Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker

Jun 21, 2011 3:00 AM

When the Big Three of Internet poker sites were shut down in April, the word on the street was that the World Series of Poker’s attendance would go down since a lot of online players’ money was tied up in the online mess.

Wrong.

As Amarillo Slim once said, "They could hold the World Series in the hole Teddy Binion dug in Pahrump to hide his silver and everybody would still be there."

You still have time to win a gold bracelet if you hustle on over to the Rio. Here are a few poker books you might want to tuck into your backpack on your way to play in poker’s annual 58-ring circus.

From author Jonathan Little comes Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker (266 pgs., $27.95), subtitled "Volume 1: Fundamentals and How to Handle Varying Stack Sizes."

Little does a big job of explaining how the size of your chip stack influences your strategy, using the number of big blinds you and your opponents have as the standard measure of stack size.

In his numerous illustrations of a poker ring, he uses updated acronyms for player positions: UTG (under the gun), HJ (hijack, player two to the right of the button), CO (cutoff, player to exact right of button), and MP1 through 3 for middle-position players. He also uses BB to denote how many big blinds you have in your stack compared with the number of big blinds in the pot, which helps in deciding whether the pot is worth competing for.

After exploring the most fundamental tournament concepts in Section 1, Little gets to the meat of his clearly written and neatly organized tome on no-limit hold’em in Sections 2-4, starting with "Playing Deep Stacked (125 BBs+)" and progressing through middle stack (125 to 40 BBs) and short stack strategy (less than 40 BBs).

Little does an exemplary job of analyzing situations and giving sound advice in an easy-to-read writing style that keeps you turning the pages.

If you think everyone attends the WSOP to play tournaments, you’re missing one of the major reasons why it’s hard to navigate the crowds in the immense hallways at the Rio – the heavy-duty cash game action.

Beware of the River! (240 pgs., $34.95) is "The Ultimate Guide for Today’s Cash Game Environment," its subtitle.

Frank Wiese, who penned the highly successful Eat Professional Poker Players Alive! focuses his ample writing talent this time around on how to destroy your opponents in no-limit hold’em cash games in this well-organized and "been there, done that" text.

Before getting into explicit flop/turn/river strategies, Wiese does a quick review of basic concepts and gives readers a thumbnail guide to survival tactics for no-limit cash games.

Starting with pre-flop strategy and when to hold’em or fold’em suggestions, he moves the action right along to the flop, turn and river, giving valid advice on how to profitably play each street when you have position over your opponents and when you don’t have it.

The illustrations are a cut above – photos of real playing cards – as are the cogent quotes from noted no-limit players, such as "Why do the pushin’ when the donkey will do the pullin’?" from Layne Flack (six WSOP bracelets).

This is a good book written by a pro who gives solid advice you can take to the bank.

Oldie But Goody Time:

Who’s Johnny Moss? I hosted a home poker game last week with notables T.J. Cloutier, Tom McEvoy, Arnold Snyder and Avery Cardoza, along with two friends who were new to the Vegas poker scene. Joy Cloutier told some great stories about the WSOP in the Horseshoe days and mentioned going shopping with Virgie, Johnny Moss’s wife.

"Who’s Johnny Moss?" the newbies asked.

So, I gave them a copy of The Championship Table (Who Won, Who Lost, How It Happened), (208 pgs., $19.95), which I penned with the help of Tom McEvoy and researcher Ralph Wheeler, to help them catch up with the personalities, the color, and the results of the days of yore of the WSOP.

It reads like a newspaper report, with succinct recaps of the early, formerly undocumented heads-up duels at the WSOP championship table plus modern matches through 2008; interviews with the champs, and tidbits of info that make the WSOP a perennial spectacle.

These books and thousands of other titles are available at Gambler’s Book Club in Las Vegas, which is holding a Sidewalk Sale on Fri.-Sat., June 24-25, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., at 5473 S. Eastern (between Tropicana and Russell).

(Note: You can order books at www.gamblersbookclub.com, where you can view the store’s complete line of titles, or by phone at 1-800-522-1777 or 702-382-7555 M-F 9-6 and Sat 10-6. GBC opened in 1964.