on 24 May 2005
This is more or less considered the 'bible' for texas hold'em players, and for good reason: Sklansky and Malmuth are recognized as the leading authorities on poker strategy. While HPFAP is a difficult read, nearly every single aspect of proper hold'em strategy is covered in excruciating detail. While I would suggest picking up less complex books to start out with (look for Lee Jones'), this is a must read for all serious hold'em players.
Now for some constructive criticism: this is by no means a beginner's book - a lot of novices have heard the authors praised and figure they should run out and buy this book. I'll warn you now that unless you've got 6 to 12 months of hold'em experience, the writing in this book will be WAY over your head. It's not just the terminology, but the authors assume that readers are already well-versed in all basic hold'em strategies. The first time I read the book, it seemed utterly nonsensical. Only now that I go back and re-read it do I truly understand what the authors are talking about in many places.
Where to apply the poker tools this book gives you? Anywhere, really - I used to play at my local casino 4 times / wk, but now play almost exclusively online, since play goes so much faster - I go out of my mind with boredom when I try and sit at a casino nowadays.
on 28 February 2003
This was the first book i had bought on hold em poker. The early stages of the book are very interesting. It discusses the best opening hands depending on the position you are in, and then goes on to talk about good and bad flops. With a few read throughs i felt i had grasped these early chapters.
the language in the book includes quite a few poker terms and despite having bought and read a number of poker books since im still unclear exactly what some of them mean.
the later stages of the book are also informative but unfortunately very brief, it discusses pot odds, semi bluffing, and reading the opponent. but at the end of the day you are left feeling; "i now know about it, but im pretty sure i couldnt apply it in a game" a greater number of examples may have been more useful.
in summary, perhaps i was wrong to make this my first book on hold 'em, but as the book says on the back cover it is suitable for a player of my experience
on 7 May 2004
Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players has certainly been one of the most influential poker books ever written, it has literally changed how people have played this game. Moreover, this book has, in large part, set the standard by which other poker books have been judged. Now, a much expanded new edition for the 21st century has been released.
The book starts with several short preliminary sections, including the Forward by expert player Ray Zee, the Introduction, and a section called "Using This Book". The reader is warned immediately that this book should not be read casually. It is intended as a text book on Texas Hold'em and will need to be studied as a text, not read as one would a novel, if the reader is to maximize the benefit of the material within.
Then, the first of eight sections begins, covering the play of the first two cards. This includes the now famous hand ranking table. The authors recommend which sorts of hands to play in various positions but emphasize that it is not sufficient to just play well before the flop to be a winning player. The second section covers various important concepts about which the Hold'em player must be aware, including Semi-Bluffing, Slow Playing, the Check Raise, Inducing Bluffs, and many more. The third section covers a wide variety of topics, including playing when a flush draw flops, playing trash hands, playing against a maniac, etc.. Most of these sections were classics when they were written. They're even better now that they've been updated to more closely reflect the sorts of games that are commonly found in card rooms today.
Sections four through six cover playing in all sorts of non-standard games, and this is the area where the book has been most greatly expanded since its original printing. We learn about playing in loose games, including so-called "No Fold'em" games, playing short handed, and playing in other unusual circumstances. All of this information is very interesting and has been updated to be much more closely aligned to the sorts of games commonly found today. Of course, there is much more that could be said on some of these topics, such as playing in spread limit games, but the authors cover a lot of territory already. I especially like the new sections that cover considerations in playing some especially tricky starting hands, like AQoff.
Part seven includes commentary on other skills the successful Hold'em player will want to possess, such as reading hands and applying psychology. Finally, the last section, Questions and Answers, provides a quiz covering much of the material presented in earlier chapters so the reader can test themselves to see whether they've understood what the authors were trying to communicate. I've always felt that this was one of the strongest sections of this book and other publications by Two Plus Two, and I'm glad to see that it has been greatly expanded in the most recent edition. The book ends with some concluding remarks, an appendix on calculating probabilities, and a glossary.
