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Poker News | Poker Book Review

A Review of Harrington on Cash Games, Volume I

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It is generally agreed that former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Dan Harrington raised the bar for books on tournament poker with his three-volume, Harrington on Hold’Em series. Now, he and co-author Bill Robertie are back, and trying to do the same for no-limit hold’em ring games with their two-volume set, Harrington on Cash Games. In this article, I will focus on the first volume, which addresses pre- and post-flop play.

Perhaps the most important concept in Harrington’s tournament books is that of M value, the relationship between your stack size and the blinds and antes required to play a full round of hands. In this book, Harrington begins by re-visiting this concept, explaining how the major difference between tournament and cash game play is that, with the blinds never changing, players will constantly be playing true, deep-stack poker, unless they choose to work with a shorter stack. As a result, the focus of strategy shifts from amassing enough chips in a tournament to keep ahead of the ever-increasing blind structure to developing a comprehensive method of play that will enable you to win your opponent’s entire chip stack.

For those who know Harrington’s reputation as an extremely tight player who has earned the sarcastic nickname “Action Dan” because he so rarely gives any in a tournament, his suggestions for hand play in this book will come as a revelation. He begins by examining the play of a typical “rock”, who only enters pots with premium cards. This player very quickly becomes easy to read for anyone other than a very poor player, and will wind up either winning very small pots (when he hits on the flop) or losing very big pots (when he overplays his hand against players who take advantage of his predictable style).

Harrington cautions against this type of play, and instead suggests the need to play a much wider range of cards, including suited and unsuited connectors, one-gappers, and smaller pairs. This greater range of starting hands will help you keep opponents off-balance, so that they will not be able to read your actions as easily.

Harrington suggests that, despite their best intentions, almost all players will still fall into a predictable pattern of when and how they play the various card combinations, and will still become “readable” to top players.

His solution?

Randomizing your actions by using the second hand on your watch. Once again, this is an idea that he introduced in the tournament books, but here this concept takes on a much greater role. With every possible pre- and post-flop play, Harrington suggests different percentages of raising, calling and folding. For example, in early position, he raises suited connectors 15-25% of the time, folding the rest . Rather than making the decision himself, he looks at the second hand of his watch, and depending on where it is, he will make the appropriate play. This randomizing effect creates a much more dangerous player, because you become unpredictable.

The book contains all the in-depth hand analysis that readers have come to expect from Harrington, and all of his expertise is right out in the open to instruct players of all levels. There are numerous insights that will elevate your game to new heights, including Harrington’s First and Second Laws and a detailed discussion of the “Metagame”, the psychological game inside the game.

If I have any criticism of the book, it is that with so many different combinations of plays described in its pages, it would be useful to have a chart that would allow the reader to see his options in a briefer format.

Once again, Harrington and Robertie have revolutionized poker literature.

As someone who is working at filling in the holes in his game, it is a book I will read over and over again. As a poker player, I would like to burn all the rest of the copies of this book so that my opponents won’t have the opportunity to learn from one of the true masters of the game.

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