Winner’s Guide To Texas Hold ‘Em, by Ken Warren
When reading a book about poker, it is worthwhile if the author has both a great deal of insight about the game as well as a sense of humor, and that is definitely the case here. Two examples should suffice of the author’s sense of humor to at least understand it in brief. Early in the book the author gives some humorous facts and observations about poker and other card games and their origins and he comments that during the 19th century some 2000 to 2500 poker players played at any given time on America’s waterways, and only about 4 of them were honest. When I read this I cracked that Abraham Lincoln was looking around for the other three. (He was known to have traveled on at least a few occasions down the Mississippi River, although he was not known as a gambler or a drinker, it should be noted.) Additionally, when talking about the names of various hands, some of which were quite clever, one of the names given was a San Francisco busboy for a Queen with a trey (3). Very cleverly done, if a bit crude. If you like your poker advice leavened with a lot of dry and witty humor, this volume is a gem.
In terms of its structure and organization, there are a few of the roughly dozen or so chapters in this book that get the most space and deserve the most attention. Among these is recognizing what hands to bet based on one’s position in the game–the author assumes that there are about nine or ten people playing at a given table at a given time. The second chapter, and one that gets a great deal of attention, is the author’s detailed discussion of the tactics to play and the considerations of bluffing in the face of calling stations (which discourage lots of bluffs), common among inexperienced poker players. The third one, which appears right after the tactics discussion, is a list of common tells that one can use to understand how others are playing, including the fact that people tend to play opposite of the way they actually are, pretending to be weak when they are strong and vice versa rather than presenting themselves in a more straightforward fashion. Ironically, one can profit through honesty in poker, by presenting real strength, which encourages others to view it as a bluff and pay accordingly. The author even pays attention to what seat one should be at given the style of play at a given table.
There are a few notable aspects about this (relatively short at just over 200 pages) poker guide that make it of considerable value to a certain set of readers. For one, it is designed for those who are players at low-limit cash games, especially where a savvy poker player can make money by virtue of playing with those who are much less skilled. It is designed to help such players move up from profiting at $1 or $2 level cash games to about the $10 or $20 limit. In addition to this aim at the budding professional cash game poker player, the author has a high degree of interest in the mathematical odds, showing that he is not interested merely in the psychological aspects of the hot hand but also in grinding out over the long haul successful play and card-playing income through knowing the odds and also benefiting from the ignorance of many people who a knowledgeable player is going to be around. This is certainly an intriguing (and accurate) approach, and this book should definitely appeal to its target market.