This follow-up to the highly successful Volume I contains more complex and in-depth situations than Mr. Harrington’s previous work. The concepts that are introduced in this second part (of M’s and Q’s) and that are the cornerstone of this work, are not that new actually: They were common knowledge among the better tournament players. Having said that, this is the first time that someone has analyzed them in such an excellent and analytical manner. All of this makes for a truly superb book. Some random comments on things that I thought were great, or that I actually liked a bit less:
· The description and analysis of things like the Squeeze Play.
· In-depth analysis of the different plays that are recommended, based upon your stack size both in relation to the blind / ante pressure and your opponents.
· Spot-on analysis, like on page 274 where the author shows a situation where “It’s your M that governs your strategy, not your Q”. Lots of players, even some fairly good ones would not have realized that in the situation described.
· Great advice on controlling pot odds (p. 295). This is one of the very first times I have seen advice this excellent in print. Other great advice on p. 310: “If you have… end the hand now.”
Weak or somewhat weak (at least in my view)
· The chapter on probe bets, pp. 21 & 22. I especially dislike the analysis of the example “He succeeded… would have.” In my view, the correct conclusion should be that if the player in question had really responded correctly to his opponent’s probe bets, he should have known that the river presented him with an excellent bluffing opportunity. So, if he had analyzed correctly what his opponent’s bets actually meant, he would not have lost an additional $2,400 as in this example, but he would have won a $17,500 pot – while having the worst hand.
· The calculation of the pot-sized checkraise on page 47 is wrong. This check-raise would be to $5K, meaning that it would cost five times as much as betting out for $1K, not three times as mentioned in the book. Now, there are a few other small errors / mistakes in this book that don’t bother me that much (mistakes caused by time pressure, mostly), but here the mistake in the calculation has a clear impact on the recommended play – and thus, should have been corrected.
· Pages 63-65. Example 1 doesn’t seem to be at all what it is supposed to be: an example of a bluff. Given the table characteristics, a preflop raise would have been a better play IMO than the actual call. But more importantly, the flop bet here is not a bluff at all: It is simply a bet with a rather marginal, but possible current best hand. In addition to that, the conclusion on page 65 does not have much to do with the actual example.
· In the sections with example / practice hands, the author usually gives the description / characteristics of just one opponent, also – and especially – when the subject is preflop play. This is not a lot of information when trying to figure out the best way to play a hand. Therefore, information on, say, half the players would have led to an even better and more accurate analysis of the preferred play than we can come up with now.
· Pages 234 – 237. Here, the author forgets to mention something that he mentions in all other examples. In this case: The possibility of being up against hands like AQ or AJ (that you dominate with your AK), or even a total bluff. This would shift the decision from a close situation where folding is probably correct to a clear all-in. Strange that in this situation Mr. Harrington seems to think of pairs lower than aces or kings as the only possibility. And the reasoning in example 10-2 is a bit strange as well (“If… flop”), just as in the case of 10-5 (p. 247) where he fails to mention an important and likely hand that the opponent could hold, the A♦Q♦.
· The author (correctly) thinks in terms of odds as the guideline for making calls or not, but he never mentions the common belief that chip values change in tournaments – say, that with a $10K stack, losing $5K hurts you more than winning $5K will benefit you.
· As the book reaches the end, Mr. Harrington starts mentioning the M’s and Q’s less and less. In fact, near the end of the book there are quite a few examples where he doesn’t even seem to be taking them into account, in situations where I think he should. Also, in heads-up or shorthanded games with short M’s, I actually prefer all-in raises to the standard raises that the author recommends – standard raises that often account to no less 30 or 35% of the total stack. Because many of these raises will obviously be with fairly marginal hands (after all, we are talking the final stages of a tournament here, with just a few players remaining) I would not want to give my opponents even the tiniest bit of room to get fancy and make a move. Rather, I would apply maximum pressure and put them to the test now by giving them just a limited number of options: Calling the all-in bet – or folding.
Despite the fact that this “Weak” list is probably four times as long as the “Excellent” list, it should be clear that I absolutely love this book. The probably biggest compliment of all is that the success of Volume I (and the authors’ knowledge that thus Volume II would automatically be a huge success as well, almost regardless of the actual content) has not led to them becoming complacent or taking a somewhat “lax” approach. Quite the contrary: With 444 pages of text and still not one word too many, and all of this for a mere $29.95, Harrington on Hold’em II is simply today’s best and most insightful tournament book by far.