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Poker: A Guaranteed Income for Life




Discipline, Thought, and Control are the techniques of good poker. The DTC method is the application of these three techniques.

Discipline (16)

Discipline is the mechanism of good poker. Discipline leads to self-control, which is necessary to--

Self-control develops by practicing during the game the disciplines listed in Table 7:


Discipline Practiced Self-Control Developed
Consume no food or beverage Awareness
Do not swear or display feelings Emotional control
Maintain good posture--sit straight and keep both feet flat on the floor Alertness
Memorize important hands played and performance of each opponent Concentration
Mentally Review and criticize each play Objectivity

The good player increases his advantage as the game grinds into late hours. His disciplines become more nagging and thus more effective for maintaining self-control. At the same time, the concentration and playing ability of his tired opponents decrease. Also as his opponents develop into big winners or big losers for the evening, they become less objective and respond more to their feelings.

A decrease in discipline has a cumulative effect that can cause even a sound player to deteriorate into a poor player. For example, if a loss in discipline generates a breakdown in self-control, then a process of deterioration starts. Deterioration may be only temporary . . . but it can be permanent, especially with compulsive gamblers.

Deterioration can start spontaneously or can be induced by--

The good player recognizes any loss of discipline during the game. He adopts the following attitudes to prevent deterioration of his own discipline and play:

Consistent, tight discipline can build momentum toward a continuous string of flawless plays. If a bad play spoils this momentum, the resulting loss of self-control can lead to poorer-quality poker. A bad play to a good poker player can be as a cigarette is to an ex-smoker . . . one slip (betrayal of one's self) breaks the momentum of discipline and can bring disaster.[ 12 ]

A few minutes of postgame discipline are necessary to record valuable information and data about the game. In addition to his notes written after each game, the good player periodically reevaluates the game and its players. These evaluations point out slow changes occurring in the game and often suggest changes in strategy necessary to maintain optimum edge odds.

John Finn uses convenient photocopied outlines, as shown in Tables 8, 10, and 12, and periodically fills them out as shown in Tables 9,11, and 13. Those outlines provide him with consistent up-to-date information on the game and its players.

A few minutes of pregame discipline is needed to review past notes. Also, a nap before the game improves discipline and thought. A bath and a shave help restore the freshness necessary to sustain peak performance throughout an all-night session.



Evaluation of game--

Evaluation of own performance--

(a) errors-- (b) unusual plays--
(c) number of wins-- (d) calculated edge odds--

Information on opponents

(a) observations (b) performance
(c) winnings, losses, and debts, $ (d) bluffs, tried/called--


(a) number of hands played-- (b) starting and quitting time--
(c) maximum win-- (d) maximum loss--


GAME--Monday, weekly

Sid cheats Quintin out of $700 pot Have talk with Quintin. Everything okay.... New player Jeff Klien is a good addition. Will be permanent loser.... Ted absent. Broke from playing horses. . . . Sid played wildly and poorly, but won big.

Evaluation of game--
Continues at fast pace. Near optimum stakes for now. Only Charlie appears in financial trouble. Scotty is starting to hurt.

Evaluation of own performance--$550 win
(a) errors --2
(details in black book, p. 52)
(b) unusual plays--3
(details in black book, p. 78
(c) number of wins--12
(7 full, 5 split)
(d) calculated edge odds--

Information on opponents
(a) observations
Jeff blinks eyes when a bet is made against his weak hand. Keeps eyes open wide when he has a strong hand.
(b) performance
Aaron-fair; Quintin-good to fair; Scotty-fair to poor; Charlie- very poor; Jeff-fair; Mike- fair; Sid-poor; John-good
(c) winnings, losses, and debts, $
Sid +650 Aaron -250
John +550 Scotty -300
Mike +400 Quintin -350
Jeff +200 Charlie -900 (borrows 300)
(d) bluffs, tried/ called--30/19
Aaron-3/2 Jeff-1/1
Quintin-1/10 Mike-0
Scotty-0 Sid-15/10
Charlie-6/15 John-4/1

(a) number of hands played--108
(% won=12/108=11%)
(b) starting and quitting time--
8:15 p.m.-5:00 a.m.
(c) maximum win--
+$650 (Sid)
(d) maximum loss--
-$900 (Charlie)

* Need another regular player.
* Everyone absorbing losses okay, except Charlie, who is getting desperate.
* Problem about Ted's debts and bounced checks.



Face and stakes--
Average maximum win--
Average maximum loss--
Performance of opponents--
Regular players--
New or occasional players--

Games played--

Ante per player--




Personal performance--



GAME--Monday, weekly
PERIOD--1/8 -6/4

Pace and stakes--Fast pace is near maximum..Pressure for higher stakes.

