Most poker players think about each time they sit down to play Texas holdem as a single session. If they play for three hours and then go do something else they had a single session. This isn’t the way advanced Texas holdem players view the game. Advanced Texas Hold’em Strategy: Play Poker Like a Chess Match The best chess players think several steps ahead of their opponents. Different scenarios run through their minds and this is how they would derive the best action to execute. A dual effort between David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, this book touches on various advanced poker subjects for the Hold'em player. In this, the 21st century edition, psychology, semi-bluffing.

Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, 21st Century Edition
David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth
Two Plus Two Publishing

Reviewed by Nick Christenson, [email protected]

July 17, 1999

Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players has certainly been oneof the most influential poker books ever written, it has literally changedhow people have played this game. Moreover, this book has, in large part, set the standard by which other poker books have been judged.Now, a much expanded new edition for the 21st century has been released.

The book starts with several short preliminary sections, includingthe Forward by expert player Ray Zee, the Introduction, and a sectioncalled 'Using This Book'. The reader is warned immediately that this book should not be read casually. It is intended as a text book on Texas Hold'em and will need to be studied as a text, not read as one would a novel, if the reader is to maximize the benefit of the material within.


Then, the first of eight sections begins, covering the play of the firsttwo cards. This includes the now famous hand ranking table. The authorsrecommend which sorts of hands to play in various positions but emphasizethat it is not sufficient to just play well before the flop to be awinning player. The second section covers various important conceptsabout which the Hold'em player must be aware, including Semi-Bluffing,Slow Playing, the Check Raise, Inducing Bluffs, and many more. Thethird section covers a wide variety of topics, including playing whena flush draw flops, playing trash hands, playing against a maniac, etc.Most of these sections were classics when they were written. They'reeven better now that they've been updated to more closely reflectthe sorts of games that are commonly found in card rooms today.

Holdem Poker For Advanced Players

Sections four through six cover playing in all sorts of non-standard games, and this is the area where the book has been most greatly expandedsince its original printing. We learn about playing in loose games, including so-called 'No Fold'em' games, playing short handed, and playing in otherunusual circumstances. All of this information is very interesting andhas been updated to be much more closely aligned to the sorts of gamescommonly found today. Of course, there is much more that could be saidon some of these topics, such as playing in spread limit games, but the authors cover a lot of territory already. I especially like thenew sections that cover considerations in playing some especially trickystarting hands, like AQoff.

Part seven includes commentary on other skills the successful Hold'emplayer will want to possess, such as reading hands and applying psychology.Finally, the last section, Questions and Answers, provides a quiz coveringmuch of the material presented in earlier chapters so the reader can testthemselves to see whether they've understood what the authors were tryingto communicate. I've always felt that this was one of thestrongest sections of this book and other publications by Two Plus Two, and I'm glad to see that it has been greatly expanded in the most recent edition. The book ends with someconcluding remarks, an appendix on calculating probabilities, and a glossary.

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Of course, Sklansky and Malmuth have never shied away from controversy.There was plenty for Hold'em players to debate in the first edition ofthis book, and there is certainly much one could fairly argue about inthis edition. Although I wouldn't compare my strategic understandingof the game to the authors, there are strategies suggested in this bookthat I'm not certain are optimal, and I'm sure many people will argue theminutia of these many times over. However, I'm less interested in thespecific merit of the play of a single controversial hand than I am in the strategic concepts the authors are trying to teach. While I might quibble about whetherthat strategic concept is applicable in an example that they provide, I never get the feeling that the strategic concept itself is questionable. One of the great things about Texas Hold'emis that there are so many possible ways to play a given hand, and thatgreat players can disagree on these points. The way one can tell a greatplayer from a mediocre one is whether they can accurately read thesituation and take into account the strategic concepts that need to be applied at the moment, much more so than whether they bet, raise, checkor fold. One would be well advised, in my opinion, to keep thisin mind while reading this book.

Clearly, this book is a classic, and I doubt there are very many successfullimit Texas Hold'em players playing today who do not own a copy of oneof the earlier editions.Certainly, those that plan to play Hold'em well should own a copy of this work and read it several times. The big question is whether owners of previous revisions of this book should upgrade to the21st Century Edition. Note that this is the third update of this work,the original was published in 1988, it was updated in 1994, and thecurrent version was released in the summer of 1999. I have only the 1988 and 1999 editions, so I can only speak to those.

