Harrington on Hold'em: Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments
Introduction to Harrington on Hold'em: Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments
Harrington on Hold'em is currently (2005) the most straight-forward, easily applicable, comprehensible,
and insightful book on No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament play and strategy. Harrington on Hold'em
is FTR's highest recommended book on NL tournament play. We think it is an absolute must for anyone
interested in learning and improving ones tournament game - from SnG's to MTT's, beginner to expert.
Harrington on Hold'em takes theories found in Sklansky's Tournament Poker for Advanced Players
and explains them using simpler language, and many practice hand examples.
In fact, I would say that the most valuable part of this book is the countless practice hands found throughout.
It dumbs down the concepts of pot odds, and implied odds, so that they are a lot more practical and
easily applicable to the game. His writings really drive home the importance of calculationg the odds
regularly, not by giving complicated mathamatical results over the long term, but by using more easy to
understand examples and everyday scenarios.
I would say that this book could be read as a stand alone, how-to book for no-limit Hold em tournements.
It does however only deal with the early and middle stages of tournaments
(Dan Harrinton is releasing a volume two that will cover late stages and final table play).
But I would certainly recommend reading Sklansky's books for an additional study of the game in general.
Harrington draws from Sklansky's Theory of Poker, Hold'em For Advanced Players, and Tournament Poker
for Advanced Players, and refers to them in this book.
Overall I would say its an excellent book and invaluable to the beginning player interested in tournament play,
even if he hasn't read any other books. I also feel that even more seasoned players will enjoy it and be able to draw some good insights from it.
Review of Harrington on Hold'em
No limit hold'em, obviously, is a complex game. So complex that there has never been a good comprehensive treatment in a book form; I had thought that this was because it involves more "table feel", experience and intuition that can't be easily taught or expressed in a useful format.
Harrington and Robertie have done just that. Harrington is the 1995 world champion, and the only player to make the final table in both 2003 and 2004, overcoming the two biggest fields in World Series history (839 and 2,576 players, respectively). Robertie is a top backgammon player and author of several excellent books on that game.
Among the top players, there are drastically different styles of play, from conservative to super-aggressive. One problem I expected was that given Harrington's solid, fairly conservative style, he wouldn't be able to give much useful information on playing at the other end of the end of the spectrum, styles such as those employed by Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen.
I was wrong. The book does a fine job addressing the relative merits of various styles, playing against each type of opponent, and even choosing one for yourself. This makes sense; no matter his own style, to be successful he has to have spent a lot of time thinking about, observing, and combatting all different types of players. Further, a playing style isn't cast in stone; even the most conservative players have to switch gears and become much more aggressive at times, and vice versa.
A few more notes on this idea: first, Harrington's own play as described isn't as conservative and cautious as many think. Second, a fairly conservative approach is demonstrably the more sound one for the student, and anyone without many years of experience. Hyper-aggressive play would be much harder to teach well, and also much harder to pull off successfully. The players who thrive playing these aggressive, gambling styles have exceptional talent as well as lots of experience and a great feel for the game and their opponents, and are faced with difficult decisions under lots of pressure much more often. For those who insist on trying, it probably still makes more sense to learn a fundamentally sounder style first and then proceed from there.
The book is laid out well for learning. Each chapter starts with a discussion of the topic, touching on the theory. There are several example situations with the authors' answers and detailed reasoning, as well as the merits of alternative plays. Following each chapter there are problems, mostly from real hands. It provides a diagram of the table, the chip counts for each player, your knowledge of the opponents, etc... all the relevant information. The problems usually provide all this information even when some of it is irrelevant to the problem, which is a strength. A big part of the decision-making process in poker (as well as lots of other things) is recognizing and eliminating extraneous details to make analysis more managable.
This is the first in a two volume set. I thought this was odd, as this is first for 2+2 poker books, but the first volume is bigger than most of their others already. The book is self-contained; there are no partial answers or information that tell you to buy the second volume for the details. I don't think there has been an official announcement on when Volume 2 will be released, but I've heard sometime this spring.
The book is geared specifically toward tournaments, and especially toward those with well-defined formats, such as major casino/cardroom events and those on the Internet. For cash game players, a solid understanding of tournament and poker theory would be necessary to make the appropriate adjustments to cash play. Most of the book would still apply, but some situations would change drastically in a side game, where simply getting your money in with an advantage, rather than survival, is the main goal.
For those newer to poker, to get the most out of this book, I would recommend a few others be read either first or at the same time: "The Theory of Poker" by David Sklansky, "Small Stakes Hold'em" by Miller, Sklansky and Malmuth, and "Winning Low Limit Hold'em" by Lee Jones, especially for the newest players.
