Final Table Poker DVD Review
Dec 31, 2005
2005 Jason Kirk

The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of educational products for poker players, with books in particular selling faster than ever as all the new players who've become interested in the game thanks to television try to learn enough not to go broke. Also available are instructional DVDs, almost always hosted by a well-known professional player who provides his insights into the game at hand. One of the newer instructional DVDs on the market is Final Table Poker with Phil Gordon.

Much like Phil Gordon's Little Green Book, this disc carries the weight of Gordon's reputation as a strong teacher of the game. Also in its favor is the fact that the people who produced it are poker fanatics themselves. Gordon and fellow Tiltboy Rafe Furst served as executive producers, and writer and director Michael Keller has played semi-professionally over the years. With plenty of attention to the little details of the game throughout, it's easy to see that the people producing this DVD know and love the game.

The production quality of Final Table Poker is better than most other instructional poker DVDs on the market. It has the film quality of a major Hollywood movie, and also mimics the television-style presentation of big-money tournament very well. The actors generally look the part and don't overdo it stretching for an Oscar nomination. The presence of Chris Ferguson at the table also adds a bit more realism to the final table situation , making Final Table Poker feel more substantial than it would have without him.

One of the key selling points of this DVD is the audio commentary track provided by Phil Gordon. In it, the viewer can "get inside the mind" of Gordon, hopefully gaining an understanding into the kind of thinking a professional poker player uses while playing a big-money televised tournament. This commentary track comes in two versions, one for beginners and the other for more advanced players. It's a combination of Gordon the teacher, laying out his reasoning for his actions in different tournament situations, and Gordon the actor, playing himself as a character in a final table drama and reacting to flops and his opponents' bets. Hearing Gordon get excited about a monster flop or upset by an opponent's call can induce a laugh or two, but it also subtly gets across the point that even top-level players get excited when they see good cards.

In terms of the poker advice given in Final Table Poker, all of it is firmly grounded in solid fundamental no-limit hold'em play. It preaches two themes consistently: make good decisions, and be selectively aggressive. These are the two aspects of a professional's game that truly separate him from the ranks of amateurs who all want to be at the final table, and this DVD repeatedly drives them home. Fully discussed are such important topics as the Gap Concept, stealing blinds and antes, semi-bluffs, making big laydowns, protecting your hand, bluffing frequently enough, and always taking the time to think a situation out before making a decision. With a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, a wide variety of poker topics are covered.

There aren't many reasons to criticize Final Table Poker, as it is generally a solid product that will be useful to a wide audience. One of the only negatives is that players who have read widely will probably not gain much new insight from it. If you've ever purchased a poker book that you never finished reading, or if you learn better through visual examples than you do from books, Final Table Poker might be a good instructional tool for you. Otherwise the well-read player will find that all of the strategies discussed in it all have been covered in material they already know well. The only other complaint that some might have is that there are 3 Full Tilt Poker advertisements over the course of the program. These are short, however, and relatively entertaining (Full Tilt's marketing has always been one of its strengths).

On the whole Final Table Poker is one of the better instructional DVDs available, though intermediate and advanced players may find little new in its strategic advice. Beginner-level players will gain a lot of new insight into the game, and will enjoy the DVD's high production values and attention to detail.

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