|book Cover: How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold'em|
AudienceHand Reading is not a poker beginner book by any stretch. This is an advanced poker concept requiring discipline and lots of practice to perfect. In fact the book makes this point beyond any doubt by stating that range assignment and tracking takes a lot of mental work. However, multiple level thinking and thinking in terms of hand ranges are really at the core of what separates professional poker players from amateurs. As such the reward for mastering hand reading is a substantial increase in your win rate.
The GradeThis is a good, well-written poker book which is well worth your time. It is a practical book which touches on theory only as much as necessary to explain concepts. Moreover the book has a section specifically for the purpose of quick refresh after the initial read. Author also introduced some computer software tools to assist in doing some of the tedious poker analysis work. I loved those practical gems, which together make any book so much more useful for a reader. The only points I take from a perfect score are for the price.
The book is priced at ~$50. I happen to be very suspicious of any poker book priced above value range of $15-20. That because premium priced range is where one finds scammy books which promise to “reveal ultimate secrets to unlock unlimited earnings potential in blank”. Here substitute word poker for blank. One the other hand, given that target audience is rather limited, pricing it at a premium might have been the only way to make the whole enterprise economically feasible. But I am unconvinced.
High PointsAgain I must commend the author on smartly choosing the topic of his book. A method of Hand reading in poker based on assigning hand ranges and tracking them as hand progresses is covered thoroughly, clearly and in good detail. At the same time the focus is kept on practical poker by copious examples throughout the text. Starting with simple cases, then analysing more difficult cases where opponents could be bluffing. The material in the book is logically organized and easy to follow.
As a starting point for hand ranges the author introduces a simple classification for player types you meet at the table. The categories like nit, fish and regular seemed to be geared more toward live poker. That makes sense given that E. Miller is a live poker professional.
I liked simple, down to earth message - Hand reading is a lot of work. Yet it is worth the effort. The author chose not to sugarcoat the fact that accurate, real-time hand reading is quite challenging. Mentally taxing, in fact.
There are several useful features of this book which will make consuming the text easier for readers. First, paragraphs summarizing some concept or fact are highlighted in a tip box of sorts, making it easier to skim through. Second, the tail of the book contains quick concepts. That is not unlike earlier books Ed Miller wrote with David Sklanky. For example Small Stakes Hold’em. These quick concepts are very useful in itself but specifically shine when one returns for a quick refresh. Third, all examples are illustrated with four color deck. Though I always thought of four color deck as a gimmick, it worked surprisingly well here. I refer specially to an electronic copy. Finally, I did not have to double check myself whether certain card is a spade or club.
Needs ImprovementBesides book’s price I mentioned earlier I did not find any issues. The one below is truly a possible improvement rather than being a flaw:
Each chapter in the book ends with a bunch of exercises for the reader. The exercises are designed to help absorb the material by going through the process of narrowing opponent’s hand range. Somewhere toward the end of the book we get introduced to a commercial software tool, Flopzilla, which automates some of the work in exploring hand ranges. I thought that it would be more useful to refer to a website which guides readers through doing book’s homework exercises. Perhaps drawing on results from Flopzilla.