Harrington on Holdem

Dan Harrington Poker Book Reviews

Harrington on Hold'em

Volume 1: Strategic Play

Review by Lawrence Gilbert
Harrington Poker Reviews

Bill Robertie

Expert StrategyDan “Action Dan” Harrington is a moderating force in today’s world of loose super aggressive tournament play. He is known as one of the most solid and conservative players on the poker scene today. But don’t mistake his rock like discipline for weak play. He has an uncanny ability to know exactly when to make his move. This ability has allowed him phenomenal success in No Limit Hold’em tournaments – finishing at the final table of both the 2003 (against a field of 839) and 2004 (against a field of 2,576) World Series of Poker Main Event Tournaments.

Dan shares the secrets of his success in Harrington on Hold’em Expert Strategy on No-Limit Tournaments, Volume 1: Strategic Play (co-written with backgammon author Bill Robertie). The authors felt that there was too much information on the subject to fit into one book. As a result, Strategic Play is the first in a two part series. Strategic Play offers advice on the beginning and middle stages of a tournament. Volume 2, End Game focuses on the final stages of a tournament.

Strategic Play is mostly likely to appeal to beginning, intermediate and expert tournament players looking for practical advice on playing No Limit Hold’em tournaments. This is not a “how to” book for the rank beginner. Hand rankings, game rules and general poker theory are not covered in depth in this volume. As a result, some previous general knowledge or experience in poker is a prerequisite for gaining the most knowledge from Strategic Play.

Strategic Play is well organized into seven distinct sections, each containing easily digestible and actionable information related to common tournament situations. In order to gain full value from the material, readers are encouraged to treat the hand analysis (contained at the end of each section) as quizzes and to look at the author’s advice only after they have wrestled with the problems themselves.

Poker players familiar with Harrington’s style may expect a book filled with solid and conservative advice. Instead, they are treated to more dynamic recommendations. One of the more compelling sections of the book is titled “Playing Styles and Starting Requirements”. In this section, the authors describe the types of playing styles common in today’s No Limit Hold’em tournaments: Conservative, Aggressive and Super-Aggressive. They go on to make recommendations on when and how to use each style and offer advice on when and how to play against each style.

The authors also recognize the fact that not all readers will be playing in the $10,000 Main Event at the World Series of Poker – which is played with a large amount of starting chips and over several days. More realistically, readers will play in a wide variety of buy in amounts and structures. As a result, strategic advice also varies based on tournament types.

The most significant value in Harrington’s book, however, may be gleamed from the problems contained at the end of each chapter. It is in these sections that the readers are allowed to take a peak into the mind of one of the best tournament poker players in the world - and then compare it to their own analysis. The problems are very detailed, and include a vast amount of information about the conditions relevant to the play of a particular hand. The reader is bound to miss something, and will then learn from what they missed by reading the subsequent analysis. It is like having a world famous poker coach all to themselves – someone who sweats their cards during a tournament and then tells them what he would have done himself.

Poker players whose only tournament experience includes watching it on TV may be under the impression that No Limit Hold'em is a relatively simple game. They may watch the aggressive players on television and simply determine that success is a matter of continued aggressive play. However, after reading Harrington’s book and participating in the exercises, one of the key take aways that readers are left with is that No Limit Hold’em is indeed a very complex game. There are times to be aggressive and times to be conservative. Learning to recognize when and where to use the correct approach is critical. As a result, the importance of a well thought out plan and thorough analysis at the table is illuminated. Harrington on Hold’em Expert Strategy on No-Limit Tournaments, Volume 1: Strategic Play teaches its readers how do just that and is therefore a great addition to any tournament players’ toolbox.

Buy Dan Harrington's Book

Dan Harrington

Other book reviews by Lawrence Gilbert:
Harrington on Holdem vol. 2
Holdem Poker for Advanced Players
Theory of Poker
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Authors Harrington and Robertie


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