Review: Winning Poker Tournaments – One Hand at a Time

Winning Poker Tournaments - One Hand at a Time Book Cover
Winning Poker Tournaments – One Hand at a Time

Author: Rizen (Eric Lynch) / PearlJammer (Jon Turner) / Apestyles (Jon Van Fleet)
Publisher: Dimat Enterprises
Cover price: $29.99
Pages: approx 419
Rating: 8/10

I’m going to be quite critical of this book despite it being well received generally in poker circles. So before I do, I’d like to point out at the start that it is a good book and it is well worth buying. However, with the quality of players authoring this book, I suppose I was hoping for even better still.

To those not familiar with the authors, they are the screen names of Eric Lynch, Jon Turner and Jon Van Fleet respectively, all of whom have been beating seven different colours out of the online tournaments now for some time. The format was openly mirrored from Brier/Ciaffone’s Middle Limit Poker with hands laid out as problems followed by solutions. Each player runs through a selection of interesting hands from their own history and presents the background to the hand, their thinking during the hand and assessment of the best way to proceed. The book comes together at the end where they are each asked to submit answers to the same questions independently of each other. Whilst the answers are reasonably well correlated, contrasting answers amply demonstrate opposed opinions on how to play certain hands optimally. Overall, Pearljammer was a little on the tight side, Rizen was pretty well balanced, but the section that I personally took most from was Apestyles, the player I knew least about before reading this book. He leans on the maths quite heavily, although I am not sure how much of it he gets through real-time at the tables and how much was just to prove a point in review.

In general across the authors, there is plenty of solid advice offered. Not going broke with an overpair to the board for example. Bad players so regularly fall in love with QQ on a rag board that they don’t stop to question why someone else wants to put 300BB’s in the middle with them. Currently they are only holding one pair, which doesn’t feature that far up the hand ranking charts after all. The authors give several examples of when to dump this sort of hand, or at least play if for the minimum. I’m sure plenty of players will be spitting coffee over that page, but after some reflection will instantly improve their game. The hand histories are ordered to progress through the early and mid level stages and open up nicely towards the bubble to accumulate a stack with final table potential, which will presumably be the main focus of volume 2 which is due out soon.

So plenty of sensible advice from world class players following a well laid out format, 8/10 may seem hyper-critical. For the book to really hit the high notes, I think there are a couple of things they could improve on, and hopefully they will in volume 2. Lots of hand commentaries go along the lines of ‘bet half the pot and jam if a club doesn’t fall on the turn.’ The hand plays out the easy way by them jamming a blank and taking down the pot. Lovely when hands follow the script, but if your game is tormented in the same way that mine is, you don’t want to see a safe turn card, you want to know what they do when the worst card in the deck rolls off. Perhaps Hilger (who collates the material as well as providing the foreword) could have put some hypothetical outcomes back out to the authors to amplify some of the hands to cover these eventualities.
Whilst the cover promises to deal with continuation betting, I don’t think it got as much focus as it might. Harrington having made the biggest breakthrough in tournament poker books to date, a section from these guys on ‘how to destroy someone who has swallowed the Harrington books’ might have been a neat way of taking poker literature to the next level again.

One final grumble was their continual self-awareness in introducing hands. ‘I haven’t played a hand for 2 orbits so I have created a super tight image.’ Err, no you haven’t. Half the table haven’t noticed, and the other half that are switched on, also recognise the screen name and aren’t basing their read solely on the last 2 orbits. To heavily bias an action towards leveraging this newly acquired image seems shaky, but I guess these guys know best.

Overall I can’t deny this book deserves a slot on your shelf. Perhaps as with Harrington, the second volume will complement and complete the first as well as taking the opportunity to fine tune improvements wherever possible. I’m certainly going to throw another $30 at giving them the chance to do so.

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