Being the idiot that I am, I decided that reading books about Poker is a waste of time, so I went to play for money after reading a few on-line articles...
$30 later, I decided it was time to get this book.
I don’t care what people say on Amazon.com about it being a hard read, the book is absolutely brilliant! Not only is this the first definitive book about Poker, but it still remains a mandatory read for beginners even after nearly thirty years.
The author of this masterpiece is none other than David Sklansky, indisputably the best Poker writer of all time. Sklansky was originally a sought-after tutor of mathematics who became intrigued with the idea of making money purely on gambling. With his extensive background in mathematics, especially in Statistics, he was able to break every game he played down into fundamentals and find ways to increase his chances of success. One day, he noticed that although Texas Hold ‘em was becoming mainstream, there were no books about it, so he set out to write one.
To arrive at his strategies, he used a lot of probability calculations, but chose to leave them out to avoid needless confusion. Most of the calculations in Poker need not be too accurate, so simple approximations work well. For example, a wired pair of aces will win roughly 50% of the time. The exact number is not given in this book, but it is not necessary.
Hold ‘em Poker starts off with general rules (which are given free on Amazon.com as their “Look Inside” feature). Only a couple of pages are spent on this, as the game is designed to be simple to play (but difficult to master). Sklansky then proceeds to explain the importance of recognizing the best possible hands and using those to approximate how your hand ranks.
Part two talks about importance of position and the different options available to players in various positions (in general, person under the gun is in the worst position and the dealer is in the best position).
Part three is all about opening hands and is titled simply “The First Two Cards”. This section contains Sklansky’s Hand Rankings, which have since become a standard and really revolutionized the way players play Poker today.
Part four discusses flops and includes some basic flop rankings for top hands to give readers an idea. Personally, I don’t think I spent enough time on this part and will have to come back and re-read it.
Part five goes into Poker strategy. Apparently Sklansky was the first writer to introduce the ideas of Free Cards and Semi-Bluffing, both of which are discussed in this part. Different sections here include Bluffing, Inducing Bluffs, Check Raising, Odds, and more.
Part six is called “Reading Hands” and talks about different ways to identify opponents’ hands. This is where the book gets really hard-core. At the very start, Sklansky says:
“…it is important to understand that reading techniques work best against fair-to-good players. Experts are tougher, and live ones (suckers) are tougher still…”
What he means is that beginners and really bad players tend to make random plays that are incoherent, while experts deliberately make out-of-place plays to throw you off. This really makes this section hard to apply because you can’t rely on it too much (since you may fall prey to a Bluff), yet need to be able to do this accurately in order to become an expert. Oh, and you must also be able to do this very fast as to not look suspicious to the opponent.
Some downsides of this book include the rather useless footnotes and parenthesized explanations, a half-assed glossary that doesn’t include even 50% of all the Poker terms used in the book, and a poorly compiled index that’s not much more helpful than the glossary. All this made certain parts difficult to understand and created needless confusion and frustration.
In case you were wondering, I deliberately left the exact content and strategies described in this book as ambiguous as possible because I want you to hear it from the man himself.