The Tsunami

Strategize. Optimize. Pulverize.


Holiday Poker Gifts (For Yourself)

The holidays are upon us. If you live in the US, it’s the time of year where retailers try to convince people to spend money (i.e. accumulate high interest credit card debt) on stuff that neither they nor their loved ones need (or want). It’s the time of year where demand is artificially propped up to such a frenzy that finding certain items (like an XBox 360 with a 250GB hard drive) is about as impossible as convincing those in power that increased consumerism isn’t the solution to fixing the US’s broken economy. On many levels, the whole thing just pisses me off…bah humbug! 

On the bright side, the holidays do serve as a reminder to gather with family and friends (I took full advantage of my lifestyle and booked my plane tickets to CT so that I traveled just before the holiday travel price hike begins and just after the holiday travel price hike ends). There were also some good deals to be had online. (I refuse to sacrifice whatever dignity I have left by waiting in line all night for a Black Friday special. Homey the Clown said it best: “Homey don’t play that!”)


(Homey the Clown skit from the classic TV show, In Living Color)

The only online spending I did during the frenzy was to buy three video games (in total, these purchases will easily amount to less than $1 per hour of entertainment):

NBA Jam for Wii (deal: $34.95 from Amazon)

Death Smiles for XBox 360 (no deal but amazing value: $32.42 with shipping from

Mushihimesama Futari v1.5 Platinum Collection for XBox 360 (no deal but amazing value: $39.19 with shipping plus foreign transaction fee from 

It may be against the “holiday spirit” to buy gifts for myself, but with rare exceptions, I pretty much only buy gifts for my wife and my parents (as an example of a rare exception, Evelyn’s former landlord hosted us during a recent visit to Los Angeles, so we bought their kids something this year). I don’t want to worry about forgetting someone, so minimizing gift-giving ensures that I’m fair to everybody in a way that minimizes stress. Shopping at this time of year is generally inefficient unless you’re doing it online. Most of my friends also have better things to do with their time than holiday shopping (constructing robotic arms that will go on Mars exploration vehicles, programming for Google, playing poker, managing our fantasy football league teams, online Mario Kart Wii, etc). The machine that drives US consumerism beyond its point of sustainability would like you to believe that my friends and I are cold-hearted and selfish. But it’s really the opposite. If good friend X has only one hour to spare, I’m happier if good friend X spends that hour playing Mario Kart Wii with me instead of finding a gift that, in all likelihood, is something I could simply get for myself. After all, what’s the point of having good friends if you don’t maximize the amount of quality time you spend with them?   

Now that I’ve gone on my annual holiday tirade, I should say that I’m a bit of a hypocrit because I’m about to give all of you a gift: the gift of knowledge (or at least knowledge about where to obtain quality knowledge). If you’re not crushing poker games the way today’s top players are, here are some gifts that you should consider getting for yourself this holiday season:

Kindle (or portable reading device of your choice): I feel like I don’t travel much, but I probably travel quite a bit compared to most. Regardless of your traveling habits, portable reading devices are great for many reasons (including making your life easier on moving day). I currently have 3.5 bookshelves packed with books. And though I like a break from looking a screens all the time, the Kindle’s display is much easier on the eyes than an LCD display. I’ve only used my friends’ Kindles to give them a try, so I can’t give a full review here regarding things like efficiency of page turning. However, if reading is a habit of yours (which it should be), then try one out and consider treating yourself to a purchase – a purchase that’s really more like an investment. I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting one for myself soon.

Peak Performance Poker by Travis Steffen: Being successful in poker is about more than mastering strategy. You need to take care of yourself so that your body and mind work with you rather than against you. After not taking good care of myself in my late teens and early 20s (sleep deprivation plus not nourishing myself properly), I know that I’m still not the beast I used to be before heading off to Caltech in 1998. In fact, I often refer to my 20s as a decade of “squandered potential.” I haven’t finalized my goals for 2011, but the general tone of my goals is going to be along the lines of no longer being satisfied with underachieving and coating through life and ensuring that everything I do is executed with focus and determination. If you feel like you’re adrift in your poker playing (or in any other aspect of your life), and the general tone of your goals for 2011 is similar to mine, then this book may help give you some direction.

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield: Since I got on the topic of self-improvement with my last recommendation, it would simply be criminal to neglect mentioning this book. You’ll find a lot of pointers here about streamlining your life so that you’re only doing what’s important towards achieving your goals.

Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em by Ed Miller, Sunny Mehta, and Matt Flynn: I love being a Dimat author because I get quality reading like this for free. I haven’t read every no-limit hold’em strategy book released. But I’d be shocked if this one isn’t the best. The authors focus on the thinking and lines of play that are necessary to beat online 6-max $1-$2 no-limit hold’em cash games – which the authors correctly identify as an important transition point. If you truly understand everything in this book and do some homework away from the tables, you’ll be tough to beat in online no-limit hold’em games that are higher than $1-$2 (you won’t be a 24-tabling beast like Nanonoko, but you’ll at least have a very solid foundation). You’ll be tough to beat in live games that are much bigger (we’re talking live $5-$10 and $10-$20 blind games). Don’t let the “Small Stakes” in the title fool you; there’s a lot of advanced thought packed in this book.  

Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time (All Volumes) by Eric “Rizen” Lynch, Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet, and Jon “Pearljammer” Turner: Those of you who listen to my weekly podcast, Killer Poker Analysis, know that I’ve been recommending these books since they’ve been released. These books feature hand-by-hand analysis of tournament hands played by some of today’s top online tournament players. The quality of writing is quite good (especially by poker book standards); the quality of analysis is superb. These guys teach you to play tournament no-limit hold’em the way it’s supposed to be played. Membership: PokerPwnage is a video coaching site that mainly focuses on multitable tournaments. I make videos exclusively for them, and my jam/fold cheat sheets are currently quite popular there. However, I’m far from the only draw. Several of today’s top online MTTers also contribute videos to PokerPwnage. I feel so strongly about the value of a PokerPwnage membership that I always tell people they’re better off spending their money on a PokerPwnage membership than they are on personal coaching from me. Membership: This is another video coaching site. I don’t have a membership here, and I’ve only seen a preview of one video. However, the video preview was from Nanonoko, and the hand he talked about was so interesting, that I’m definitely planning on getting myself a membership once I return from my holiday travels.  

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

The Tsunami


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