Review: Real Poker II – The Play of Hands

3 Star, Book Reviews

September 5, 2007

Author: Roy Cooke

Publisher: ConJelCo

Real Poker II is a collection of Roy Cooke’s Card Player columns focusing on the play of middle limit holdem hands taken from his play in Las Vegas.  In each hand, Roy describes the situation and one or more key decisions, and then tells the reader what he believes is the correct course of action and why.

By and large, I think Roy gives good advice on most of the hands.  However, there are some non-trivial problems with this book.  First and foremost, I think it would have benefited from a more quiz-like approach where readers were encouraged to take a position before Roy revealed what play he liked and why.  That format worked well in the Harrington on Holdem series, and I believe it could have been usefully applied here.  Seccond, I believe that Roy made poor choices in which hands he decided to discuss.  Almost every hand involved big pairs and/or hugely multi-way action with very high pot odds.  While such scenarios are sometimes interesting, they’re not the heart of limit holdem.  Most pots at the medium to high limits simply aren’t contested that many ways, and the vast majority of hands no one is dealt a premium pair, let alone the aces that seem to appear in nearly every hand in Cooke discusses.  More discussion of more common scenarios might be nice.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that every decision Cooke argues for is correct.  In fact, I disagreed with his play in several places.  In particular, I think he has a bias towards fancy play and allowing opponents in when he has a strong hand to the point where the horse race paradox starts to work against him.  I kept a running tally of how my plays would have likely faired compared to his, and I came out 1 big pot + 5 or 6 big bets ahead.  I’m not sure to what extent that’s a matter of him writing about hands that went badly for him (where any different line will likely fair better) and how much is simply his fancy play biting him on the ass.  But overall I’m not sure he’s always advocating the best play.

None the less, much of what he has to say is pretty decent and the decisions I disagree with are unquestionably close ones.  I do ge the impression Cook can beat mid-stakes holdem, and people seeking to do the same should probably check out this book.

Rating: 3 stars

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