Review of Tournament Poker for Advanced Players

Title: Tournament Poker for Advanced Players
Author: David Sklansky
Publisher: Two Plus Two Publishing
Date: 2002
ISBN: 1-880685-28-0
Pages: 236

Reviewed by Nick Christenson, npc@jetcafe.org

June 1, 2002

The poker playing public's appetite for bigger and higher-stakes poker tournaments seems almost insatiable. As these events have become more popular, several authors have taken a crack at writing the definitive book about tournament poker, and to date, none have excelled in this task. Now David Sklansky, a supremely talented poker writer, makes his attempt to tackle this topic.

As this is part of Two Plus Two's "for Advanced Players" series, the reader is assumed to be familiar with basic poker tournament protocol and understand how to play ring game (non-tournament) poker well. While some introductory information is still included, it is kept brief. Less experienced players would be well advised to read books such as Texas Holdem for Advanced Players and a more introductory tournament book, such as Poker Tournament Strategies.

After the introduction, Sklansky starts with new material, including an explanation of an important principle he calls "The Gap Concept". Simply stated, in a tight game it is often correct to fold hands to a raise that a player would have raised with if nobody had already raised before it was the player's turn to act. While this principle has been written about before and will certainly be familiar to any winning mid-limit poker player, this is the best explanation of this phenomenon, why it occurs, and how to use it to advantage. It is especially important here, because poker tournaments tend to feature tighter play than ring games.

Sklansky then moves on to discuss some general tournament ideas, including how to adjust one's play at various levels of a tournament, how players might adjust their play depending on when or whether their table will be broken up, and playing (and playing against) short stacks versus large stacks. Some of this advice has been discussed in other books or articles before, but much of it hasn't, and Sklansky always provides strong arguments to support the positions he takes.

Next, Sklansky addresses other tournament issues including deal making, last longer bets, and special circumstances surrounding no-limit events. This last topic includes an explanation of a no-limit Holdem strategy he calls "The System". This is an intriguing simple strategy for playing in these events. All of these topics in the book thus far cover 134 pages in the book.

Next, the author provides a set of hand quizzes. This is less of a review than an extension of some of Sklansky's key principles found in the book, so it should be thought of as more information, just in an unorthodox format. However, these quizzes are followed by more than 35 pages of questions and answers (assembled by Mason Malmuth) which are designed as a review tool for the rest of the book.

Sklansky's ideas are always well thought out and usually thoroughly explained. However, there is more that could be said about many of the topics he discusses. For example, he explains how to evaluate whether a two-person deal at the end of a tournament is fair or not, and why there can be no single fair deal when three players remain. However, there is a great deal more that could be said about this. This is an area where simulations could provide some additional suggestions, and formulae for coming up with ranges for appropriate deals for multiple players could be worked out. I would have appreciated it if this topic, as well as others, had been dealt with in more depth. Depending on how one wants to count it, there is about 130 to 190 pages of original material in this book. I think even more information would have made this book better.

Nonetheless, the information that is contained in this book is very good. This is simply the best single source of information on poker tournaments written to date. Tournament Poker for Advanced Players manages to be the first book on this topic of which any gambling publisher can be truly proud. More could have been said about many topics, and this is by no means the last word on the topic, but Sklansky's effort is a very valuable one for tournament players, well worth its price.

Capsule:

Tournament Poker for Advanced Players is the best book written on tournament poker. Everyone who has a serious interest in these events would be well advised to obtain a copy and study it carefully. While this is an excellent book, it is by no means the last word on the topic, and much more could have been said about many of the ideas in its pages. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book.

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