Of course, Sklansky and Malmuth have never shied away from controversy. There was plenty for Hold'em players to debate in the first edition of this book, and there is certainly much one could fairly argue about in this edition. Although I wouldn't compare my strategic understanding of the game to the authors, there are strategies suggested in this book that I'm not certain are optimal, and I'm sure many people will argue the minutia of these many times over. However, I'm less interested in the specific merit of the play of a single controversial hand than I am in the strategic concepts the authors are trying to teach. While I might quibble about whether that strategic concept is applicable in an example that they provide, I never get the feeling that the strategic concept itself is questionable. One of the great things about Texas Hold'em is that there are so many possible ways to play a given hand, and that great players can disagree on these points. The way one can tell a great player from a mediocre one is whether they can accurately read the situation and take into account the strategic concepts that need to be applied at the moment, much more so than whether they bet, raise, check or fold. One would be well advised, in my opinion, to keep this in mind while reading this book.
Clearly, this book is a classic, and I doubt there are very many successful limit Texas Hold'em players playing today who do not own a copy of one of the earlier editions. Certainly, those that plan to play Hold'em well should own a copy of this work and read it several times. The big question is whether owners of previous revisions of this book should upgrade to the 21st Century Edition. Note that this is the third update of this work, the original was published in 1988, it was updated in 1994, and the current version was released in the summer of 1999. I have only the 1988 and 1999 editions, so I can only speak to those.
By my count, 150 pages have been added to the 182 page 1988 edition. In addition to new sections, there are minor changes to reflect how the game has evolved over the years and to emphasize concepts that caused some conclusion in earlier editions. Overall, given the changes that have been made to the 21st Century Edition from the first edition, I would recommend that those people who are serious about their Hold'em game and have read the 1988 edition upgrade their copies of this book. Although I do not have enough information to make the same claim for the 1994 edition, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was worth upgrading from the second edition as well.
on 1 June 2003
As with most hold'em books the book begins with listing the starting hands when to play them depending on position and how to play them depending on the play of your opponents.
The book then goes on to consider strategic concepts which includes freecards, semi-bluffing, check raising and odds and implied odds.
The next section titled miscellaneous topics gives advice on some of the typical situations found in a hold'em game, such as playing when a pair flops, playing pairs in the hole etc.
Following this there are chapters on loose games, playing short handed, playing non-standard games and other skills. To finish with there is an extensive question and answer section with questions on each chapter in the book.
The writing in the book has a very intense feel with often a dozen points hidden within a single page. This makes multiple read-throughs almost mandatory to gain the most from it.
It has been suggested that the advice in this book is too loose for the modern game. This may or may not be true, but if you are an advanced player surely you can take some parts of the book that are of use, and discard the rest.
I personally feel that this book will be of help to my poker, and is worthy of further study. I am also more than happy to take the advice of the experienced poker writers listed above by studying this book. Im sure they know more about the game than i do!
Hold'em Poker is a revision of Sklansky's classic from 1976. It was the first authoritative poker book to actually give starting hands in hold'em. Sklansky arranged the hands into eight groups and gave recommendations on which ones to open with depending on position.
In this edition he has revised the groups and corrected some minor errors. For example, 7-6s was then both the #30 hand in Group 5 and the #53 hand in Group 8. That has been corrected.
In addition to being the first book devoted exclusively to hold'em, Sklansky's little gem is perhaps the best introductory book on hold'em ever written, and then some. Sklansky does a masterful job of introducing the reader to the game, pointing out how it differs from other poker games, narrows in on the community card essence of the game, and then, amazingly enough, gives the reader information and ideas of considerable value to even seasoned players. Even if you have been playing hold'em for some time, and even if you have read Brunson's SuperSystem, I still recommend that you spend some time with this book.
Sklansky writes in a deceptively terse style so that the ideas and concepts are plainly stated without elaboration. This has frustrated some readers because in some cases what Sklansky is saying is clear at first blush, while in other cases the text seems cryptic. There are three reasons for this.
