Author David Apostolico, at the minimum, has an excellent respect of history and those who have helped to shape it. He also brings twenty five years of poker experience along with his knowledge of history and his writing talents to his contributions to poker literature. By combining those talents, he has contributed two poker books to the masses, his initial effort "Tournament Poker And The Art Of War" and the recently released "Machiavellian Poker Strategy."
In my previous review of "Tournament Poker," I wasn't particularly pleased with Apostolico's efforts in that book. He basically took the writings and philosophies of the legendary Chinese general Sun-Tzu from the groundbreaking military manual "The Art Of War" and simply applied them to the workings of tournament poker. He rarely emphasized these ideas with examples from tournaments and didn't stray far from a simple rendering of Sun-Tzu's quotations and made them palatable in a tournament poker format. With the new "Machiavellian Poker Strategy," however, Apostolico seems to have found his stride and has come up with a viable poker strategy guide.
"Machiavellian Poker Strategy" takes a look at the writings of the noted 16th century Italian philosopher, politician and writer Niccolo Machiavelli and applies these theories to working a poker table, be it a ring game or tournament. Machiavelli is most noted for his treatise on governments and how rulers should lead their subjects, which he demonstrated in his groundbreaking work "The Prince." Where Apostolico made several mistakes with "Tournament Poker," he seems to have corrected them when he created "Machiavellian Poker Strategy."
In "Machiavellian Poker Strategy," Apostolico has moved away from simply quoting his historical sources and actually attempted to demonstrate how using the mindset of the literary "Prince" that Machiavelli wrote his document for can be of valuable use for the poker player of today. Through the analysis of Machiavelli's writings on Virtu (a combination of strength, skill and other abilities), Fortune, Power and Free Will, Apostolico has aptly demonstrated how to utilize these and other segments of Machiavelli's thoughts to improve a poker player's game at the tables and how to implement these thoughts as well. He corrected what I felt was one of the lapses in "Tournament Poker" by using his own experiences (among others) in ring game and tournaments and they are plenty of these examples throughout the book, which helps tremendously in getting the points of "Machiavellian Poker Strategy" across.
I also liked how Apostolico emphasized the usage of Statesmanship and Human Nature (the actual titles of two chapters in his book) from Machiavelli's work. He emphasized the theories of maintaining an amicable presence at the tables allows you to extract more from your opponents (i.e. your subjects) through the usage of passages from "The Prince." These two chapters were excellent in how to deal with your opponents and emphasized that through benevolent but ruthless and strong usage of your position as leader of the table you can increase your power and, thus, rule effectively while not upsetting your opponents.
While I did not think "Tournament Poker" was a solid book, I did like that it placed you in a particular mindset for approaching a poker tournament. The same can be said as well for "Machiavellian Poker Strategy." By reading the book, you are placed in the mindset of a general or political ruler and are shown that approaching the card room should be looked at much in the same way those leaders approached the battlefields and their constituents. Much like warfare and politics, poker is not a game for a follower and, much like Machiavelli's original work and "Machiavellian Poker Strategy" suggest, it is the strong leader who eventually wins out in the political world and the poker tables in the long run.
"Machiavellian Poker Strategy" overall is an excellent addition to a poker player's library for the mindset it advances as well as the implementation of that mindset at the tables. While it may not be as heavy on focusing on tournaments as his earlier work, Apostolico has made significant advancements in taking literary and historical lessons and applying them to the poker world of today. "Machiavellian Poker Strategy" allows one to expand their game and their poker philosophy by the implementation of a solid strategy and mentality used almost 500 years ago that is still used by the greatest leaders in the world today. Having both this book and "Tournament Poker" for their full impact would potentially be the best way to go but, if only one is to be on your bookshelf, it would have to be "Machiavellian Poker Strategy."
Ed Note: If Machiavelli were alive, he surely would be playing at Paradise Poker sign up today.