by Bob Ciaffone
Middle Limit Holdem Poker is an excellent book. The authors are both longtime poker Pros; Bob Ciaffone has written numerous books on poker & has a regular column in Card Player magazine. He also teaches poker. Jim Brier also writes for Card Player magazine & is a former student of Ciaffone.
This is strictly a fixed-limit book, focussing on games in the $10-$20 up to $20-$40 limits. This is not a beginner’s book & does not explain rules, basics or terminology. It is aimed firmly at experienced players who are looking to move into middle stakes (or to improve their current middle limit play).
The book is split into sections that deal firstly with general concepts, then addresses preflop play, followed by play on the flop, turn & river. Finally there are sections dedicated to topics such as bluffing, check raising & non-standard game structures.
The content is very heavily focused on hand examples (taken from real hands) in a ‘What should you do here” Q & A format. Each section of the book begins with a discussion of concepts followed by pages & pages of hand examples (there are over 400 examples in the book). As such this is certainly not a light read; it requires concentration & at times it feels almost like reading an exam study guide. However, the authors have a nice turn of phrase & one feels that the effort spent studying the examples given should be amply rewarded.
The authors spend a lot of time explaining how players often play on far further than they should because they calculate their pot odds but fail to factor in the fact that they may hit their out(s) but still finish second-best. For example, playing on against multiple opponents with AK on an undercard flop, only to hit an Ace on the turn but lose to an opponent’s AX two-pair.
Strong emphasis is also placed on the fact that the flop is the ‘fake’ betting round: the round where bets are often placed for information-gathering purposes or as a semi-bluff. When a player’s actions on the turn contradict his actions on the flop, tend to believe the action on the turn.
Here is a sample Q & A taken from the river play section of the book:
Q: A $10-$20 game. You are in the big blind & hold KsKh. A middle player opens with a raise & everyone else folds. You reraise & he calls. There is $65 in the pot & two players. The flops is 5s2d2c giving you an overpair. You bet & he calls. There is $85 in the pot. The turn is the Ac. You bet & he calls. There is $125 in the pot. The river is the Ad. What do you do’
A: Bet. You can beat queens, jacks, tens, nines, eights & other hands he might perhaps call with. With two aces on the table, it is less likely that he has an ace. One thing is for sure; the river card did not beat you.
Overall this book is full of sound advice is highly recommended to anyone looking to play middle limit holdem.
Middle Limit Holdem Poker is one of the best poker books on the market, but it’s not a book for beginners. It assumes that the reader is already familiar with the game; the strategies and ideas presented here are geared toward experienced Holdem players. Middle Limit Holdem ($10/$20 and above) is where many professional poker players spend their time, so it requires some advanced thinking to make money in these games. This level of play often requires a lot of difficult decisions, and Middle Limit Holdem Poker will help make some of those decisions easier.
The different sections of the book cover a specific concept in detail ‘ starting hands, flop/turn/river play, slow playing, free cards, drawing hands, overpair/top pair, overcards, value betting, etc. You’ll learn how to save bets by avoiding trouble with second-best hands, as well as earning extra bets when you have the best hand. There is also a section on non-standard game strategies such as short-handed play, players posting late blinds, and games that have unorthodox betting structures.
The real core of this book is the end of every section, which contains some extensive ‘what-would-you-do’ quizzes (over 400 of them). They help to solidify the concepts learned in the preceding chapter, and offer detailed explanations of how and why you should play the hand. You’ll learn how just a small change in the circumstances of the hand (your position, size of the pot, number of players, etc.) can dramatically change the way you play the hand. For example, say you have flopped middle pair and a player in front of you bets ‘ with a few small changes in the overall scenario, your best play can suddenly change from call to fold, or even raise. You may disagree with some of the authors’ advice in the quizzes, but that is okay, as it will help you to evaluate your own play in a new light.
This book is for advanced players, and is not an easy read. Expect to re-read many of the concepts until you fully grasp it. And you’ll probably find yourself coming back to this book again and again as a refresher. But don’t worry ‘ even though this book is mainly geared towards upper-level players, you don’t have to play high stakes to benefit from it. Whether you play $2/$4 or $20/$40, Middle Limit Holdem Poker will definitely improve your game.