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Howard Schwartz

Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

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Snyder's Poker Tourney 2 unique, Kronzek aims at foiling cheats

19 Jun 2008

By Howard Schwartz
Arnold Snyder, more famous for his Blackbelt in Blackjack and other books on that game, has switched gears in recent years and now approaches poker -- tournaments in particular -- as a beatable, profit-making game. His newest work, titled The Poker Tournament Formula 2: Advanced Strategies for Big Money Tournaments (485 pages, paperbound, $24.95) follows his successful first book on the subject, Poker Tournament Formula.

Another important new arrival on bookshelves is Allan Zola Kronzek's 52 Ways to Cheat at Poker: How to Spot Them, Foil Them and Defend Yourself Against Them (192 pages, paperbound, $13).

Snyder's approach to winning tournaments is to help the player "understand optimal playing strategies based on structure." The book is designed to show you how to "optimize your strategy for each specific tournament you enter" since he believes not all pro-level tournaments are created equal. Thus the "optimal strategy for a $1,000 event will be very different from the optimal strategy for the $3,000 event, and this will differ significantly … for the $10,000 main event."

Snyder focuses on specific techniques for bluffing, calling suspected bluffs, creating a table image and reading your opponents. He gets right to the point: "Your aim is to bankrupt every player in the event. You can throw the mathematics of poker out the window. It's time to think about the mathematics of fear."

This book is not for beginners, and he does not offer many basics. Snyder is an admitted "contrarian." He loves to swim upstream or against the accepted theories. In fact, for a while he says he almost told the publisher not to publish this work, fearing he's giving away too many secrets.

Included in the 14 massive chapters, which deliberately omit sample hands and classic confrontations, are discussions of why everyone may be playing wrong, chip value theory, chip utility theory, the patience factor, ranking tournament value by structure and why it's important to beware of weird blind structures.

In one section, titled "Small Ball vs. Long Ball vs. Utility," he examines playing poker as baseball teams play. Small ball involves walks, bunts, steals, hit-and-run plays, basically getting men on base, where long ball involves hitting the three-run homer or getting extra base hits.

Other chapters focus on bluffs, reads and the psychology of theft and why many players make bad bluffs, followed by a short section on attitude; later on he introduces the fear factor.

Snyder looks at the five phases of a tournament including stack building, the money and reaching the final table and doesn't neglect the all-important bubble in various tournament formats.

In a final section, titled "For Hard Core Players Only," bankroll is examined including how much is needed, followed by an in-depth look at satellites including their value to the average or better-than-average player and professionals and using them to lower the buy-in costs of major tournaments.

Knowing Dan Harrington's books and his approach to tournaments is on Snyder's list as well. A final section should light the fires of controversy regarding who IS correct on how to play tourneys. In any case, the book offers new light, a new approach to it all. Many will be waiting for Snyder to be among the final table players. I hope Harrington and Snyder both get there so we can see the two theories play out.

Allan Zola Kronzek is a professional magician, writer and educator. He performs and lectures on the history of conjuring and was a student of the late magician and gambling expert Frank Garcia. His 52 Ways to Cheat at Poker is both a history of cheating and how to protect yourself, especially in those "friendly" or "social" games at the lodge, country club or at home.

The book draws from more than two dozen other books and videos on the subject, and in 52 chapters (or ways) he tells you how cheats work and what to watch for.

For the price and the depth of material offered, this could be one of the best books of the century on the subject. This includes discussions of collusion, how colluders communicate, false shuffle riffles, top and bottom card peek, marked cards, blockout work, shade and flash, luminous readers, marking cards in play, playing paint, location play and cheating with chips. Also: the second deal, bottom and center deal, overhand shuffle stacking, holding out, strippers, shiners, glims, lights and twinkles, stacking the flop in hold 'em, riffle stacking, the cooler, deck switches, hopping the cut.

The author says it's vital to watch the dealer, cut the cards, begin every game with a new deck, change decks frequently, buy quality brands, count the cards from time to time and know who you're playing with, among other rules.

"Knowledge of methods is the only way to defend against card cheats. It's not foolproof -- the most imaginative cheaters are always a step ahead -- but it's the best defense there is, other than not playing at all."

This book has class, depth and covers a mountain of territory. The author knows his sources, explains the moves well and has drawn some of the material from some of the best in the business. You can't ask for very much more.

Copyright Gambler's Book Shop. All books reviewed in this article are available from Gambler's Book Shop (Gambler's Book Club), located at 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 and online at

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