Super System 2 by Doyle Brunson
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

When I see the number 2 proudly affixed to the end of a familiar title, I automatically think sequel. Super System 2 can fairly be called the first poker book sequel (I can't recall having seen The Theory of Poker 2 on the shelves) - and coming into it with the same expectations you'd have for a Hollywood sequel is probably the best way to approach the book. Not as innovative as the ground-breaking original, but with some updated special effects, Super System 2 is just like any second installment of a movie series - you walk away somewhat satisfied but unable to avoid the feeling that the original was better.

There's one thing you'll notice the first time you pick up a copy of Super System 2: it's a big book. With all the introductions, discussion of poker strategy, and history of Clan Brunson, the final page count on this monster is over 670 pages. Easily half of the book could have been trimmed away without losing anything of real value. Part of the reason for that is that several sections of the book are rehashes of what Doyle Brunson already covered in the original Super System: namely, Brunson's life story and his winning cash game strategies for no-limit hold'em. For anyone else it might have been considered too arrogant to simply have a no-limit hold'em section referring the reader back to another book, but Brunson could have gotten away with it. After all, the advice on the game from his original book is still some of the best out there. But as it stands, the unnecessary half of Super System 2 is there and you'll just have to skip around it to get to the good parts of the book.

There are definitely good parts of Super System 2. Cover your eyes for just a moment, 2+2 fans, while I share something with the rest of the audience: Jennifer Harman's section on limit hold'em might be the best one ever written. (Okay, you can open your eyes again.) It's not so much that Harman presents any ground-breaking concepts, but she is concise and easy to read in a way that Sklansky falls short of on his best days. It's the difference between having a coach who screams at you and a coach who treats like an intelligent, if less experienced, fellow traveler. Harman's advice is well-organized and well-written and should benefit anyone thinking of taking up limit hold'em.

Other sections of the book are also worthy of note. The Omaha Eight-or-better section, written by Bobby Baldwin with assistance from world-class O8 player Mark Gregorich, should become the definitive text on what's becoming one of the most popular forms of poker in play today. It resembles Harman's limit hold'em section in both tone and ease of reading, and it sets a high standard for future books on the game. Daniel Negreanu's section on triple draw is a good look into a game few players know of (and fewer play), and Todd Brunson's seven-card stud eight-or-better section is definitely a good text for anyone with little or no familiarity with the game who needs to get up to speed quickly. The elder Brunson's words on tournament poker aren't lengthy, but they do provide solid footing from a veteran whose advice on such a topic can't be overlooked.

Some other portions of the book are less than stellar. The tips from Mike Caro are insightful if you don't already own Caro's other books, but if you know the Mad Genius' work well you won't be gaining anything new and can safely skip his advice. Lyle Berman's section on Pot Limit Omaha, one of the most popular varieties of poker in Europe and the southern US, comes off a little light on strategy and heavy on anecdote. Steve Zolotow's exploration of whether to specialize in one game or learn many is one of the best parts of the book, but it's so short it makes you wish he'd been given a full section to write himself. (Maybe Razz, since it was missing from this book.) Finally, Steve Lipscomb's nearly 20-page-long advertisement for the World Poker Tour would make for great copy on the WPT website, but its presence in a book heavy on poker strategy is questionable at best.

If you're planning on learning more than one game to round out your poker knowledge, you could do a lot worse than Super System 2. Some of the sections on popular games are outstanding, helping to offset the sections of the book that are of little value. The book's list price of $35 is a bit too steep, but if you can get it for a moderate discount you'll probably be happy with your purchase.

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