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Poker Book Reviews

Welcome to our poker book review section. All reviews are written by PokerForums.org members. If you would like to contribute a poker book review, please contact us.

Title: The Book of Blunders
Author: N.R. Villarreal
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Pages: 68
Rating: 3.0/10
Reviewed by: Tyler Cruz
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The Book of Blunders, written by N.R. Villarreal, attempts to cover and explain the most common mistakes and errors that poker players make.

With only 54-pages of content, The Book of Blunders resembles a pamphlet more than it does a book. It could be fully read and absorbed in 2 -4 hours depending on your reading speed and poker skill, and therefore the 54 pages seem rather steep for the $9.95 retail price.

The book assumes that readers already have basic No-Limit Hold'Em knowledge, and is written in a manner that is pretty well suited to players of all levels. N.R. Villarreal appears to have a good grasp of poker knowledge and experience, but occasionally seems to force certain disputed or strongly contested poker theories. This is not a big issue as most poker books often take a particular side, however the author often fails to inform the reader of these alternative strategies or styles.

The Book of Blunders unfortunately takes it's title perhaps a little too literally. Since I read the book from cover to cover with the intention of reviewing it, I made special notice of typos, grammatical errors, and awkward writing. After dog-earing and circling such errors, I counted a total of 13, not counting awkward or confusing sentences. While I normally could care less about such publishing mistakes, with at least 13 discovered within 54 pages by somebody who has never went to college, I must admit that it made me second guess the poker abilities of the author. While there may be no direct correlation between writing and poker ability, it still seeps into the back of your mind and makes you wonder.

That being said, The Book of Blunders does have valuable information. Some common mistakes covered include: "Not Protecting a Big Pair Pre- Flop", "Giving Drawing Hands Great Odds To Call On The Flop", "Giving Credit Too Easily", and "Bad Bluffs". The author also provides a lot of hand examples, walking the reader through the game play and thought process.

The most valuable part of the book, in my opinion, is by far the "Rule of 4 and 2". I've heard of this before but had somehow forgotten about it. This little trick, in my eyes, is an extremely powerful tool and very simple to learn. In that sense, I relearned something very valuable in this book.

To conclude, The Book of Blunders is a very small book which will help readers avoid pitfalls and common blunders. It contains some confusing and awkward writing, not to mention a plethora of typos. And at only 54-pages long, readers could save their $9.95 and put it towards a better book.

Title: The Complete Book of Hold 'Em Poker
Author: Gary Carson
Publisher: Lyle Stuart
Pages: 313
Rating: 7.0/10
Reviewed by: Tyler Cruz
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The Complete Book of Hold 'Em Poker, published in 2001 by author Gary Carson, covers almost everything you need to know about the game including playing in a casino, table and seat selection, betting theory, table image, playing for a living, and even cheating. While the book is suited for novice to experienced players, it does assume that the very basic rules of the game are already known by the readers. It is very well suited for players who know the basics of the game, but would like to learn more about poker whether it be about strategy or adjusting to game conditions.

Carson almost exclusively uses Limit Hold'Em in his examples throughout the book, which can be very deceiving if you are brand new to poker and play No Limit. Since No Limit Hold'Em has increased greatly in popularity as of late (mostly due to televised tapings of the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour), this could potentially be a problem for NL-only players if they read this book, as a lot of the strategy only applies to Limit. However, a lot of the strategy can still applied to No Limit through common sense. It is just important that the reader is aware that the strategies are for Limit games.

In terms of strategy, Carson focuses on the aspect of pot and betting odds. He also stresses the importance of selecting which tables to play on. He actually states "Game selection is the most important element of poker", which was very interesting and intriguing to me, as I've never thought about it as that important myself. It definitely made me rethink of what tables I play at.

Other goodies of Hold 'Em Poker include "Women and Poker", "The Dynamics of Game Conditions", and "Playing for a Living".

I recommend getting The Complete Book of Hold 'Em Poker. It covers a nice spectrum and shares several insights to the game that make the reading worth while.

