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Poker Strategy by A. D. Livingston
Overall, most of Livingston 's strategic advice is sound, including the admonition to play tight. Many of the concepts he writes about have been echoed by more contemporary authors, including his belief that bluffs should pay for themselves. That is, that Livingston believes that bluffing just for advertizing is a mistake. On the other hand, it will come as no surprise that some of his notions are very much dated. For example, the high-low split games discussed in this book never require a qualifier for low. Also, it's amusing to hear Livingston talk about an exciting new form of poker called "Hold Me" played with two cards dealt down and five community cards dealt face up on the table. His advice on strategy for this game isn't any good by contemporary standards, but even without a great deal of experience in the game, the author realized the importance of kickers, which shows some general understanding of the game in question.
The second section of the book covers mathematics. His introduction to determining event probabilities using combinations is reasonably well explained, but much of Livingston 's calculations aren't very important in the games that are commonly played today. The general focus of the book is not on the games that are typically found in the modern card room, but rather on home games. Therefore, determining the probabilities of events in Cincinnati or Deuces Wild Draw is on topic for the book, even if it won't seem terribly relevant to most poker players.
The third section of the book is a description of many kinds of poker played in home games, including some brief strategic information about each game. Much of this would be pretty obvious to the veteran poker player, for example, that one should play awfully tight without the ace of spades in the hole if the game is Chicago . At the same time, some of it is insightful. Occasionally, the terminology used in the book may be a little confusing to people used to the vocabulary of contemporary poker literature. When speaking of games with community cards, Livingston refers to every round of betting in which a new card is exposed as a "turn". As long as the reader is aware of this, it probably won't be too distracting.
By today's standards, nothing in Poker Strategy would be considered ground breaking. There are some strategic errors in the text, but at the time it was originally written it probably contained some of the better poker advice available in print. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, no updates have been made to the original printing. Poker Strategy might be useful to those players who either want some pointers on how to improve their chances when someone calls for Baseball in a home game, or if they want to learn about some different and unusual games they might want to play next Friday night. Poker book junkies might find this book an amusing read, but I believe that $15 is a little steep for a book that hasn't been updated in over 30 years.
Poker Strategy is a reprint of A. D. Livingston's 1971 book Poker Strategy and Winning Play. While the book shows its age, it does contain some insight, especially when it comes to the wilder varieties of poker often played in home games. There's nothing fundamental in this book that isn't repeated more carefully in the contemporary poker literature, but for those who just like to read poker books it can provide some entertainment.
Positively Fifth Street by James McManus
Positively Fifth Street is an expansion of material McManus wrote which was published in the December, 2000 issue of Harper's magazine. While the Harper's article related only a synopsis of McManus' poker adventures, by expanding the story to book length, he is able to cover a lot more ground, including a great deal of information regarding the two stories he originally went to Las Vegas to cover. We also are presented with a great deal more information about the author's poker escapades in Las Vegas , as well as an abundance of his thoughts and motivations, his background, his feelings, and how all this influences the arc he travels through the story.
The book begins with McManus weaving a plausible, although speculative, scenario describing the events that may have transpired the day Ted Binion died which reads like a piece of a Quentin Tarantino film. Starting with the second chapter, McManus starts his chronology by setting the stage for trip to Las Vegas . From then on, we flip back and forth between the several intertwined stories throughout the rest of the book. This isn't a dry narrative listing poker hands, nor is does the author blandly recount the proceedings of the Binion murder trial. McManus is very much a part of every phase of the story. We see it all unfold through his eyes. He tells us about the thoughts that guide the play of his hands, the process he goes through while he interviews the Binion family, and even what passes between his ears while tracking down leads at a local "gentleman's club". Perhaps needless to say, this book doesn't make a "PG" rating.
Here's the bottom line: This book is a great read. While occasionally it's clear that McManus is pushing a little too hard, this is apparent primarily because so many of his passages are stunningly well written. It's rare that we find a poker player who is able to express himself so eloquently. Comparisons to poker classics such as Al Alvarez' The Biggest Game in Town and Tony Holden's Big Deal are only natural. Further, those comparisons are fair. It's my opinion that Positively Fifth Street can be added to this rarefied company of books that capture the spirit and excitement of this great poker event in a way that transcends the event itself.
Caro's Book of Poker Tells by Mike Caro
Mike Caro's Book of Poker Tells begins with introductory material that explains what this book is about, an explanation of the nomenclature used, an explanation of the author's MCU Poker Charts, and a prologue about "Caro's Law of Loose Wiring". These last two weren't present in the Gambling Times edition. The introduction sets up the book well. The reader receives a good idea of the direction in which this book is headed.
The next four sections cover various situations where players might exhibit "tells". That is, players give away information about the strength of their hands via their actions. These sections are titled, "Tells From Those Who Are Unaware", "Tells From Actors", "Some General Tells", and "The Sounds of Tells". Each tell is discussed separately. Each explanation includes one or more photographs depicting the behavior in question, a categorization of the tell, an explanation of what it means, a discussion of what motivates this behavior, an estimate of the tell's reliability, and an estimate of its value to an alert player. The tells the author discusses have not changed since the original edition, except that the pictures are a little smaller and most of the attire and hair styles of the actors exhibiting the tells have been abandoned.