|Author: James McKenna
Publisher: Lyle Stuart
Pub. Date: June 2005
Mike Caro did the ground breaking work in books about poker tells, going into great detail about body movements and actions at the table. Michael Schoonmaker ‘s book from 2000, “The Psychology Of Poker,” dealt more specifically with motivations and how that effected play. In the book, “Beyond Tells: Power Poker Strategies,” James A. McKenna tries to expand on the topics of Caro and Schoonmaker by utilizing his own area of expertise. He is not a highly accomplished poker player like so many poker authors, but he has a background in psychology and tries to use his knowledge of human instincts and thinking to explain what happens in the poker game.
McKenna breaks down poker players into several different categories based on their personality, which, he says, determines the way they play the game. Much of the book is not so much a description of poker players as it is an analysis of overall personality types. At times, it seems to be more of an academic treatise than anything that will help you play the game. In fact, the first half of the book is pretty much just about psychology and not much about poker. That part of McKenna’s work is giving out the information which he then applies to poker in the second half of the book.
McKenna uses his knowledge of psychology to define the various types of players found at the table. While Schoonmaker’s book described four personality types, McKenna goes further and lists six types. Not only does he differentiate aggressive players from conservative players, he also divides each of these groups into subgroups. He goes into detail describing the extreme players of each style, with ample psychological analysis of their personalities. The extremely tight players, he says, are society’s “loners,” while the very loose players he describes as in need of constant action, the “party hardy” people.
McKenna then gives details about how each type of personality will reveal itself at the poker table. He shows how they display their “tells-” the information about their hand that they give away at the table. This is the area which Mike Caro has dealt with in great detail in both his books and videos, but McKenna doesn’t just describe the signals the players give, he tries to explain how each individual’s actions are based on their personality type. As in most poker books, McKenna gives many examples of what to look for, describing the tells that players might reveal depending on the cards and the stage of the hand.
After reading the nearly 200 pages of “Beyond Tells: Power Poker Strategies,” the basic premise of the book should become clear: once you’ve gotten a good idea of the personality type of your opponents, the tells become easier to spot.