Title: Championship No Limit & Pot Limit Hold 'Em
Author: Tom McEvoy, T.J. Cloutier
Publisher: Cardoza
Pages: 304
Rating: 8.5/10
Reviewed by: Randal Horobik
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First off, what this book is not. It is not a book for the beginner wanting to learn the basics of how to play hold’em. It is not for the low-limit cash game crowd (or any limit-game player for that matter), nor is it for people whose idea of tournament play is a loose $5+1 sit’n’go. That’s not to say folks whose primary action falls into one of these groups won’t enjoy reading the book or find some nuggets of useful strategy and ideas within its pages.

Just realize you’re not the target audience.

This is a book written for poker players taking aim at high buy-in tournaments and/or serious cash ring games. Chapters in the book cover the topics of knowing your opponents, PL strategy, winning PL tournaments, winning NL tournaments, practicing for the WSOP, NL practice hands and Tales from TJ. A chapter on NL strategy is notably missing from the above list, but that’s primarily due to the manner in which the authors weave discussion game and tournament strategy together.

Readers that have digested Brunson’s “Super System” chapters on NL will notice some subtle differences in advice on how to play certain hands. Discussions of table position and tournament position (early, middle, late, final table) abound within the book. I found it a bit odd that the book devotes more pages to PL than it does to NL, but rest assured – NL gets a very thorough treatment.

While the book’s subtitle claims that it is for tournament and cash game players, make no mistake – this is very much a tournament-oriented book. The authors do mention at places where tournament and cash game strategy might differ with certain hands or scenarios, but there’s never a doubt that this is a tournament poker book written primarily for the tournament poker player.

As for the “extras,” there are nearly 50 pages worth of practice hands and analysis to help readers discover if they’ve digested the material in the book. Most of the practice hands give multiple scenarios as well, so there’s plenty of brainwork to go around. The stories about colorful players and memorable moments which TJ has encountered in his lifetime made for good entertainment and light reading. Trust me, you don’t know the meaning of the words “bad beat” until you read the Tales from TJ section and discovered what he calls “the worst bad beat ever.”

Overall, I found this book to be an easier read than Brunson’s “Super System” or anything I’ve read by Sklansky. The analysis is superior to what is found in Hellmuth’s “Learn to Play Poker like the Pros” and is on par with the original “Super System” in terms of depth. For the frequent tournament player or those dreaming to climb the ladder into higher buy-in games, this book deserves “must have” status for your poker library.

Title: Doyle Brunson's Super System
Author: Doyle Brunson
Publisher: Cardoza Pub
Pages: 624
Rating: 9/10
Reviewed by: Evans Clinchy
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Doyle Brunson's Super System was viewed as the "Bible of Poker" when it first burst onto the scene in 1979. A lot of the secrets that poker legends like Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, and Chip Reese were using to dominate the world's biggest cash games were secrets not yet available to the aspiring players. This book paved the way for the mere mortals to begin playing like the pros.

Some of the popular games of twenty-five years ago are on the decline, and as a result the work of David Sklansky, Mike Caro, and Joey Hawthorne on High/Low Declare, Draw, and Lowball respectively is not as highly regarded. But three of Super System's chapters are still extremely useful, and any player who knows the basics of poker can shape their game into a more advanced, more aggressive style by taking the advice found in this book.

Chip Reese is considered by some to be the world's best cash game player. His advice on 7-Stud cash games is indispensible. He teaches the reader to play aggressively, but at the same time to save bets. Reese demonstrates essential skills for the limit player, like how to get free cards, how to practice deception, and how to cut down on playing unprofitable starting hands.

Bobby Baldwin, authoring the limit hold'em section immediately after winning the 1978 WSOP main event, offers excellent advice that will help the aggressive player master the game. He stresses the "big card theory," making sure that the reader tries to get the best of it before entering big pots, but at the same time urges aggression for the hands one does play. He covers the intricate details of hold'em in great detail, offering the reader a complex understanding of the game.

