21/08/2008

A Glance at Supersystem

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Doyle Brunson’s all time classic Supersystem is perhaps not only the most widely read poker book of all time (if it isn’t then it can’t be far off) but also one of the most talked about poker books of all time too. Now it is common knowledge that the original text has aged which makes much of the advice either out of date or meaningless.

But the core element of that book is still almost as good today as it was back then thirty years ago. I am of course referring to the no limit section written by Doyle himself. A section that was so good that he barely saw enough reason to change it in Supersystem 2 just a couple of years ago.

But many experts have criticised the original no limit section by claiming that there are too many areas that are vague and that Doyle goes an awful lot by feel and that it is this element of poker that cannot be taught. Then we have those that say that the advice in this book is unsuited to the online games today for the simple reason that the strategies that are in SS are mainly deep stack strategies and this was where Doyle and his “system” were at their best.

All these are of course valid comments but as for them being right then I am not overly sure about that. If I can use myself here as a “crash test dummy” then it will serve to outline what I am trying to say in this article otherwise it may come across as being pompous which is not how I intend anything to come out in any of my articles.

Now over the past ten years or so, I have worked phenomenally hard on my game. In fact I have worked so hard that no words of any description can accurately describe just how I hard I have worked. So I am well within my rights to have a level of knowledge that is higher than most others out there who perhaps haven’t worked as hard or as long, I think this is only natural and doesn’t reflect superiority on my part in any way whatsoever with regards intelligence or any other human qualities…..I have simply done it longer and that’s it.

But during those years, I have read more poker books than I can care to remember including some many many times over.

Years ago, I use to regularly make notes in books and highlight pieces that I thought were relevant to me at that time. This was so that I could go back and re-read the book and then refresh myself on everything that was relevant in that book without having to read the entire book again.

On the surface this seems like a good idea but it actually isn’t. You see as your sophistication grows and your knowledge increases along with your understanding then the highlighted parts of the book now become obvious. But it is the subtle deeper concepts, the ones that you failed to highlight at all that now start to reveal themselves to you for the first time simply because you didn’t have the level of understanding to see them before.

What this means is that we could take a hundred different poker players and give them SS and each one of them would probably interpret and get something different out of the book than each of the others. It also means that reading the book once is nowhere near enough and especially if you are not far down the track with your poker development.

One of the problems with poker when you become an advanced player is that it can be difficult to find out that you actually do need to know more and the reason for this is because you already know the game very well so you can therefore make the mistake of thinking that you “know the game”. We have all been there and done this until something comes along that presents you with a higher level of understanding than you previously had before and then you realise that you didn’t quite know what you thought you knew.

But when I used to read SS years ago I saw vagueness and questions that were left unanswered. Now I don’t see unanswered questions at all but Doyle’s “meta game” coming to the fore. Now I read all poker books with a different eye and you can still take an awful lot from books that are either perceived as bad or perhaps don’t actually teach you anything.

For instance let us say that you read the entire Harrington series to only then discover that it didn’t teach you anything that you could incorporate into your system of playing. Does that mean that reading the book has been worthless? In my opinion it hasn’t as long as you have read the book objectively. For a start it will be a revealing insight into how millions of players all over the world are playing the game so for this reason alone, reading the series will have been worth it for a serious player.

But with regards not being able to use the techniques in SS in today’s online games then this too deserves some attention. There will be times when you can use Doyle’s strategies and there will be times when you can’t. It takes experience to know the difference and what information can be used from a poker book and what cannot be used and when. SS is still alive and kicking but if you are going to use it as a weapon then you need to be able to identify the most effective time to use it.

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