Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Barry Tanenbaum (1945-2011)

Barry TanenbaumI noticed a few days ago that Lee Jones had started a thread over in Two Plus Two reporting that Barry Tanenbaum had fallen ill. Sadly, the Card Player columnist, author, and friend to many in the poker community passed away yesterday.

Recent Poker Hall of Fame inductee Linda Johnson has written a nice piece on the Card Player site about Tanenbaum. There you’ll find one of Tanenbaum’s many friends sharing details of his endearing personality and his talents as a poker player and teacher.

He was a winner. In many respects.

As someone who only barely knew Tanenbaum, I haven’t a lot to add to Johnson’s remembrance, although I do have one small story to share.

Like many, I got to know Tanenbaum through his articles in Card Player, of which there are well over 100. For a long time I was primarily a limit hold’em player, and since his pieces were always focused on LHE I routinely turned to them whenever a new issue of the magazine arrived. I also always enjoyed his appearances on podcasts, including Lou Krieger’s Keep Flopping Aces. Thus was I especially glad to see him bring forth a book collecting his wisdom in late 2007, Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy.

It was Tanenbaum’s second poker strategy book, technically -- he’d collaborated before with a couple of others titled Limit Hold’em: Winning Short-Handed Strategies -- but this was the first solely devoted to his own ideas and thinking about LHE. I read the book from cover to cover, then reread to absorb further the advice it contained. Looking back at my records, this was actually my most profitable period playing online, and I know it wasn’t a coincidence I was spending a lot of time then with Tanenbaum’s columns and book.

It wasn’t long after that I began to review poker books for PokerNews, and when I proposed writing a review of Tanenbaum’s book to my editor, Haley Hintze, she said she thought that was a good idea.

It was a challenging book to review, given that its primary audience were the middle- and high-stakes LHE players against whom Tanenbaum often played. Indeed, the book begins with disclaimers about it not being for beginners, and while I wasn’t that, I was hardly one who could reasonably sit down at those $30/$60 and $40/$80 LHE games (or higher) and expect to succeed.

'Advanced Limit Hold'em Strategy' (2008) by Barry TanenbaumBut I knew I had gotten a great deal from the book, and so in my review explained how I believed it was of value to players of all stakes. I also tried to get across this central idea that Tanenbaum wasn’t so much teaching players a particular style but rather was trying get them to understand (and improve upon) whatever style they already played.

As Tanenbaum explains, his intention wasn’t to write a how-to book that told players what to play when, but rather to teach LHE players how better to think about the game. “I am trying to improve your game, not give you one,” he writes.

You can check out the review for a full summary of what the book covers as well as other ideas I had about what Tanenbaum is up to in Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy.

Sometime after the review went up, I received a very nice email from Tanenbaum thanking me for it. We ended up exchanging a few messages in which he complimented me for having understood the book and successfully gotten its message across in the review.

As I mentioned, I’d been a little apprehensive about writing the review. It was among the first I had written for PokerNews, actually, so I was especially grateful to get such feedback from the author. (I’d continue to review books for PN until the summer of 2009; they’ve since gotten others to write reviews for them.)

It will happen from time to time that after reviewing a book I’ll hear from the author, but rarely do we get beyond a simple thank-you-and-you’re-welcome. But with Tanenbaum our exchange was more substantive and meaningful -- something I suspect most who knew him would say was the case in their interactions with him, too.

I think it was the following spring (2009) that Vera and I visited Las Vegas for a dressage show, the big World Cup that used to come to LV every other year. I remember talking with Tanenbaum a few times over the phone during that visit. His wife also rode horses, and I think we had an extra ticket to one of the sessions and were talking about perhaps giving it to her, but the plan fell through.

Tanenbaum had a website and fairly popular forum, too, where I participated occasionally and continued to interact with both him and others. And we stayed in touch a bit over email as well. I remember at some point providing him some .mp3s of some podcasts on which he had appeared that I had saved, but it has been awhile since our last exchange of messages.

Anyhow, like I say the story of my interactions with Tanenbaum is a relatively small one, but I wanted to share it today as further testament of his friendliness as well as his being one of those “poker people” who always welcomed newcomers into the game in a variety of ways.

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Blogger Shrike said...

Sad news. I also participated on that forum and have a signed copy of his book (from when I met him in Vegas a couple of years ago). He'll be missed.


11/23/2011 11:19 AM  
Blogger bellatrix78 said...

Barry was one of the few Cardplayer authors that did not post weak-tight advice on his column (lolroycooke anyone?) and for that I am grateful. May he rest in peace.

12/22/2011 11:45 AM  

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