by David Sklansky
Writing a good bock about small stakes hold 'em is not as easy as you might think. Just because the opponents you encounter in these games have poor to mediocre skill levels does not mean that the explanation of how to beat them can be mediocre as well.
On the contrary, the underlying concepts needed to extract the most from these players are just as deep, though different, from those needed to beat better players in bigger games. The problem is that most great players have little experience in these smaller games. Even those who look at poker theoretically would have trouble writing a great small stakes hold 'em book without significant experience playing in them. They know the concepts, but aren't sure exactly which ones to apply.
It is the reason that no one (until now) has written an excellent book about small stakes hold 'em. To do it properly you must be a good explainer, have experience in these games, and be an excellent poker player. It is not enough that you can beat these games. Anyone who beats smaller games, but fails to beat larger games, is almost certainly confused about poker concepts in general. Inevitably, some of that confusion will spill over into anything he writes about small games. The bottom line is that any book written about small limit poker will contain errors if it is written by somebody who doesn't win when he plays higher.
As I noted earlier, most of the best poker players have little or no experience with small games. For various reasons many did not start out on the lower rungs of the totem pole. (Mason Malmuth and I are two examples.) Most great poker players have trouble explaining exactly how they beat the games they play in. Thus, they would fail abysmally if they tried to explain how to beat the smaller games they never played.
Mason and I do know how to explain how and why we win. That includes games with loose players that we sometimes encountered in the bigger games. There is a whole section on the subject in our book Hold 'em Poker for Advanced Players. But "loose" is different from just plain "bad."1 Games with most of your opponents playing badly used to be almost unheard of above the S5-S10 level, and we have rarely addressed them. In fact, we had made it a point not to do so since we always believed that it was important to set our readers on the path of beating bigger games as soon as possible. We wanted them to skip smaller games altogether or perhaps beat them less than optimally (with simple common sense), and then move higher.
There were two main reasons we shunned teaching how to beat smaller games. First was that the rake and the expected tip made the games tougher to beat than might be expected, in spite of the opponents' weakness. Second was the fact that we didn't want to teach "bad habits."
Techniques that extract the greatest profit in small games won't work in bigger games. (The converse is even more true.) So we didn't even want to mention them much. We wanted our readers to play and beat S10-S20 or higher. Which is of course what they do. It is the reason our books are so popular.
So what has happened to make us reconsider? Simply put it is poker on TV and poker on the Internet. Since anyone reading this book should know what I'm referring to, I won't expound on it here. All that needs to be said is that this poker explosion has made smaller games become a more viable way to win good money. On the Internet you get to play more hands per hour. In fact, because you can play two or three games at once, you may get to play five times as many hands per hour as in a live game. Plus you don't have to tip. Making well over $50,000 per year playing S3-S6 hold 'em is now no big deal. As for "brick and
1 Loose players in bigger games often play surprisingly well on later betting rounds.
mortar" cardrooms, there are now a lot more bad players in them than ever before. And they are playing higher. So it is no longer unusual to see a S6-S12 or even a S10-S20 game filled with them. This is another reason we can no longer ignore writing about how to beat such games.
The only problem is that Mason and I have little experience playing against a table full of bad players. It's not a big problem. On pure theoretical understanding alone, we could explain proper plays and techniques to beat these games far better than the authors who have thus far attempted this task. But not being fully aware of the how people play at these limits, we would fall short of perfection.
That's where Ed Miller comes in. In Ed we have a man who not only plays poker expertly, presently at the S15-S30 or S30-S60 level, but who has recently moved up the ranks, building his bankroll by playing as low as S2-S4 and S3-S6. He is also a great writer, a brilliant guy, a graduate of MIT, and a major contributor to our website www.twoplustwo.com. With him as our co-author there can be no doubt that, if you want to learn how best to beat the bad players you will find in smaller limit hold 'em games, this book is the place to turn.
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