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Doyle Brunson Super System

Doyle Brunson Super System

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Overall Rating: 4.75

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When this was first published in the seventies it caused a sensation. Immediately recognized as the most ambitious poker book ever written, it nonetheless was received with irritation by some professionals because it was believed that Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson and his collaborators gave away too much, thereby allowing the amateurs to catch up, thereby cutting into the professional player's take. There is more than a little truth to this accusation. Poker is an ever-evolving superset of games with the individual games changing over time as the players learn how one game and then another should be played. Write a revealing book and the old games disappear more quickly and the "rocks" have to learn the new game in order to continue to make a living. Today's most important games are hold'em and seven card stud. Both are covered in this book, hold'em quite extensively.

What sets Brunson's Super/System apart from other poker books is first the prestige and celebrity of the writers, especially Doyle himself, but also Bobby Baldwin (also a World Champion); David "Chip" Reese, Doyle's expert on seven-card stud; Joey Hawthorne on Low-Ball; David Sklanski on Hi-Low; and Mike Caro (MJC) on draw poker. I used to play with Sklanski and MJC back in the sixties in Gardena when the only legal game in the California clubs was draw poker, both lowball and jacks or better. Sklanski has gone on to be one of the game's great theoreticians and the author of several excellent books on poker. Caro, known as "the Mad Genius of Poker," has formed his own "Poker University" and is partly responsible for this book's republication, and has become quite a poker entrepreneur.

Second, there is the comprehensive coverage of the games from five card draw to no limit hold'em. Not everything is explained and some of the tricks are held back. Reese in particular, in his chapter on seven-card stud is somewhat reticent. He presents a tight strategy that is sound but withholds more aggressive strategies that, in the proper hands, would make more money.

By the way, "no limit" really means table stakes since you are NOT, as is sometimes seen in the movies, allowed to go to the bank and get some money when you hold a killer hand! In fact, no limit is really no different than pot limit expect that instead of being restricted to the amount of the pot when betting, one can, if one so chooses, push in one's entire stack. THAT does make for some interesting psychological situations! One of Doyle Brunson's main points in this book is the huge difference between set limit poker as played in the clubs and indeed as played for the so-called world championship, and no limit poker as played by the rich and the top professionals. The latter game is much more of a psychological game in that you can lose pot after small pot and yet come out ahead by winning one great big monster, and also because it takes a lot of nerve to either call a huge bet or to make a huge bet. Furthermore as you're playing along you have to be aware that at any moment the pot can suddenly mushroom to gigantic proportions. Because of these psychological factors, some of the top players at limit have never been able to make a satisfactory jump to the no limit game. In Brunson's case, he actually was adept at no limit long before he became a top limit player.

Third, there are the brilliant caricatures of the players by Stan Hunt. Just to see those again in print is worth the price of the book.

Fourth are the poker odds and statistics by Mike Caro. Believe me they are completely accurate. I and a number of others players checked and rechecked them, hoping to catch MJC in an error. No such luck! I was a little disappointed that Mike chose to recall an odds story that showed him in the right, because I, among a very small number of people, actually did beat him out of a twenty dollar bet in the sixties on some odds we were discussing. Of course Mike would "give away" money just to support his carefully cultivated image as a "madman." One of his most notorious "plays" at draw was to pretend to have a pat hand, raise the opener, and then not bet after the draw and just show down his nothing hand, thereby giving away the pot. I mean eyebrows raised and heads shook incomprehensibly at this totally "irrational" play. Yet it worked because people then would call him when he really had something.

Caro was also an expert on poker tells. He wrote a book on the subject. He would, when playing, do parodies of the other players by betting and acting as they would in an exaggerated way. Sometimes he actually did unconscious parodies of himself.

Doyle Brunson on the other hand loved the psychological struggle and just being in action. In his prime he was arguably the world's best player at both limit and no limit hold'em. He had nerves of steel and an intensely competitive nature and a deep obsessive love of the game. He overpowered his opponents with a constant energy that was always, always pushing. He had a few tricks and his knowledge of the game was among the best, but perhaps his greatest gift was his ability to bet when he knew the other guy would toss in.

What you can learn from this book about poker is really almost priceless. Even though this book is definitely dated (and today's stars are a different breed) nonetheless there is wealth of information here for the casual as well as the professional player. This is, in my opinion, still the best how-to book on poker ever written.

Overall Rating: 4.75

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