Average maximum win: +$550

Average maximum loss: -$450

Performance of opponents-- Average and fairly stable. Quintin is improving. Scotty, Aaron, and Ted are deteriorating.

Regular players-- John Finn, Quintin Merck, Sid Bennett, Ted Fehr, Scotty Nichols.

New or occasional players-- Aaron Smith, Mike Bell, Charlie Holland, Mac Zimmerman, Jim Todd, Jake Fehr, Lee Pennock, Jeff Klien.

Games played-- Draw and stud with twists, high-low, and qualifiers. Occasionally use wild cards and the Bug.

Ante per player-- $1 for stud. $5 for draw.

Betting-- In draw, $25 opens, then $50 in subsequent rounds. In stud, $5 first card, then increase by $5 for each additional card. Twists are free....80% of bets are at the maximum.

Raising-- Right-to-bet rule. Normally three raises. With only two players, raises are unlimited. Check raises okay.

Attitudes-- Generally good. Sid continues to cheat without problems. No one resentful or in danger of quitting.

Personal performance-- Good, but leveling off in effort. Areas to improve--Increase focus on broader aspects of the game. Increase flexibility in style during early rounds.

Miscellaneous-- Stakes are ready to move up to next level. Try doubling stakes for the last round in the next few games.







Average won or lost/game--

Edge odds--






Last bet--








NAME--Quintin Merck

Classification--Sound player and improving.

Motive--Pass time. Satisfy ego....Shifting to motive of making money.

Attitude--Grouchy but Improving.

Performance--Above average.

Average won or lost/game--+$50 and increasing.

Edge odds--+10% and increasing.

Open--When under the gun, he holds back good hands When dealing, he will almost always open

Bet--Bets too lightly in early rounds. Same giveaway habits (listed in black book. p. 17)

Call--Calls with much weaker hands than he is willing to bet.

Raise--Too conservative. Seldom raises a good winning hand if it is of low value.

Last bet--Bets only when sure, but calls with weak hands.

Bluff--Seldom. Averages once every two sessions. Same giveaway habits (listed in black book, p. 17).

Fold--Folds too easily early in hand and too hard late in hand

Weaknesses--Play deteriorates when he gets angry from personal insults or from humiliating losses. Betting is out of proportion. Too conservative, but tires in late hours, then plays too loose.

Strengths--Fairly objective. Conservative. Tries to concentrate.

Changes--Improving and becoming more objective. Making conscious effort to improve. Better control over emotions.

Miscellaneous--He becomes less valuable as he improves. If improvement and winnings continue, he will be a liability. May have to eliminate him from the game.

How valuable is discipline? Obviously it is important in poker. But how valuable is discipline when it comes to refreshments? Did you ever eat a $600 sandwich? Well, such costly sandwiches are sometimes eaten in John Finn's game.

Consider Scotty Nichols, who tries hard to play a good game.... Sid deals draw poker. Scotty seems nervous, as if desperate to win a pot. He opens for $25 with a pair of aces. Sid raises to $50. Now Scotty is sucked in and calls. Nervous hunger seizes him. He rushes to the food table and rapidly piles many slabs of ham and cheese into a giant sandwich. In the meantime, Ted Fehr draws a card and carelessly flashes it--the ace of diamonds. Then the dealer, waving the deck around, exposes the bottom card for all to see--except Scotty, who is laying pickles on his sandwich. The bottom card? It is the ace of clubs.

Now it is Scotty's turn to draw. Hurrying back to the table, he smiles at his sandwich. Then his teeth chomp into the pile of food. Beads of mustard ooze over the crust and drip onto his tight slacks. With mustard-covered fingers, Scotty picks up his cards. John Finn watches him play. Yes, the pair of aces are still there. But wait--he also has four spades. Scotty wonders what to do. Staring at his sandwich, he continues to eat.

"Come on," Quintin grunts. "Speed up the game."

"Got to go with my best hand," Scotty finally blurts. He draws three cards to his pair of aces and then jams the rest of the sandwich into his mouth. The first card off the deck is the king of spades . . . his flush card. So what--he still catches another king to give him two pair, aces and kings . . . a pretty good hand.

That pretty good hand is enough to keep him in for a $50 bet plus a $50 raise. Quintin Merck wins with a queen high flush.

"What rotten luck," Scotty whines as he grabs an overflowing handful of potato chips. His words are followed by a slobbering crunch.

Rotten luck? If Scotty had stayed at the table, he would have seen the two flashed aces and drawn to his four flush to win the $600 pot. Instead he loses $150. That ham and cheese sandwich cost him $600!

Also, John Finn uses the mustard stains on Scotty's cards to identify them in future hands.

