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Best Books of the Year So Far
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I've read at least 20 books on poker. David Sklansky's books give you vital, fundamental poker basics and even advanced theory -- but they aren't a lot of fun to read and make poker seem less than fun to play. Dan Harrington's books are better than Sklansky's because they are more informative, conversational, and easier to read. But make no mistake, Harrington's books are work. Gus Hansen's book was almost as informative, giving the reader an amazing insight into the thinking of a poker genuis as he makes his way, hand by hand, to heads up play. Like a great teacher, Hansen makes poker fun. He puts the reader in his head as he debates his next move. It's so witty, sometimes deadpan, and funny I couldn't put it down. At times, he goes into great detail regarding his mathematical analysis of his card strength and the pot odds and eventually the "correct" decision; then, he slyly concedes that he did just the opposite and can give no rational explanation for his action. Sometimes he says that simple curiosity got the best of him. When he misplays a hand, he's comically honest, "I played this hand like a novice, a fish, an idiot!"
I wanted to be more than entertained, I wanted to learn how a top poker pro analyzes his way through a tournament. Watching WPT six person final tables, while good, reveal very little about the players bobbed and weaved their way to the final table. Worse, WPT airs only the most entertaining hands, leaving on the cutting floor most of the final table action. With Every Hand Revealed, you get to see how play developed over the course of days, rather than minutes. Not only do you get the insights into Hansen's thinking, but you get to see what counter strategies his opponents adopt.Read more ›
Everybody who rates this book highly is right. It's one of the better poker books around, especially at this price. Like they all say, it's excellent because Gus Hansen recorded his fresh thoughts into a voice recorder during a tournament (which he won!) and later compiled those thoughts (very honest and not self-serving) into this book.
But it's a great book for another reason: if you've seen Hansen play on TV (and I have, a lot), it might seem that he's a little nuts at times. He often has played very aggressively, even recklessly, but other times he'll seemingly be the tightest player at the table. I always wondered why this was. Well, apparently it's all part of a well-constructed master plan. He's not making it up as he goes. He has perhaps thought deeper in certain areas than some of his peers or at least come to contrarian conclusions. Most amazingly, he explains much of this deeper planning and thinking in the book. It's not just 300+ hands explained individually; there's a good dose of deeply-considered strategy, too.
Another of the book's strengths: the degree of math is just right -- not an inhumanly large amount like some books, but not zero, either.
The only negatives are very minor: the paper used is thin and rough (highlighting shows through the page), but that's why it's so affordable; and Gus's prose is a little awkward at times, but English is his second language and he more than makes up for any awkwardness with the cheery, honest attitude that shines through the writing.
Add another positive review to the pile! 4.5 stars out of 5 (5 out of 5 when the book's low price is taken into consideration).
I have to agree with others here. This one of the best poker books to come along in a long time.
While pros making videos of their poker tournament victories are common online, this is the first time a serious player has explained an entire tournament in print -- a live brick-and-mortar tournament!
The narrative is detailed and honest; it shows that even Hansen nods with some way-off decisions. This frankness only increases the usefulness of the book as other pro poker players tend to gloss over their trouble hands in their writing. Simply put, they often display the Phil Hellmuth attitude: "I'm great and when I needed to, I sucked out." You just know players like Mr. Hellmuth are getting uncanny reads on opponents' hands, but they don't explain the thought process.
Then too, sometimes Mr. Hansen makes the right decision, but the cards don't cooperate. It's enlightening to see him handle this and go on to win without getting tilted off his game. (Is it just me or why is it that best online players are unflappable? There's a Chuck Yeager quality to their voices.)
The book is easy to follow without making you slog through complex math, yet this player is always aware of the numbers involved in crucial decisions.
I hope Mr Hansen and other world-class players do more of this "poker tournament diary" writing, IF they dare. Hansen says he's not worried that other players will now read him like a book, because he claims he can change gears at will. I hope he didn't give away the store with this groundbreaking poker book.
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Here's the sequence of the books I've read about NLHE Tournaments:
Step 1: T.J. Cloutier/McEvoy - Survive, survive, survive... Maybe you get a lot of chips somewhere and win a tournament.
Step 2: Dan Harrington - Survive, but if all conditions are right, play a hand like J-T suited or 9-8 suited if you have three callers, tight players in the blinds, and then proceed from there.
Step 3: Gus Hansen - Survival sucks. Accumulate chips. Get the blinds. Know BEP. GO FOR IT.
For years I was in Step 1 mode: Play your coin flips with 99 vs. AK and pray they hold up. Double up a few times, don't play the "chip burners" like J-T suited or K-Q suited. Waaaaaaaaay too tight to consistently win let alone confuse my opponents with my play.
Now, Step 2 was nice, but how often do you really get 3 or 4 callers in front of you AND tight players in the blinds? Basically, you're always in Step 1/Survivor mode unless all the stars and planets align at the poker table and we know that doesn't happen very often.
Step 3. Go for it. Raise with a K-T suited in middle position 3 x the BB and see what happens. If you get raised and can make the call and get a great flop then go for it.
Yeah, it sounds crazy to "go for it" but you know what I've discovered?
Sitting around getting blinded to death watching people get chips and win millions of dollars while I hope my caveman coin-flip strategy holds up doesn't work. You have to get in there with a Q-J suited in late position for some of your chips. You don't get the AA or KK often enough, and if you do get those hands do you really accumulate enough chips to win the tournament? No.