Daniel Negreanu is, arguably, the most popular player in poker. His buoyant personality and uncanny ability to read his opponent’s hands has been featured in World Series of Poker coverage, on World Poker Tour telecasts and on High Stakes Poker, where he has been one of the regular players. As a result, I eagerly anticipated the publication of Negreanu’s Power Hold’em Strategy, in which he promised to reveal the secrets of his “small ball” strategy.
Avery Cardoza, who is also the book’s publisher, wrote the preface to the book. Cardoza pulls no punches when he declares that Negreanu’s work is one of the two best poker books ever written, behind only the two-volume Super System set, which he also published. Unfortunately, Cardoza is, quite simply, wrong.
The book copies the Super System format, in that it consists of a series of sections each written by a different contributor. In addition to Negreanu’s chapter on small ball, the other authors include Evelyn Ng on tournament play for novices, Todd Brunson on high-limit cash games, Erick Lindgren on online play, Paul Wasicka on short-handed online play, and David Williams on playing aggressive poker. In Super System and its sequel, this layout worked extremely well, as each portion of the book dealt with a completely different game. Here, this technique doesn’t work nearly as effectively.
As an example, Todd Brunson is one of the writers in both books. In Super System 2, he penned the chapter on Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo, and put together a concise, yet complete method of playing the game that can be utilized successfully at almost any stake level. Here, Brunson’s chapter on high-limit games is woefully thin. Brunson apologizes in advance in the introduction to his chapter, noting the lack of space he has, and promising that his own book will be published soon, and will have much more detail.
Unfortunately, the entire book takes on a similar quality. While it was fascinating to read many of the individual tips of the various writers, and get a look inside the minds of a variety of highly successful players, the whole of the book is not nearly as strong as some of its parts. Each chapter gives the reader just enough information to really get into trouble, without ever fleshing out a complete approach to any one aspect of the game.
The featured chapter, on Negreanu’s small ball technique, is the lengthiest of the sections, and definitely has quite a bit more detail than any of the others, however, there is still not nearly enough meat on the bones of the chapter to allow the reader to come close to fully understanding the ins and out of this style. Although Negreanu presents the approach as being an extremely simple one to play, he stresses the importance of hand reading to any successful implementation of the strategy, and then doesn’t really follow through at any length with how a player can begin to develop this most essential of qualities.
Negreanu had a great opportunity to write a complete work on a strategy that he and a number of other top players have refined and been successful with for years. Whether it was due to the number of projects in which he is involved or simply a desire to copy a writing strategy that worked so well for Super System, he chose instead to use a shotgun approach with many different topics rather than focus the laser of his mind on just that area in which he is most expert. Ultimately, a careful reader will find a number of useful ideas in this book. However, it is not nearly as powerful a work as it could have been had Negreanu simply written it all himself and given us a definitive work on small ball.