Thought (17)

Thought is the labor of good poker. Objectivity and steady concentration are needed to think properly. Thinking requires discipline. Analytical thinking is necessary to understand and predict the actions of opponents. Objective thinking is necessary to plan the proper action.

The good player continually thinks about poker during the game. He looks at his cards quickly to allow maximum time for observation and thought. He never wastes precious time by slowly looking at or squeezing open his cards. When involved in a hand, his thoughts concentrate on strategy. The good player gains a major advantage over other players by thinking ahead and forming several strategic plans based on anticipated hands. When an anticipated hand develops, he can make quicker and more accurate playing decisions.

When not involved in a hand, the good player studies the game, gathers data, and plans future strategy. Between hands, he analyzes the action of each concluded hand.

Intensive thought and concentration also help to overcome nervousness, which even a good player may experience when playing in a strange, an unfriendly, or a high-stake game.

Since thinking is the labor of poker, maximum thinking effort should yield maximum returns. How much is this effort worth in dollars? When a player wins an average of $40 per game, his winning rate is equivalent to a job paying $15,200 a year.[ 14 ] Average winnings of $150 per game is equivalent to a $57,000 per year job.

Compare the effort in poker to the effort required in a job yielding similar earnings. For example, a winning rate of $5 per game is equivalent to a job paying only $1,900 per year; such pay would not be worth the effort needed to play good poker.

Let us see how thinking pays off. John Finn is under the gun in draw poker. He has a four flush in hearts and checks. Next is Sid Bennett, who opens for $25. John check-raises to $50. Sid and Scotty call the raise. Now John draws and immediately looks at his card. He misses his flush. Does he give up? No . . . by paying attention and thinking, he still has a chance to win that $250 pot. John stays alert. and this is what he sees and hears:

Sid Bennett draws one card, sticks it in the center of his hand, then quickly looks at it. Is he drawing a flush, a straight, or two pair? Probably two pair because when Sid draws one card to the flush or straight he places the draw card at the back end of his hand and then looks at the card very slowly. That, along with his betting pattern (opens, then reluctantly calls a raise), suggests that Sid has two pair.

Ted Fehr flashes a black picture card when dealing Scotty's draw card. While ruffling the cards through his chubby fingers, Scotty exposes the deuce of hearts. Therefore, if he were going for the flush or straight, he missed it. Scotty slowly squeezes his cards open to look at his new card, then gives a blowing exhale. He usually inhales when he sees a good draw card.

Now John has a good view of the situation. The opener (Sid with two pair) looks weak with respect to the two one-card draw hands behind him . . . especially after John raised the first-round bet. Knowing that Scotty has a busted hand, John sits in a position of strength, despite his worthless hand. He has the last bet, and the other players respect his hand because of his first-round raise followed by his single-card draw. John has an excellent chance of buying the $250 pot with a bluff.

If Sid and Scotty check and John bets $50, Sid will probably drop his winning hand because he would have to contend with Scotty's one-card draw as well as John's one-card draw. If Sid folds, Scotty will then fold his busted hand, leaving John the pot. John figures his chances of a successful bluff under the circumstances are better than 1 to 2. The return for winning the pot would be about 5 to 1. He estimates his investment odds at $250 x 0.3/$0 = 1.5 . . . those are good odds.

What if Sid bets his two pair? Does John fold his hand or does he still bluff by raising back? He would probably fold for the following reasons:

What actually happens? Well, things turn out better than John hoped. Sid checks. Scotty hesitates and then suddenly bets $50. This is his normal pattern when bluffing--hesitate and then bet fast. Scotty's obvious bluff attempt makes John's bluff even easier. He casually raises to $100. Sid and Scotty fold immediately.... John wins a $300 pot with a worthless hand plus a little thinking.

Incidentally, John Finn earns $42,000 per year by playing 400 hours in the Monday night game. This equals $105 per hour, which is equivalent to a job yielding $200,000 per year.... A job paying that much is worth a concentrated thinking effort.

Control (18)

The result of good poker is control--control of self, opponents, and the game. When the good player achieves self-control through discipline and understands his opponents through thinking, he can seize control of his opponents and the game. When in control, he becomes the center of attention. His opponents spend a major portion of their time and effort trying to figure out his moves and then adjusting to them ... they play according to his moves and actions. From this controlling position he can--

The player who continually strives for maximum investment odds cannot control the game. Always making the play that yields the maximum return reduces the flexibility needed to control the players and to achieve maximum edge odds. The good player, therefore, chooses from a wide variety of plays available at slightly less favorable odds. For example, by backing away from the maximum investment odds, the good player can bet more aggressively and increase his flexibility in play-making so much that he can produce almost any desired effect. Also, by underbetting a hand and then overbetting a subsequent similar hand (with only occasional bets made at maximum investment odds), he makes his betting unpredictable. That flexibility and unpredictability let him control the betting.

