as far as their cover colors. Whereas Play Poker did not feature a photo of its author, Bad Beats does, which will allow people to tell the difference. The pricing is better than average, at $14.95 US and $20.95 Canadian. What is the qualifier is that, for most, Bad Beats will not be a strategy guide that people can use.
Basically, the book is a breakdown of key hands and stunning shots that have happened in the major events of the poker world. There are three sections that break down the hands that Phil and others played in the World Series, on the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour. There is a very good section that tells of reading other players and relates the hands and thoughts that went into it. There are additional stories by Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Ted Forrest (among others) that relate their major hand histories. Even Hollywood gets into the act, with hand commentary on plays by Matt Damon, Larry Flynt and others for Best Bets Today.
What is lacking in the book, though, is the solid strategy element that most beginning players look for when purchasing a poker book. While advanced players will be able to understand, and even incorporate, the thoughts and strategies that are displayed, most will look at the cards being played and wonder what the heck is going on with the professionals.
I found the book entertaining and, yes, useful for myself. It is a book that will have a spot in my library because Phil’s writing style is funny and informative, always getting in the critical data that is important. It will be a helpful tool that the advanced player can use (especially the section on reading your opponents), but for most, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws will not be the poker book that they are looking for.