Apostolico's "Lessons" Provides Insight into PPT Play

30 August 2006

Lessons From the Pro Poker Tour
By David Apostolico
July 10, 2006
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Price: $14.95

Book Summary: Lessons From The Pro Poker Tour is a No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament strategy book. Tips are highlighted by examples of decisions made by poker's most famous players in Professional Poker Tour (PPT) tournaments.

Review: In his latest book, veteran poker writer David Apostolico gives readers a glimpse at how he attempted to navigate one of the most elite tournament fields assembled in the first season of the Professional Poker Tour (PPT). Lessons From The Pro Poker Tour is a strategic guide on how to play tournament poker, with advice for all levels of play.

The PPT is a series of invitation only No Limit Texas Hold'em tournaments. Players qualify for PPT events by performing well in World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour events. Other players are given exemptions for a number of reasons.

Apostolico was invited to play thanks to a media exemption, and the book catalogues his experiences at the tables. He discusses hands he played against notable professionals, but even more valuable are his keen observations of how others played, often when he wasn't even involved in the hand.

Old School vs. New School

In Part II of Lessons From The Pro Poker Tour, Apostolico discusses the differences between "Old School" and "New School" players.

Old School Player

  • Typically very conservative early in tournaments, unwilling to take unnecessary risks
  • May skip the first few levels of play (e.g., Phil Hellmuth)
  • Establish a conservative table image early to take advantage of that image later, either to trap players or to steal chips when blinds and antes are higher

New School Player


  • Aggressive right from the beginning of the tournament
  • Unpredictable and dangerous
  • Willing to call large bets with marginal hands

Apostolico believes the reason "young guns" play more aggressively is the increased number of poker tournaments. When tournaments were scarce, players were conservative early because they might not get a chance to play another tournament for months. Now, with tournament opportunities popping up everywhere, busting out early isn't a big deal.

At one point the author notes that Doyle Brunson was dealt pocket Queens four times but folded three times and just called down to the river with them once. Each time, he made precisely the right decision based on the situation.

The book starts slowly with a typical discussion of how to play premium starting hands (A-A, K-K, A-K, Q-Q, etc). Some sections provide valuable advice, while others regurgitate tactics listed in hundreds of poker books already widely available.

Apostolico's most valuable lesson is his constant reminder that players must focus on the tournament aspect of the game at all times. Each decision must be weighed based upon how that decision will affect a player's ability to advance in the tournament.

The most enjoyable part of the book is Part II, which discusses interesting issues such as how tournament poker has changed and the "old school" vs. "new school" styles of play. Unfortunately, this only makes up 20 pages in the 150-page book.

Lessons From The Pro Poker Tour is a great book for beginners, especially because tips are made based on the decisions made by some of the game's most famous players. This star power factor will give beginners reason to continue reading what otherwise might be a boring book about starting hands and betting patterns.

Intermediate players looking for advice on tournament strategy may also find some valuable advice, but players who have read several books on Texas Hold'em tournament strategy may have little to learn from what is offered and instead find that Lessons From The Pro Poker Tour is useful only as a catalyst to continue an ongoing evaluation of their own strategy.

Other Books by David Apostolico
Tournament Poker and the Art of War
Machiavellian Poker Strategy: How to Play Like a Prince and Rule the Poker Table
Pocket Idiot's Guide to Tournament Poker
Lessons from the Felt: Advanced Strategies and Tactics for No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments (Sept. 2006 release)


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