I’ve told it before. When a supposedly world-class player comes out with a book, I expect more than I would from a ‘regular’ player. Especially if you pat yourself on the back as much as Farha does, and don’t hesitate to let Lyle Berman say in the foreword that Farha on Omaha “will surely be known as the definitive book on the subject”, then I think this should be backed up with a true quality piece. Yet, this book offers merely basic and at times even flawed advice about Farha’s specialty game, PLO. For no apparent reason, he also has pieces on limit Omaha high (?), Omaha/8 and PLO/8, meaning that his “definitive” piece on PLO high is a mere 79 pages. “Expert strategy” that is muddied by the fact that Farha makes a distinction between playing the “right way” and “Sammy’s way”. Both ways are not that spectacular IMO, as the “right way” is nothing more than a way-too-tight approach that no good player would use, and “Sammy’s way” assumes lots of crazy plays and all, yet more often than not are just standard plays that are in every good player’s arsenal.
As you can see, I am quite critical of this book, not in the last place because Farha tends to stereotype the opposition way too much. As if Rocks can only raise with aces and nothing else, Farha says stuff like “I know exactly what he has”, or even worse “they can never know what I have” as if he’s playing poker from another planet. Yet, if his opponents in the Big Game are as predictable as he makes them seem, winning there would be a piece of cake! He sometimes seems to err between odds and percentages (p. 6, where he talks about odds 41-9 when he obviously means a 9 in 41 chance), and comes up with absolutely ludicrous statements (pp. 47-48, where he claims to have successfully bluffed on the river in limit Omaha / 8 “a million times”, claiming to make his opponents fold on the river 8 or 9 times out of 10 – in multiway pots no less). Plus, for a book with supposedly advanced material, there are way too many obvious, ABC things. In fact, it is only on page 155, almost at the end of the book, where Farha explains what a “continuation bet” is! (Including the “ ” signs.) And then there’s his strange view that he prefers cash to tournaments “because in tournaments you have to be patient – and I’m not a patient player”. Strange, because at least in my view it is cash games that reward patience, while in tournaments overaggressive and / or at times steaming players can get away with their practice and still be successful. Another strange thing: his claim at p. 149 that “in PLO, flush draws are not as strong as wraps, so you can’t play them as aggressively.” Yet, as I showed in my own book, an overplayed straight draw is in fact the flush draw’s best friend, because especially if you have the nut flush draw or a pair to go with your flush draw, there’s a decent chance of holding the best hand and the best draw – meaning that lots of action on the flop would benefit the flush draw, at the expense of (even a big) straight draw. Another piece of criticism: In my view very bad advice to always bet the size of the pot on the turn, also on either / or boards like paired boards or boards that have a flush possible. (For the exact reasons, again check my own “Secrets of Professional Pot-Limit Omaha” book. But as Farha claims to have never read a poker book in his life”, he obviously is not familiar with these passages.) But the worst of all is all the talking in absolutes, as if every player plays the same and as if there are never any grey areas. Just three examples out of the many:
- p. 150 “A player who makes a smaller flush is going to pay you off”
- p. 150 “The player in early position must have a hand so your raise isn’t going to shut him out”
- p. 146 “If he reraises, you know he has a full house and was trapping. You should fold. But if he has a little flush he’s going to call and you’re going to make more money”
So, is there nothing positive to say about the book? Well, of course there is. Some of Sammy’s stories about hands he has played are quite interesting. (Like his hands against Phil Hellmuth, even though both hands are no-limit hold’em – not exactly the scope of this book. Also nice: a hand from the Big Game where he correctly spotted a dry-ace play by a fellow pro, pp. 166-168.) And of course, especially the PLO advice is not all that bad either. But all in all, the strategy in the book is mediocre at best, the book has no structure whatsoever, and for a supposedly great player there is remarkably little expert advice. In fact, I actually think that the “beginner” book by the relatively unknown Jeff Hwang is more in-depth than this “definitive” book by the great Farha – and therefore my rating of a mere 6 points out of 10.