Book Review: Modern Small Stakes by Nathan Williams



Nathan “BlackRain79″ Williams doesn’t really fit the mold of the typical poker primer author. He’s not some hotshot poker player known to the masses for his WPT and WSOP wins, and he’s not some online legend that the fanboys on the poker forums fawn over.

What Williams is, is a proven and consistent winner in the games he writes about, and he makes no bones about it, he’s a micro-stakes and low limit grinder.

He’s also a well-respected poker coach and produces training videos (for on these same games. In short, Williams isn’t some high stakes pro espousing metagaming and 6-bet bluff ranges. Nor is he merely a “name” player cashing in on recent or past success by penning a book that does little more than gloss over basic poker strategies. He lives and breathes these games every day, and his strategies are specifically for these stakes, and for players looking to grind out some profit from them.

Target audience

If you’re looking for a book on how to adjust to a table full of solid regulars at $25/$50 NLHE games you won’t find it in this book. If you’re looking for the games simplest strategies on beating a table full of mindless players at the microstakes you won’t find them in here either.

Modern Small Stakes is a book on how to beat small stakes No Limit Holdem; games with buy-ins of $10-$50 online, and up to about $2/$5 in live poker rooms.

I read Modern Small Stakes as a PDF, so I can’t speak to the quality of the print copies. However, the text and layout in PDF format were solid, as were the graphics, which included pokerstove range charts and pokertracker and HUD screenshots.

The book is self-published and available for $29.95 at Nathan’s website.

The content at a glance

Modern Small Stakes: Advanced Strategies for Dominating Today’s No Limit Hold’em Cash Games is just over 500 pages. Some 200+ pages of that deals with pre-flop play, which may seem like a lot, but when you consider the multitude of options…

  • What position are you opening from?
  • Was there a raise?
  • What type of Player raised?
  • When should I three bet?
  • Four-bet?

… and the fact that Williams covers just about every conceivable scenario in his pre-flop section, it doesn’t feel like you’re slogging through some starting hand chart, or that Williams is constantly repeating himself.

The pre-flop chapter closes with a number of hand examples, something that continues throughout the book.

From there the book moves on to post-flop play, which takes up the next 200 or so pages (this section also has many real-world hand-history examples), before the text concludes with suggestions for post-session review and thoughts on the mental game.

Takeaway form the book

The one thing that really struck me was how easy it is to under think pre-flop play, and how easy it is to over think post-flop play.

I’m a fair poker player, and when it comes to No Limit Holdem I know just enough to lose my money in a slow, controlled, manner. Williams book certainly didn’t turn me into an instant winner, but what it did was simplify a lot of my in-game decisions and highlight a number of leaks I probably have.

Previously I had been trying to be too cute (because No Limit is supposed to be so complex), and doing silly things like experimenting with c-bets in the 40%-60% range, and trying to balance those different ranges, instead of just c-betting 60% unless there was a specific reason to deviate from this strategy.

I was so hung up on balancing ranges and varying my bet sizes that I was losing sight of far more important factors occurring in the hand, and creating more difficult decisions on later streets.

Additionally, I was playing a very rote pre-flop game and not making the needed adjustments to account for my position and opponents. Pre-flop play was simplistic to me, but after reading Williams’ book I found this to not the be case at all.

Pre-flop decisions are not “standard,” and the better I play pre-flop (not tighter per se, just better) the simpler my post-flop decisions become.

After a couple of days reading the text I managed to strip my game down to a usable foundation, and understand the reasons (opponents, position, and other variables) why I should deviate from this basic strategy.

I learned a ton from the book, but the most important lessons I took away from Modern Small Stakes was what to stop wasting my time on. As odd as it sounds, reading the 500 page book, and learning so many new strategies and concepts, actually simplified No Limit Holdem (at these stakes) for me. It was as if everything was blurry when I played NLHE and Modern Small Stakes was akin to putting my glasses on.

If you’re a small stakes No limit Holdem player Modern Small Stakes by Nathan Williams should be at the top of your reading list. It’s a good book with a lot of content and has a pretty affordable price point.

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