Poker Book Club #3: Jaime Staples on The Truth Detective

The Truth Detective Alex O'Brien book jacket
Jaime Staples
Posted on: April 03, 2024 14:39 PDT

The 2024 Poker Book Club continues and Jaime will bring you his thoughts on each book here, but it’s never too late to join the club yourself.

Each book will have its own thread on Discord, where you can read and discuss with others. You can read as much or as little as you want – it’s the taking part that counts – and the community is growing all the time. Get involved here. The next book is Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo.


Book #3: The Truth Detective by Alex O'Brien

Our next book in The Poker Book Club was The Truth Detective by Alex O’Brien. 

This is one of the newest releases in the world of poker and has a lot of the industry behind it. Everyone wants it to succeed not just because Alex is great, but also because our game has such an obvious bias in who plays. It’s refreshing to get a scientist’s view, an enthusiast’s view, a feminine view. My hope, and I think people share this sentiment, is that it can communicate to someone new: some people that may not have given poker a thought and may now find it to be the intellectually stimulating and exciting game that it is. Alex is an infectious person to engage with. I have had the opportunity to play with her on some streamed cash games and it was a lot of fun. Her enthusiasm for poker is obvious

Poker skills in the real world

This book is taking some of the skills that we use in poker and mapping them onto the real world. For total beginners, they will learn what they need to learn. This is actually one of the hardest parts of playing the game - because it’s so huge! It’s the most important first step to improving. And for anyone with experience in the game beyond an introductory level, it’s a musing on what it is we are actually doing out there. It’s like when people take something you inherently think and phrase it in a way so that you say: ‘Yeah, that's how I think about it as well, right!’ 

For example, there is discussion about trying to know our opponents on the felt and knowing people in the world. Stereotyping and how good we are at that. It highlights some of the decision-making models when it comes to our own lives: how to sus through information in this modern age where it is coming at us from all angles. What can we trust? How do we move forward and make decisions?

Alex O'Brien author image

The feeling for me when reading the book was like a conversation. I struggle to come away from the experience with a cohesive bullet point message to share with all of you. It more so reads as a great and interesting discussion you may have with a friend at a coffee shop. There are lots of case studies too - Alex speaks with academics, scientists, psychologists, magicians, communicators, statisticians, and, of course, poker players. 

Unafraid of controversy

Alex doesn’t pull any punches about her politics or views on society and its actions. She’s leftist (as am I) and there is plenty of discussion about Donald Trump, Covid-19, misinformation campaigns by the American right, and other currently divisive topics. It’s matter of fact and I tend to agree with her views, but it’s reader beware. I suspect there will be many in the poker world that would take issue with her views. This may be a good opportunity to challenge them if you are into that sort of thing, or one to avoid if you wouldn’t like that. 

Overall, I think this is a great book for the scientific and academically minded. A great book for the uninitiated as to all the amazing concepts they may find in our game - the hidden depth underneath the Hollywood marketing and the smoky backroom history. And for the enthusiasts, it's a chat about what it is we are doing out there and how it’s useful in the real world. Check it out.

Next up, we have The Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo; the first poker mental game book and, to many, the gold standard.