Once you've mastered the technical aspects of hold'em play, enter Doyle himself. Brunson encourages the reader, above all, to be a gambler. His strategy in no limit hold'em is simple: attack. Pick up the small pots left and right. Intimidate the players by never being afraid to bet. When you play like Doyle, you will be making your living not by winning the huge pots, but by picking up all the others. When he's in a big pot, Texas Dolly admits, he usually has the worst of it.

If you take Brunson's words verbatim, and follow them to the letter, you are bound to go broke. Doyle is a legend, and his style works for him; however, the best way to digest Super System is to use parts of it to adjust your game, and incorporate them into a new style, all your own. Super System is a great book, and I highly recommend it because it gets you thinking about the game of poker in new ways, but remember: to win at poker, you have to play with a style that feels comfortable to you. Buy this book, read it closely, and then adapt your game how you see fit. This book has something in it for everyone; your job is to find the style that works for you.

Title: The Theory of Poker
Author: David Sklansky
Publisher: Two Plus Two Pub.
Pages: 300
Rating: 9.5/10
Reviewed by: Andrew Boncher b0ncher@hotmail.com

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This book is about general theories and concepts of poker play, which are operative in nearly every variation of poker, from 5 card draw to Texas Hold-Em. It is not for basic rules, nor step-by-step procedures for playing the games. (Even though some are listed in the index) It teaches you, not what to do in every situation, but what to CONSIDER.

While, this book is generally aimed at limit and no-limit cash games, tournament players will also benefit. Break-even, good, and even very skilled players will benefit greatly from the higher level of thinking that Sklansky teaches.

Sklansky focuses on the ante structure, pot-odds, effective odds, implied and reverse-implied odds, the value of deception, big pots, the free card, the semi-bluff, slow-playing, game theory, position, and bluffing. He points out mistakes many players make. More importantly, he teaches us how to use these mistakes to win us more money.

What Sklansky doesn't include is any starting hand charts, or recommendations on specific hands to play. What he does add, is a glossary with a plethora of poker terms, and instructions on how to play Stud, Lowball, Draw, and Hold`em poker.

I would recommend this book to anyone that already knows the basics of one or more games and wants to learn what it takes to increase their hourly rate. I would not recommend this book to players just learning poker or players that only play for fun.

Title: The Illustrated Guide To Texas Hold'em
Author: Dennis Purdy
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 360
Rating: 9.0/10
Reviewed by: Tyler Cruz

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The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold'Em by Dennis Purdy takes an interesting new approach to teaching the game of Texas Hold'Em. 150 illustrated poker problems are presented to the reader in a clear and easy-to-follow format.

The book starts by quickly but efficiently introducing the reader to the rules of Texas Hold'Em. This is then followed up by more short but informative chapters explaining topics such as basic strategy and pot-odds, as well as providing a chart of the relative win rates for all 169 possible starting hands.

Once the reader has finished the introductory chapters and has a basic foundation and understanding of the game, they can then proceed to the illustrated problems.

Each problem uses the same format: A visual representation of the poker game is shown on the left page in a clear and easy-to-follow format. It also explains what has happened thus far in the hand and asks you what you should do. The right page contains the answer, and continues by explaining why it is correct. The book begins with very simple problems and gradually increases in difficulty as the reader treks through the 150 illustrated pages of poker problems.

It should be noted that The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold'Em uses only limit Hold'Em throughout the book.

While the tagline says "Making Winners out of Beginners and Advanced Players", it'd be better to declare that it's aimed more towards beginners only. However, it is an excellent book for for beginners, and could arguably convert a non-poker player to a decent poker player faster than any other book out on the market today.

I highly recommend The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold'Em as a tool to teach brand new poker players or beginner poker players.

Title: Internet Poker: How to Play and Beat Online Poker Games
Authors: Lou Krieger, Kathleen Keller Watterson
Publisher: Conjelco
Pages: 202
Rating: 7/10
Reviewed by: Tyler Cruz

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Internet Poker: How to Play and Beat Online Poker Games by Lou Krieger and Kathleen Keller Watterson introduces readers to the wonderful world of internet poker by covering everything from explaining how to sign up to an online poker site to legal and security concerns.

