The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold'em by Dennis Purdy
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

One ironically notable thing about the flood of books to market following the poker boom is just how unremarkable most of them are. Often the only thing to separate one book from another is the professional player's name printed on the front cover. That's supposed to be enough to get you to buy a book which will disappoint you when it's filled with the same advice you got from another former tournament champ in the book you bought last week. Plenty of players stay away from books for exactly this reason - they didn't learn anything from the one or two books that they tried out and have sworn them off altogether.

If you're interested in learning to play solid limit hold'em and you're looking for a book that takes a different approach to teaching than the typical "words of wisdom," it might be worth checking out Dennis Purdy's Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold'em. The firs tthing of note is that you don't recognize Purdy's name right away. He's not a WSOP or WPT champion, just a retired professional gambler who still supplements his income with poker. The next thing of note is the approach that Purdy takes to explaining the game. After a few chapters covering the basics of the game (blinds, hole and board cards, etc.) he jumps into the meat-and-potatoes of the book: the situations.

The bulk of the Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold'em is made up of workbook-style two-page spreads with a poker table diagram and discussion of a hand. On the left page is the diagram, showing exactly what limit is being played, how many players are in the hand, how much money has been bet so far in the hand, and what cards are in play. On the facing page there is a full discussion of the situation, such as this example from Situation #2:

Starting Hand (Pocket): 7s-2h
This pocket's win rate: 0.4%
Win Rate Rank: 139 of 169 possible
Situation #2 Answer: ...this hand's 7-2 unsuited is considered by many poker experts to be the worst possible hand you catch in the pocket. Technically there are several other hands that actually rank lower...Still, this is an awful hand that is universally recognized as the worst hand to draw to.

This workbook style is followed throughout the rest of the book, providing a pretty solid course on low-limit Texas hold'em. Pre-flop and post-flop situations are given equal treatment, so if you study the book thoroughly you will have all the basic skills necessary to win at the game.

The front cover of the book says that it is for both beginners and advanced players, but the easy-going tone of the book suggests that it is definitely aimed more at beginning amateur players than anyone with a solid footing in a hold'em game. The only "advanced" players who will benefit from studying this book are those who overvalued their skill set in the first place and advanced through limits with leaky games. Anyone who is looking for deep insights into the game will probably want to pick up a more technical book.

One final small section of note in this book is the chart of relative win rates for all the starting hands in Texas Hold'em. Beginning players of the sort who think that A-A should win every time will open up wide new vistas of poker knowledge by simply taking a look at the relative strength of each hand. Even intermediate players who have gone a long way playing on feel can learn from this chart. It's the sort of information that doesn't make a book on its own but definitely adds to its overall value.

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