Money flows toward the player who controls the betting. The best time to get that control is early in the hand while the bets are still small. The good player often gains control by unexpected or unusual bets (such as a raise into obvious strength of an opponent), by larger than usual first-round bets, or by weird bets (such as a $4 bet instead of the usual $5 bet). He then makes subsequent offensive or defensive betting manipulations designed to influence the big last-round bets and raises.

Offensive manipulations, designed to maximize a potential win, are done by altering (increasing or decreasing) the betting pace in order to--

Defensive manipulations, designed to minimize a potential loss, are done by altering (increasing or decreasing) the betting pace in order to--

Confusion and fear decrease the ability of players to think objectively and to play their hands properly. Most players fear the confusing play and unpredictable betting of the good player. By making spectacular shock plays, he further increases their fear of him. Many opportunities occur in which investment odds actually favor spectacular maneuvers such as--

John Finn has a big psychological advantage over his opponents. He confuses, shocks, bullies, frightens, and worries them into focusing their attention on him. They react strongly to his actions. Their moves and bets are often distorted because they base them on trivial moves by John, while ignoring significant moves by other players. Knowing how they will react to his moves, John can often make them do what he wants, while he alone retains a balanced view of the game. The results? He controls the game.... This is how that control works:

Immediately after bluffing Sid Bennett (in the previous chapter), John spreads his cards face-up across the table. Seeing John's four hearts with a big black club right in the middle, Sid moans and groans as the other players laugh at him. With his face blushing red, he mutters, "I'll sleep in the street before you bluff me out again."

The players are still talking about John's bluff as Scotty Nichols starts the next deal. Ted opens for $25. Sid fumbles with his money ... an indication that he wants to raise. John has a pair of aces that could be played with good investment odds if he can gain an offensive betting position and prevent Sid's raise. That is an easy problem for John. He just throws some confusion at the players by making a weird $3 raise.

Sid drops the money he was fingering. "What's Finn up to?" he says, wrinkling his nose. "He's either got nothing or a powerhouse. Uh . . . probably hoping for a raise."

Perfect. That is exactly the reaction John wanted. The silent players stare at him as they try to figure out his bet. The result? Everyone just calls and then anxiously awaits John's next move. With that $3 bet, John prevents any raising, gets everyone's attention, and assumes the offensive betting position.

Now the draw. John Finn takes three cards--Sid frowns at him. Immediately John looks at his draw. He catches a pair of jacks to give him aces-up two pair. His expression remains unchanged. Sid draws one card, glances at it, and then grunts, "I had John beat all the time. Should've raised him out of his seat."

A convenient statement for John ... it verifies that Sid still has two pair. Scotty also draws one card. By knowing his betting and playing habits, John reads him for two pair also. Ted draws one card; his freckled face stiffens as he slowly squeezes his cards apart. Then with a burst of swear words, he flings the cards across the table.

"Miss your flush?" Quintin Merck asks, smiling with a fluttering mustache. Ted just pouts his lip and looks at the ceiling.

John makes a nominal $1 bet. Sid, still mumbling about being bluffed out of the previous hand and then being tricked out of the first-round raise, reacts emotionally, "You ain't getting off cheap this time," he snorts. "I raise fifty bucks."

Scotty Nichols hesitates a long time before calling. That confirms he has two pair. If Scotty had three of a kind or better, he would have called without hesitation. Now John is in a strong fundamental position with his aces-up; he raises to $100. Both Sid and Scotty, having already bet their hands heavily, feel compelled to call. So they do.... John's aces-up wins the $400 pot.

So with a normally unfavorable hand and position, John controls the betting and wins the pot. Also because he knows how to control the players, he builds a potential $100 pot into a $400 pot by tickling Sid's emotions.

John Finn is a good player because he disciplines himself, thinks objectively, and then takes control of the game. Discipline, thought, and then control--the DTC method--is his technique for good poker.

Parts Three, Four, and Five of this book show how the good player with the DTC method achieves--


[ 12 ] The good player does not consider an honest error in judgment a flaw. To him a flaw is the failure to think and act rationally. The flawless play, therefore, is not based on omniscience or perfect judgment, but rather on full rational thought.

[ 13 ] Collecting and remembering the data for these Weekly Game Notes require discipline and concentration. Indeed, the chief value in acquiring these notes is not the data themselves, but the forced mental attention to the game that is required to collect the data.

[ 14 ] This and the following figures calculated for a five-hour weekly game . . . and 1900 hours of actual work per year (estimated from data in the U. S. Government Bulletin, Employment, Earnings and Monthly Report on the Labor Force. vol. 12, no. 10).

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