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Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone's Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker

Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone's Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker

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Overall Rating: 4

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Bob Ciaffone has played poker all his life, and has been a professional player and familiar Vegas face since 1980. Ciaffone has an excellent reputation both as a poker writer and poker player. His book "Omaha Holdem Poker", published in 1984, is still considered the defining work on that form of poker by the big money pot-limit Omaha players. His book "The Official Rules of Poker" is the first comprehensive poker rulebook ever written on the game. He has had a popular regular poker column in "The Card Player" magazine since 1989. Ciaffone has extensive experience at no-limit hold'em, no-limit ace-to-five lowball, pot-limit Omaha, and pot-limit Omaha high-low split 8 or better. He was once voted as number three in the world at pot-limit Omaha in an informal readers poll of the top players at each poker form. He has competed in the $10,000 buy-in World Championship (no-limit hold'em) seven times, with a 3rd place finish in 1987.

Stewart Reuben is a familiar face for big-bet poker players on two continents. He has a home in a suburb of London, and is a regular player in the big pot-limit Omaha and London lowball games of that city. During the "World Series of Poker" tournament he is normally found in Las Vegas for several weeks of highstakes action. Stewart has played poker professionally for the last 30 years. He is also one of the world's leading chess promoters. Stewart may well be the earliest-ever poker columnist, having written for Mayfair magazine back in the 60's for a couple of years. Reuben's main experiences lies in pot-limit Omaha, pot-limit London lowball, pot-limit seven-card stud, and also limit seven stud. Stew prefers money play rather than tournaments; more intimidation. He has a swashbuckling poker style that mke him a much-feared player. Opponents frequently leave the game losers, scratching their heads, and opining that a player who takes so many chances ought to be broke. But Stewart keeps right on winning.

This book explains the proper concepts and strategies used for playing pot-limit and no-limit poker, as given by two top-flight professional players. The forms of poker discussed include hold'em, Omaha, seven-card stud, and several varieties of lowball.

The vast majority of top-level poker players prefer pot-limit and no-limit poker. There is greater opportunity to obtain a nice result through the exercise of skill, because good decisions offer a greater reward, and bad decisions invoke a more sever penalty. There is much more that a good player can do to triumph over weaker opponents.

The book starts of by describing why a player should consider pot-limit games. It even recommends that limit poker players should try to learn pot-limit games. Limit poker often requires you to have the best hand at showdown. "A pot-size bet offers the would-be caller only 2-1 odds. This contrasts with limi play, where pot odds of 5-1, 10-1, and even 20-1 are commonplace." This concept is put into perspective, "The good players love pot-limit poker because they can use their skills to the fullest extent. Limit poker is a fight between combatants who have to wear handcuffs; pot-limit poker is open warfare. If you are 6 and a half feet tall and weigh 270 pounds, wouldn't you rather play tackle football instead of touch?"

The next chapter describes Ciaffone and Reuben's eleven commandments, with brief descriptions:
1) Never play with money you can't afford.
2) Always know the rules of the game.
3) Don't steam.
4) Never play when off balance.
5) Run your profits and cut your losses.
6) Don't be a calling station.
7) Don't give or receive aggravation.
8) Don't get tricky against a weak player.
9) Don't get involved where you are either a small favorite or a big dog.
10) Don't play in a game unless you figure to win.
11) Vary your play.

The next few chapters discuss playing styles, betting, drawing hands, and psychology. Ciaffone mentions the amount of money in front of the players has a profound influence on the betting. The deeper the money, the greater the implication that a player has a strong hand when he raises. There is some good advice and insights within these chapters:
  • With regards to calling raises, "The general rule of thumb that professionals seem to use for such a call is you want the potential to win about twenty times the current bet you are facing."
  • "With drawing hands, the top players are strong about not building a draw up front out-of-position."

  • The next several chapters discuss reading your opponents, the art of bluffing, playing against the bully, and general no-limit play. The reading your opponents chapter has some interesting information on poker tells such as shaking hands usually means excitement over a strong hand, a player who reaches for his stack before you finished placing your bet would have actually preferred that you didn't bet, and some other nice tips.

    The next set of chapters describe specific poker forms: hold'em, Omaha, seven-card stud, and lowball, with quizzes to test your understanding.

    Reuben and Ciaffone then discuss general poker information: poker history, rules, ethics, and cheating.

    The final set of chapters provide probability concepts, odds, and charts.

    While it's nice to read a book focused on big bet poker, I would have preferred a book more focused on the game of hold'em, since that's all I play. However, some of the general chapters still provided relevance and I found those concepts to be solid.

    Overall Rating: 4

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