Review: Pot Limit & No Limit Poker

4 Star, Book Reviews

August 13, 2007

Author: Stewart Ruben & Bob Ciaffone

Publisher: self published

This is an interesting book. For a long time it was the second most recommended NL book after Supersystem. Of late, it’s fallen into obscurity somewhat, but I believe it’s still worth talking about.

Pot Limit & No Limit Poker covers a wide variety of games – essentially PL and NL variations of every game usually played with fixed or spread limits in the US. Most of these variations are not spread anywhere in the US and indeed can only be found in Europe or sometimes online. So most players will find the majority of games of academic interest only. The good news is that Ruben and Ciaffone take an integrated approach to teaching big bet poker. Rather than trying to teach each game as a separate subject, they look for common threads that run through all forms of big bet poker. This means that the information on scarce games like London lowball is not totally useless because it can be easily applied to other games.

Overall, I feel that this book is of pretty high quality. They start out with the key concepts of implied odds and stack sizes which Supersystem assumes you already understand. In my opinion this makes Pot Limit & No Limit Poker a good starting point in the literature for beginning big-bet players. Overall the presentation is good, and the material fairly sound.

There are some legitimate criticisms of this book, however. First off, the PLO section assumes you have already read Ciaffone’s previous PLO book, and as such is a major break from the beginner-friendly nature of the text. Since PLO is the 2nd most common big bet game in the US and one that a lot of holdem players are trying to pick up, this is very unfortunate for many readers.

Second, while I didn’t find Ciaffone’s tight advice in Improve Your Poker to be detrimental to that book, I do think that he’s gone a little overboard here. Deep stack big bet play allows slightly weaker starting hands to be played in some circumstances because of the favorable implied odds scenario. I don’t know that Bob’s play is actually overly tight – his discussion of the 5/10 rule suggest that it may not be – but it would be easy to get the impression from this book that very tight play is correct.

Third, I have some doubts as to how good a player Ruben is. His sections should be read with a critical eye and may not be appropriate for advanced play.

Overall, this is a good book and a good place for aspiring NL and PL players to begin. It’s probably THE manual for playing in Europe (although holdem may have taken over there as well). I’ve always advocated learning about a variety of games as a means of improving overall poker skill, and this book is the only decent treatment of several games that I’ve seen. Hopefully adventurous players will take a liking to some of the more obscure games and try them out at their home game or online.

Rating: 4 stars

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