Review: The Poker Tournament Formula

1 Star, Book Reviews

July 28, 2007

Author: Arnold Snyder (beware this site contains quite a bit of misinformation)

Publisher: Cardoza

Sadly this book contains a lot of misinformation in terms of the poker strategies presented.

The fundamental strategic issue covered in the book is this: in a no limit holdem tournament, you never want to pay a large percentage of your stack as a blind. It’s better to make make aggressive plays before that point, and either go broke or acquire a big enough stack that paying the blinds won’t cripple you.

This idea is not new – it’s been around as long as tournament poker (or at least since Slim pushed 1/2 in the dark in ’72). The best explanation of this, and it’s strategic impact, is in Dan Harrington’s incredible “Harrington on Holdem” series, where his concept of “M” (the ratio of your stack size to the blinds and antees) underpins most of the strategic concepts he presents.

Snyder’s book is rooted in the same concept, but unfortunately he doesn’t understand it as well as Harrington, and his confusion comes through all too clearly in the book. In general, his strategy has a bad tendency to get in with the worst of it when M doesn’t dictate that you do so. As such it passes up the very real opportunities to acquire chips not by luck or manipulation of the tournament format but by skillful and possibly even tight play during the early orbits of a fast tournament. To Snyder’s credit, he disclaimers that his advice is not appropriate for longer tournament formats, where it would be even more sub-optimal. So he’ll let you shoot yourself in the toe, but not blow off your whole foot. How refreshing.

On top of the problems with his fundamental opening strategy, Snyder does a poor job of explaining post-flop play so you’re going to have to go to some higher quality resource anyways to flesh out your game. Snyder’s explanations of post-flop strategies (such as the justifiably maligned rock-paper-scissors stuff) are those of an amateur unfamiliar with the poker literature and theorizing out of his depth. Readers deserve better.

There is some useful info in this book, however. His system of rating tournaments is an acceptable way of separating a skill driven tournament from a luck driven tournament. Of course, anyone who’s played even a few tournaments already knows that large stacks, long blind levels, and modest increases between the levels make for a skillful tournament and the opposite characteristics emphasize luck. That said, this information also appears on his website, so it’s not a justification for buying the book.

Instead of buying this book, I recommend you buy the Harrington books. They’re correct, applicable to a wider range of tournaments, better written, and contain more advanced material. In fact, they’re where Snyder got his big idea from, so you might as well go to the source. The best that can be said for Snyder’s work is that he’s occasionally correct in an accidental, broken-clock sense. That’s not enough in my mind to in any way recommend the book. Look elsewhere.

Rating: 1/5 stars

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