Review of Poker Tournament Strategies

Title: Poker Tournament Strategies
Author: Sylvester Suzuki
Publisher: Two Plus Two Publishing
Date: 1998
ISBN: 1-880685-19-1
Pages: 187

Reviewed by Nick Christenson, npc@jetcafe.org

May 11, 1998

Sylvester Suzuki is the mysterious pen name of the author of this latest offering from gambling book publishing house Two Plus Two Publishing. Poker Tournament Strategies fills a gap in their publishing line, and a gap in the literature in general, by discussing strategies applicable to poker tournaments, with a special emphasis on those with lower entry costs.

This book divides the tournament types that one is likely to encounter into five categories, and devotes a section to each of them. They are: Progressive Stack Rebuy Tournaments, No Rebuy Tournaments, Constant Stack Rebuy Tournaments, Sudden Sayonara Tournaments, and Shootout Tournaments. The first three refer to whether rebuys and/or add-ons are allowed, and if so, how they work. The latter two refer to how opponents are eliminated.

Sudden Sayonara Tournaments are not "freezeout" events, where they are played until there is one player left. Rather, they are played until a predetermined number of players are left, at which time the prize money is divided up according to the chip count at that time. In Shootout Tournaments, each starting table is played down to one person. All of these table winners then meet to determine the prize payout. Needless to say, each of these different formats require slightly different strategies if one is to play optimally.

The next three sections are on deals at the final table, stepping up to larger limit tournaments, and various other topics. This information is interesting, although much on the topic of final table deals was already discussed in Mason Malmuth's Gambling Theory and Other Topics. The section on stepping up doesn't contain much new, but I found the information on some of the other topics, like the pages on playing short handed which is critical in a tournament, to be quite good. I wish there had been more of it.

The last two sections, Tips for Tournament Managers and Questions and Answers, are interesting. I found the tips given to card rooms holding tournaments to be very well informed. I'd have no complaints with any card room adopting all of these rules. However, this section didn't improve my play at all. The Questions and Answers are one of my favorite parts of Two Plus Two books. This allows one to review the material to see how much of it has sunk in, and also allows fairly quick review of the material at a later date. Much of the Q&A are repetative, though, which is a complaint I have with the book in general, but they are useful nonetheless.

The book isn't very long, and when one considers that Two Plus Two's printing style leaves a lot of white space on a lot of pages, and that much of what is in this book is repeated between sections, it gets shorter still. However, what information is there seems quite accurate to me, especially the information on correct rebuying strategy, a topic that no other tournament strategy book presents correctly.

Nonetheless, given its shortness, there's obviously a lot of information on tournaments that hasn't been presented here. For example, every tournament seems to use a slightly different rate of increasing the blind/ante structure. When I'm starting in a tournament I try to estimate, given the structure and the amount of time for each round, when the blinds are likely to get large compared to the size of the average stack. I'm not very good at this yet, and I doubt that many low level tournament players are. An in depth exploration of this topic could have provided another 40 pages of worthwhile information, at least.

Still, I did learn some things from this book, and the relative novice at low level tournament play will almost certainly get their money's worth from it. At $19.95, we aren't being gouged relative to Two Plus Two's other offerings, although this is far from the best thing in their catalog. I do think there's room yet for the definitive tournament poker book to be written yet. Finally, this book spends very little time covering poker play. If the reader is not interested in tournaments at all, there is no reason to read this book.

Capsule:

This is a fairly short book that will be of use to the inexperienced low level poker tournament player. The information it contains seems quite accurate, and there are a few good ideas within. While this may be the single best book on poker tournament strategy in print, there is still considerable headroom for a better one.

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