Author: Neil Strauss
Softcover: 452 pages
Publisher: Regan Books|Harper Collins
First published 2005
ISBN: 0 06 055473 8

As much as it pains me, I'll be honest: I got the book wanting to know the secrets, to have the power. I don't have it now. It's part of my personal, ongoing thread about learning how to be effective in social situations. And the previews of The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists made it seem like this was a well-written how-to manual.

When I first removed it from the amazon.com packaging I was amazed at the chutzpah of the book designers. The first printing is Yapp style, bound in faux-leather black softback and rounded, gilt edges, with a spine-bound red ribbon bookmark. That's right—it looked just like a bible. So it must be a how-to manual, right? But I quickly learned that this was less the explanatory how-to book I expected than a narrative. The tone gets set really early in the book. Just after the title is the following irony-laden dedication.

    Dedicated to the thousands of people I talked to in bars, clubs, malls, airports, grocery stores, subways, and elevators over the last two years. If you are reading this, I want you to know that I wasn't running game on you. I was being sincere. Really. You were different.

Inside, each chapter begins with a white-on-black pithy quote relating to the events in the section, and an incongruous illustration featuring Strauss (megalomania, anyone?) in some straight-out-of-an-RPG-corebook situation with a Hot Babe or two. The chapter numbers are represented as dice.

The narrative

The story is about Strauss' personal journey into (and out of) the inter-networked society of pickup artists (PUAs). In it we meet a cast of obsessed and unstable ex-geeks overcompensating for their prior lack of social skills by working together to trade techniques and help each other in the field, i.e., trying to pick up chicks. We also meet some celebrities: Scott Baio (whose girl gets picked up from under him), Heidi Fleiss (who competes with our protagonist in a way you can't imagine), Andy Dick (who hits on our protagonist), Paris Hilton (who gets "number closed" by a secondary character, meaning he got her contact info), Britney Spears and Tom Cruise (whose interviews by Strauss are suspiciously flattering), and Courtney Love (who lives for awhile in the L.A. house-that-PUAs-built.)

It follows a deep structure resonant with Fight Club and Illusions:

  1. Inspired genius carves his own path from student to mastery
  2. word spreads
  3. the word is misinterpreted
  4. genius becomes disillusioned
  5. genius quits his path (in this case, for something better)

The secrets

Some pickup secrets are actually included in the book, but they're dispersed throughout, where they fit into the narrative. Some are mentioned but never elucidated. (I'm still waiting for explication of the October Man sequence.) What content you can sift out isn't complete or entirely instructive. And few of the deep patterns are original to Strauss, just his particular routines. He openly acknowledges the sources on which he and the other PUAs build, most notably the Mystery Method and Ross Jeffries' take on NLP called Speed Seduction, though there are others. Since I was there for the content, I'll lay some of the important bits out from you, using the book sections, which are cleverly named for the steps in Strauss' method. Note that some of this can be quickly gathered from the glossary at the end, though it lacks the revealing context of the story.

Note that I'm fully aware of the some of the ethical problems involved in some of this behavior. So, while it might be bad that some guys end up using these techniques in unethical ways, there's the balancing fact that I'm also equipping girls with the awareness of these techniques to know when they're getting played. Forewarned is forearmed.

On the routines:
Strauss goes into details when discussing the "routines", the highly scripted bits of planned conversation to get and maintain a target's interest. I've not listed these here, though they're charming and sometimes awe-inspiring. The reason is that, as openers, they'll lose all power if the targets have heard them before, so you don't want to use any that were, say, published in a book that made the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, you'll be exposed for the player you are. Much better to carry the principles around and invent openers on the spot. This is more challenging, probably more fun, and it seems a little more honest.

On the language:
I have decided to stick to the military-like terms used in the book, like "target" and "extract". This maintains the feel of the how PUAs think of their behavior and should garner an appropriate response from the reader.

  1. Homework
    OK, this is not a section in the book, but in listing the techniques I identified this as critical things you need to do to build your alpha maleness. Doing these things, along with practicing the technique, will boost your confidence and attractiveness.
    • Get some exercise.
    • Get well-groomed: Get a tan, your hair cut, your teeth whitened, and some nice clothes.
    • Distance yourself from people who reinforce any negative traits of yours—those energy vampires who reward you for them or those who pressure you to retain them when you begin to change.
    • Include at least one item (preferably more) in your ensemble every time you go out that is outrageous and garish. Think plumed hats. Think LED-sign belt buckles. Think platform shoes. Like a peacock tail, this gives the target something to notice, something to discuss if she's interested, and at an abstract level, an honest pronouncement about your desire for attention.
    • Get or develop a sense of humor.
    • Learn what interests women. Read through a number of women's magazines to pick out the patterns and build your Demonstration of Value routines (see below) around these patterns. Practice a number of skills that work well in the contexts you expect to be sarging (picking up women). Characters in the book learn magic tricks, cold reading, handwriting analysis, divination (people love to hear about themselves), and practiced, charming stories.
    • Note that for every ideal step, something can and will go wrong. Anticipate contingencies. Deconstruct unanticipated obstacles the next time they occur.
    • Build a prop bag of items that you will use in routines and to neg your target. And if you full-close, you'll need some other equipment, too, like condom and lube packets. Take this with you.
  2. Select a Target
    • Characters in the book rank Hot Babes (HBs) on a scale of 1-10. By the end of the book Strauss and his buddies are using a shorthand, like HB8, letting you know the level of objectification they had attained. As a matter of male sexual competition, they brag up the bar such that no one goes after a "target" less than HB9, and this is strictly based on physical features.
  3. Approach and Open
    • Once you identify a target, you have three seconds to make your move. Any longer than that, and you'll stress yourself out of the approach, and/or she'll think you're creepy staring dude.
    • Ignore that inner voice feeding you self-doubt, hesitation and fear. Name it, acknowledge it, ignore it.
    • When approaching, never approach directly from behind, because it seems too creepy. Never approach directly from ahead as it seems too confrontational. The best, least creepy and least threatening approaches are from 10 and 2 o' clock.
    • Don't let the set have the option of physically closing you out. Work your way quickly but naturally into a position where they cannot just turn around to end conversation.
    • Open with a seeming innocuous question: most often this is asking for an opinion on a minor question on which you and a friend disagree.
    • Early on, mention a false time constraint to quell the unspoken fear in the target that you're going to be a burden who will need shaking. This will create comfort on her part, and if you find no indicators of interest, you can refer to it at any time to make your departure.
    • Alternately, make a false social constraint that makes her feel safe. In the book characters use, "If I weren't gay you would be so mine." But I'm sure there are others that would work if you think hard enough. Oh, and a charming, unethical workaround for these lies is to remind yourself: It's not lying. It's flirting.
    • Don't introduce yourself. This sets you apart as confident. It also means that they'll have to introduce themselves, and they'll only do that when they're interested.
    • Adhering to the NLP tenet that there is no failure only feedback, practice opening sets (groups of people, one of whom is the target) time and time again until it becomes routine and you are no longer afraid of rejection. One ambitious character tries to open 100 sets in a day. He beats this number, finds it exhilarating freeing, and advises others do the same.
  4. Demonstrate Value
    • Don't pay immediate attention to the target. First gain the approval, respect, and attention of the group she is with to demonstrate value. Once she realizes this, it will pique her interest. Especially if you...
    • ...Neg the target at first. This means passing backhanded compliments and light insults her way. Since her group is already interested in you, she'll get a little ruffled that you don't like her. A little ruffled means a little interested in gaining your approval, since you're the center of attention.
    • If she shows interest but then withdraws it, shut her out. Excuse yourself to talk to some friends, or regain the attention and laughter of her set. Make her earn your attention back. Know and act that you are the prize.
    • Since people are swayed by social demonstrations of value (read as our mammalian herding instinct: others think so, so it must be true), make sure to have your "wing man" (guy who came with you and knows your tricks) or "pivot" (gal doing the same) walk by and say, "hey" and back you up in some way. This also gives you an excuse to exercise your false time or social constraint if you want to get out of there.
    • Ask of the set "How do you know each other?" at some point to find out if the target is available. If she's taken, enjoy a little "fluffer talk" afterward and then excuse yourself. (This doesn't stop some of the less ethical PUAs. Some even consider it a greater—and more fun—challenge to pick up a target that has a husband or boyfriend.) (And note that "fluffer" in this context doens't mean fluffer in the porn industry context.)
  5. Disarm the Obstacles
