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Poker News | Poker Book Review

A Review of Super System 2, Revised Edition

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For those who may not have read my original review of Super System 2, you can find it in PokerWorks' Poker Book Review section.  While there have been numerous printings of this best-selling poker book, Doyle Brunson and his team of collaborators have now come out with a revised edition of the book.  While all the material from the original edition is still present, there are three new chapters intended to add even more to what is already a classic poker book.  Brunson has enlisted Phil Hellmuth, Jr. to write about strategies for winning at tournament Hold’em and Lyle Berman to add a section on proposition betting, which has been seen on television shows such as High Stakes Poker, but never fully explained to the general public.  In addition, Brunson himself, with some help from Mike Caro, adds a chapter where he breaks down twelve separate deals to provide in-depth explanations of some of the points he previously covered in his chapters on hold’em.  Let’s look at each of the new chapters individually.

Lyle Berman’s chapter on Proposition Betting is not truly a chapter on poker strategy, but is instead a delightful look inside the highest-stakes cash games played at the Bellagio and other casino venues.  For those who have watched High Stakes Poker on television, you have heard Gabe Kaplan talk about prop betting that is going on at the table, sometimes seeming to occupy the players even more than the poker itself.  However, Kaplan has never really explained exactly what is going on with that side action.  Here, Berman reveals just what is transpiring, describing in detail how the system works, and showing how you can tweak the betting to provide more or less action.  What is truly remarkable to a low-stakes player is finding out just how much money is at stake with these bets, which come into play based simply on what cards come on the flop.  Berman describes a prop where Chip Reese once won $300,000 on a single proposition bet!  Even more fun is Berman’s section on “sleeping a prop,” since in order to collect, a player needs to announce to the table that his prop hit.  It is hard to imagine with the type of stakes being played that someone would miss seeing this, but apparently it happens all the time, sometimes for as much as six figures!  For those who have wondered what’s going on when the players at the High Stakes table start going crazy for no apparent reason, this chapter is a must.

Brunson’s own chapter with detailed hand analyses is the real meat and potatoes of the revision.  What Doyle does is to look at twelve separate hands (eleven hold’em hands and, for some unknown reason, a single Omaha high-low hand), and break down the way they were actually played, along with his commentary on how the play could have been improved.  Obviously, this is not a unique format, as Cloutier/McEvoy, Harrington (who devotes an entire workbook to hand analysis), Hansen (who breaks down every hand he played in an entire winning tournament in Every Hand Revealed) and others have used this method to support their instruction.  However, here it is the Godfather of poker himself that is breaking down the hands, and you can fully sense the mastery of the material and the years of thought that have gone into each word.  Brunson looks at a number of different types of plays, and details how and when each should be made.  

I would humbly suggest that two improvements to Brunson’s new chapter would have helped the overall quality of the book.  First, it would be useful to have reference pages to go back to in the rest of the text that talk about the concepts he is detailing in each of the hands, so, for example, when he discusses how to play a set after the flop, you would be able to go right to the original discussion on that to further solidify the play in your mind.  Second, it would be helpful to have both more analyzed hands and to have them in a semblance of order reflecting the sequence in the other chapters on no limit hold’em, or, simply to incorporate the hands right into the chapters themselves.  However, the hands that he does break down are a great addition to the book and leave the reader wanting more.

The weakest of the three chapters is Hellmuth’s.  For some reason, he titles his section of the book “Niche Poker”, stating that if you can find a particular tactic that works for you, you can win tournaments consistently.  He then goes on to describe four “advanced” tactics in tournament play:  1) Stealing the Blinds and Antes, 2) Going Over the Top, 3) Balls to the Wall, and 4) Super Tight Play.  While all of these are essential parts of a winning player’s arsenal, there is nothing in here that can’t be found in other books on tournament hold’em.  In addition, the reader is “treated” to a series of anecdotes designed to show off just what a brilliant player Hellmuth himself is.  This self-promoting style, while it works for Hellmuth on some level in the poker business world, is rather insufferable in written form.   Finally, the title of the chapter is inaccurate, because the author himself admits that ideally, a player will use all of these different strategies at different times, which is a direct contradiction of what a “niche” is.

If you don’t already have a copy of Super System 2, the new material gives you even more reason to run out and get it.  It remains a classic of poker literature, something that every serious player should own.  However, the big question that must be asked is whether someone who already has a copy of the book should buy another one so that they have the revised material.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the additions (other than Hellmuth’s), I don’t think there is quite enough here that is unique (unless you HAVE to know about proposition bets) to justify buying an entirely new copy.  If selling new copies to old customers was Brunson’s intention, I don’t think the revision achieves that end.  However, if the idea was to add even more value to an already cherished volume, the new edition is a resounding success.

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