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.
PL: What type of poker
player is this book geared toward?
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?
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
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
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
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
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
market since you are not a "famous"
David: 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
take to complete, etc.?
David: 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
David: 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?
David: 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!
this and other reviews in the Lizard Lounge.