    • Watch out for other alpha males in the group (AMOGs). Learn to quickly neg these guys to the target.
    • Watch how girls signal each other when to leave an AFC (average frustrated chump) and pass these same signals to them about the AMOG.
  6. Isolate the Target
    • At an opportune moment, note to the set that you feel bad that you've been ignoring their friend (the target). Ask the permission of the set if you can have a little alone time with her. They'll say sure, if it's ok with her. Use a false time constraint (this can include participation in a simple activity with a definite end, like a palm reading or picking out a song on the jukebox if there's one) to make her feel safe.
    • Lead her through the crowd by the hand to a quieter location. Squeeze it once midway and see if she squeezes back. If she does, it's another IOI.
  7. Create an Emotional Connection
    • Phase shift by lowering your voice and slowing the pace of your conversation. Use some visualization routines to prime her for positive emotions.
    • Elicit values (an NLP trick) to find what matters to the target.
    • Use NLP anchors to associate yourself with things the target finds attractive. Repeat the anchors to reinforce your value.
    • Watch for three indicators of interest (IOIs. Have you noticed that PUAs love acronyms?) Indicators include asking your name, your job (never tell the truth, you're seducing, not interviewing), the hand squeeze test mentioned earlier, and target-initiated physical contact. Another is to stop talking at some point and let her re-initiate conversation. At the third IOI...
    • Go for the "kiss close," in which you ask, "Would you like to kiss me?" Outcomes: "Yes," you're in, kiss. "Maybe," respond, "Let's find out," and kiss. "No," reply, "I wasn't going to let you. You just looked like you had something on your mind."
    • Create a time distortion by taking her on one or more instant dates where you leave your original venue and visit others such as another club or all night diner. (Though Strauss doesn't mention it I'm reminded that Leil Lowdnes instructs you to use "we" earlier in conversation than you ordinarily would for the same effect.) This will make her feel as if she's known you longer than she really has, increasing trust.
    • If you're not going to full close that night, ask something like, "I'd really like to continue this. But what steps can we take to keep going?" This makes her offer her information, as if it was her idea. She is much less likely to give it to you if you ask for it directly.
  8. Extract to a Seduction Location
    • Once you have the opportunity to get her to your place, have props nonchalantly around your place to spark conversations, and demonstration of value reinforcements. For example, leave a guitar around and play her a song when asked. Have a puppy and play with it a bit. If this is a second date, use your prior knowledge to sharpen these cues for interaction.
    • Note that it is much easier to get a girl back into your place than to get her there in the first place. If you can get her to come up to your place at the beginning of a date for a very quick, safe, constrained visit, the place will feel safer to her later on.
    • If you walk her to her house or hotel, ask to use the bathroom to get in.
  9. Pump "Buying Temperature"
    • Physically escalate the situation by making one step back for every two steps you make forward. For instance, you smell her hair, you rub her shoulder. When she responds, pull away a bit and grab a drink or something. It keeps the target guessing and intrigued.
    • Use an intense visualization technique to prime her for physical sensation. Don't make these overtly sexual.
    • Use fast-paced routines that don't leave the target much time for thinking, which means for resisting.
  10. Make a Physical Connection
    • Invite her for at least one activity that will put you into physical contact. Shoulder rubs are mentioned as a good, if common, way.
  11. Blast Last-Minute Resistance
    • Prime her to say yes by asking a series of questions to which you'll know she says yes before asking her the real question to which you want her to respond yes. This makes her much more likely to say yes than if you hadn't done this. This is called the "yes ladder."
    • Based on the premise that few girls want to be thought of as a slut, slag, or easy, you must anticipate her resistances and have responses prepared. Example: "But we just met." Reply, "I was just thinking that, too. But it feels so natural I'm just going with it." Then continue what you were doing.
  12. Manage Expectations
    • Before the full close, but after you have pumped buying temperature, be honest but vague about what level of commitment you're expecting and offering, which is, presumably, very little.

So.

Ultimately, the book is an entertaining read, but after I closed the book I felt that I had been suckered into an OK narrative by a promise of a how-to that was never quite delivered. A good narrative, but still, I was suckered.

To his credit, he deals frankly and well about the deeply negative, soul-losing aspects of this strange journey he's gone through. But since the end moral—this power is not what's important—lacks any real virtue since it's spoken by someone who's acquired the power, in the end it feels unfulfilling as both. Kind of like....you know...you've been picked up, used, and dumped.

Read it because it's easy and modern and good innoculation against known routines. If you're looking for a better narrative about seduction, pick up Les Liaisons Dangereux. If you're looking for a how-to on pickups...well, I'm still looking, but my prior noded The Art of Seduction seems a more explanatory place to start.

And good luck.


To those ladies and boy outies who may be wondering, I have no idea how this translates to dudes. Rest assured, I'm thinking about it.

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