Tim's Reviews > No-Limit Texas Hold'em: A Complete Course

No-Limit Texas Hold'em by Angel Largay
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Mar 25, 12

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bookshelves: poker, reviewed
Read in October, 2007

Good strategy book; reviewed for Card Player.


Test Your Skills at No-Limit Hold'em

At the end of this fine book on no-limit hold'em cash games, Angel Largay, a former dealer and creator of a poker "boot camp," articulates exactly what every poker strategy author should acknowledge and what every reader should understand. No-Limit Texas Hold'em "won't make you a great player—or even a good one," he writes in his conclusion. "Only you can do that."

What does he mean? He means that you have to do the work to transform knowledge into skill, insight into execution. The book is nothing more than a tool to get you started, but it will give you plenty of knowledge to become a competent player in low-limit no-limit games, the capped buy-in games that are spread everywhere these days.

Largay articulates the primary object of no-limit hold'em: "to bust or double through your opponent." No-limit is not about picking up or saving an extra bet (keys to limit success), and it requires a very different set of strategic skills. Above all else, no-limit demands an ability to understand your opponents. Towards that end, he relies heavily on Al Schoonmaker's player typology (discussed in detail in the excellent book, The Psychology of Poker): loose-aggressive, loose-passive, tight-passive, and tight-aggressive. What makes Largay's analysis so compelling is that he discusses how to play against each of these types, encapsulated by this fascinating and subtly brilliant line: "If you meet the needs of your opponents, they will meet yours." The LAP, for example, craves attention; give it to him. The LPP player wants to avoid conflict; befriend him.

Is this good gamesmanship or out-and-out manipulation—and does that matter at the poker table? Largay acknowledges that "this chapter will make some people uncomfortable." It made me squirm a bit; could I ever cajole someone into a bad call or a bad fold? But even if you're unwilling to go too far down that route, it's vitally important to understand what makes your opponents tick.

Largay also offers some very practical advice on cultivating your reading skills. I tried one of his exercises at a recent tournament, picking one good player and trying to articulate specific tactical observations about his game. (To wit: He loves to float in order to pick up a draw or take the pot away on the turn or river, but if he raises preflop, he has a real hand.) I may change my views on his game later, but at least I have a foundation for guiding future encounters with him.

The strength of Largay's book is based on the strength of its advice as well as its presentation. In one of the book's best features, each chapter is accompanied by a quiz, so you can evaluate your ability to apply what you've read about. And when Largay makes an assertion or suggests a tactic, he always follows it up with a cogent rationale. And while this book doesn't have the analytical rigor of, say, Professional No-Limit Hold'em: Volume 1 (by Flynn, et al.), it does incorporate the essential mathematics of low-limit no-limit games.

The more I learn about hold'em—particularly its no-limit variation—the more I believe that you've got to chart your own journey to competence and ultimately to mastery. But that doesn't mean you have to make the trek without a guide. Books like Angel Largay's No-Limit Texas Hold'em will show you the way, but it remains up to you to take the trip.
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