Thursday, July 28, 2005

Book Review: High-Low-Split Poker

Over the last month or so, I've been expanding my horizons beyond Hold Em into Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo.

After a few exploratory sessions on the low stakes tables of Full Tilt and PokerStars it became apparent to me that a fair percentage of the players were not very good. Equally, it was obvious that while I had some idea what I was doing, I was far from expert.

With this in mind, I posted on a few forums asking for advice on Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo reading material.

One author was recommended unanimously - Ray Zee.

Whilst Zee's book focuses primarily on limit betting, and covers both Omaha and Stud Hi/Lo, it seems to be universally recognised as the definitive work on split pot poker.

Interestingly, it was written pre-Internet boom, so has more focus on live play, and is intended for advanced players. Indeed the full, rather unwieldy, title is High-Low-Split Poker,Seven-card Stud and Omaha Eight-or-better for Advanced Players.

As a consequence of this focus, Zee's definition of a comparatively cheap game is something like $10/20 limit. Not quite the $25 buy-in pot limit PokerStars tables!

Despite being aimed at advanced players, the book is concise and well written. The advice is easy to follow, and backed up by comprehensive question/answer sections to test the readers assimilation of the concepts Zee espouses.

For a novice such as myself, there are good explanations of starting hand strength, the value of position, buying the button in Omaha, the risk of being quartered, forcing out competing hands, the risk of being trapped in a jammed pot, etc.

Beyond this, Zee puts a lot of emphasis on adapting the standard plays to match the texture of the table.

Are the opponents weak or aggressive, tight or loose? Are they good enough to recognise an advanced play, or is a subtle bluff wasted on them?

The advice is descriptive and loosely framed, rather than prescriptive and rigid. The clear assumption being that the reader has sufficient intelligence to adapt their play to match the situation.

This marks the book as targeting a more advanced audience, and is perhaps it's greatest strength. The reader is encouraged to learn to think, not spoon fed a mechanistic gaming strategy.

Never having played Stud Hi/Lo, I found this section slightly more challenging, without being confusing or offputting. Being encouraged to think about the game whetted my appetite to get involved.

After completing this section, I was compelled to venture into the micro limits on PokerStars, to get a taste of the Stud Hi/Lo action. Zee's enthusiasm for the game permeates the pages.

Overall this is a well written, informative and concise book, which covers a wide range of topics without ever overloading the reader. It has certainly helped to improve my play, and I will return to the more advanced sections in the future, as I move to higher buy-in games.

1 comment:

Felicia :) said...

Great review!