Anyone who thinks they could read a few books, learn some general strategies, and then be able to go out and regularly beat a mid-limit casino poker game will be disappointed. Beating the games populatedNick Christenson is widely regarded as one of the best gambling book reviewers publishing today. He is a contributor for Poker Player magazine, and has published in Full-Tilt and Gambling Times. He is also the editor of the very funny 'Casino Death Watch,' which chronicles the comings and goings of casinos in Las Vegas. He is an avid poker and blackjack player. Nick's website is www.jetcafe.org/~npc/ by the better players requires a more complex strategy than a few rote generalities can provide. It is necessary to have a deep understanding of this game, an understanding that can come only from experience and careful thought expended about the game away from the table. There is no "get smart quick" scheme, but the fastest and surest path to expertise is to learn what the best players do and to understand why.
In Improve Your Poker, Bob Ciaffone has assembled many of the columns he has written over the years and added some new ideas and clarifications to comprise this collection of essays. The first section covers what Ciaffone calls "General Concepts". This is followed by sections on "Gambling Skills", "Reading Opponents", and "Deception and Bluffing". Many of these essays provide the most well-reasoned explanations of some of the most important poker principles that I've read. As an example, I believe that Ciaffone's discussion of the value of tells is spot-on. His explanation about betting on the end provides lessons that many poker players could use to significantly improve their game. Also, the author's description of the whys and hows of bluffing is the best I've seen in print.
Ciaffone then moves on to cover specifics from particular games, including Texas Hold'em, Stud, High-Low Split, and one essay concerning Omaha. The author then spends a considerable amount of time discussing "big bet" poker, that is, pot limit and no limit games, and concludes with a section on tournaments. While I don't think these sections are quite as consistently strong as the first half of the book, there is still a great deal of excellent information here, especially because Ciaffone lets us inside his head as he describes his thought processes during big bet poker situations. Much of the information on various poker types is very strong as well. This is not to say that I agree with everything that he has written, but all his positions are backed by reasonable explanations, and in a vacuum people would be well advised to trust the advice of "The Coach" before mine.
Ciaffone focuses on strategies that are predominantly useful against players who are neither clueless nor superhuman, such as those lineups frequently found in mid-limit or relatively small blind structure big bet games. Many of the things that the author discusses just aren't going to be terribly useful in a common 3-6 Hold'em game. Overall, though, Improve Your Poker is one of the best poker books I've read. It is filled with a large amount of nuts-and-bolts suggestions that, with a significant amount of thought and reflection, the reader should be able to apply to their game, although it assumes that the reader is already a fairly seasoned player and that they plan to devote some time to applying its principles.
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