This is a very good question-and-answer type of book on the play of hands, and a great follow up to Brier & Ciaffone’s “Middle limit hold’em poker”. While that book assumed no specific knowledge of the opponents, this one specifically adjusts its recommendations on the tendencies and the perceived characteristics of the opposition. This makes for a very useful book for anyone who is serious about playing middle-limit hold’em, either live or online. Before we get to the actual strategic advice, here are two minor points of criticism on my part:
1. The terminology that is being used is not always very accurate. For instance, on page 122 question 5, the text says, “It is $20 to bet” when in fact the betting has been capped already, and thus the only options are to fold or call $20 more. Also, on page 116, the text “There is $130 in the pot and it is $20 to you” suggests there has been action already, while the authors actually mean to say, “It has been checked to you; it is $20 to bet”. Also, on quite a few occasions the authors say that someone just calls when in my view they should have just given an objective analysis of the actions so far. In my view, it would have been much better to save these judgments of someone’s play until after the answers, together with the actual analysis. Now, they give the readers some added clues on the best course of action that probably shouldn’t have been there.
2. Sometimes the book is a bit hard to read, mostly because the layout could have been a bit better. Especially the use of colors, columns and / or tabs would have made the distinctions much clearer between hypothetical plays, actual plays and the previous actions in the hand.
Now, as to the actual strategic advice. Because the book has a very open format and because the writers give clear advice, it is very easy to disagree on one or two situations. In fact, this exact format is probably the reason why Jim Brier has gotten so much (in my view, undeserved) heat in the past, simply because everyone can point directly to situations where in their views the authors recommendations are off. Some hands in this book that I disagree with:
Hand 10 – question 5:
I would check-raise instead of bet. Situated to the immediate right of the preflop raiser, I would say this is a great opportunity to try and go for the check-raise, thereby putting all others in the middle (who, if they call, may well be drawing dead, and this equals dead money!) in order to maximize my expectation in the hand. After all, if I am beat I will lose a bunch of bets anyway, so now it may be best to try and get some dead money in the pot by first letting the preflop raiser do the betting for me, and by pulling the trigger later, when the action gets back to me.
Hand 10 – question 9:
With the nuts (top full) on the river, in a pot this big, I would simply bet out. This will secure at least two big bets, and possibly the nut flush would still raise, giving me the opportunity to make it three bets. Having the hand checked around would be an absolutely horrible outcome, and this is not unlikely because someone with three queens may now slow down because of the flush possibility, and someone with a small flush may chose not to bet out of fear for a higher flush or even a full house, possibly thinking “hey, the pot is big enough for me as it is”. So, I would not take this risk, but rather go for the obvious play of betting out and picking up calls. Never get frisky in a big pot!
Hand 8 – questions 8 & 9:
The option that the authors recommend (check-folding on the turn with top pair / top kicker) seems rather weak to me. In fact, I would choose to bet out again with my A9 on the board 9752, for the simple reason that the aggressor on the flop may have been semi-bluffing with a hand like T8 for example, or even a 98 that he decided to play aggressively. Folding TPTK in a three-way pot when my opponents are not really representing anything seems like giving them a bit too much credit, especially with $360 or $400 in the pot already, and a turn bet of only $40. Yet the ratings on page 126 show that the authors think that folding would be the best choice by a very wide margin, despite these great odds and / or the high amount of uncertainty.
Fortunately though, most of the advice in this book is simply of very high quality – which is exactly the reason why I have chosen to rate this book an 8. There are some excellent reasonings, for instance in hand no. 13 and hand no. 21, where the hypothetical plays are also very useful. Also take a look at pages 166-168, the answers to hand 23, questions 2 & 3. What you can find here is a good and much more in-depth analysis than in almost any other (similar) hold’em book or article.