It should be strongly noted that this book covers the extreme basics of both poker strategy as well as online poker how-to's. As an experienced online player myself, I finished this book with no new knowledge gained. However, Internet Poker is geared towards players who have never played online (or even poker!) before, and thus I will continue this review with those players in mind as the main audience reading this book.

Internet Poker begins by explaining just what online poker is, including a brief history of how it evolved. It then goes on to explain the extreme basics of what poker is and how to play, basically explaining what 'chips' are, the various hand rankings, pots, side-pots and so on.

Chapter 6 and 7 make up the majority of the book, and the latter chapter is used in conjunction with demo poker software tha

t is on the CD which accompanies the book. Chapter 6 explains the rules and basic strategy of 'The Five Most Common Internet Poker Games' including: Seven Card Stud, Texas Hold'Em, Omaha High/Low Split, Omaha High, and Seven-Card Stud High/Low Split.

Readers are then asked in chapter 7 to play 125 predetermined hands on the demo software (25 hands each poker game) with the book. Readers play each hand, then read the corresponding 'follow-up' in the chapter to see if they played the hand correctly. I found this a very innovative way of learning poker, as it gives a direct hands-on approach as opposed to simply 'reading the rules', and lets you learn and play at your own pace as opposed to learning the rules by playing online.

Internet Poker goes on by explaining common online poker actions such as 'sitting out' and 'note-taking'. It finises by going over legal and security concerns, money management, and record keeping.

To summarize, Internet Poker, while not suitable for experienced online players, is a suitable and useful tool for people interested in learning how to play poker online, even if they've played in brick and mortar casinos before.

Title: The Psychology of Poker
Author: Alan N. Schoonmaker
Publisher: Two Plus Two Pub.
Pages: 330
Rating: 8.0/10
Reviewed by: Tyler Cruz

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The Psychology of Poker, by psychiatrist Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker, stands out among the masses of other poker literature in that it is one of the first (if only) poker books that revolves mainly around players' individual styles, emotions, and habits.

This rather large book, at over 300 pages, is roughly divided into two sections. The first section, albeit relatively short in length, is worth the price of the book alone. It covers a wide spectrum of poker ideologies, including: "Why Do You Play Poker?", "Reading Hands", "Understanding Tells", "Choosing the Right Games", and "Rating Players" to name just a few.

Schoonmaker repeats the phrase "Accepting responsibility for your own results" several times throughout this section, which essentially tells the reader to accept responsibility for his or her own actions, and not to blame others, luck, or any other factors. This, coupled with another section regarding denial, is perhaps the most important thing a player could ever learn from a book on any competitive game, and as a bonus, Shoonmaker goes into some underlying detail as to why we lie to ourselves.

Schoonmaker also introduces a simple yet remarkably useful tool of which to rate a player's style on. I personally used his rating scale and took advantage of the notes you can easily make on players in online poker.

The second section makes up the vast majority of the book. It is broken up into 4 sub-sections: "The Loose-Aggressive Player", "The Loose- Passive Player", "The Tight-Passive Player", and "The Tight-Aggressive Player". Each sub section explains why those types of players play the way they do, the pro's and con's of each style, how to play against those types of players, and how to improve if you are one of those types of players.

The only minor pitfall the book makes is that it goes a bit too much into the strategies and pro/con's of the four aforementioned playing styles. I would have preferred to read more in regards to the psychology of poker.

Nevertheless, The Psychology of Poker is definitely worth a read, as it boldy goes where no poker author has gone before - into the head's of poker players.

Title: Championship Satellite Strategy
Authors: Tom McEvoy, Brad Daugherty
Publisher: Cardsmith Publishing
Pages: 208
Rating: 6.0/10
Reviewed by: Tyler Cruz

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Championship Satellite Strategy, co-written by veteran poker author Tom McEvoy and the 1991 WSOP champion Brad Daugherty, attempts to introduce the world of poker satellites to tournament players. It covers a wide spectrum of satellite information including themes and topics such as: The Upsides and Downsides of Playing Satellites, 10 Ways to Win a Seat for the World Series, How Satellites Work, Winning Strategy Round by Round, and Playing the Final Table with Brad.

