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Poker News | Poker Book Review

A Review of Super System 2

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The cover of Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2: A Course in Power Poker boldly calls it “the most anticipated book in the history of poker!”, and unlike most public relations hyperbole, this statement is right on the money.  Most serious poker players have studied the original Super System, in which Brunson and his team of experts revealed more of the inner workings of the minds of great players than had previously been put on paper. 

Now, twenty-seven years later, in a market glutted with literally hundreds of poker books, in the post-Moneymaker boom era, many wondered if the man many consider to be the greatest poker player of all time could create yet another landmark book to stand side-by-side with the original work.  I’m pleased to say that, for the most part, the second volume is every bit as strong as the first.

As in the first book, Brunson has amassed an all-star cast of player-writers, and assigned a specific topic or game to each one.  Volume two features chapters on limit hold’em (Jennifer Harman), Omaha eight-or-better (Bobby Baldwin), stud high-low eight-or-better (Todd Brunson), pot limit Omaha high (Lyle Berman), and triple draw (Daniel Negreanu), in addition to general poker tips from Mike Caro, and articles on online poker, tournament play and no limit hold’em by the master himself.  It is a format that worked extremely well the first time around, and it is equally effective here. 

What is most powerful about the chapters is that each one is a self-contained course on a specific game that you can spend hours and hours reading and re-reading, working to achieve a level of proficiency in the game that would otherwise have taken years to accomplish.  You have the opportunity to focus in on any specific game, that you either want to learn or improve in, and leave the rest of the book for later sittings.

As an example, Todd Brunson’s chapter on stud eight-or-better is a tight, brilliantly put together package of information that presents enough information and strategy to enable you to become a winning stud high-low player.  How can I make this claim?  It’s simple, really.  Before reading this chapter, I had consistently lost at high-low stud, both in individual ring games and as part of HORSE rotations.  After going over Brunson’s chapter four or five times, I began to win consistently at the game, and it has become a regular and favored game for me during the past year. 

Todd's chapter is divided into eighteen basic concepts, beginning with what he calls the platinum rule, which overrides all other considerations in choosing whether or not to play a hand.  This rule is that the only hands that should be played are those that have the potential to scoop the pot.  While this idea may seem self-evident for a high-low game, Brunson points out that even many top-level players continually forget this concept, and spend needless bets chasing what are, at best, half-pots.  This tip by itself will save a regular player thousands of dollars over time.  When combined with a full understanding of which hands to play and why, learning how to read the other boards that are out against you, knowing how to avoid hands that wind up being second best and the other concepts presented here, you can comfortably compete in any game your bankroll can support, and easily hold your own.

Another powerful chapter is Daniel Negreanu’s explanation of triple draw, a game which has begun to be played much more regularly online, and which is an integral part of the 8-game tables on Poker Stars.  Since triple draw is a relatively unfamiliar game for most players, reading and mastering Negreanu’s chapter can give you a huge edge over many players who will routinely play almost any five cards in this game, figuring they can always use all three draws to make their hands.  Negreanu systematically explains the starting hands that are and are not playable, how to use position to your advantage both before the draw and on subsequent betting rounds, how to maximize play at each stage of the game and the use of the bluff.  He also spends time explaining the difference between the more commonly played deuce-to-seven variation and its ace-to-five cousin.  

If there is anything disappointing about the book, it is the fact that, rather than writing a new chapter on no limit hold’em, Doyle chose to reprint his no limit section from the original book, with a limited amount of added nuance and detail.  For those who have observed him play on television, both in tournaments and in such venues as High Stakes Poker, it is clear that his game is much different than it was twenty-seven years ago.  It would have been fascinating to have him spend time detailing the changes he needed to make to defend against players who “knew” his game from reading the first book, and how his strategies have shifted over the years.  Perhaps he felt that he had already given away too much the first time around, and wanted to keep a few of his newer secrets to himself.  With all he has meant to the game and its growth, he can certainly be forgiven that bit of reluctance.  However, I would have appreciated a more detailed perspective on how his game has changed as poker has evolved through the years.

Regardless of which games you wish to master, you will find numerous tips to help you improve.  Whether it is learning proper aggression in limit hold’em from Jennifer Harman, understanding how to play flopped sets and wraparound straights in the Omaha variations with Bobby Baldwin and Lyle Berman, or how to properly handle suited connectors in no limit hold’em as presented by Doyle himself, you will constantly be challenged and enlightened by Super System 2.  And don’t forget to pore over Mike Caro’s 43 exclusive tips chapter, in which he dispenses valuable lessons that you can use both at and away from the poker table.

In summary, Super System 2 will provide you with hundreds of hours of ideas and information to make you a better poker player.  Master these concepts, and you will be well on the way to becoming a consistent winner at the tables.

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