Book Review: Poker Hero

Poker Hero by Florian Roßner is one of the best poker training books I’ve read in a long, long, long time. In fact, one of my only complaints about the book is that it should be twice as long and have a workbook that accompanies it.

One of the reasons I love this book so much is that Roßner basically captured exactly what I had been thinking for some time but had, as of yet, not been able to articulate (as well as Roßner). Back in 2005, I wrote a post called, The Ultimate Secret to Winning Poker, where I argued that poker books were like self-help books in that most people keep buying books but they rarely put what’s in the books to use.

If you want to lose weight, buying a book about the latest diet isn’t likely to help if you purchased previous diet books and failed to follow the diet. If you buy a book by Tony Robbins for motivation but you fail to do what he tells you, buying a book by Ken Blanchard isn’t going to help you since they both essentially give the same advice.

This idea has been in my head for a long time now. And before I picked up Poker Hero I had been reading Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Chef where he talks about how one can quickly master almost any skill. I know it sounds like it’s about cooking but Ferris’ point was you can learn something like how to Salsa dance at a competitive level if you know how to figure out the most critical elements and focus on those areas.

Roßner speaks to that same philosophy. Poker Hero is sprinkled with examples not from the poker world but from the world of sports. He dissects what separates a Micheal Jordan from any other player.

The basketball court at the Laney High School, in Wilmington, North Carolina, looks shabby. The first rays of dawn hardly make their way through the dust covered windows. Fourteen young athletic kids, dressed with blue washed-out basketball shirts, stand in a row. Balancing from one foot to the other, they fix their eyes on a middle aged man, a whistle dangling from his bullish neck. He wears a blue shirt, printed with “Coach.” He points his finger to the first player in the line. “Sorry, you are out.” He looks at a scribbled list with three names on yellow paper and trod to another player. “Sorry, it was close.” One more to go. He looks down again: “Sorry, Michael.”

The first rejected player joined a local league afterwards. The second, an intramural squad. Yet the third one was different. Immediately after his removal, he started to practice long hours day after day. If he felt too tired to continue, he forced himself to recall his cut from the team and drove himself even harder, never giving in to the voice in his head begging to stop.

20 years later, Utah is in the 6th game of the 1998 NBA finals. It’s 5.2 seconds left to play, and 33,000 eyes stare at Michael, knowing that he will take the shot. Bryon Russell, one of the Jazz’s best defenders, guards him, but Michael makes a quick move, goes up in the air and seals his sixth Championship for the Chicago Bulls.

Michael Jordan was cut from his team in his sophomore year of high school. At this time, all hopes of obtaining a college scholarship were gone. Most athletes would haven take their lumps and moved on with their lives. Michael Jordan, however, was different. He responded with hard work. Two years later, he was a McDonald’s All American and the MVP of the McDonald’s game. The year after that, he hit the game-winning shot for the University of North Carolina in the NCAA finals. By the time his NBA career ended, Jordan had made an astonishing 25 game-winning shots.

Without any doubt, Michael Jordan was an elite performer. But Michael Jordan was not always Michael Jordan. He rose from high school reject to college star. Though he never averaged more than 20 points per game during his college career, and was selected only third in 1984′ s NBA draft, he became one of the greatest players of all time.

How did this happen? What made Michael Jordan different from the average basketball player? Is he a super human? Or can we copy his success? Is there something we can learn from him or from other great performers like Lance Armstrong, Mohammed Ali, Tiger Woods, or Jerry Rice to improve our Poker game?

And that was what I found so amazing about the book. It’s one of the only books on poker that I’ve ever read that separates the strategy from the willingness to win. In fact, Poker Hero doesn’t offer any strategy. It’s all about how to motivate yourself to be great.

Now, I know some people are rolling their eyes. They’re probably thinking that Poker Hero is a bunch of psychological mumbo-jumbo but it’s anything but that. For instance Roßner dismisses the stuff you normally read about like feel-good affirmations as being self-delusional.

Merely abstract positive thinking won’t do the job. Reciting affirmations such as, “I will be a consistent winner” is empty at best, self-delusional at worst.

Instead Roßner shows you concrete examples of how to focus yourself on what’s important.

For instance, almost every poker strategy book will mention reviewing your results. But what does that mean? Poker Hero walks you through identifying your weaknesses, formulating a plan to address your weaknesses, and a methodology to track your progress.

[simpleazon-image align=”right” asin=”1481265857″ locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”” width=”337″]Basically, Roßner has taken educational theory (how people learn new information) and combined it with sports psychology as used by some of the top performing athletes in the world.

In fact, I was recently having a conversation with a friend and I was telling him what I thought was wrong with poker training today. You go to one of these training sites and you watch some video of a good player commenting on his play over maybe 45 minutes or an hour.

What does that teach you? Sure, you might learn a little about his thought process or pick up a new line you hadn’t considered before but there’s no direction or focus in the learning. You might see the instructor/coach play AQs UTG and the next hand he plays he’s playing JTo from the button.

Well, the problem in that is that you would learn so much more if they did an hour long video on AQs from every position, against every type of opponent, and on every type of board the flop could bring.

Or put another way, if you have trouble putting, do you think your putting would improve more from spending two hours practicing just putting or from playing 18 holes? Obviously spending several hours focused on putting will do more than taking 18 putts during a round of golf.

That’s a lot of what Poker Hero is about. It’s about helping you identify what parts of your game need work, using focused learning to improve as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, and applying those lessons in your game and tracking the results.

As I mentioned earlier, I had already been thinking about this concept for a long time so my biggest disappointment with Poker Hero is that there wasn’t more information. As I read through each chapter I was hoping it would drill down into the nitty-gritty but it seemed as if Roßner was trying to avoid getting too far into the details so as not to scare people off from trying things out.

On the other hand, the kind of people who will get the most of of this book are exactly the types of people who will dig deeper on their own, so maybe Roßner was right to point people in a direction and let them do with it what they need.

[simpleazon-link asin=”1481265857″ locale=”us”]The Poker Hero – How to Survive, Fight, and Succeed in the modern Poker World[/simpleazon-link]


  1. Wow, great review! You just sold a copy.

    Love the unique approach to the game and the other sport comparisons. Look forward to reading it.

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