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Doyle Brunson's Super System 2

Doyle Brunson's Super System 2

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Overall Rating: 3

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The original Super System, written and edited by Doyle Brunson, the acknowledged "Babe Ruth of Poker," is hailed by all players as the single most influential book ever written about the game of poker. Now, Super System II, pushes the envelope further, expanding on the original with new games, new strategies, and new experts. This is a brand new book-not an update. The who's who all-star studded lineup for SSII includes Chip Reese, who Doyle recognizes as one of the top three players in the world, if not the best; Johnny Chan, two-time WSOP champion and tied with Doyle for the most world series bracelets with 9, Doyle Brunson himself, two-time WSOP champion and the greatest poker player of all time, Lyle Berman, founder of the World Poker Tour, the world's best Omaha player, and owner of three WSOP gold bracelets; Bobby Baldwin, former WSOP champion and CEO of the Bellagio; Mike Caro, the greatest poker theorist and best-selling author; Jennifer Harmon, the best woman player in the history of poker and one of the top 10 overall; Todd Brunson, winner of more than 20 tournaments and the future successor to Doyle's throne; as well as Danny Negreanu, and Barry Greenstein.

Super System 2 covers the essential strategies and advanced play on the most popular games played today - No limit Hold 'em, Limit Hold 'em, 7 Card Stud, 7 Card Stud 8 or Better, 7 Card Stud High-Low Split, No Limit Omaha, Omaha 8 or Better, Limit Lowball Draw, High Draw Poker, Chinese Poker, Triple Draw Lowball - as well as important sections on professional poker play and poker psychology.

Super System 2 was hyped seemingly forever before it was finally released, with the release date pushed back several times. Was it worth the wait? Not really.

First of all, parts of the book, especially the online poker section, read like an infomercial for Brunson's new site - just as blatant and irritating as on TV. He refers to it over and over (and over), with no purpose except as a shameless plug.

Another aspect that's hard to miss is the authors' ego-stroking of themselves and each other. Yes, Brunson's a great player, did a lot for the game, won the World Series twice 30 years ago, etc. Most readers already know that, and don't need to be endlessly reminded. Reading the introduction, one can almost imagine Doyle pausing to allow us time to bow down and worship him. The superlatives flow again before each chapter as he introduces each author, and then most of the others reciprocate by reminding us of Doyle's greatness. In case we'd forgotten.

Some have complained that the book includes other games and doesn't cover hold'em exclusively. I think this is one of the book's strong points. Hold'em has been beaten to death, with several great books on the game and new ones coming out regularly. It's very hard to find good information on some of the other games; for example, this is the first time I've seen Triple Draw covered in print. Also, the original Super System also covered several games, so this shouldn't surprise anyone.

As one might expect from a book where each chapter has a different author, the quality varies substantially from section to section. One thing they all have in common is fairly poor writing. The problem isn't as much glaring errors and misspellings (although there are some of these) as lots of extraneous wording and logical structure that could have easily been made clearer. I don't expect beautiful prose from a bunch of poker players, but hiring an editor and proofreader could have helped a lot.

The format, where each game is covered in 60 pages or so, has its pros and cons. It is able to cover a lot of topics, like Triple Draw, that might not merit a full book on its own. However, most of the games are much more complicated and so the chapters must necessarily leave out lots of information. I've been playing hold'em and stud for years, but don't have much experience in other games, so this format is perfect as a survey of other games.

To various degrees, the material is geared toward players with a decent amount of experience. There is a brief introduction to game mechanics (who posts the blinds, how the betting works) at the beginning of each chapter, but there are much better sources for the beginner.

The No-Limit Hold'em section, by Brunson himself, was one of the main reasons for the first book's popularity, and the most anticipated for this one. With a few minor exceptions it's just a reprint of the original, mostly word for word. Very disappointing, and misleading considering a lot of players will buy it for the NLH section alone.

The Stud/8 or better section by Todd Brunson (Doyle's son and a top pro himself) is excellent, covering lots of material in its 50 pages. This is particularly valuable since there isn't very much good material on the game elsewhere.

Jennifer Harman on Limit Hold'em is also excellent, but again, it would need to be hundreds of pages longer to be truly complete. As it stands, it's a good supplement for thought after reading other books on the game.

Pot Limit Omaha coverage by Lyle Berman is not great. Omaha/8 or better by Bobby Baldwin is good, but not spectacular. I really liked Daniel Negreanu's Triple Draw section, but that's probably because the game is totally new to me and any information is great.

The list of "contributors" for the book overall is very impressive, but also seems deceptive. Johnny Chan is listed... for writing the preface, which is another Ode to Doyle. No poker content. Negreanu is well known because of all his Hold'em success recently, and he covers Triple Draw, which is rarely played except at the highest limits. Most readers probably didn't even know he played Triple Draw, if they've heard of the game at all.

As primarily a stud player, I was very surprised and disappointed that it wasn't included at all. With the possible exception of hold'em (which was invented as a variation on stud), 7-card stud is the most consistently popular, most skillful poker variant. It was well covered by Chip Reese in the original Super System - they must have decided that the game hasn't changed much (which is mostly true).

Another oddity: the book is almost 700 pages, making it quite thick and heavy, but the first section covering a game doesn't start until over 200 pages in, with more filler at the end - a glossary (defining terms like "sucker"... someone who buys this book?), and a few more pages of ads at the end.

Overall, Super System 2 has a place in any serious player's library, but only as a supplement to more in-depth coverage of the various games. The original achieved the popularity it did because it was the only decent book on the market at the time, in the early '70s. Today, there's a lot of good poker books, and this one wouldn't be particularly notable without the names on the cover. Fortunately, it's relatively cheap, and a good value for the amount of material it covers.

Overall Rating: 3

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