Book Review: Winning Poker Tournaments - Volume II

Published on Apr 2nd, 2010

When I reviewed the first book authored by PocketFivers Rizen, PearlJammer and apestyles, I wrote:

"...this is easily the best book available to help you improve, without question. I would expect this to remain true for approximately the next seven months...until Volume 2 of 'Winning Poker Tournaments' comes out."

Well, we were forced to wait nearly a year longer than was initially promised. Was I correct in my expectation? Was Volume 2 worth the wait?

Volume 1 focused on the early stages of a tournament, how to accumulate chips in deeper-stacked scenarios. All of the hands in Volume 2 are after the money bubble has broke. Typically, these hands have more pre-flop decisions than at any other time in the hand. Each player devotes significant time to discussing how stack sizes and aggressiveness patterns guide them in which pots to enter, and how.

The format of the book is identical to that of the first, a style popularized by Ed Miller and Dan Harrington in their books. A hand is presented via a picture of the table, giving blind/ante structure, starting stacks, player positions and any reads. The Hero in each hand gives their thought process through every decision they make. The authors, and editor Matthew Hilger, have been very smart about picking interesting hands. We don't see a whole lot of "I 3-bet with AK, got called by QQ, and won the flip." Every hand has several important concepts to communicate.

Each of the three long-time pros has a chapter in the book, dedicated to one specific tournament. You get to see:

* PearlJammer in a PokerStars $100 rebuy. Mr. Turner starts out as a massive chip leader at his table, and is looking for the right-sized stacks to pick on...every hand. If you spew off chips with a big stack because you keep putting yourself in bad spots, this chapter was written for you.

* Rizen in a $150+12 $65k guaranteed on Full Tilt. Mr. Lynch starts out with just over 20 BB, probably a below-average stack for the tournament. He's looking to 3-bet, and goes through the math and thought process behind determining when to make moves. This is easily some of the best-written analysis I have seen about assigning ranges and the determining the Expected Value of a call, raise or fold when the action comes to you.

* apestyles in a $100 $30k guaranteed 6-max tournament. Mr. Van Fleet has a big stack, as he often does. His section shows more aggressive play than the other two, partially because of the 6-max structure, and partially because of who he is. The contrast between how he plays with a big stack versus PearlJammer is striking, and highly educational.

Other than their successes, one commonality in all three chapters is a reference to doing your homework away from the table. The authors, as any good tournament player does, base their decisions on assigning hand ranges to their opponents and determining the right play based on the odds against those hands. Admittedly, a full analysis cannot be done in the confines of an online poker time bank. The authors rightfully stress taking the time to go back through hand histories, get familiar with odds calculators and do the math. Study how good your estimates and quick decisions were, and learn to make better ones the next time.

The most valuable chapter from Volume 1 was the last, where Mr. Hilger gave each author the same 20 hands, and collected their insight side-by-side. Seeing how players with three different approaches to the game look at the same situations was eye opening.

The bad news: There isn't a chapter like this in Volume 2.

The good news: Volume 3 of this series, promised to be delivered sooner than Volume 2, will contain entirely this style of side-by-side analysis. Awesome.

So, what's the verdict? Is Volume 2 of "Winning Poker Tournaments" the new "best book to help you improve?" The answer is a resounding, emphatic, "YES!" Without a doubt, this is the best poker book I've read for the tournament player.

I argued when Volume 1 came out, it wasn't for the player stuck at micro-stakes, as too much of the thought process would be counterproductive against bad opponents who aren't paying attention to the moves you make.

Volume 2 is loaded with incredibly valuable insight and information...for everyone.

Kudos to everyone involved with the project. I wish Volume 3 came out tomorrow.


  1. <p>If this was facebook i'd hit the like button...can't wait for volume 3</p>

  2. <p>So, I'm like, currently stuck at micro-stakes. What book do I want?</p>

  3. <p>where do you get this book at?</p>

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