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Pot-limit and No-limit Poker
Stewart Reuben and Bob Ciaffone
Publisher: Self-Published (1997)
Pages: 218
Reviewed: 8/97

I have to admit up front that I don't regularly play big bet poker, so I can't offer much insight into how accurate or complete their advice is. Given that big bet poker is hard to find in cardrooms these days, I suspect most of the book's potential readership will be in the same boat. I have put in a few hours at small pot-limit games, and I've always thought it seemed much more interesting than limit, but I'm definitely not the most knowledgeable reviewer.

Reuben and Ciaffone divided up the chapters in this book between them, rather than co-authoring the entire thing. The chapters are divided into some introductory chapters on big bet poker concepts, a series of chapters on particular games (e.g., no-limit hold'em), and a final set of chapters on special topics like tournaments, ethics, and odds.

I enjoyed switching back and forth between the Reuben and Ciaffone voices - they both managed to be both lucid and informal, generally providing a level of detail that was neither overly technical nor overly vague. Reuben probably conveyed more of his personality, in part by repeatedly advising the reader that he's a real bully at the table, in part through a conversational voice that made his sections especially pleasant. Ciaffone's writing was probably similar, it just happened that I noticed the voice specifically more in the Reuben chapters.

In general, I found each of the chapters individually fascinating for different reasons. Although I don't expect to play no-limit draw lowball, I now know infinitely more than I did before reading the book, and I'd even consider taking a shot at a game with unusually small antes (the authors do admit that part of their goal in writing the book was to help repopularize big bet poker). The stud chapter worked through from third street to the river, as do most stud texts, but I'd be hard-pressed to draw any other parallels with books on limit stud. And the chapter on London Lowball, which I thought would be a bit dull, was probably one of the most interesting in the book, due in part to an addendum on some simple concepts adapted from game theory.

To my surprise, I found the quizzes after each of the game-specific chapters to be interesting and informative reading on their own, unlike quizzes in other books I've read. Each question presents a game situation, and each possible alternative receives a different score (e.g., 5 points for raising, 2 for folding, -20 for calling). They then include a brief description of the considerations that went into each decision. I found it useful to see how well my own thoughts predicted their discussion, and in one or two places there was even the opportunity to anticipate how Reuben and Ciaffone would disagree.

My only gripes with the book were minor, including a few rough spots, some typos, some odd transitions that had me momentarily confused, and a system for calculating post-flop odds that struck me as needlessly complicated.

Overall, I thought the book succeeded not only as an introduction to big-bet poker, but also as an enjoyable book that I think will stand up well to multiple readings (I will certainly need to re-read some sections multiple times). Of course I realize there's much more to big-bet poker than the contents of this one book (previously, Super/System was all I'd read), but I thought it offered a good introduction, and I'd almost be happy to take the rest of my lessons at the table (especially if the stakes are small enough).

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