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52 Tips for Texas Hold'em Poker

28 June 2005

The poker explosion on television, in casino card rooms and in home games has brought with it an explosion in books on poker. It seems every week there's a new one --- if I had a stack of chips as tall as my stack of books waiting to be reviewed, I'd never have to worry about where the next buy-in was coming from.

One that crossed my desk not long ago was 52 Tips for Texas Hold'em Poker by Barry Shulman, with Mark Gregorich ($19.95, softcover, 154 pages, Card Player Press). I picked it up and started thumbing through. I put it down, and came back to it a while later. And again the next day. And again.

What Shulman has done is put together a well-organized, informative reference that will be useful for Texas Hold'em players no matter what their skill level. The 52 Tips are divided into six sections --- Three Universal Hold'em Concepts; Playing Before the Flop; Playing on the Flop; Playing on the Turn; Playing on the River, and More Hold'em Concepts You Should Know. And with a nod to the crest being ridden by the no-limit game, Shulman adds a short section beyond the 52 Tips that applies specifically to no-limit Hold-'em.

Before long I found that I'd read the whole book --- perhaps not cover to cover, but early middle to late middle, back to the front cover, on toward the back cover and back again. When I'd read and re-read sections, I put in a call to Shulman, the publisher of Card Player magazine and whose poker titles include a gold bracelet in the World Series of Poker as the 2001 seven-card stud high-low split champion.

I told him I thought the book was very well organized, easy to read, and easy to find essays about specific parts of the game.

"That's what we were trying to do," he said. "Make it a useful reference book. It's very encyclopedia-ish, in a way. I've had pros tell me they like it, that they can pick it up and turn right to a part of the game that might be giving them trouble. I tried to make it a book that when someone reads it, they learn more about poker than any other book."

Most of us aren't pros, or anything close. I asked Shulman what one thing makes the biggest difference for an average player.

"The single biggest difference that separates a beginner from an intermediate player is that the beginner has no sense of the importance of (betting) position," Shulman said. "That's something I try to bring up in the book over and over. Good hand or bad hand changes relative to position. If you're betting in early information, you don't have the information yet on the other hands that someone in late position will have."

Indeed, Tip No. 2 in the book is, "Hold'em is a game of position," and Shulman goes on to explain the advantages of betting in late position and the disadvantages of playing in early position. It's a theme he comes back to over and over again, as in Tip No. 5, on play before the flop: "Your position is of vital importance in deciding whether to open the pot."

What should you do if two face cards flop in a multiplayer pot? Should you raise from the big blind? When should you bet a toss-up hand on the river? 52 Tips for Texas Hold'em Poker covers specific situations that more and more players are facing every day.

So many new players are confronting those Hold'em hands on the Internet before they move into card rooms that I asked Shulman about the impact of online play.

"I think it's been wonderful," he said. "Obviously it's making more players. Some of them are outstanding. I certainly don't know every player when I walk into a card room anymore. Some of them are terrific, and some are terrible, but the influx has given us a bigger group of players, and that's very good for the game."

It's a far cry from the days not long ago when poker rooms were on the decline as casinos downsized them or eliminated them altogether to make room for more slot machines. Poker was still being played, of course. Big money tournaments such as the World Series of Poker flourished in the United States and around the world. But for the average player, poker was sitting around the table in someone's home, playing dealer's choice on games from seven-card stud to five-card draw with deuces wild.

"If you put a pro at a table of amateurs playing five-card draw, deuces wild," Shulman said, "the pro would win all the money quicker. The amateurs don't really understand the odds, and bet much more wildly. Of course, you wouldn't get the really big pots, with two rounds of betting instead of the four in Hold'em."

Such home games, with a wide range of dealer's choice games, are still being played today, of course. But more and more, the game of choice is Texas Hold'em. And if you're going to get the most out of Hold'em, 52 tips in Shulman's book mark a good place to start.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski