Small Stakes Hold'em by Ed Miller
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

Ever since Doyle Brunson published Super System, there hasn't been a more cost-effective way to learn how to play poker than reading. Where players in the era before easily-obtained poker books might lose thousands of dollars before they began to win, today's players have a large library to choose from that can help them win much more quickly. Nowhere is this more true than with limit hold'em, probably the most widely played variant of poker today. For those players who don't have a large initial bankroll, however, there is a slight problem: the strategies necessary for winning big at loose, low-limit games are not those taught in the most respected books. Books such as Hold'em Poker For Advanced Players are designed to teach their readers how to beat $10-20 games or higher, but many of today's new players start off with a bankroll that can only accommodate $1-2 or $2-4 games. To fill the gap in the literature on today's low-limit hold'em games, Two Plus Two Publishing turned to Ed Miller to write Small Stakes Hold'em. The result is a book that every low-limit hold'em player should own.

The introduction to Small Stakes Hold'em lays out the book's mission very clearly: it is not a book for beginners. It is written with the assumption that the reader already understands the basic rules of the game, and also that he understands basic strategies of winning limit poker such as playing tightly. Rather than recommending a tight and cautious style like most beginners' books, SSHE coaches players in how to play a tight and aggressive style designed specifically to extract the maximum money from the mistakes that low-limit players are prone to making. Explaining such a style in full takes over 350 pages, so be prepared to study when you purchase this book.

SSHE begins with a 30-page introduction to some basic mathematical concepts. Some are useful for gambling in general, but others - pot odds, implied odds, reverse implied odds, and equity - are specific to poker. This part of the book is necessary to underscore the fact that poker is gambling (despite what some people will tell you). Once these preliminary thoughts are out of the way, the book jumps straight into pre-flop play. The first portion of the pre-flop advice is devoted to general pre-flop concepts necessary to crush low-limit hold'em games such as domination, the importance of position, understanding the value of suitedness, and avoiding the costly error of cold-calling raises. The last half of the pre-flop advice consists of descriptions of hand categories, and recommendations for what hands to play in tight and loose games.

After pre-flop concepts and recommendations have been covered, SSHE moves into the part of hold'em that separates the big winners from the break-even players: post-flop play. This is where Miller's work really shines. Many other books are great for fixing beginners' pre-flop play but descend into generalities once they get to the last five cards of each hold'em hand. SSHE spends nearly half its pages on post-flop play, a good portion of which is devoted entirely to play on the river. The strength of the strategies provided here is they teach you to extract maximum value from the later streets that most other books gloss over. When you've finished this portion of the book and you begin to apply the concepts contained within it, you should be able to see a marked improvement in your win rate.

Finishing out the book are three parts: a section on miscellaneous topics, a section composed entirely of hand quizzes, and a question-and-answer section. The miscellaneous section contains specific advice on playing overcards, building big pots before the flop, playing A-K, and using tells against your opponents. These concepts are the sort that provide fine-tuning after the first parts of the book have given your game a complete overhaul. The hand quizzes are a great place to test how well you're applying your knowledge before you ever sit down in a low-limit game. The question-and-answer section is very useful for refreshing your memory after giving the book a thorough reading, as it reiterates all the major concepts in a very short space. It's a wonder this useful feature isn't available in more poker books.

There's a lot of money to be won in low-limit hold'em games, and there isn't a better book out there for learning to crush these games than Ed Miller's Small Stakes Hold'em.

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