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  • The Next Poker Book You Have To Read

    By Lee Jones


    I will take it as stipulated that you read poker books. If you don’t, um, either you’re not interested in poker (which makes me wonder why you’re reading this), [1] or you play poker and don’t read poker books (which makes me wonder why you’re not in my game).

    I am inalterably persuaded that a good poker book is one of the highest ROI (return-on-investment) ways to invest your money. Most poker books these days run $25-40 (£5-8). [2] And if you’re playing at any but the very tiniest limits, then one good piece of advice in this book you purchased, and it’s paid itself in the first session you play with the knowledge you gained.

    Now, I know some people own all the poker books – I’ve been in those people’s houses. They have a bookshelf filled with everything from Super/System to the Chris Moneymaker biography, and they’ve probably “read” every one.

    But that’s not how you make your profit from a good poker book. No, you find a small handful of really good poker books, and you inhale them. Using Heinlein’s terminology, you grok them. Until the words from those books, font, punctuation, layout and all, float into your brain at the necessary times. Study those books as a concert pianist would learn a Mozart concerto – a note at a time, a phrase at a time, a line at a time. Until she groks that concerto. So you must be with these poker books. Not that you have read them and can say “Oh yeah, I read Theory of Poker.” But until you sense page 200 of Theory of Poker coming into your head when the information on that page is germane to what’s happening to you at the poker table.

    Of course, that’s all well and good, but if you’re going to put that much effort into a small number of books, you want to know which ones. And goodness knows that the poker book market has overflowed since 2003 or so.

    But I’m going to do you a favor – I’m going to tell you one of the books you need to read.

    The Main Course

    Barry Tanenbaum has finally published the book he’s been threatening to write for years.

    “Who’s Barry Tanenbaum? I haven’t seen him on TV and he’s not famous on PocketFives.”

    No, Barry is just a guy who has been making a living beating the $30-60 hold’em game at the Bellagio for the last few years.

    If you appreciate the strength of the above statement, fine. If not, allow me to elaborate. If you watch the poker forums and the TV shows and the popular poker media, you’ll see the names of this week’s stars. The guy (or gal) who just won $1,000,000 at this tournament or that. But note the following: if 400 people put up $10,000 each to play in a tournament, somebody has to win a million bucks. Is that somebody a world-class player? Not proven at all. Did he or she play well over those 4-5 days? Almost certainly. Did he or she get lucky at a couple of key times? Definitely. What we know is that this person, gracing the cover of every poker magazine at the moment, played some pretty good (maybe world-class) poker for a week.

    Now, let’s go back to my friend Barry Tanenbaum. [3] Since his retirement from the Silicon Valley computer business some years ago, Barry’s office has been (and still is) the $30-60 limit hold’em game at the Bellagio. You know where it is – slightly to your right as you enter the room – about 1:00 if the steps up to the top section are 12:00. He works evenings and occasional grave shifts. Day in and day out, beating one of the tougher poker games in the world for a healthy living. He won’t ever be on the cover of Card Player, for which he writes, [4] but he’s been a consistent winner in a very tough cash poker game for years now.

    That’s not only a hell of a recommendation, but it’s extremely rare too. Please remember that some (perhaps many) of the names that you know and remember from TV – those people are flat broke and/or are playing on somebody else’s bankroll because they don’t have the buy-ins themselves. Barry Tanenbaum won’t never ever be broke.

    So, Barry’s book. It’s called Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy. And yes, it’s about limit hold’em.

    Now, before you stop reading, four points:

    1.      Limit hold’em is not dead. The casinos of Las Vegas, Foxwoods, Atlantic City, and the massive card barns of California are full of people playing limit hold’em as we speak. Yes, there are plenty of $2-5 no-limit hold’em games filled with 22-year-old kids wearing baseball caps (sometimes backwards), sunglasses, and iPods. But there is as much (or more) limit hold’em action, some of it at levels where you can make (or lose) very serious money. If you don’t play limit hold’em well, you’re really not a well-rounded poker player.

