Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poker Book Review

In my never-ending attempt to exhibit my authority as a poker expert, I am back today with a review of a really disappointing poker book that I recently completed, although I also just finished a very interesting book that I enjoyed based on a recommendation from a poker blogger who knows the good books from the bad.

First, the bad: Daniel Negreanu's Power Holdem Strategy. This is another book, like Dan Harrington's cash game endeavors, that should be getting a lot of pub, and yet the fact that absolutely nobody ever mentions it or writes about it all as about as telling as the reviews could be on this thing. Negreanu obviously tried to model his tome off of the classic poker text Super/System by Dolye Brunson, in that the books are of very similar size and thickness, and they are set up with different chapters written by different authors covering a wide range of poker topics.

I will admit that I was really excited for this book, both generally, having watched Daniel's truly incredible prowess at hand reading on several televised poker events, and specifically after reading the introduction written by the book's publisher, Avery Cardoza, who obviously has an ongoing feud with 2+2 publishing. The intro begins by proclaiming that Power Holdem Strategy is the third msot influential book of all time in poker literature, starting with Super System (which was awesome, obviously), and then listing my boy Daniel Snyder's The Poker Tournament Formula II as the second, which got me excited because I figured this guy clearly knows his tournament poker books. The publisher goes on to explain that Negreanu's and his co-authors' focus on small ball and other aspects of poker not otherwise written too much about in the other popular literature will surely go on to make Power Holdem Strategy one of the lasting contributors and a book that will seriously change the game of poker forever.

There's just one problem: this book sucks. I mean, it really, seriously sucks. It begins with a chapter on beginner holdem tournament strategy by Evelyn Ng, a chapter which I strongly suggest you skip unless you have more or less never played a poker tournament before in your life, and even then I would skip it as the approach it espouses, Ng freely admits, is only for a beginner to use and not something effective if you have any real understanding of the game. Negreanu's good friend and awesome tournament poker player Erick Lindgren then contributes a chapter specifically on online poker, which should have been the best thing ever to a guy like me, but believe me when I say that chapter could not have been more useless. I mean, how many times am I going to read someone suggesting that you have to loosen up to get calls, and to make sure you're not distracted by other things when playing online? Sheesh. Paul Wasicka then writes about short-handed online holdem games, which is equally and totally worthless, completely devoid of a single idea worth dog-earing in my book as I often do with my poker texts. Todd Brunson then throws in an utterly worthless chapter on high-limit cash games that has no place in this book and offers next to no original advice, with famed foot-lover David Williams then chipping in with a book on loosening up your play, also not very helpful and really I imagine just included to fluff up the book and to provide a decent segue into Negreanu's chapter on small ball.

When it comes right down to it, Negreanu's chapter, although lengthy as far as number of pages involved, does not do much to help other players adopt his small ball strategy successfully. I mean, do we really need 250 pages to tell us to keep preflop raises small, see lots of flops with big-potential hands, make your play hard to read, and never to get it allin without the nuts, or dam close to the nuts? The bottom line is, if you can't read hands with the amazing accuracy that Negreanu can, then you need to be very, very careful playing this keep-the-pots-small strategy, and there is just no way Negreanu is going to be able to impart that incredible skill in this or any book. Negreanu's chapter is easily the best part of this book overall, and to someone who has only read the Super/System's and Harrington's of the world, Daniel does a good job of describing his general approach to the game in a way that is different from what most other well-known poker authors out there are advocating.

In all, though, less than half of this book was written by Negreanu himself, and the problem is that rest of the non-Daniel content is so worthless that it really cheapens the overall value of the book. If you have the misfortune of reading it all, I assure you you will be left with the feeling that Negreanu wrote all he could (or wanted to) about small ball poker, and then his publisher felt it was not big enough to sell in the amount and/or at the price they were seeking, so they went looking for some co-authors to pen some quick and dirty fluff to make the whole book seem longer and sell better. In all, Evelyn Ng's chapter I would give a flat-out 1 out of 5 to, and even Lindgren's online poker treatise -- and I'm a huge Erick Lindgren fan, don't get me wrong -- is generously worth a 2 rating out of 5. Wasicka's shorthanded chapter, as someone myself who plays mostly shorthanded games, is another 1 out of 5, containing basically no new ideas and not even holding a candle to other shorthanded holdem authors (Colin Moshman, for example). Brunon's high-limit cash chapter is no more than a 2 out of 5, and David Williams is definitely a 2 or a 2+, maybe a 3 if I'm feeling in a very generous mood, but surely no better than mediocre. Negreanu's piece is probably worthy of a 3 or 4 out of 5, but like I said, the overall feeling of the book is something akin to 2 stars, nothing more. And I really don't think you will come away from reading it with any more ability to play Daniel's style than you had before you picked the thing up to begin with.

If Negreanu had rushed this book out a couple of years ago when he was still really breaking on to the poker scene, Power Holdem Strategy would probably be a lot better receieved, at least his chapter on small ball. Nowadays, though, Daniel's small ball approach has been well documented and discussed in a number of different forums, and the simple fact is that the concepts behind how to play this strategy are not complex ones. Reading hands like Daniel does with such amazing accuracy, now that is complex, but he does nothing (and really cannot be expected to) more than other well-known poker authors in describing the process of reviewing a hand, playing it backwards and tryingt to intuit your opponent's holdings. As a result, you are left with a book that will be largely devoid of those dog-eared pages I mentioned above, and frankly one which, if you're like me, you will be looking forward to getting through so you can stick it way on top of your bookshelf where you know you will never get it down again. Stay away from Power Holdem Strategy, you won't miss it, trust me.

Tomorrow: the good poker book I read this month that can really help your game if you're not someone who regularly wins mtt's.

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Blogger Chad C said...

Why is Evelyn Ng writing anything in a poker book anywhere? She should of just got into porn, she missed her calling in life.....

3:27 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I would buy some of that! As long as it's not starring Daniel as well.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

But Hoy, I DO win MTTs with startling frequency!

What book is there for me??

4:36 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...


My book comes out next Spring.

5:29 AM  
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8:36 AM  

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