UPDATE FOR VOLUME II:
Many of the same comments apply to Volume II, which is more of a continuation of the first than a separate book (even the chapter numbering picks up where the first left off). It focuses on the endgame; the late stages where everyone left is in the money and the blinds are relatively very large. They use the ideas of zones and inflection points to give effective generalized advice about different situations, evaluating your chip position relative to both the size of the blinds and the other remaining players.
The last few sections cover short-handed and heads-up play, where strategy often changes radically. In most tournaments the
table only gets heads-up at the very end and doesn't last very long, but the difference between first, second and third place is huge, even millions in the biggest events. Given that one position makes such a big difference, strategies changes dramatically, and most players have little experience heads-up, this material is extremely valuable.
A third volume is in the works, in workbook style with problems and examples, which should nicely complement and review the material in the first two.
Harrington on Hold'em: Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments Reviews
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| “Best NL Book in Print” by Stewie_Griff, 29 Sep 2005
Limit: No Limit: Tournament: Other Highlights: Overall Rating:
This is by far the best book I've read
on the subject of NL Texas Hold'em. If
you're looking for a book on the Limit
game, then forget this and get Ed
Miller's [et al] book 'Small Stakes
In my opinion HOH is head and shoulders
above the other books out there, and
whilst I haven't read them all I have
read a good number of them (7-10). This
isn't a book for beginners, but if you
feel that you're an intermediate player
then this will help your game get to the
Whilst the primary focus of this book is
on NL tournaments, most of the
principles also apply to NL cash games.
It's not math heavy, although the
essential math is still present.
I personally felt that Harrington was
coaching you through this book, making
you think about various situations and
discussing other possibilities. Whereas,
in the majority of books that I've
read, the authors tend to dictate the
correct play (this is especially true of
Sklansky's books). I much prefer
Harrington's style in this regard.
Overall, I can't recommend this book
| “HOH Rocks” by Bernard, 23 Aug 2005
Limit: No Limit: Tournament: Other Highlights: Overall Rating:
I bought this book the other day and was
rather skeptical about how good it would
be, but, now that I finished it, I can
honestly say that Harrington on Hold `em
is the best book on poker that I have
ever read. Am I over-exaggerating? No.
The secret of this manual is that, while
he expresses many of the same thoughts
and ideas as other poker
players/writers, he is far superior to
them in the teaching of technique and
As a teacher, Harrington is a master.
Every page is crystal clear and
comprehensible which is considerably
more than I can say about the works of
his publisher, David Sklansky. The lingo
was in keeping with our common poker
tongue, and I never had difficulty
imaging the situations he described;
whereas, with Super System I, while I
totally recommend it, there were times
when I could not apply Doyle's counsel
to my own game due to a lack of skill.
Such a situation never arose with
Harrington on Hold `em. Many of my
faulty and defeatist habits at the table
were identified, and, more importantly,
the manual helped me understand just how
much careful attention needs to be paid
to the betting patterns of my opponents.
The strongest segments in the book are
"The Problems" sections. They are
found at the end of each chapter or
part. Harrington uses them to "show"
us information after he has already
taught the concepts. These scenarios
grab us by the wallet and place us atop
the championship felt. The funniest, and
most unique, thing about his examples is
that Harrington observes the hands from
a vantage point high above the players.
He tells us what should be done and then
often has to shake his head when the
player analyzed does the complete
opposite. Regardless of the quality of
the amateurs, Harrington follows along
and makes the best of their bad
situations while being careful to point
out how much trouble would have been
avoided had the right play been
initiated in the first place.
Early on, "Action" Dan makes clear
that he will be using examples from
online play (and then does so
extensively) which is extremely helpful
for the majority of us who do not reside
near one of the gambling Meccas. Most of
the scenarios come from the
commonly-played online single table
satellites. Harrington, rather
surprisingly, knows all about the
pitfalls and characteristics of internet
poker, and, time after time, illustrates
how a particular play succeeds in a
brick and motor card room but not on the
web-and vice versa.
Dan Harrington was the perfect person to
write a book like this. Other than Texas
Dolly, he has the most gravitas out of
any of the poker luminaries. He won two
bracelets in 1995, and finished at the
final table two years running (2003 and
2004). Practically nobody else has the
combination of experience and
contemporary success as he, and his
intelligence stands out like a flush in
this initial volume.
| “Harrington on Hold'em Review” by Rutchick, 20 Jan 2005
Limit: No Limit: Tournament: Other Highlights: Overall Rating:
It distills Sklansky's and Brunson's
thoughts into digestible form. I thought
it stood out from both of those books,
though, for 2 reasons: its flexibility
and its personal style.
Harrington is of course known for a
particular style of play, and he
explains its merits in the text. He also
explains its disadvantages, though, and
presents alternative approaches with a
balanced review of their strengths and
Moreover, the book is written in a wry,
personal, occasionally very funny tone,
and was fun to read. The practice hands
are extremely deep and well-explained.
I eagerly await the second volume.
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