Bob Ciaffone should be familiar as a poker columnist and the author of several excellent poker books. Jim Brier is a columnist for Card Player magazine who is known for writing quizzes specificallyNick Christenson is widely regarded as one of the best gambling book reviewers publishing today. He is a contributor for Poker Player magazine, and has published in Full-Tilt and Gambling Times. He is also the editor of the very funny 'Casino Death Watch,' which chronicles the comings and goings of casinos in Las Vegas. He is an avid poker and blackjack player. Nick's website is www.jetcafe.org/~npc/ about mid-limit Texas Hold'em. In Middle Limit Holdem Poker these two authors team up to write a book focusing on detailed play of hands in, you guessed it, middle limit Texas Hold'em poker games.
The book begins by discussing some basic concepts regarding Holdem poker. Even though this is background, it's immediately clear that this book targeted at experienced players. The authors assume that the reader is not only familiar with the game, but also with a significant amount of poker strategy. This is not a book for beginners. In my opinion, it's not even a book for intermediate poker players. The concepts presented in this book are geared toward experienced Hold'em players.
Middle Limit Holdem Poker continues with sections about the various decision points in a Hold'em hand. Sections cover preflop, flop, turn, and river play in considerable detail. Following this are two sections titled "Special Topics", which deals with issues like bluffing, slow playing, free cards, etc., and "Non-Standard Games" which covers short handed play, hands in which players post, and Holdem games that have unorthodox structures among other topics. Each section begins by providing some basic strategic concepts before moving on to extensive quizzes concerning the topic in question. The book concludes with tables presenting the mathematical expected outcomes of some common confrontations and a glossary.
I didn't count the total number of questions in the book, but it's certainly several hundred. The book is thick for a poker book, and densely written. It's been quite a while since I've read a gambling book that took me as much time to read as Middle Limit Holdem Poker. Certainly, in terms of concepts per dollar, the reader is getting an excellent value. Fortunately, this book is also clearly written. There is never any ambiguity about each lesson the authors are trying to impart.
While I consider Bob Ciaffone to be among the very top echelon of poker writers, I found myself disagreeing with a larger share of the information the authors provide in this book than in others he has written. Of course, I can't think of any good reason why anyone should prefer my recommendations to those of the excellent players who wrote this book, but I believe that more of the specific recommendations made in this book are debatable than in, say, Improve Your Poker. The authors do state that if circumstances are changed even a little, then the right way to play a particular hand might change significantly. I also certainly agree that just changing minor details about a hand, such as the number of callers or a player's position, can drastically alter correct strategy, and the authors do a fine job of representing many of these cases. Despite this, the distinctions between some of the situations described in the book is often pretty fine. I would have liked to have seen some sort of rating system to explain which plays the authors think are a "slam dunk", and about which plays they might be less certain.
After some of these questions and answers the authors relate what was the final result of the hand in question. Invariably, the actual events support the authors' contention about how the hand ought to be played. While this is fine for educational purposes, I found this level of certainty to be tiresome after a while. Just once I would like to have seen the authors write something like: "Despite an incorrect call on the turn, our hero caught his two-outer on the river, check-raised the end, and hauled in a monster pot." Or, maybe they could have written something like, "After improperly calling the raise on the turn and a bet on the end with Ace-high/weak kicker the turn raiser folded his hand without showing it, indicating he was on a total bluff." To the end of reinforcing the book's advice, which is generally good, Ciaffone and Brier have pushed my credulity out of my comfort zone.
In my opinion the book has some significant flaws. Despite this, it has probably improved my poker game more than any other book I've read in a long time. The sheer volume of the book is relentless in pounding generally good advice into the reader, despite the fact that I believe that variations on the strategies the authors espouse can be equally effective in the games to which they're referring. I definitely recommend this book for advanced middle-limit Holdem players, but I caution the reader to take their time with this book, to examine it with a critical eye, and once finished to read it carefully again.
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