Kill Phil - Blair Rodman & Lee Nelson

Price: £13, Copyright: 1981, Pages: 111
Rating: 6
Review by snoopy
Submitted by: snoopy on Fri, 17/02/2006 - 1:52am

Hellmuth may be the most nefarious Phil in poker, but to assume that 'Kill Phil' is centred around any wish to murder the poker brat would be excessively presumptuous. In fact, the name 'Phil' refers to all those sharks preying on the countless rookies who now swarm the major tournaments. This book is therefore predominantly designed for the up-and-comer, one who is merely aware of the basics and unable to match the skill possessed by the professional player.

Kill Phil's acclaimed authors are Blair Rodman and Lee Nelson, both of whom boast extensive tournament experience. Within 222 pages, the two experts suggest various strategies for taking on the Phils of poker, siting specific techniques that can be used to minimise the effect of the pro's superior skill level.

The Kill Phil strategy is divided into four main segments; Rookie, Basic, Basic Plus, and Expert. As we progress through each section, we learn more and more ways of counteracting the skill and experience advantage of the professionals. These can vary from limiting their post flop play, to feigning weakness through fake tells. The theory is that by making these plays, you can limit their choices, make them fear the luck factor, and generally show them that you aren't prepared to be bullied off pots.

After an ego-massaging foreword from Hellmuth and a rather unnecessarily lengthy introduction, we stumble upon Kill Phil Rookie. Here, the premise is simple. If you find a hand, you move in, no frills, no messing around, just pure stack shoving. The idea is to limit the Phil's options by overbetting and pushing big hands as early as possible. This approach is really only for those who have little or no confidence in their ability to outplay an opponent. If you are brave enough to confess to such a lack of know-how, then this technique is probably your best chance of survival.

After what many poker veterans will see as a somewhat tedious chapter, we eventually move on to Kill Phil Basic. Although the basis of play still revolves around a reluctance to play flops, we are now encouraged to consider aspects such as position, the cost to play a round, and bet size. We are also introduced to our first trap play, the check raise, but we are still asked to adhere to the all-in policy. The message is that, whenever we make our move, we must put the Phil to a decision for all his chips. This is a situation that they would rather avoid, and so gives the amateur his best chance of staying alive.

The next step, Kill Phil Basic Plus, requires us to take on board even more skills. Stack sizes, table image, and avoiding traps are all accounted for with table composition and player image also being thrown into the melting pot. It is within this section that we really start to modify the black and white playing style preached in earlier sections. Rodman and Lee hint that if you have reached this far, then you're capable of playing a more intelligent game, perhaps thinking more about why you are making your decision, rather than just acting habitually.

The final approach is that of Kill Phil Expert. Within this section it is assumed that you have accrued all the skills preached in previous chapters and are able to develop a more advanced understanding of the game. For some, the jump from Basic Plus to Expert may be too large too comprehend. Whilst the former remains focused on a tight patient style, the latter discusses complex strategies that are shared by many of the Phils. Tactical plays such as pushing rags with multiple limpers, defending against mini-raises, and when to steal the blinds are heavily emphasised. The authors still acknowledge inferiority to the Phils, but they make you aware of some of the ploys that they utilise so frequently. We therefore finally start to think about our opponents hand, rather than just our own.

The Expert section is also where we learn of the psychological side of poker. Conveying strength, feigning weakness and reverse tells are all highlighted. The readers are not only urged to be aware of these tendencies, but also encouraged to put them into practice themselves. For example, as it is noted that an inexperienced sigh equates to weakness, Rodman and Lee advocate sighing when bluffing, so as to induce the Phil into passing. This is one of the rare occasions where the authors' advice is designed to outwit the Phil, using to the reader's advantage his or her seemingly rookie status. The book on a whole is very much concerned with accepting inferiority and looking for ways to nullify the skill advantage of the Phils.

After taking on board the information incorporated into the Kill Phil strategy, chapter 11 puts it all into practice, showing the reader how each lesson can be implemented within a specific tournament scenario. It is here that the usefulness of what can sometimes seem like an overly simplistic method, suddenly becomes apparent. This turns out to be a very enjoyable segment and one which may help the advanced reader acknowledge the effectiveness of the techniques being used.

Finally, but previous to the standard drivel of appendices, is a section called 'Attitudes and Latitudes'. This chapter is accessible to rookies and experts alike and highlights controversial topics such as luck, poker ethics and penalties. Of particular interest are the discussions on the rules of poker and the potential manipulation of what is identified as a vulnerable part of the game. Whether it's stalling, under-raising, or playing out of turn, they're all frowned upon by the authors, who condemn those who employ such underhand tactics.

Overall, Kill Phil is a very intriguing read. Whether you're a complete rookie or an experienced veteran, this book should be of vast interest. Whilst amateurs will be handed a tool for combating the Phils, the expert will be made aware of some of the dynamic and aggressive styles being adopted by the young guns of poker. Grumbling at their overbets and criticising the overuse of an all-in manoeuvre has always been self-defeating. This book, however, attempts to explain the motivation behind such seemingly reckless play.

What is highly beneficial is the ability to commence your reading from the chapter that runs parallel with your own individual skill level. With most books, the advanced player has to search for sprinklings of information, whilst being forced to plough through regurgitated teachings. Here however, if you don't wish to struggle through the early Kill Phil chapters, you can move straight into Kill Phil Expert.

What initially worried me about the book was that it could be advertising a negative way of playing and may ultimately hinder people's ambitions to ever reach the levels of the Phils. To simply accept inferiority is perhaps worthwhile at first, but, in the long-run, could eventually prevent you from developing into a top class player.

Another gripe I had was the authors' constant repetition of 'Avoid complicated situations' and 'Phils hate preflop all-ins'. Two perfectly acceptable statements, but echoed on too numerous an occasion. Reading the same comment over and over again can become immensely tedious and may turn you off from what is otherwise a fluent and vibrant read.

To conclude, Kill Phil offers an original and refreshing angle on poker literature. Few books advocate such simplistic tactics, but in favouring all-ins and overbets, Kill Phil establishes feasible techniques in toppling those players whose skills are superior. The problem is that whilst the amateur is able to lessen the effect of the chasm in skill levels, he in turn will pick up bad habits and be too eager to accept his inferiority. Therefore, the book needs to be used as a point of reference, rather than a way of honing your skills. It can teach you how to best take on the pros, but it will never allow you to play at their level.

I give it 6 blonde stars out of 10.

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