Poker book review: Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time

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By Christopher Cosenza

Following in the footsteps of other successful collaborative poker works, Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand At a Time Vol. 1 enlists three of the finest poker minds on the planet: Jon “PearlJammer” Turner, Eric “Rizen” Lynch and Jon “Apestyles” Van Fleet. If you don’t play online or read many poker magazines, then these names may not mean much to you. Trust us when we say these three powerhouses have racked up some of the biggest poker wins (online and live) available.

This volume takes you into their minds during tournaments one hand at a time. Unlike Gus Hansen’s book, Every Hand Revealed, in which you’re given an anecdotal account of every hand he played regardless of importance, this is an instructional approach designed to put you in different situations leading up to the money bubble. (There is a promise of Vol. 2, which will focus on how to play in tournaments after the bubble, so stay tuned.)
There is, of course, the obligatory explanation of the book’s approach and the mini bios of these players, but for the most part this volume wastes no time and no space. The publisher even kept the trite glossary of terms down to two pages. If you’re a fan of hand analysis, then this book’s for you. Admittedly inspired by Jim Brier and Bob Ciaffone’s Middle Limit Hold’em format, each author uses 50 hands to illustrate their thought processes, and they do it in a concise manner, rarely using more than two pages to reason out a hand from setup to conclusion.

PearlJammer kicks things off, and like his co-authors, his ideas are conveyed as if he’s thinking aloud. It’s almost like sitting down with one of your poker buddies and talking hands, except this is PearlJammer, 2007 Internet Player of the Year. Hand 35 is a great example: He has 5H3S and is extremely short-stacked. The blinds are 200-400 with a 25 ante. After he puts in his small blind and ante he has just 1,002 chips. It gets folded to him and here’s his passage:

“I could fold, leaving myself with only 1,002 chips, but with 825 in the pot and only one opponent with which to contend, this would be a very weak play. Winning the 825 in the pot would make such a difference to my stack that many players would argue that I should push all-in with any two cards. If I were to push, my opponent would have to call only 802 more to win 1,827. He would be looking at 2.28-to-1 pot odds, and given my enormous range of hands from the small blind, he should call every time. So let me assume that my opponent will call 100 percent of the time in this spot. I can also safely assume to be well behind this random hand the vast majority of the time.
“There is a third option to employ to give myself one additional way to win this pot. I could limp and then shove on the flop regardless of the board! Since I know I am getting called if I shove all-in preflop, and I expect to be way behind a random hand, why not give myself my only shot at winning without a showdown by limping in?”

He goes on to use this third option, which he calls the “limp and go,” and the flop comes {k-Clubs}{q-Hearts}{7-Hearts}. He follows through with the shove and his opponent folds. These are the types of nuggets sprinkled liberally throughout the 421 pages of content that you can look forward to if you pony up the $29.99.

It’s interesting and educational to compare the different styles of the players, and nowhere is this more intriguing than the book’s final chapter called 20 Collaborative Hands. In this section all three players are presented hands and then asked to react to each situation.

At no time are they aware of each other’s answers, and given how advanced these guys are it’s no surprise that their answers rarely differ, but it does happen, and that’s when the true playing styles of these world-class players become evident.

Again, if you learn the most from real-life examples, if you like to peruse the poker forums looking for hand analysis, if you’re tired of countless pages being dedicated to fluff and beginner concepts, then this is your book.