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Poker News | Poker Book Review

A Review of The Poker Tournament Formula II

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If you read my review of The Poker Tournament Formula, you will know that author Arnold Snyder has a very different approach to playing successful tournament poker than most of the previous writers on the subject.  While in the first volume of this series, Snyder focused on a complete strategy for beating fast-structure tourneys, in The Poker Tournament Formula II he switches gears and writes about slower, deep-stack tournaments, up to and including the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.

While the first book revolved around the idea of “patience factor,” a numerical value assigned to tournaments based on how long a player could go in an event before being blinded off, here Snyder crafts a full-blown strategy based on what he calls “chip utility”, the value of each chip to you in terms of what plays it allows you to make or not make.  The author makes a convincing argument that, contrary to popular belief, as you amass more chips in a tourney, each new one added to your stack actually has more, not less value, due to its utility.  To Snyder, chip utility is everything in a tournament, and he endeavors to always maintain a chip stack that allows him what he calls “full utility,” where he feels free to be able to make a complete range of pre- and post-flop poker plays at any time, in order to continue to put pressure on the other players at the table and continue to build his stack, with an eye towards not only cashing, but winning the tournament.

For Snyder, full utility means a chip stack of at least 100 big blinds.  Notice how different this is from Harrington’s idea of the “green zone”, the area that he feels allows players to play freely, where they have an M value of 20, meaning they can pay 20 rounds of blinds and antes before being blinded off.  For example, if the blinds are 200-400, with an ante of 50, Harrington says a player is in the green zone with a stack of 22,000, whereas Snyder feels he is only fully functional if he has 40,000.  

Much of the difference is in the two authors’ chosen styles of play.  Snyder is a small-ball proponent, and he wants to have the freedom to play suited connectors, small pairs, unsuited one-gappers and the like, and to be able to make continuation bets, information bets, bluffs and other post-flop plays without the danger of losing a huge portion of his stack. While the author clearly prefers small-ball poker, he outlines strategies in the book for long-ball players as well, acknowledging that eventually the blind structure of all but the most deep-stacked of events demands accurate big pot play.  

Just like the first book in the series, The Poker Tournament Formula 2 is designed to shake up and wake up players who adhere to particular theories of how to play based largely on the cards they are dealt.  Snyder provides convincing arguments that premium hands simply will not be dealt to you on a consistent enough basis to be able to make a final table in a big, multi-table tournament, and that you need to take steps right from the beginning of the game to make sure that one or two bad luck hands don’t end your evening.  The way to do that, he says, is through constant aggression, creating fear and respect in the minds of your opponents.

Along the way, the author gives out lots of practical advice about how to employ the aggressive tactics he recommends.  In an invaluable section titled “Five Easy Fleeces,” he details the five types of bluffs that all players need to utilize on a consistent basis, in order to keep the others at their tables off balance.  He covers bluffs from different positions at different points in the hand, and points out exactly what makes a good bluff, and what types of bets will cause your opponents to look you up, because it just doesn’t “smell right.”  Once again, he spends a lot of time exploding what he feels are deeply held myths about when and when not to bluff, describing the flaws in some of the classical thinking on the subject.

The final section of the book is devoted to Snyder’s description of how to play in the five stages of any tournament, which he lists as:
1) Stack building,
2) The Minefield (when players are taking shots with short stacks),
3) The Bubble,
4) The Money, and
5) The Final Table.  
While the aggressive tactics he promotes are present in all phases of the event, there are many nuances presented on how to deal with the changing terrain, along with warnings about common mistakes that players make at every point along the road.

Once again, Snyder’s work is well researched, and covers, in detail, all the points that he intends to get across.  While the first book describes the types of players you encounter in fast-structure tournaments, he adds to that list here with players who you are likely to meet in slower events.  I found myself laughing at his description of the “Harringbots,” the “Killers,” the “Superstars,” the “Hangers-On,” and the “Groupies.”  He spends some time talking about how to pick up tells on the other players (most of this information will be familiar to anyone who has read the classic books on the subject), but more importantly, informs the reader of how to play against the different styles of players he will be up against.

The two-volume series is, in total, an essential addition to any poker library.  I’ve begun to think of Snyder’s book as the “anti-Harrington,” not due to any disrespect on his part for Dan Harrington (while he has disdain for the “Harringbots,” he makes it clear that he doesn’t think Harrington himself plays that way), but due to the way Snyder’s constantly attacking approach to the game contrasts so well with Harrington’s controlled, card-based style.  Once again, if your game has fallen into a predictable rut, with predictable, unsuccessful results, Snyder’s ideas can jolt you out of complacency and into an overhaul of those things that are not working for you in tournament play.

*Read Clearspine's Blog*

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