Review: Improve Your Poker

5 Star, Book Reviews

July 28, 2007

Author: Bob Ciaffone

Publisher: Self Published

Authors of poker manuals face a bit of a conundrum. The readers are presumably reading poker books because their poker game is not what it should be. In other words, the readers have some misconceptions about the game that need to be fixed. This makes it very hard to write an advanced poker book, because to do so you have to assume your readers already know basic material (or else write a monster book that contains everything) yet you KNOW that the readers are confused on some points. Perhaps parts of the basic material you’re assuming they know.

As a result, VERY few advanced poker manuals are ever written. It’s just too much of a minefield.

This book is one of a half-handful of exceptions. The book is comprised of a series of columns Ciaffone wrote for magazines, and covers a wide range of topics. Ciaffone’s credentials are respectable – he’s been a winning mid-stakes limit player in the past, and is a winning member of the cadre of high stakes pot limit and no limit ring game players that follow the tournament circuit. In addition, he’s had some modest success on the tournament circuit. His best credential, however, is that he’s an excellent teacher about poker.

The advice presented in this book is by and large of very high quality. Most of the book focuses on ideas for limit game play (which was what was popular in the US at the time it was written) and most of the advice deals with later street play and sticky situations. I can say with near-100% statistical confidence that my win rate in limit games went up starting the day after I read this book. Far too many people recomend poker books saying “It only costs one big bet. How can it hurt?” which is of course ridiculous since bad (or poorly followed) advice could cost you FAR more than one big bet. That said, this book worked wonders for me, and I already had a solid, winning game before I read it.

There have been some complaints raised about this book (both legitimate and not) on other boards which I’ll address here:

Complaint 1: “What’s the point of this?” or some similar dismissal.

Simply put, players without at least an intermediate level of skill in limit holdem and 7-stud are going to be confused by this book. It assumes you know the basics, and know them well. If you don’t, buy the appropriate 2+2 “advanced player” series book (which are actually about basic play in great detail), and get your game together, then come back to this book.

Complaint 2: “Bob Ciaffone is ridiculously tight and as such his advice is pretty useless”

Nonsense. You have to play fairly tight to beat most limit games. The only exception would be situations where you’re on the steal. Ciaffone’s advice is both tight and aggressive, and that’s what brings home the $$$. If you want to just keep playing your existing (loose) game, then there’s no point in buying the book as you’ve already decided not to take its advice.

Additionally, as Ciaffone’s advice applies primarily to later streets, it can be utilized by players who open more liberally. They won’t get the full benefit, but they still ought to improve somewhat.

Complaint 3: The book is a disorganized collection of columns, not a book.

This one is true. The book would have been improved by editing it to cross-reference the chapters/columns and remove some obvious tip-offs that it was ripped directly from a magazine. That said, the odd style didn’t prevent me from absorbing any of the meat of the text, so it doesn’t really cause any harm.

Complaint 4: Bob’s metagame, internet, and tournament info is out of date, inaccurate, etc.

This one is true too. I recommend you ignore these parts of the book.

Final verdict: I bought it, and I’m richer because of it. That’s more than most books can do for you. There are some issues, but I can’t give anything that’s put so much $$$ in my pocket anything less than 5 stars. It overcomes the flaws.

However, if you’re not at least a passable intermediate limit player (say, able to win 1 big bet/hour at 10/20 or similar limits) then you’re not going to get on well with this book. Start your education somewhere else.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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