Sunday, September 04, 2005
When I first got involved in online poker, my game of choice was No Limit Hold Em SitNGo games - also known as Single Table Tourneys.
They were fun to play, and had the crucial advantage for a beginner of capping my liabilities at the entry fee. Which might be as low as five dollars.
After a while, I discovered the merits of bonus whoring to boost my meagre bankroll.
This propelled me into the world of Limit Hold Em cash games, where the liabilities were not capped, but were certainly bearable. Especially given the dire nature of many opponents at the lower levels.
Once I had the hang of Limit Hold Em, I began to yearn for the livelier No Limit games I used to play. So I began to dabble in cash No Limit.
Fairly quickly I realised that while not exactly being out-of-my-depth, I wasn't entirely comfortable with how I was playing. My SitNGo style wasn't wholly compatible with cash games.
At this point I recognised learning at the tables could be an expensive experience, and decided to do some reading in the specific area of No Limit cash games. Having asked around for advice, I was recommended Pot-Limit and No-Limit Poker by Stewart Reuben and Bob Ciaffone.
The original issue of this book predates the internet poker boom, but has been updated and reissued over the past few years.
This is not a Hold Em specific book. Indeed I was pleased to see it takes in Pot Limit Omaha, which is another of my recently discovered pleasures. It also uses some more obscure poker variants such as Lowball Draw to illustrate the author's ideas.
At times this can make it hard work to understand the key principles which are being enunciated, as one has to understand the rules of the game before understanding the lesson being taught.
In the short term this can be frustrating, but whether by accident or design, I think it works well. The reader is forced to think deeply about the problem, which in the long term should encourage a better understanding of the lesson.
Key big bet concepts such as relative stack sizes, stacks in relation to the blinds, bet sizes, position, and when to take the initiative are all covered.
The book has substantially altered my strategy on playing big drawing hands, and my perception on when an all-in bet is justified. The all-in as a means of negating positional advantage is not something I was inclined to consider, prior to reading this book.
This is very different to limit strategy.
For someone new to live games, the General section contains some very useful information, which has already improved my live play.
Chapters on such esoteric issues as making deals, dealing big-bet poker, ethics, and a very instructive chapter on the specifics of pot limit rules, all give a useful grounding in expected standards of behaviour if entering a live card room for the first time.
This chapter has already helped me to identify an 'angle shooter' in my local cardroom, by describing exactly a situation which they will try to manipulate. That information alone more than justified the cover price!
This book works well for someone who already has a fair understanding of the rules and mechanics of poker, but not a complete grasp of all areas of the game. It would certainly sit in the intermediate skill range.
It will not teach you basic Hold Em or Omaha strategy, but it will improve your ability to manipulate the big bet games.
The slightly dated tone may be off-putting to some, but personally it appeals to me.
While I am a comparative newbie to the poker scene, I enjoy learning the history of the game. The internet revived poker; it did not give birth to the game.
Recognising the heritage of the game should improve ones appreciation of the game, and, I believe, ultimately improve ones results.