Rewiew: No Limit Holdem – Theory And Practice

3 Star, Book Reviews

July 27, 2007

Author: David Sklansky & Ed Miller

Publisher: 2 + 2

There aren’t a lot of books written about cash game no limit holdem. For a long time, the Supersystem chapter has been the definitive source of information on the subject. This book is the first meaningful publication on the topic in several years. However, it’s a real mixed bag.

First, the good stuff. NLH:TAP is one of the few books of any value published on the subject of cash game no limit holdem. The Harrington tournament series is excellent, but does not cover cash game play at all. As such, even if NLH:TAP is not perfect, it may well be the best book in its class because it’s a pretty small class.

In my opinion, the real strength of this book is the discussion of bet sizing after the flop. This is an area where a lot of beginning to intermediate players make mistakes, and NLH:TAP explains fairly clearly how to decide on a bet size. This section compares particularly favorably to Supersystem, which gives only a cursory discussion for such an important topic.

I do have quite a few concerns about this book. The first is that you are not really getting expert advice. Neither author is considered a top player in the game, although Sklansky might consider himself as such since he has a pretty massive ego. Ed Miller is marginal at best. He admits as much in the book (yay, honesty) and says he’s improved a lot. But still, you’re not necessarily getting top shelf advice here. In fact, there’s a LOT of advice in this book that top players consider nonsense, and the authors made no distinction between things that are standard and those where they go against the consensus of winning high stakes players.

There is also the issue of questionable examples and use of algebra. Often times the authors do complex math based on a set of unreasonable assumptions, supposedly to prove a point that some position they’ve take “could be” correct. This is, of course, complete nonsense. The “garbage in, garbage out” principle applies to poker math as readily as computers. It’s safe to say that whenever the authors make absurd assumptions, you can be pretty sure that the point they’re making couldn’t be defended well with realistic assumptions. So use those unreasonable assumptions as a warning sign and be VERY suspicious of the conclusions drawn from them.

There’s one piece of advice that I think is “donk off your bankroll in a week” bad against really solid opponents, doubly so when you play against the same people over and over again. I figure I owe my readers a warning. NLH:TAP’s preflop raising strategy leaks too much information about the contents of you hole cards by varying the raise size based on your hole cards, and you WILL get demolished doing that in any serious game once your opponents catch on. I do not recommend you adopt those recommendations in any game bigger than 2-5 (or possibly the soft 5-10 at the Bellagio).

Overall, this is an interesting but dangerous book. To avoid the danger, a reader would need to know a lot about no limit holdem. But there aren’t a lot of alternative books. So read carefully, think everything through, and don’t be afraid to conclude the authors are wrong. In the future, I’ll present some analysis of the more controversial parts of the book to help you sort through it all.

Rating: 3/5

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