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Poker News | Poker Book Review

Harrington on Hold’em: Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments - Volume II: The Endgame Review

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While the first volume of Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie’s legendary series on tournament no limit holdem focuses on the early stages of tourneys, the second book deals with the later portions of tournaments and the unique problems players face in successfully negotiating them.  Once again, the authors have managed to address almost every topic imaginable, stuffing them into 400+ pages of invaluable inside information essential to any player, regardless of experience level.

The book contains five major sections, followed by a short series of concluding thoughts that wrap up the material contained in both volumes.  The main sections include:

1) Making Moves, where the authors discuss the various plays that professionals employ at all stages of tournaments,
2) Inflection Points, how to determine exactly where you stand at any stage of a tourney (more on this shortly),
3) Multiple Inflection Points, having awareness of how the other players’ status in a tourney affects their play as well as yours,
4) Short Tables, how to adjust your play once you get towards the end of a tournament and there are fewer players at each table, and
5) Heads-Up, where you are instructed in how to contest the very final piece of a tourney victory.

The portion of the book that has probably influenced the tournament scene the most is the portion on inflection points.  In this section, Harrington introduces the reader to “M” and “Q” which are the player’s relationship to the blinds and antes in the case of the former, and his/her position relative to the other competitors in the tournament in the latter instance.  Harrington compares these to the strong force and the weak force in physics, and insists that the reader be aware of where he stands with regard to both of these forces at all times.  

In looking at the M value (the more important of the two), he divides tournament position into five “zones.”  The zone in which a player finds him/herself determines the number and types of play that are available at any given time.  

•    Harrington defines the Green Zone as being any time you have enough chips to survive 20+ rounds of blinds and antes without playing a single hand.  It is here that you have maximum flexibility with regard to hand selection and post-flop play.  
•    The Yellow Zone represents between 10-20 orbits, and requires players to be much more hesitant to play suited connectors and small pairs, while at the same time becoming more aggressive with high cards.  
•    The Orange Zone is 6-10 times around the table, removing complex betting sequences and requiring even more aggression on good hands.  
•    Players are in the Red Zone when they have an M of between 1 and 5, where the only move available is all-in.  
•    And an M of less than 1 is the Dead Zone, where you no longer have enough leverage to stop anyone from calling your all-in bet, and you are almost certain to be exiting the tournament very shortly.  

M and Q have become integral parts of every tournament player’s thinking process, and it is essential that you understand their application in any contest in which you are engaged, as well as being aware of which players are playing with Zone concepts in mind.

Just as in the first book, the second installment is full of sample hands that instruct the reader on how to apply the concepts covered in each section.  Some of the highlights here are an analysis of a lengthy series of short-stacked plays in the inflection points chapters, as well as a complete breakdown of a 25-hand heads-up confrontation between Phil Ivey and John D’Agostino, that will teach you more about mano a mano play than most complete books on the subject.  As always, Harrington presents detailed logic for all suggested plays, and the reader will find him/herself improving in answering the end-of-chapter problems as the ideas are mastered.  By reviewing the information multiple times, correct play will become second nature, and will give the reader a large arsenal of moves to bring to the table in any situation.

Speaking of moves, many of the most common plays found at the table are described in loving detail.  Continuation bets, probe bets, squeeze plays, semi-bluffs, slow playing, bluff check-raises and many others are discussed, as well as ways to defend against these types of moves from your opponents.  Harrington also shows how to incorporate these plays into either a conservative or aggressive style, noting the differences that need to be taken into account when your overall style leans in a particular direction.

If there is anything missing from the book, it is probably an examination of bubble play, an essential piece of tournament strategy that would have been valuable to hear from as noted an expert as Dan Harrington.  His focus remains squarely on inflection points and how to handle them, and as a result, he doesn’t really do much differentiation of the different stages of a tournament other than shrinking table sizes.  It would have been very useful to get more integration of tourney situation and individual circumstance to bring an even more complete understanding of late-stage play to the reader.  But this is a minor quibble.  

For any reader who aspires to raise their level of tournament play, particularly anyone who is attracted to a slightly more conservative style (or someone who wants to more effectively combat that style, for that matter), you will not find a more valuable learning resource than Harrington’s tournament series.  It is likely that these books, as much as his distinguished showings at the Main Event of the WSOP, will put him in poker’s Hall of Fame in the very near future.  Being able to get inside the mind of such a legendary player and thinker is something that every player should take advantage of.  It is a book that will unquestionably improve your game, and your results.

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