    2.      When the crème de la crème of the poker world gather in Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, they generally play some kind of mixed format, selecting among various games. One of those games is limit hold’em. For whatever reason, people such as Barry Greenstein, Chau Giang, Todd Brunson, and Jennifer Harman consider the game worth playing. Well.

    3.      The biggest cash game in the history of poker was – wait for this – limit hold’em. You’ve probably heard of the Very Big game, when billionaire entrepreneur Andy Beal took on a loose corporation of the above people (and a few others) all managed by Doyle Brunson. If you haven’t read The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King , by Michael Craig, then read it soon.

    4.      Lessons that you get from Barry’s book will apply to any cash game in which you’re playing. He gives you detailed thought processes on how to approach various situations that come up in limit hold’em games. Of course, if you’re playing no-limit hold’em or PLO or whatever, then the exact decisions will be different. But it’s Barry’s approach to making those decisions that makes this book stand out. That and the confidence that you can have in this approach, knowing that it has stood the test of time and some of the best players Las Vegas has to offer.

    Barry is not only a top-notch player, he’s an articulate, clear, and often droll writer, so his book is instructional and fun to read. In one paragraph, he describes having to fold pocket aces:

    “…lay it down – face down. Only your mother and your spouse care about your bad luck.”

    Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy also covers topics that I haven’t seen in any other text, such as playing hands from the blinds, dealing with blind steals, blind vs. blind play, etc. Many of us find ourselves lost in those situations, where two people are fighting over a pot but neither has much of anything. This book gives concrete guidance on how to win more than your share of those contests.

    Look, I’ve probably already said more than I should. I figure that every time a new poker book comes out, it’s probably +EV for the good players. Remember, most people don’t read the poker books at all. Those who do may think, “Ah – there’s nothing to this game – I’ll just skim this book and then start making $50 an hour on PokerStars.” Those people are, of course, welcome in my game and should be welcome in yours, too.

    But the sad truth is that those people are not going to read Barry’s book. Barry’s not famous enough and there aren’t any photos of him surrounded by giant bundles of $100 bills. The only people who read this book will be the ones who are probably already beating the game and want to move up to the next level. Or they’re beating their game for 2 big bets per100 hands, and would like to beat it for 2.5 big bets per 100 hands. Or maybe they are just barely holding their own and want to start truly profiting.  

    Meh. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you don’t want to read my friend Barry Tanenbaum’s book. But look, Barry’s a really nice guy – a gentleman, a mensch. So I’ve got an idea: you go buy his book, Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy. Just don’t bother reading it. It’s only about limit hold’em, which nobody plays, and it probably won’t help your game that much anyway. But it’ll look good on your bookshelf.

    [1] Hi Mom! Back

    [2] Heh, just kidding – it’s more like £12-20. Back

    [3] I should note, by way of disclaimer, that Barry and I have been friends since the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. But I respect him far too much to write this piece if I didn’t believe it. Back

    [4] Steve Radulovich, if you’re reading this, a hint: it’s high time Barry Tanenbaum’s mug was on your cover. Back


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    Comment from Annettte_15 Fan
    Time: November 30, 2007, 8:07 pm

    Thanks for the tip, Lee. It’s the first time I’ve heard of this guy. I’ll definitely give it a go. It’s possible now that everyone reads the same poker books and are cancelling each other out.

    If it is good I won’t be telling other people about it;)

    Comment from Johnny Hughes
    Time: December 2, 2007, 1:37 pm

    I did a radio interview here in West Texas last week. The host talked about all the early World Series champions that came from these parts: Johnny Moss, Sailor Roberts, Doyle Brunson, Bill Smith, et. al. Then he asked if any of the modern players would stand a chance against the likes of Johnny Moss in his prime. It was then I told him all about Annette. None of them would have much chance against her.
    Johnny Hughes

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