Zen and the Art of Poker: Timeless Secrets to Transform Your Game - Larry W. Phillips

Larry Phillips is an American writer and journalist with a passion for poker. Having played since childhood, including a period of time in his 30’s where he played for serious money, he is very familiar with the poker world and those within it. In "Zen and the Art of Poker: Timeless Secrets to Transform Your Game" Phillips merges Eastern philosophy with poker to help players develop their skills.

"Zen and the Art of Poker" starts off by explaining the fundamentals of Zen, or living in the now. It compares how this cornerstone Buddhist belief clashes with the West, particularly with casino and cardroom culture. It then looks at the similarities between the two and explains how Zen and poker can overlap to create success at the tables.

The rest of the book then goes through 100 poker rules which Phillips has devised, which are spread through various subjects. Some of these are directly related to poker like "folding" and "betting", while others take a more left-field approach with chapters entitled "naturalness" and "stealth". In each section quotes are provided by various Zen masters and scholars, from all kinds of backgrounds and periods of history, then their relevance to poker is explained.

In many ways "Zen and the Art of Poker" was one of the first books to look at the mental game of poker. Phillips presents a compelling view by accepting and being aware of the moment, you can overcome your own flaws to be victorious on the poker table. While some may find the passages inspiring and gain a strength from them, the modern mental game has moved on since and strategies have become more detailed. Therefore, those who wish to put some serious time in their mental game would do well to read this alongside more recent publications on the subject.

Due to the '100 rule' list layout of the book you may find it disjointed when reading. As a result, it is probably a book most would pick up to review a chapter or two, rather than to read through in its entirety, despite only being short. Some may argue that advice it offers is also rather skin deep too, although those reading it in the right frame of mind will benefit in a variety of ways. "Zen and the Art of Poker" will not only give you insights into your poker game, but may help you look at other aspects of your life differently.

Rating: 4 out of 5