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What a relief to find a new book which treats poker as a game. There has been a surfeit of tedious technical manuals over recent years, analysing probabilities down to three places of decimals. Such books may be mathematically sound but have absolutely nothing to say about poker as fun, as one of life's more pleasurable activities. Poker: How to Win at the Great American Game, by David A Daniel, tilts the balance back where it ought to be, in favour of the myriad enthusiastic down-home players who enjoy a weekly joust with friends, as distinct from competing in the grind of casino card-rooms.

Poker is fun but it is also about money, and there is no escaping that fact. Money, as everyone knows, is how you keep score. My well-tried advice to people who do not care to win money off their friends is that it's a hell of a lot less painful than losing money to your friends. This is a book, the author declares, about how to be a winner at poker realistically "as a happy, healthy and whole human being, and not in the fashion of some cartoon superhero".

Poker friends are a special group. "You know them; you know what they do for a living; you know how much money they make; you may even know their families. You like them, or you don't like them ... you probably don't socialise much outside the game. There's a kind of code, an understood agreement here, that develops among the players in a regular game ... that the players are `poker friends'." The rule is: at the table, bet 'em up! In short, there are friends whom you play serious poker with, and friends you don't.

The mathematical side of the game is not overlooked or dismissed in David Daniel's well thought out and timely book. But what the author concentrates on is people math, not card math. "And people math is the only kind that really counts because it's the only one that's variable." Maths itself is simple. Judging the opponent, finding his or her "percentage", is the hard part.

`Poker: How to Win at the Great American Game' is available from Barricade Books, 150 Fifth Avenue, Suite 700, New York, NY10011, price $24.95 plus postage.