Five books that can improve your poker game or business

Five books that can improve your poker game or business

Inspired by Fedor Holz’s goal to read 40 books by the end of the year Lee Davy shares five books that can be of particular service to poker players or a business operating in the gambling marketplace.

Fedor Holz is a smart cookie, so it’s no surprise to learn he is a voracious reader.

Five books that can improve your poker game or businessHolz recently posted a Tweet stating his intention to speed read 40 books by year end.

Inspired by this spot of bibliotherapy I give a brief synopsis on five books I recently read that could benefit poker players or companies looking to communicate with them.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman

 Had I learned about Stoicism in school the groove my life slid along would have been much smoother. The Daily Stoic is 366 quotes from ancient Stoic philosophers such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca sprinkled with a sharp flavour by the authors.

I liked this book not for the old pearls of wisdom but for the translations the authors provide. I bought Meditations by Marcus Aurelius after hearing both Tim Ferriss and Holiday coming in their mouths over the benefits the Roman Emperor brought into their lives. I couldn’t read it. It was like leafing through the undecipherable text of the Bible.

But this book is different. The translations allow me to learn from the old masters via the new masters and there is so much to learn about the way one can improve their poker game.

Take the simple art of control.

“There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.” – Epictetus.

The only thing we control is our thoughts. To worry about the deck, the dealer or our opponents is a wasteful use of energy. Make a daily inventory of the things you can’t control. Over time it becomes one of the most important habits of your life.

I can’t control the next card out of the deck, but I can control my reaction to it.

 I can’t control Will Kassouf’s constant chatter about coconuts, but I can control the way I behave towards him when he goes on one.

 Ask by Ryan Levesque

 This book made me realise that online poker rooms are in the dark when it comes to their customer’s worldview and how to communicate with them. I bought it after he appeared on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast and it’s well worth a listen if you are considering starting a business or work in the communications department of one.

Levesque teaches you to use specifically tailored surveys to understand the worldview of your customers and then segregate the list so you can deliver communication that aligns more appropriately with the needs and desires of each client.

As a recipient of the emails of all the major online poker operators, I know that none of them does this. They may segregate customers into buckets such as male/female, age, geography, poker/sports/casino – but they don’t go far enough and build a narrative that hooks you.

By skipping these valuable steps, they lose engagement. If I didn’t work in the industry, I would have unsubscribed from them all a long time ago.

 Nobody Wants to Reads Your Shit: Why That is And What You Can do About it by Steven Pressfield

The second reason that online poker rooms don’t engage with their customers is they don’t understand the fundamental principles of storytelling.

Steven Pressfield does.

There are some quality pieces of literature covering the art of story:

• Story by Robert McKee
• Into the Woods by John Yorke
• The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

But reading them is hard work.

Pressfield’s writing is like silk. You slide from chapter to chapter with the grace of Torvill and Dean. Pressfield covers the importance of theme, concept, the three act structure, characters and the heroes journey.

In the face of an online poker room, I am the hero. They are supposed to take me on a journey. But they don’t do that. The communication I receive is devoid of interest. And this is an own goal when you realise how many amazing writers they have on their teams covering the mundane tasks of live reporting.

Get those writers into the communications department so they can turn emails into an art form. And transform potential customers into lifelong raving fans.

Meaningful by Bernadette Jiwa

This is the book that the leaders of PokerStars should read. I am a member of Bernadette’s email list. She could make a shit sandwich, and I would buy it despite her never selling me anything.

I am a lifelong fan.



When I read her emails, her blog posts and her books, I feel like she is perched inside my skull listening to every single word my monster mind utters. She knows me better than I know myself because she has done her homework, and she puts the needs of her customers above everything else.

Bernadette is living proof that if you focus on providing value to your customer, then the money will follow. It’s a lesson the privatised rail industry ignored in the 1990s, and I saw the same happen to PokerStars after the acquisition.

Once again the theme of storytelling comes into the equation with Bernadette basing the core teachings of the book on her Story Strategy Blueprint.

What is your customer’s worldview?

 Where do you have the opportunity to make the most difference to her?

 How can you solve her problems?

 How will using your product make her feel?

 What’s changed for your customer after using your product?

This book is all about caring for people.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

I learn from Burns to use Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT) to help people quit alcohol. And while I am still learning, I got more than I bargained for – it also contributed to improving my poker game.

This wonderful man has developed his techniques to such a high degree that he can cure a person’s depression in a single session after a patient may have suffered for years.

The big lesson I picked up that will help me with my poker game is the Triple Column Technique; teaching you to write down your critical thoughts, identify what distortions you are using to create angst, and then inject logic and reason to reveal the truth.

Burns describes ten different distorted thinking patterns in his book and they are all applicable to the way we think about our poker game.

1. All or Nothing Thinking
2. Overgeneralization
3. Mental Filter
4. Disqualifying the Positive
5. Jumping to Conclusions
6. Magnification or Minimisation
7. Emotional Reasoning
8. ‘Should’ Statements
9. Labelling and Mislabeling
10. Personalisation

A good example would be making a mistake. Instead of letting it go you beat yourself up, and it affects your game.

Critical Thought

 I’m always making mistakes.

Cognitive Distortion


Rational Response

Yes, I make mistakes, but I make a lot of great plays, and mistakes are a minor part of my game. Without making mistakes, my game would never improve.

So there are five books that I have read in 2016 that could benefit poker players and companies that work in the poker or gambling industry.

What books have you read that could benefit the people I have mentioned?