One, Sklansky thought of himself primarily as a teacher and deliberately left out some explanations while inviting readers to work out the reasoning for themselves. Serious players who want to improve their game will benefit from this approach. Take out a deck of cards and deal out some hands if necessary. For example, near the end of the section on "Odds and Implied Odds" he explains why it is often correct to call with a small pair before the flop. He notes that you'll often "win a nice pot if your card flops." He adds without further explanation, "Get out if it doesn't, unless you make an open-end straight." He wants you to work that out. If you do, you will come to note (after some study) that a draw to an open-ended straight that figures to be the nut is enormously better than an inside draw to the bottom end. I would add that if you have two sixes, the board 754 is significantly better than 987. Sklansky doesn't mention it, but in this latter case, you should usually not draw, but toss.
Two, like all experts writing for a general readership, Sklansky unconsciously takes some ideas for granted since he himself knows them so very well, but doesn't realize that the less experienced reader needs more explanation. I've read many books by experts in all sorts of fields from cosmology to Scrabble, and I can tell you that this is a common phenomenon. What the expert needs when writing a book for a general readership is a very good editor who is less than expert him- or herself. So, yes, this book would benefit from the work of a top notch editor.
An example of Sklansky's not explaining something that would be cryptic to most players comes from the "Semi-Bluffing" section of the "Strategy" chapter. First he notes that "If you never bluff on the flop or fourth street, you are giving away too much information when you do bet." Then he writes, "Rather than try to guess when to bluff, it is much better to use your cards to randomize your play." He is referring to semi-bluffing situations described in the proceeding paragraphs rather than a seat-of-your-pants bluff when you feel you haven't been bluffing enough. However, his use of the word "randomize" recalls a technique some pros use. Say it is correct to bluff one-fourth of the time in a certain situation. Everything else being equal, how do you decide? Take the first card on the flop. If it is a spade, bluff, otherwise don't. That will randomize.
Three, the expert is always aware of his learned colleagues looking over his shoulder; and so to some extent writes for that readership as well. We can see this in Sklansky's almost exhaustive treatment of how to play heads-up on fifth street in the "Strategy" chapter. Sklansky is anticipating knowledgeable critics familiar with saddle-point ideas from Game Theory, which are applicable to heads-up decisions on the river. You might profitably skim this section and save its intricacies for graduate school! But be aware that the top experts understand it very well.
I found it strangely synchronistic in rereading this book to fall upon Sklansky's ideas about the pause as a "tell." As Internet players know, how long it takes you to respond may give your opponents some information about your hand. Sklansky writes, "If a good player does not pause at all after he has bet and has been raised...he is most likely on the come for a flush or straight if such a hand is possible. With almost any other hand in this situation he has to pause to consider either folding or reraising." This is exactly the sort of "tell" that still exists in Internet play, and Sklansky's reasoning is as sound today as it was when he wrote this in the seventies.
This is not only a classic, but a book that almost thirty years after its creation is still very much worth reading. The fact that he devised his strategies originally for a game with only a single blind and an ante (the Las Vegas 10&20 hold'em game circa 1975) should be kept in mind. Yet the ideas and strategies are mostly still of great value. I played cards with Sklansky and I can tell you he is a very good player, but more than that he is a great theoretician who understands the game better than many world champions. Indeed they have learned from him.
on 2 June 2003
Though this book has its problems, it is an excellent guide to winning holdem stratgy. Apart from the fact that most decent holdem players would have at least read it and so will (in tougher games) employ most, if not all, of the stratgies discussed, it uses an easy to understand format to discuss some complex plays and how to adapt them to any situation.
The problems however are that a lot of the ideas are applicable to tight aggressive high limit games, which the authors now frequent. With the explosion of poker, especially the online varient, you will find a large quantity of weak loose passive/aggressive players playing on the lower limits, where many of the plays described in the book will be wasted. Though there is a section on how to play loose games, if this is your game of choice, you might be better off buying a book devoted to the subject.
Also pot limit/no limit is mostly played in Britain and this book is meant to be applied to the limit games prevalent in America. However there are no books which focus solely on this available and the concepts are still valid.
