Recently, I reviewed Championship No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold’em by T.J. Cloutier (with Tom McEvoy) and pronounced it the best book I’ve read on the topic of “big” bet poker. After reading Reuben and Ciaffone’s book, I feel compelled to revise my opinion. I now believe that their Pot-Limit and No-Limit Poker is the single best work I’ve read on big bet poker, although Cloutier’s book is also top notch and well worth reading.
Reuben and Ciaffone are well known in big poker circles. Both are tenacious winning players who are well respected by their peers. Ciaffone is well known for his seminal work on Omaha, Omaha Holdem Poker, and Reuben has been writing poker columns off and on since the ’60s. Both have a great deal to teach us about high stakes poker.
This becomes apparent immediately in the first section, titled “Big-Bet Poker Concepts” which provides the best introduction to the basic concepts of pot-limit and no-limit play, and how this differs from limit games. Before entering a big bet tournament or a ring game for the first time, anyone would be well served to read through this section carefully.
The second section is on specific Slot poker forms, including no-limit Hold’em, pot-limit Omaha (high), Stud Hi-Lo, etc.. Almost every game section is followed by a quiz on the material covered. Most of the quiz questions are quite good, but I don’t think that the scoring system used should be given that much credence. Not that the answers given are incorrect by any means, just that I would expect that one’s point total, and therefore “rank” by the author’s estimation, may not always correlate well with one’s true abilities.
Some of the games discussed in this section, like London Lowball and five and six card Omaha aren’t familiar to me, and I doubt I’d play them. Similarly, I don’t think it’s likely that I’d play Strip Deck Poker or big bet Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo. I also don’t think all of these games are especially illustrative of important poker concepts, but these sections don’t take up a whole lot of space, so there’s certainly no harm done in including them here, even if the reader’s main interests are in Hold’em and Omaha. Further, if I ever expect to play London Lowball, I’ll now know what I need to read in order to have a chance.
The third section is titled “Special Situations” and has two short chapters on tournament and shorthanded play. I found these sections to be a little bit lacking. Fortunately, Cloutier covers tournament situations fairly well in his book, but there is a lot more that could be said about shorthanded poker.
The fourth section is titled “General Information” and covers a brief history of the game of poker, pot-limit rules, ethical considerations, and cheating. This information is good and most of it should be understood before sitting in on a big bet game.
Finally, we end with some information on calculating odds and tables of probabilities of certain events occurring. This information is similar to information found in other books, but these are things the skilled poker player needs to know.
In any case, the authors do a great job of teaching big bet poker, and this book belongs on the shelves of every serious student of the game.
Revising an earlier opinion, I believe that Pot-Limit and No-Limit Poker is currently the single best book on big bet poker and should be read by all serious players. However, Coutier’s book should also be considered a must-read, and it’s coverage of tournament strategy is superior.