Poker For Dummies

Poker For Dummies

Author: Richard D. Harroch and Lou Krieger
Publisher: Hungry Minds Inc., Copyright 2000
ISBN: 0-7645-5232-5
Pages: 298

Poker for Dummies, part of the vast “For Dummies” series with the bright yellow covers, is a wonderful starting book for aspiring poker players. If you’ve wanted to become a better poker player but didn’t know how to go about it, this how-to-book is a solid place to begin your study. It won’t turn you into a pro, but it will head you in the right direction for poker success.

The book, like all of them in the “For Dummies” series, is broken down into clear and concise chapters that deal with specific issues and move on. It can be read from cover to cover, or you can pick and choose your desired points to focus on. The book is split into five parts, and then each part further split into chapters with a clear table of contents to help you locate exactly the information you need.

The first part of the book, titled, How to Play the Games is the meat of the book. It quickly gives novice players the required rundown of hand rankings, explains how betting works, and runs through some standard poker etiquette. From there we move into game specific strategies, with Seven-Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better High-Low Split, and Omaha all rating their own detailed chapters. The information in each of these chapters goes far beyond a simple description of rules. The twenty-two pages on Texas Hold’em, for instance, is detailed enough to cover recommended starting hands from early, middle and late position. This may be a book that covers all of poker in general, rather than a specific form of poker, but the depth given to each of these four games is a pleasant surprise. You won’t master any of these games based on these strategy discussions alone, but you can certainly become a profitable player at low levels. The final chapter in this part gives readers a quick rundown of some of the more unusual games out there, like Razz and Pineapple, but does not discuss anything beyond how they are played.

The second part of the book, titled, Advanced Strategy, is a brief two chapters. The first, about bluffing, is fairly standard yet covers all the essential points. The second, on money management, contains excellent advice on handling a bankroll, keeping records, calculating win rates, moving up to bigger limits, and more. It’s a subject often not touched on in more advanced books, and the inclusion in this one is a big plus. If you flip through this book in the bookstore, don’t miss this section.

Starting at the third part of the book, the content appears to suffer a bit. The information contained here is interesting, but hardly essential in a book aimed at novices. A discussion on playing poker tournaments highlights this section, but it doesn’t go into much detail beyond explaining how tournaments work. There is some strategy advice, but it’s basically just enough information to prevent you from being hung out to dry. This is followed by a totally out-of-place chapter on Video Poker strategy, which is well written but totally irrelevant to the matter at hand. Other brief chapters on the World Series of Poker, computer resources, and playing on the internet are also included here, but they contain little of value beyond a few website and software suggestions.

Part four contains the obligatory list of poker sayings and terms, and a very solid section on where to go next in your poker study. The recommended book list is as good as any you will find. It is broken down into sections on general poker theory, game specific books, books for advanced players, and tournament strategy. You would be unlikely to find a knowledgeable player who would disagree with any of these recommendations.

The final section of the book, as with all in the “For Dummies” series, is called The Part of Tens. It is several chapters of detailed top ten lists, all with unrelated subjects. Although it is undoubtedly presented in this form to remain consistent with the other books in the Dummies series, the information contained within would be better presented in another form. The list of Ten Ways to Read Your Opponent, for example, contains useful information on tells that all players should know. It would have been more appropriate to place this information in the Advanced Strategy section. The sections on Ten Keys to Success and Ten Ways to Improve Your Poker Today are both filled with important information that could have been integrated into the book in a better way, rather than tucked at the end as an apparent afterthought or misplaced conclusion. Some of the information in this section is essential, and although the topics are fully developed, lumping them together here is clearly one of the books flaws.

As a whole, Poker for Dummies may be the best entry-level book for poker novices. If you have already passed beyond the novice level, then you may find it to be a little too elementary. The concepts are presented clearly and with enough detail that the beginning player will benefit immediately from them. The game specific strategy discussions are complete enough that you will significantly improve your game, yet they aren’t overwhelming. This is not the book to get if you want to master a specific game, but it’s a great place to get an overview of several.

Ranking: four out of five stars.