The last problem is that it might encourage you to play too rigidly to their guidelines, ie the constant use of the hand tables. Winning poker play is about how to use your cards in the best possible way in a particular situation, rather than following a set of rules.
All in all though, this is a must buy for any serious player. Many people consider this to be the 'bible' of Texas Hold'em, and after you apply these stratgies to your game, you will probably agree with them.
(As a direct response to gamboler, the chance of making your flush from any two suited cards is about 13%, and anyone can see that if you have two suited cards, you are more likely to make a flush than if you have one. The reason why Sklansky rates J 10s as high as A Q is because it is a large money maker in multiway pots, compared to A Q, which will probably only win a small amount of money heads up)
on 28 December 1998
This was the first keen analysis of the game AND Sklansky's first book. Many of the ideas in this work were crafted into his later _Theory of Poker_. The book is somewhat dated in that D.S. undervalues the importance of position and underrates the profit potential of smaller pocket pairs. His writing style is stiff, not languid, and does not lend itself to easy reading. Many gambling pros speak their thoughts in an abrupt, abbreviated fashion and D.S. carried it over into his written product. He describes pot odds he anticipates at the close of betting as "implied odds", a phrase copied by other writers. If they are anticipated odds why shouldn't they be called that? D.S. seems to derive less of his income from the tables and more from author's royalties and consulting fees (he has advised casinos to abandon the three for two bonus on naturals in twenty-one). He has also stated that no one had published any insightful word on poker prior to 1976 (his book). His notoriety has gone to his head. This is a gratuitous slight to Herbert O. Yardley's _Education of a Poker Player_ published in 1957. However, this revised 1976 book is still worthwhile reading, for Hold'em and poker in general, and not reading it would be a mistake.
on 23 May 2007
This book is simple and easy to understand, very well suited for a complete beginner who never played his first hand.
This book is somewhat limited, and does not leave you fit for fight at the table with a solid bible to go back and seek advice when you loose money later on. If you wish to start and play poker I would not recommend you buying this book however, there are far better options. Rather than reading as many poker books as you can, I would recomend ready one to start with: Small Stakes Hold'em also by David Sklansky and also avaliable from Amazon. That book is much more complete and you can go on for a year or two solely with the guidance of that book, which is not the case with this book.
Save your money, and try to buy fewer but better books on poker!
on 9 January 2004
The book is only concerned with LIMIT hold 'em and I found it to be no use for me (a NO LIMIT player) - certainly not a "complete guide to playing the game"!
on 24 April 2005
After playing "play money" and freerolls for about 6 months I took the plunge and bought this book. The book has a "read this chapter then do exercises" structure. Its for Limit only. For No-Limit try Super System or other texts. If you follow the advice then the book will enable you to TEACH yourself holdem and develop a good solid foundation. The key is DISCIPLINE and with a little practice you can become that "tight aggresive" player that can win many big bets per hour from most microlimit players. In order to benefit from most poker books you should read them, apply what they say and reread and fully understand the ideas. You cannot just read a book once and know it, rather youve got to play and experiences the situations in real life to appreciate and remember them. Ken Warrens system should teach you this but you also need to be able to adjust your play to suit the game you are in. This is necessary so that you dont become predictable.
What Im saying is that if you teach yourself Ken Warren style (which starts off tight) then adjust according to the game you are playing then you should show consistent results over time.
Overall great book. Definitely worth the money. Sweet.
Good/Memorable parts of the book
- "reasons to raise" section
- odds and outs section (standard stuff you just gotta know)
- exercise that tells you to create a playing log
- "how to play aces" section
- overall info on reading hands (of course, its hard to read hand of a microlimit FISH but the principles of reading your oppontent is critical so dont worry if you get a bad read, learn from it and move on)
Things that could be better or added to complete this book
playing microlimit (since most people start out at lowest stakes possible)
- playing online
- limit tourney play
If anyone can recommend any good texts or sites that discuss the areas above (ie playing micro online and limit tourney play) please post a review.....thanks