Friday, July 24, 2009

Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon! by John Fox

'Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon!' by John Fox (1977)When in Vegas this summer I did get a chance one afternoon to visit the Gamblers Book Shop again. The store has a new location since my last visit, having moved from its previous spot over on 11th Street near Charleston Blvd. to a smallish strip mall over on E. Tropicana Ave. The new store has just about everything the old one did, although I missed the room full of old magazines and used books which didn’t make the trip.

I bought one book while there, one with kind of a historical value as far as poker literature goes. The book is by John Fox and is called Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon! or The Complete Psychology, Mathematics and Tactics of Winning Poker.

When one opens the cover, the title page looks like it might have been patterned after the title pages of 17th- or 18th-century British novels and satires, extending on and on down the page: Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon! or Play Poker With “The Fox,” or Poker for the Greedy Player, or The Complete Guide to Winning Poker, or Poker: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why, or The Secrets of a Professional Poker Player, or The Mathematics Professor Plays Draw Poker, or How to Be the Best Poker Player on Your Block (or the World), or Draw Poker Tactics and the Science of Behavioral Deductions, or How You Can Make a Living Playing Casino Poker, or How to Win at Poker Without Being Really Lucky, or A Brief Outline of Some of the More Fundamental Aspects of Draw Poker (in 600 Pages).

Fox’s book was first published in 1977, and as that long version of the title indicates the game on which it focuses is five-card draw. However, though much of the strategy discussed concerns that largely outmoded game, the majority of the book concerns psychological issues, with lots of specific pointers regarding tells, projecting an image, various strategems to elicit desired responses from opponents, and other advice not necessarily specific to draw poker.

Title page of John Fox's 'Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon!'As that long version of the title also probably suggests, Fox is quite the humorist, and employs a witty, engaging style throughout, peppering his discussions with funny anecdotes (some of which are laugh-out-loud hilarious) and what he calls “stratefices,” a word he invented to refer to “a tricky, extremely useful, carefully selected, profound, and more than a little underhanded maxim, principle, or rule.” When introducing the word, he explains its etymology in detail, claiming it combines elements of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit, “in keeping with the learned nature of this erudite tome.”

The book was self-published, and has all the quirky, unexpected shifts in typeface, spacing, and sometimes erratic copy editing one might expect. Like I say, the book kind of reminds me of an old British satire, what with all of the digressions, the pseudo-academic apparatus, and other idiosyncracies -- including the author’s sort-of-crazy-sounding persona. For those who are familiar, think Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy or Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a Tub.

Fox’s book has a definite historical importance in poker literature, appearing a couple of years before Doyle Bruson’s Super/System and seven years before Mike Caro’s Book of Tells. Arnold Snyder, whose Poker Tournament Formula books I’ve recommended here before, speaks highly of Fox’s discussions of the psychology of poker and bluffing both in Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon! and in Fox’s second book, How to Hustle Home Poker (1981).

Says Snyder, Fox’s discussions “are truly exceptional,” adding that Fox’s first book “truly is in a class by itself as poker books go.” Snyder also points out how some of the “old timers I’ve talked with told me when Fox’s book first came out in 1977, it was viewed by many of the top players as a groundbreaking book on the game that did for poker what Ed Thorp’s Beat the Dealer did for blackjack.”

Snyder also commends Fox for the way he understands the relevance of mathematical probabilities in poker -- that is to say, knowing odds and frequencies are important, but not everything, and in some cases of no relevance whatsoever. Such a position provides fuel for Snyder in his ongoing fight with the “math heads” -- Mason Malmuth and David Sklansky. (I might come back to discussing this conflict in a post next week, actually.)

John Fox (center) in a photo from Mike Caro's 'Book of Tells'Caro acknowledges Fox in his Book of Tells, and in fact Fox appears in one of the photographs in Caro’s book (see left) in which he’s shown doing a poor job concealing his hand from the player to his right.

If you are interested in learning more about John Fox and his Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep Till Noon!, the poker author John Vorhaus wrote a three-part series of columns for Card Player about the book last spring, titled “The Ageless Wisdom of John Fox.” The first two parts are available online (Part I, Part II), but I am not seeing the third installment, which appeared in the March 31, 2009 issue (Vol. 22, No. 6) -- apparently it didn’t make the cut for the online archive for that issue.

Anyhow, like Snyder and Vorhaus, I recommend Fox’s book as both an entertaining and useful read -- if you can find it, that is. It has long been out of print, and I’m seeing copies online being offered for $100 or more. I know the Gamblers Book Shop had a couple more on their shelves for considerably less than that, if yr really interested.

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Blogger Lucypher said...

I read the Vorhaus articles.
Mr. Fox definitely seems to be an interesting character and worth a read. Thanks.

7/24/2009 12:38 PM  
Blogger FC said...

I absolutely loved this book back in the day. for some reason I was just randomly searching for this again recently.

as you can probably tell from my site, I am something of a 5 card draw poker nut but we all have our crosses to bear :-)

2/21/2014 3:58 PM  

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