With all of the poker-related content that’s spilling out of publishing houses and websites these days, it’s increasingly difficult for any one entity to really draw the attention of the community at large. As a result, it’s all the more impressive when a particular author or text manages that accomplishment. Enter Tommy Angelo, a long-time pro well-known to several pockets of the poker community who took the big step from private coach to public instructor a few months ago with the release of Elements of Poker.
Tommy was nice enough to answer a few questions via email. Visit his website at TommyAngelo.com
PTP: First of all, congratulations on the book.
Thanks! And thanks for inviting me to this great interview format. It’s like having a superpower – being able to rewind time and edit what I say right after I say it.
PTP: Elements of Poker seems to be getting a near-universal positive response from the poker community. Are you surprised at all by that response, or did you feel fairly confident in how the book would be received?
I knew there were some people out there who liked my writing, and I was confident that they would like my book. I was definitely surprised that in the vast poker world, full of critical reviewers, posters and bloggers, that so many people are writing about my book, and that almost all of what they are writing is enthusiastically favorable. Have you seen Element 33? It’s called “Gobsmacked.” My reaction to the reaction to EOP was like that, except good.
PTP: What was the motivation behind writing the book?
To help reduce the amount of unhappiness on planet earth.
My book is entirely about poker. It’s about how to play poker better than you do now, and it’s about how to understand poker better than you do now, and it’s about how to feel better about poker than you do now. And then there is a higher perspective, and from there, my book is about more than poker. It’s about appreciating and accepting what is, good or bad, and then stopping right there, before thinking about it screws everything up, and then, do the same thing again, an instant later. In this way, it’s possible to undo anger and misery and everything else that hurts. And that helps us play our best more often, and that improves our poker score. I played poker for 30 years before I came to this understanding, and it’s so mindbogglingly awesome that I couldn’t keep it to myself. So I started coaching, and that eventually led to the writing of this book.
I wrote Elements of Poker to make you laugh, and think, and not think. I wrote it to pass on what I’ve learned so far about the particulars of poker, and also to sing my rendition of an ancient song called pain-reduction-by-way-of-present-tense-living.
PTP: I know the book is a natural extension (in many ways) of your coaching curriculum; what was it about the book as a format or medium that attracted you?
There are other mediums? Seriously, from a strictly ego standpoint, I was a writer who had never written a book. I had begun several books in my life and never come close to finishing one. This time around I decided to put everything aside – I didn’t play poker or take on new clients – until the book project was done. Looking back, I realize that I was never going to finish a book until I learned how to apply the disciplines that I write about in this book. Go figure.
PTP: You’ve been coaching for quite some time. Now that internet poker seems to have made the game more dynamic (insomuch that dominant strategies seem to cycle more quickly), do you have trouble playing enough to keep your coaching current?
I have a good mix going of coaching, and playing in the same game with clients as part of the coaching, and playing poker on my own time. You’re right that poker changes, but then, it always has. It’s not a problem to keep up because I love being immersed in poker.
PTP: Online poker coaching and training has really taken off in the last year or so. What’s your general take on the worth of the average online poker instructional site that relies primarily on video-based walk-thrus of instructor sessions?
I have to think that getting video instruction is a higher EV choice than getting no instruction at all. As to which site I like best, that’s a no-brainer. DeucesCracked.com. And I’m not just saying that because I am tightly affiliated with that site and I know all five founders personally and I’ve coached two of them. It’s the other way around. I chose to park myself under the DeucesCracked umbrella because I know the people who run it and I’ve seen what they produce. Their site is innovative, creative, and effective, and they really know their poker. I’ve been playing poker full time since 1990, and I learn or relearn something every time I watch one of their videos.
PTP: Do you have any plans to expand your coaching offerings into the video format?
Yes. My next project is going to be a video series at DeucesCracked called “The Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment.” I am going to coach my friend Cactus Jack through dozens of topics, both betting decisions and other poker decisions. Jack is a full-time pro who only recently quit his job. The audio will be Jack and I talking. The video will be text and images and who knows what. It’s mostly blank canvas right now.
PTP: I’ve heard more than a few fellow players describe your book as having a transformative impact on their game. Are there any books that had a similar impact on you as a player?
Yes. I was transformed into being an informed dreamer when I read “Poker: A Guaranteed Income for Life” by Frank Wallace in the early 80’s. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a poker pro someday. In 1987, I read “Hold’em for Advanced Players” by Sklansky and Malmuth. Three years later I went pro. I read Doyle Brunson’s “Super System” in the early 90’s and that was a huge help. Next was “Zen and the Art of Poker” by Larry Phillips, which I read in the late 90’s. It had an instant and permanently beneficial effect on me. And then came the “Killer Poker” series of poker articles by my favorite poker writer, John Vorhaus. Those articles, and also articles by Mike Caro, were written with attitude, humor, and style. They made me want to become a poker writer. And they covered hundreds of topics besides betting, and that helped me to see the forest.
PTP: There is an incredible array of material covered in your book. Do you have a favorite part?
Yes. My favorite child is element #144: “A Process of Illumination.” I ended the book on my strongest theme, that poker is inevitably painful, which makes it a great place to practice the transformation of suffering into bliss.