Satellite Strategy does a good job of explaining what satellites are, their purpose and function, and how they operate. Unfortunately, it does a very poor job of listing worthwhile reasons to play them. Since pages 11 and 14 are "The Upside of Playing Satellites" and "The Downside of Playing Satellites" respectfully, readers are left early with a void of reason to play satellites in the first place. Acting as a type of 'embassador' between players and the world of satellites, Championship Satellite Strategy fails in this respect.

Luckily, the book does cover all the major concerns that satellites bring with them. The chapter "Important Factors to Consider" is particularly useful in this regard, in that is opens the reader's eye to monetary factors that may easily be overlooked such as tipping, the vig, and making deals. In fact, Satellite Strategy actually provide a couple of small interesting stories from both McEvoy and Daugherty in regards to deal making in satellites. The 208-page book also explains the difference of satellite strategy for both limit and no-limit games. This is a very important area that unfortunately many poker authors ignore.

McEvoy and Daugherty intertwine just the right amount of personal satellite experience to make the book both more interesting and informative at the same time. This makes the book more fun to read, as well as provide readers with examples of their strategy and theory. Championship Satellite Strategy also does a good job of explaining the difference between on-land and on-line tournaments and satellites, as well as provide strategical guidance for both as them as well.

All in all, Championship Satellite Strategy is worth a quick read for the curious tournament player, but does not offer any magic formula to win satellites.

Title: Small Stakes Hold'em
Authors: David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth, and Ed Miller
Publisher: Two Plus Two Pub.
Pages: 369
Rating: 9.5/10
Reviewed by: Evans Clinchy

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With the explosion of televised, online, and home poker games that has taken place in recent years, an influx of new players has hit the poker world, and most of them find themselves starting out at the lower limits. As a result, small-stakes limit hold'em games have become not only more profitable, but at the same time more challenging. A different style is needed to beat a passive, loose hold'em table: a style that enables the skilled player to win the large, multi-way pots that are commonplace in small-stakes games.

The duo of David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, legendary though it may be, lacked an experienced low-limit player who could offer firsthand knowledge of how the small hold'em games can be beaten. Enter Ed Miller, an MIT graduate and hold'em expert, who joins the Two Plus Two team fresh off of a successful climb through the ranks of limit hold'em players. Miller brings a strong outlook on his 1/2, 2/4 and 3/6 hold'em experiences to the Sklansky-Malmuth team, and together, the three experts have produced a masterpiece on success in passive hold'em games.

Don't be deceived by the book's title; it is not a beginner's guide to hold'em. As the book's conclusion says, Sklansky, Malmuth and Miller don't just want you to beat small stakes games, they want you to crush them. And crushing any game requires a complex understanding of its concepts. Small Stakes Hold'em is an intensely mathematical and analytical look at a game that, to many of your opponents, is thought to be much simpler. The three authors are there to teach the reader to think about poker on another level; to outsmart his opponents. You're not ready to open this book unless you're ready to take a look at the intricate details behind such concepts as expected value, pot equity, and of course, the mother of all poker concepts in any Sklansky book, the pot odds.

The book teaches the reader to, first and foremost, always consider the size of the pot before making any decision. The cash game player's goal is not to win pots, it is to win money, and to do so, the successful player is always looking to win the biggest pots that he can. In order to do so, he must be willing to gamble when the price is right. Unlike many other guides to limit hold'em, which teach the player a safe, super-tight style, Small Stakes Hold'em reminds the reader never to refuse a bet with positive expectation; in other words, not to give up on a potentially profitable hand.

These authors are not looking to protect your bankroll. They're looking to teach you to gamble, because after you've read this book, you will know how to get the best of it. But take the words within these pages with caution; they can ruin you if you're not careful. Small Stakes Hold'em is a book about the typical small-stakes games: passive, loose, and profitable. But if you try to apply the concepts taught by this book to a different hold'em environment, whether it be too solid or too aggressive, you are bound to lose. If you want to beat the best players in the world, there are other books out there for you. However, if you're trying to dominate a games of small stakes hold'em, then look no further than David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth, and Ed Miller.