Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Poker Book of the Month: Harrington on Hold'em

A glimpse at my poker library

If you are not reading poker books, then please let me know, so I can play at your table. I'd rather play against a bunch of newbie hispters educated from cable TV. You know they are the ones who are mindlessly tutored by Phil Gordon's pearls of wisdom in numerous episodes of Celebrity Poker Letdown. They also take the words of Vince Van Patten to heart as they are sliding on their designer sunglasses after saddling up to a $3/6 limit table at one of the underground clubs here in NYC. Nothing against VVP. He's the man in my eyes. He coined the phrase The Hilton Sisters and gets more poontang on an Sunday afternoon than Wilt Chamberlin did on a three game roadtrip. But let's put it this way... if your head is full of more Vince Van Patten quotes more than David Sklansky quotes... then please! Please! Please! Invite me to your home game.

I was reworking the FAQs section on this site over the weekend. I fixed up the Poker Books section. You can check out random books that I recommend you should read. That's when I came up with an idea. Actually it was an old idea. I finally got off my ass to do something about it.

So welcome to my first of many future Poker Book of the Month posts. This month's featured book is something for advanced players who are serious about improving their tournament play. Harrington on Hold'em: Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments is written by Dan Harrington.

Dan Harrington one of the most consistent players on the tournament circuit today. He is a World Series of Poker Champion and has back-to-back final table appearances at the main event at the WSoP over the last two years. I'm not going to bother you with a complete review of this book, mainly because I am lazy and I'm short on time. What I will tell you is that his book is kick ass for several reasons.

Each chapter concludes with a set of problems related to the material he just covered. Some of his examples are actual hands that happened during his experiences at the World Series of Poker. These problems are an excellent way to sharpen your skills and I suggest you read them over the night before a big tournament.

Harrington gets very specific with his different set of problems citing instances that you will definitely face in a tournament such as the dangers of flopping a medium pair and using a raise to eliminate positional disadvantage.

I loved his discussion of his concept of The Hammer. No, he's not a Grubby disciple wielding 2-7o like a drunken hooligan at a Irish football match. He defines The Hammer as an effective tool in playing against super-aggressive players. You can't miss that.

Here's an excerpt of some basic Harrington Poker Philosophy:
You'll have to learn how to play what I call a balanced strategy. Simply put, this means that you have to learn to vary both your raises and your calls, as well as the actual size of your bets, to avoid giving your opponents a read on your style. You'll have to do this even when you believe that a certain bet is clearly correct. What you sacrifice in terms of making a slightly incorrect bet on a given occasion will be recovered later, when your opponents have to guess at what you're really doing, and they guess wrong. (Harrington, p. 52)

Pot odds are paramount. Like all gamblers and investors, a no-limit hold'em player is constantly trying to make good bets at favorable odds. Calculating pot odds must be automatic and routine. (Harrington, p. 375)
That's all I have to say about this great book. If you regularly play tournaments and do not own a copy of Dan Harrington's book... then what are you waiting for?

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