Review of Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em

Title: Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em
Author: T.J.Cloutier (with Tom McEvoy)
Publisher: Cardsmith Publishing
Date:1997
ISBN: July 8, 1997

Reviewed by Nick Christenson, npc@jetcafe.org

July 8, 1997

Until this book was written, the best advice on playing Texas Hold'em in Pot Limit or No Limit games was the section from Doyle Brunson's epic, Super System. Since the writing of Super System the state of the art in poker writing has advanced considerably. There certainly remained a lot to be said about "the Cadillac of poker games".

T. J. Cloutier, who has been competing in big time poker events for the better part of two decades, has impeccable credentials as an expert in pot-limit and no-limit Texas Hold'em. The question is, will his expertise translate into a good book? This was especially of concern because although his collaborator, Tom McEvoy, has been one of the most successful tournament poker players in the last 20 years, his book, Tournament Poker was a mediocre offering at best, offering few, if any, significant new insights into being a successful tournament poker player.

I'm happy to say, that these fears turn out to be unfounded. This book was written clearly, as a spoken exposition by Cloutier. The topics in this book are well organized and carefully spelled out. All aspects of the play in these poker games, with a special emphasis on tournament play, are covered. More importantly, there is a significant amount of information here that has never before seen print.

Cloutier goes through how to play starting hands in various positions in detail, covers having various hands on the flop, turn and river. He discusses carefully how to get a read on one's opponent, the skill Cloutier believes most critical in winning these games. This is a difficult topic to discuss, reading players is much more instinct than science, but he does a respectable job of it.

There are two chapters specifically devoted to tournament play, a very good set of practice hands with commentary by Cloutier, and the book concludes with a set of tales from Cloutier's colorful life.

I like this book quite a bit, but it is by no means perfect. First, charging $39.95 for 206 pages of paper bound content seems a little steep to me. While one could rightly argue that if this book saves you just one bet at a game of these limits, or moves you up one money place in a medium sized tournament, you've recovered this money, it's out of line with what I expect from books in general.

My second complaint, with which it may be fair for the author to take issue with me, is that I get the sensation that the author is holding back a bit. There are several places, where Cloutier does a good job of explaining what one can expect in situations, except that one has a feeling that the author was almost ready to continue with an "... except in these cases..." or "... but watch out for ..." but didn't.

This has been a point of a great deal of soul searching by poker writers for years and can be found in Super System and Ray Zee's introduction to Texas Hold'em for Advanced Players among other places. However, the sense I've gotten from Brunson, David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth is that after a great deal of soul searching, they decided to "damn the torpedos" and bare all to the poker public. I don't get the same sense from Cloutier. Again, this is merely my impression. I'd be very interested in hearing how the author answered this question, very diplomatically worded, of course.

Nonetheless, this book represents the current best information in print on pot-limit and no-limit Hold'em. If you are a beginner or intermediate Hold'em player interested in pot-limit or no-limit ring games or tournaments, don't be afraid of this book's price tag.

Capsule:

Unless you're a big money winner of pot-limit and no-limit Texas Hold'em games, this book will provide enough useful information to more than justify its cost. While not perfect, this book represents the best information publically available on how to play and win in these games.

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