By my count, 150 pages have been added to the 182 page 1988 edition.In addition to new sections, there are minor changes to reflecthow the game has evolved over the years and to emphasize concepts thatcaused some conclusion in earlier editions. Overall, given the changes thathave been made to the 21st Century Edition from the first edition, Iwould recommend that those people who are serious about their Hold'emgame and have read the 1988 edition upgrade their copies of this book.Although I do not have enough information to make the same claim forthe 1994 edition, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was worth upgrading from the second edition as well.


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Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players is one of the classicsof the poker literature. This book is extremely well written, and it'shard for me to believe that many players are likely to mastertoday's games without having read and studied this text. Further, the21st Century Edition is, in my opinion, enough of an improvement overthe first edition that those who have already read the 1988 version should buy and read the new edition as well.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book from Two Plus Two Publishing. I have no other interest, financial or otherwise, inthe success of this book.

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Authors David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth

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Synopsis of Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players

Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, 21st Century Edition by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth Texas Hold 'em is not an easy game to play well. To become an expert you need to be able to balance many concepts, some of which occasionally contradict each other. In 1988, the first edition of this text appeared. Many ideas, which were only known to a small select group of players were now made available to anyone who was striving to achieve expert status, and the hold 'em explosion had begun. It is now a new century, and the authors have again moved the state of the art forward by adding over 100 pages of new material, including an extensive section on 'loose games,' and an extensive section on 'short-handed games.'

Anyone who studies this text, is well disciplined, and gets the proper experience should become a significant winner. Some of the other ideas discussed in this 21st century edition include play on the first two cards, semi-bluffing, the free card, inducing bluffs, staying with a draw, playing when a pair flops, playing trash hands, desperation bets, playing in wild games, reading hands, psychology, and much more.

Excerpt from the Book Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players: Odds and Implied Odds

Most players make many of their calling decisions based on the size of the pot compared to the current bet. This is called pot odds. While this does give an indication of what is correct, pot odds should be adjusted based on the expected future action of your opponents. For example, if the bettor is to your right and there are other players who might raise behind you, you should adjust the pot odds considerably lower. This means you have to fold more hands.

Here are two extreme examples of this concept. First, suppose you hold

Hold'em Poker For Advanced Players

and the flop is

If a solid player to your right bets, a number of players are behind you, and there has been no raise before the flop, you should fold. Notice that in this example, not only might you be against a better ace, but a spade or a straight card can beat you. (Against a 'loose bettor' who would play any ace, and bet any ace or queen, you should raise rather than fold. You should also continue to play against a player who will only bet a draw, and check his better hands hoping to get in a check-raise.) But against most bettors you should simply fold.


A second example is to fold in the same situation if you hold

and the flop is

(Again notice that you can be against a better jack, or that a spade or straight card can beat you.)

Texas Holdem Poker Play

Other exceptions to folding these hands are when the pot has become very large and/or the game is very loose. Also, remember that calling is sometimes the worst play. That is, folding or raising in these situations is usually a superior strategy. If the pot is large and you are going to play, it is generally correct to raise with these types of hands. You should seldom call as you cannot afford to give someone behind you who holds a marginal hand the correct odds to draw out.

In addition, if you call on the flop and intend to also call on fourth street, keep in mind that the pot odds you are getting are not as good as they appear. Best new slots. The additional call that you plan to make lowers the effective odds that you are receiving from the pot. (For a more detailed discussion of these concepts, see The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky.)

Sometimes, however, the opposite will be the case. That is, your implied odds actually are better than the odds that the pot are offering you. This occurs when you plan to continue playing only if you hit your hand. Otherwise, you will fold. What this means is that the pot does not have to offer you seemingly correct odds to play a particular hand. That is because it is offering you implied odds.

An example is to call before the flop with a small pair, getting as low as 5-1 oodds as long as there is little fear of a raise behind you. (The odds against flopping a set are approximately 7.5-to-1. Against players who give a lot of action, you can make this call even if you are getting a bit less than 5-to-1.) A second example is to try for an inside straight on the flop when you have odds of only about 8-to-1. (The odds against making your gutshot are approximately 11-to-1.)

Say, if you hold

and the flop is

you can call even if you are getting a little less than the required 11-to-1. However, if a two flush is on the board, or for some other reason you are not sure that your hand will be good if you hit it, you probably would want odds of at least 11-to-1 to call.

Finally, even if the odds don't seem to justify it, you still should make a loose call every now and then, as you don't want to become known as a 'folder.' If you are regarded as a folder, other players will try to run over you, and otherwise predictable opponents may turn tricky and become difficult to play against. (Once again, for a more thorough analysis of pot odds and implied odds see The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky.)

From Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players 21st Century Edition, by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth. ©1988, 1994, 1999 by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, Pages 80-83.

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