As anyone who has played low limit Texas Hold’em in one of the many California card rooms can attest, the game is played… differently here. The variety is often referred to as “No Fold’em Hold’em”, where folks believe the poor Hold’em player’s lament, “Any two cards can win!” Lee Jones, who has written several articles that have appeared in Card Player magazine and often contributes to the rec.gambling newsgroups, attempts to provide elementary strategies for the novice to intermediate Hold’em player that will allow them to consistently beat these games.
The book starts with some introductory remarks and then moves onto describing the fundamentals of the game, including the necessary, but very elementary math knowledge on how to compute one’s odds. This section culminates with a quiz on the material it covers. Overall, this is one of the best introductory treatments of this material I’ve read.
The next section covers the playing of hands. Consideration is given to each round of betting, position, deception, how to play various hands, the check-raise, free cards, and other important topics. Jones manages to cover a lot of topics in a fairly short span, and he does so accurately and clearly.
At the end, the author fills in some of the gaps. Jones covers bluffing, spread limit (although this topic needs much more consideration than given here), jackpot games, bankroll considerations, tips on casino comportment, a useful glossary, and good recommendations of where to continue study of the game. Most everything that needs to be covered is, and very clearly.
Of special note is Jones’ treatment of a concept he calls “Implicit Collusion”, the concept that a bet into a large field has less value under many circumstances than it would against a single opponent. Other authors have discussed this concept, most notably David Sklansky, but this a new and interesting viewpoint on the topic.
I feel there are a few small defects with this book, however. First, although one can certainly be a long term winner in California style low limit poker, I don’t think these games are quite as profitable as the author seems to suggest. It’s true that many Slot players play very badly, but with so many people playing bad hands, it often becomes mathematically correct for them to make what otherwise would be tragically bad decisions. This has been discussed by many great poker authors, but it bears repeating, especially in an introductory work.
Also, although the author warns against the wild bankroll fluctuations that one will encounter in these games, I don’t believe the warnings are strong enough. It is my opinion that most folks who start to play regularly for the first time after reading this book will be stunned by the magnitude of these swings. It can take months or years to have played enough hands to determine whether one even has a positive expectation at these tables, much less to know what that expectation might be.
Finally, while these tactics are reasonable strategies to use against the unsophisticated players one finds at low limit tables, if you try to take these strategies to a 30-60 game without alteration, you’re liable to get your clock cleaned.
At the time this was written, the only good Hold’em books focused on higher limit play, and most of the good ones were more advanced works; not very suitable for beginners. Winning Low Limit Hold’em fills this gap, providing a good explanation of winning strategies at Low Limit Texas Hold’em games accessible to the novice and intermediate player. In addition, several concepts, including the treatment of “Implicit Collusion” is strong enough that advanced students are likely to benefit from it as well. However, after the principles in this book are mastered, the reader is strongly urged to begin studying Sklansky and Malmuth’s Hold’em Poker for Advanced players, as it is still the definitive work on this game.
This book is as good an introduction to winning play at low limit Texas Hold’em as I’ve seen. Even though the book is not without flaws, there are many thousands of players in card clubs all over the world that could save a great deal of money each year by reading this book. In addition, Lee Jones covers enough material in new ways to make this book worth while to more advanced players. Winning Low Limit Hold’em does not replace Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players, but it does serve as a reasonable and accessible introduction to it.