Poker Words - A Poker Blog

Mostly a recount of my poker exploits along with a bunch of random other stuff just for fun.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Book Review: The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’em

Book Review: The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’em: Making Winners out of Beginners and Advanced Players! By Dennis Purdy

The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold’em offers a different and unique approach to teaching beginning Texas Hold’em. Rather than hundreds of pages of theory and strategy with a few sample hands at the end of each chapter this book offers a brief introduction to the game, and then follows it with 150 illustrated hand examples that allow the user to develop and test their skills. The approach is based on the fact that people learn better by doing, and seeing than by just reading.

The book starts off with a few short (as in about three pages) chapters on the basics of Hold’em. How the game works, some basic etiquette, what to expect at a live card room, and a brief introduction to calculating pot odds. After that it is page after page of sample hands, and advice on how to play them.

Each example consists of two pages. On the left, there is a diagram of the table, where the blinds and button are, who is still in the hand, your hole cards and whatever board cards are known. There is also an explanation of the action so far and a question as to what you should do when it is your turn to act.

The right hand page offers an answer to the question, along with an explanation as to why that is the correct play.

One of the things this book does well, especially for new players, is to teach proper pre-flop hand selection. Most of the early examples have to do with this. The author takes a number of hands that new players, and too many experienced players will play when they should really be folding. Any two suited cards, Ace/rag, low pairs in early position, and just plain garbage hands, and shows why it is a losing decision to play those hands with any regularity. He also does a good job of showing the importance of position. There are a few times when the same starting hand is used for two examples in a row. The only difference between them is starting position, which ends up determining if the hand is playable or not.

There are also a number of examples when the author shows that you sometimes have to fold hands that you thought were monsters, which is another thing beginning players will often have a difficult time with. Wired Kings look great pre-flop, but when five people are still in on the river, and there is an ace, and four cards to a flush you don’t have on the board, you might as well have 8-3o because neither one is going to win the hand for you.

Similarly a couple of examples that show unless you have the absolute nuts, you don’t have the nuts, and to be aware of what hands could beat you. That is something even I sometimes have trouble with, making my hand, and not noticing that the same card also could have made someone else’s better hand, or blindly betting on later streets without reevaluating the strength of my hand based on the board.

Learning when to chase is also a skill that most players, probably don’t understand. Drawing towards your straight or flush can be a good decision, or maybe not, depending on the odds the pot is giving you. There are examples throughout the book where you have draws to big hands, and must decide if calling a bet is a good decision or not. Purdy goes through the odds calculations, and shows you why it is correct to fold in some cases, while chasing other.

One of the problems with books in this format is that with so many examples they all start to run together after a while, and I think the advice stops sinking in. If you try to read this book all in one sitting, I don’t think its going to be all that helpful. If you can look at five to ten examples a day, then the format probably works a lot better. I had similar problems with Caro’s Book of Poker Tells, and I don’t know if there is anything you can do to about that using this format. It should really be treated more as a study manual than anything else.

I think the author could have done a better job of using your opponents playing style to help make decisions. Purdy does a good job of reinforcing the fact that an early raise means you need to reconsider the strength of your hand, but he doesn’t often consider the type of opponent when making that decision. A raise from the maniac who has played every hand since you sat down, raising more often than not should not nearly be the cause for concern that a raise from the guy who hasn’t played a hand in over an hour would be.

Along similar lines, many times the author takes his opponent’s failure to raise as a sign that the opponent doesn’t have a monster hand. He often dismisses the chance his opponent has trips on a paired board based on a call rather than a raise. Maybe it’s just in online play, but I think he is grossly underestimating player’s, especially low limit player’s, tendency to slow play big hands. I would guess that more times than not they are going to slow play those hands, and automatically assuming otherwise could be asking for trouble when you get check raised on a later street.

Overall, I think is good book for someone just getting into Hold’em. It provides a good foundation for building your poker skills that will be a good starting point to successful play. If you are an experienced player, you might still gain some new insights into your game, but you are should already know most, if not all of the concepts discussed.



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