Review: Middle Limit Holdem Poker
Author: Bob Ciaffone & Jim Brier
Publisher: Self Published
I’ve been playing more limit holdem recently, and I suspect it will be the next “project” on CardSharp once I get more or less finished with NL holdem. In preparation for that I’ve been going back over all the books I own on the limit version of the game as a means of organizing my thoughts. When I first read Ciaffone’s book a couple of years ago, I thought it was the stone cold nuts as far as limit holdem goes. On a second read, with many thousands of hands of mid and high limit holdem under my belt, I still think it’s the best book on the game, but not quite as good as I once believed.
Unlike Ciaffone’s other offerings, this is a big book. It clocks in at 300 some odd pages, and the content density is much higher than most books because it has a very dense presentation when compared to say a 2+2 book. The book is structured in a logical way - opening remarks and general information about limit holdem up front, then discussion about each street of play in order, and then special topics in the back. As with the other Ciaffone books, this one uses a lot of examples. In fact, probably more examples than any other poker book. There are literally several hundred example hands scattered throught the sections. All of this adds up to a very substantial book that you’ll need to spend a lot of time with.
In terms of quality, Ciaffone does a pretty good job here. It’s clear that he (and presumably his co-author) can beat the games in question, and they quite thoroughly lay out their methodology for doing so. I also think they do a better job than their competition (2+2’s Holdem Poker For Advanced Players) at explaining the reasoning behind their plays. That was my major objection to Sklansky’s offering, so I’m glad to see they did better. One thing to pay particular attention to while reading this book is the focus on the number of opponents you face when deciding how to play a hand. This is something that I believe a lot of players bungle, and Ciaffone is the only author that makes correctly adapting to the number of opponents remaining in the hand a priority in his books.
I said earlier that I used to love this book, and now merely like it quite a bit. The reason is that while I feel the strategies presented are on the whole good, I feel they lack a certain something. They’re just not quite as a aggressive or as tight in certain spots as I believe is worthwhile. For example, I don’t believe Ciaffone advocates 3-betting preflop sufficiently frequently. I also feel he opens too loosely in the first couple of positions. Not disastrously so, just a bit. There are also some topics that are essential to the upper limits, such as countering your opponent’s steals, that I don’t feel are covered in sufficient depth. Perhaps my objection stems from the fact that this book is specifically focusing on the middle limits, and as a result the coverage is biased towards the opponents and tactics you will see there. To be fair, Ciaffone’s comments in several places seem to indicate that he is also aware of these issues. But I do think that the book could be a bit better on these fronts.
Still, I’m happy to crown this the best limit holdem book I’ve read. If you haven’t read it and play limit frequently, I suggest you get a copy.
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