Inside the Poker Tour — 79: Poker Strategy Guide, Part 1
Another book that I believe is a must-read for the serious all-around poker player is the Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide, edited by Michael Craig and published by Warner Books of New York, 2007. In reviewing this, I had to go beyond my personal dislike of the book's authors also advertising a given site, though that is presumably why they wrote the book. So drink the medicine and move on! This review is on the half of the book about no-limit, with the other contributions to follow in a future column.
Besides advising you what and how to play in no-limit tournaments (with chapters by Andy Bloch, Chris Ferguson, Richard Brodie, Phil Gordon, and Gavin Smith), there is a lot of book left and it is used to talk about how to play other games. Those games are limit hold'em, pot-limit hold'em, seven-card stud, razz, Omaha eight-or-better, and gambling presented by Full Tilt players Ted Forrest, Rafe Furst, David Grey, Howard Lederer, Mike Matusow, Huck Seed, and Keith Sexton. The idea is that players write chapters about what they know about and the whole thing is put together by Craig, the book's editor. Now the idea is excellent, and a lot of the advice is important, but it is very, very hard to bring this pile of insights together into a usable format. Craig does a decent job and although I can and will take exception to various things said here I feel that one needs to know what the current thinking is on the many topics presented. Therefore I feel that it is important for all-around poker players to own this book.
First, let's review the advice of the various players about no-limit hold'em:
Gavin tells you what works for him, and if you can do it, then do it! The loose-aggressive style that he embraces is the current fashion on the tournament trail and fraught with a lot more danger in money situations. If you stick to his advice for tournaments I like it a lot.
Chris Ferguson tells you a lot about how to play after the flop, and I like the giving of real examples. I have argued with Chris about how to approach the game (I believe it is never right to "always" do anything, whereas he feels that you give away no information by "always" acting in the same way), but in all cases one can appreciate that his choices have worked for him, and brought him outstanding results. Again apply this to tournament situations.
Andy Bloch has written a chapter on how to play before the flop, and I like Andy as well as most of the "authors" here, but I have several problems with his chapter. Unlike the chess that he talks about before he dives into the poker, I believe you have to make major adjustments for whom you are facing. If you raise with KJo from the cutoff and get re-raised from the big-blind by someone with equal chips to you the correct play depends on their personality profile more than your hand! I have often said that the thirteenth most important thing in playing poker is the actual hand that you play. The second problem I have is that Andy talks almost exclusively about playing hands heads-up and in the first levels of most tournaments a lot of the hands are contested three, or more, ways. The third problem I have is that a lot of situations arise that make sense when you are playing six-handed or shorter, but don't apply to ring games. Nonetheless, this chapter should be taken seriously and will be an eye-opener for a lot of players.
Richard Brodie is a good writer and a good person, but what is really surprising is that he has a chapter on how to play online tournaments and gives very good advice. How in the world did he become such an expert on this in such a short time? It's the combination of unencumbered smart and knowledgeable friends, I suspect.
The only bone I have to pick with Richard is that he uses the 'big-blind count' as a way of talking about your stack. I tend to think of this as a simpleton method. In his defense it is what is often used by his fellow authors, so I can take it up with all of them right here. Does anyone think that 400-800 blinds with a 100-dollar ante at a cost of 2100 dollars a round is the same as 400-800 blinds with no antes (at a cost of 1200 a round)? Aren't your decisions predicated on this? Some of them should be, I can tell you that. Furthermore, I don't like being talked "down" to, as though I don't understand this glossing over. It's okay if your book(s) are for total beginners, but not if they purport to be for others.
The second half of this review will follow in a few weeks, along with other books that I recommend that you put on your shelf with the "Kill Everyone" title I mentioned recently.
So, until next time, play good… and get lucky.