Usually the back jacket of any how-to book is a breeding ground for the worst type of self-congratulatory hype. As a rule I treat claims of greatness found there with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Dan Harrington is the exception to that rule. The claim to fame printed on the back of each book of his two-volume set couldn’t be more true: “[Dan] is the only player to make it the final table (of the WSOP) in 2003 [field of 839] and 2004 (field of 2,576) – considered by cognoscenti to be the greatest accomplishment in WSOP history.”
And oh yes, he also won the thing in 1995. Safe to say he knows a bit about tournament Hold’em strategy. Thankfully, he also knows a good bit about how to communicate his skills to readers.
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I’ll start by saying that, bar none, this is my favorite poker strategy book of all time [note: while the book is split up into two volumes and sold as two books, it’s essentially one text that got split up simply because of the length, so I’m just going to refer to it as a single book]. When people ask me to recommend poker books, this is always the first one out of my mouth, even if they’re not looking to learn about tournament play. My opinion is that this book will help you think better about poker – that’s how well it’s written and how much depth it provides.
That said, this book is exclusively about multi-table tournament No Limit Hold’em, and those interested in bettering their tournament game will probably get the most out of Harrington’s work. As a side note, I would argue that NL ring players could use this book to great effect as well, especially given the lack of any quality in-depth text on no limit.
Simple but powerful. Dan breaks the book into general sections [Short Tables, Heads Up Play, etc] that cover every aspect and stage of tournament play. Each main section is then further divided to highlight specific aspects of a given element [e.g. in the Heads Up Play section you’ll find sub-sections on pre flip play, continuation bets on the flop, and so on]. At the end of every section, Dan provides multiple hand problems, many taken from actual situations at past WSOP events, that illustrate and apply the concepts discussed in the section.
The first major advantage is the hand problems. They are specific enough to really isolate the concepts addressed, but not so specific that the answer is readily apparent – a tough balance to strike when writing hand quizzes.
The second thing I love about this book is that it teaches SYSTEMS. it doesn’t just give you some general advice and leave you to develop a framework for applying it. Dan does a wonderful job of translating abstract strategy concepts into tangible frameworks that any player can apply to the very next tournament they play. Ever wonder how low your stack should be before you should start pushing in with any two? Wonder no longer. Ever get curious about how much your chips are actually worth at a given stage of the tournament? Dan breaks it down in plain but powerful language and then, even better, lets you know how to apply this information in a structured, rational fashion.
I know I’m starting to sound like a real shill here, but there just aren’t any. I’ve read about 40 poker books, and this one tops them all by a long shot. I would go so far to say that it’s worth more to me than my next top 5 books all put together. [If I were a limit player, Small Stakes Hold’em by Ed Miller would stop the previous from being true, but I’m not – so it is.]
Buy. It. Now. If it doesn’t pay for itself within a month than a) you bought the wrong book or b) you took a one- month break from playing poker.
Two books, some 900 pages on one topic – even if it is in 2+2 old people print, that’s still some serious depth.
Quality of advice: 10/10
From beginner to expert, I think there’s something for everyone to learn here. Harrington didn’t hold much back. I expect poker history to treat this book as a quantum leap for players in general, the way Brunson’s Super System is regarded today/
Every point illustrated by clear but challenging examples. The book loses 2 points because sometimes the hand example graphic stops at the bottom of one page and you have to turn a page to get to the text, which is a little annoying.
Clear and clean, without the trademark 2+2 awkwardness
Everyone can learn from this book. Everyone.
Overall (not an average): 10/10
The best strategy poker book. Ever.
VERDICT: Buy it now.
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