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Play Optimal Poker: Practical Game Theory for Every Poker Player Paperback – June 2, 2019
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- Publisher : Independently published (June 2, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 243 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1070982725
- ISBN-13 : 978-1070982724
- Item Weight : 11.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.55 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #132,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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When The Mathematics of Poker came out in 2006, I had a hunch it was going to transform the poker world. Not because it was going to be the book that taught everyone to play differently, but because it was going to inspire someone to write the book that made everyone play differently. That never quite happened; the GTO mindset did take over the professional poker world, but there never really was *the* book. Part of it was the onset of training sites replacing poker books, part of it was the UIGEA, and part of it was the steep curve that kept all but the most-interested recreational players from diving into game theory. But nobody sat down and wrote the book that explained to the amatuer player how to systematically understand and apply GTO and exploitative strategies.
I think Andrew has finally written the book.
The book is laid out as a serious of toy poker games that get progressively more complex. As you explore the equilibrium strategies of each of the toy games, you learn concepts directrly applicable to real-world NLHE. Andrew carefully walks through both the toy games and the implications, many of which are not obvious.
This is not a book for beginners. One of its chief aims is to broaden the intermediate player's mindset. Too many decent recreational players are only decent because they figured out the exploitative strategies to beat their small-stakes player pool, but don't really understand---at a deep level---why those strategies work. And why they can't figure out how to beat the better players.
This book breaks down, clearly and concisely, how those recreational exploitaitve strategies fit into the larger playing surface of optimal and exploitaitve play. It then rebuilds your thinking from the ground up, such that your new mindset understands those same strategies in correct context, and also sees why they work, and why they don't work in situations that call for other exploitiatve deviations from optimal play. As such, I think it is best geared toward people who can already beat their neighborhood home game or the $1/$2 NLHE game at the local casino.
The discussion occurs at both the strategic and tactical level, but the ultimate result is not tactical toolkit. One comes away from the book with a whole new perspective on the game and, if my experience is indicative, a lot of homework to do regarding the tactical eurkeas that emerge from that new strategic perspective.
One problem with a lot of poker writing about game theory is that it is either too dense on the game theory, too light on the actionable implications, or both. Not here. Andrew is meticulous in explaining the toy games, but does not overwhelm you with math. Likewise, the implications are extensively discussed, and the read is not left feeling short on insight.
This book takes some effort. It's not going to transform the poker world overnight like Sklansky's early books did, because the next phase in the evolution of good recreational players isn't as simple as memorizing a group chart of starting hands. But make no mistake, this is the next plateau for the best recreational players. And Andrew has provided the roadmap to gret there.
Overall structure: The book has 8 chapters, 234 pages. The very first line of the introduction says "You are playing No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em" (pg. 1) which is ironic because the discussion of NLHE throughout the book is actually very limited. Chapter 1 covers basic concepts referenced throughout the rest of the book, particularly equilibrium. Chapter 2 analyzes the polarized vs condensed ranges in the context of the AKQ game, which is a single-card, one-street, one-bet game in which Ivan (the IP player) has a range of (A,Q) and Opal (the OP player) has a range of exactly K. Chapter 3 changes both players ranges to (A,K,Q) to analyze reciprocal ranges. Chapter 4 deviates from toy games for a moment to analyze a PioSolver breakdown of a UTG range vs. BB range on a As9h6s board in NLHE. Chapter 5 lays out a 4-step process for exploitation, but most of the applications it uses are for the AKQ game. Chapter 6 introduces "complex ranges" where Ivan and Opal are now playing with ten cards and both have a range of (A,K,Q,J,T,9,8,7,6,5). Chapter 7 builds on the "Ace-to-Five" game by allowing for one raise. Chapter 8 (pages 213-227) is called "Putting It All Together" but is mostly a discussion of blockers.
With that outline in mind, I thought the book started out strong but finished weak. I see how it can be helpful to analyze a simple game before analyzing a complex game like NLHE, but at some point you have to move into NLHE. Admittedly, every chapter contains a section at the end called "Real World Applications" which does contain NLHE hands, but these sections are far too short and function more as endnotes. In my opinion, the best chapter in this book is chapter 4, which contains the only solver breakdown in the entire book. I was hoping for an entire book like what was in chapter 4.
Q: Is this book for beginners, intermediates, or advanced players?
A: Somewhere between beginner and intermediate. It doesn't get as basic as pot odds and counting outs, but it does spend some time defining equity and expected value. One sentence in particular shows it is not for players looking to become advanced: "This [node locking] is an advanced use of solvers that this book will not address" (126). I don't know how you write a chapter on the intersection of GTO and exploitative play without node locking, but he did just that in chapter 5.
Q: Is this book worth the money?
A: Despite all my criticisms, yes. At $25, if this book even helps you win a single hand at $1/$2 then it pays for itself. There are poker courses online that go for $1000+, so $25 is quite a bargain.
Q: Is this the best book on GTO poker currently on the market?
A: No. I think that award goes to Acevedo's Modern Poker Theory. However, this book could serve as a good part 1 or complementary intro before reading Acevedo's book.
To sum up, I think Brokos is a very skilled player and writer, but he did sell us a little short by confining the majority of his analysis to games far simpler than NLHE.
Ultimately the book finishes with ways to use game theory concepts to exploit mistakes that your opponents may be making. Such exploits include how to play against villains that call too much or fold too much, don't bluff enough or too often and more.
BTW, I had the good fortune to read an advance copy, thus the early review.
Book does not smell as good as most new books. If you're into that "new book" smell, you may be disappointed the first time you stick your nose in this one.
Will update review after reading. For now, the hope is that I improve at poker simply by owning the book.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviews a bunch of the toy games material from Chen and Ankenman's Mathematics of Poker (AKQ game) and extends to a game with a deck of A down to 5, then on to some real NLHE hand situations.
There is also material discussing range changes for different bet sizes.
The only "criticism" I have is that the book had to finish. If it were twice as long, it would deserve 10 stars.
Can't wait for a follow-up.
This book helps me make more sense and be able to adapt GTO instantly to my game. I’m loving it!!