Tournament Poker and the Art of War
by David Apostolico

Our inaugural PokerLizard Featured Book is a little out of the ordinary. Tournament Poker and the Art of War takes a different angle on NL Holdem tournaments. David Apostolico has combined his love of poker with the ancient theories of war as taught by Sun Tzu - and has produced a refreshing take on poker strategy.

This book is different from any we've read on poker. The application of the ancient battle principles as they apply to tournament poker makes for an interesting contrast to most strategy books out there today. Especially first-rate is Apostolico's pre-tourney preparation as explained in the first section on the Ten Principles. This beginning chapter is an excellent overview to how the Art of War applies to sitting down at the poker table - it's all about manipulating your opponents, using chips as ammo, and capitalizing on others' mistakes. The author then goes into how each of Sun Tzu's main insights on war have parallels in tournament poker - like how managing your chipstack is much the same as managing your army in battle.

We asked the author to give us some background on the book as well as his own poker experience.

What type of poker player is this book geared toward?

David: Tournament Poker and The Art of War is geared to all no limit hold 'em tournament players.  Everyone from the novice to the expert should be able to take something (and hopefully a lot) from this book.  So long as the reader has a basic understanding of the game, this book should help them develop a philosophical mindset that is tough enough to endure and succeed in tournament play.

PL: What made you want to write a poker book?

David: I have been playing poker for over 25 years since my early teens.  Creative writing has also always been a hobby of mine.  Writing a poker book was a natural marriage of two of my biggest passions.  

PL: You stress the point that there are two competing goals in the book, Chip
accumulation and Survival. How does the importance of one goal versus the
other evolve over the course of a tournament?

David: Everything in tournament poker is situational.  If you are playing an online turbo tournament where the blinds increase every five minutes, chip accumulation takes precedent from the get go.  If you are playing in a 5 day WPT main event, survival will be more important early on.  What my book emphasizes, however, is to constantly evaluate the situation as the tournament progresses so you can strike the appropriate balance between the two.  Certainly, if your stack is dwindling you want to take a shot at accumulating chips while you still have some force.

PL: How did you get interested in poker?

David: When I was about 7 years old, we were on a weeklong family vacation at the Jersey shore.  One rainy afternoon, my father broke out a stack of pennies and taught us how to play.  I was the youngest of four, but I ended up with all of the pennies.  I had a fun time at the arcade that night and I have been hooked ever since.   

PL: Are you primarily a tournament player?

David: I play cash games as well, but I enjoy tournaments more.  Cash games are a grind and success is measured over a lifetime.  Each and every tournament you enter will give you instant feedback as to where you placed.  I love the competitiveness of tournaments.  

PL: Do you apply the teachings of Sun Tzu to other aspects of your life?

David: Absolutely.  I am a corporate lawyer and I started my career on Wall Street specializing in mergers and acquisitions.  My first day on the job, one of the senior partners took me aside and said that the two books every attorney should know inside and out are The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Prince by Machiavelli.  I find both of these books have enormous application to both business and poker.  All our lives, we are taught how to behave socially which is extremely important.  However, the skills necessary to succeed in business, and certainly poker, are often at odds with the values we implement in our private lives. 

PL: Are you in the process of writing any additional books?

David: I have a new book, Machiavellian Poker Strategy , coming out in September, 2005.  The poker room may be the only modern arena in which you can practice pure Machiavellian theory.  Think about it.  It is not only accepted, but expected, that you will do everything within your power (short of cheating) to defeat your opponent.  Deception is a highly desirable trait in the poker room.  I think a lot of players underestimate the need to go through a total transformation when they enter the poker room.  You have to check your everyday self at the door.  Just don't forget to pick him up on the way out. 

PL: What makes your poker book standout over the myriad of other books coming

David: Tournament Poker and The Art of War is not a basic strategy book.  You will not find a table of pot odds in there.  What you will learn is to analyze more than just your cards.  There are so many changing circumstances in tournaments.  Blinds increase, players are eliminated, tables are split up and you must constantly adapt.  The tournament is a battle and your chips are your weapons.  In no limit hold 'em tournaments, you can use the entire force of your chips at any time.  That's a mighty big weapon.  How you implement that force will determine how successful you will be.  My book teaches you how to adopt the mindset of a general and the heart of a warrior in order to understand the ultimate power of your chips and how to use them wisely. 

PL: Even though this is a great book, do you fear it will be difficult to
market since you are not a "famous" player yet?

No, not at all.  Poker players by their nature are very astute and objective.  They can size up fairly quickly what is worthwhile and what is not.  Hopefully, they will find my book worthwhile.  Plus, I play at all levels from home games to events on the Professional Poker Tour so I can relate to everyone. 

PL: Take us briefly through the writing process - how long did this book
take to complete, etc.?

 I wrote the first draft of this book in a six week sprint.  I knew the subject matter so well (both The Art of War and poker) that whenever I sat down to my computer the words just flew out.  I did spend a considerable amount of time editing to make the points concise and easy to understand. 

PL: Are you planning on playing in any big upcoming events, like a WPT

I just played the Professional Poker Tour event at Bay 101 in San Jose (I finished in 20th place).  If my schedule permits, I will try to play the WSOP main event and then possibly the WPT event at The Borgata in Atlantic City which is an hour and a half from home.  We are expecting our third child this summer so my time will be limited.

PL: Ever consider becoming a full-time poker player?

As much as I enjoy poker, I love my life as it is.  I have a wonderful wife and two great sons so I try to keep travel to a minimum.

Thanks David, and we'll watch for your next book!


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