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HARRINGTON ON HOLD'EM: THE ENDGAME



Harrington on Hold'em Volume II: The Endgame
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

The publication of Harrington on Hold'em Volume I: Strategic Play last year filled a gaping void in the literature available on no-limit hold'em - for the first time, a step-by-step guide to navigating the nuances of poker's most complex game was available. If betting in no-limit can be considered the language through which players converse with one another, the tutorials found in Volume I provided the reader with the vocabulary necessary to start forming sentences. Harrington on Hold'em Volume II: The Endgame builds upon those tutorials with more advanced concepts, demonstrating to the reader how to express complex thoughts and manipulate his opponents. With the assumption that the reader knows how to calculate odds and read the board in any given situation, Harrington focuses this time around on making moves, how a player's strategy must change as the tournament progresses, the dynamics of short-handed tournament tables, and heads-up play.

The first section of Volume II focuses on various moves that a player may make at the table which do not depend solely on the value of his hand. Essentially this comes down to the art of bluffing. For anyone who thinks that bluffing in no-limit hold'em is simply a matter of playing any two cards as if they were aces, this chapter should be a true eye-opener. More than eight different categories of bluffs are discussed in detail, including the table conditions necessary for pulling them off and how each type of bluff should be run by players employing different styles. Also covered are slowplaying and methods of getting as many chips into the pot as possible when holding a monster hand.

After covering the various sorts of moves any good player should have in his arsenal, Harrington moves on to cover what he calls "inflection points," moments in a tournament where strategy changes are dictated by changes in a player's chip stack. Harrington introduces the concept of forces governing inflection points. "M," the strong force, is the ratio of the player's chips in relation to the blinds and antes. "Q," the weak force, is the ratio of the player's chip stack in relation to the average stack remaining in the tournament. This is where the book really begins to become tournament-specific, and any player who has not been exposed to these concepts in the past should see a marked improvement in results after careful study. Understanding M and Q, and how they affect tournament strategy, can be the difference between bubbling out and finishing in the money.

Once inflection points have been introduced and given a thorough discussion, short-handed play is covered. As Harrington says, short-handed play is "poker on steroids," featuring accelerated action with more all-in moves and amped-up pressure in nearly every situation. This section of Volume II discusses how to adjust the calculation of M to account for the short table, how to adjust tactics by slowplaying and controlling pot odds, and the necessary consideration of how the tournament's prize structure will affect your opponents' play.

After covering short-handed play the book moves on to heads-up play, something with which many players have no experience at all. Harrington introduces a basic pre-flop heads-up strategy and covers how to adjust for variations in M and how to use position to your best advantage. After the theoretical discussion comes what is probably the single most valuable portion of Volume II, the inclusion of two sample heads-up sessions: one imagined session between the reader and another unnamed player, and the actual heads-up sequence between John D'Agostino and Phil Ivey from the Turning Stone tournament in 2004. These sessions see all the theory covered through the previous chapters of Volume I & II put into action in the one situation every player wants to find himself - the final battle to determine who takes home first prize.

The layout of the book is identical to that of the first volume in that after each chapter there are multiple example hands that illuminate those concepts. Just as this was a major strength of Volume I, so it is with Volume II. The book is easy to re-read after you've covered it once, whether you need to revisit specific concepts that have been problematic for you or just want to review material in order to get a firmer grasp on it. Volume II: The Endgame is the perfect companion piece to Volume I: Strategic Play, and any serious tournament player should have it in his library.
 


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