Book Review: Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em

Excelling-cover-725x1024Jonathan Little, Chris Moneymaker, Liv Boeree, Phil Hellmuth, Olivier Busquet, Scott Clements and Matt Affleck. No, not the sickest final table in the history of poker, but they are among the list of contributors to a new poker strategy book. Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em is the brain-child of Jonathan Little, who himself contributes two chapters to the book. The book balances the technical side of poker with a closer look at the mental approach. Technical chapters cover deep stack, mid stack, bubble play, short stack and final table play whilst there are also chapters on psychology, understanding tilt, tells and how to move up in stakes.

The book features chapters from a wide variety of faces from the poker world such as players; including WSOP Main Event Champion Chris Moneymaker, as well as psychologists, media personnel, coaches and believe it or not hypnotherapists! PokerNews Senior Editor Chad Holloway kicks things off with an informative section titled ‘Examining the post-boom evolution in poker.” Holloway covers how many things have changed and become out-dated since the so-called poker boom. He talks about how the old adages of “tight is right” and “always open for 3-4BB” have changed over time to one where aggression and postflop play have become king.

Liv Boeree

The only co-authored chapter in the book comes from 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth and Liv Boeree. The chapter, entitled ‘Short stack strategies: old school versus new school.’ The two players obviously have different strategies, and this is shown with a number of examples where both players explain their preferred plays on both fictional and real-life hands. I found this chapter exceedingly useful when observing the similarities and differences between the old and new styles. I found this quote from Hellmuth at the end of the chapter especially interesting:

This collaborative chapter between Liv Boeree and me ends with me respecting Liv, respecting her deductive reasoning and logic, and respecting the new school style of poker.

My favourite chapter had to be the first one. I know what you’re going to say, “Yeah I bet it’s the first one because that’s the only one you read.” You’re wrong. I spent a good three weeks reading this book cover to cover because I wanted to know what I was writing about. Anyway, the first chapter is written by Evan Jarvis. You may know from and he runs the largest and most popular free poker training channel on YouTube.

Jarvis’ chapter was entitled ‘The six ingredients for a winning poker strategy.’ This really showed how diverse this book was. Starting with such a basic or elementary chapter could have put some people off, but Jarvis really threw his all into this chapter, as did everyone throughout the book.

Patricia Cardner

There were chapters ranging from basic tournament strategy,  to EV calculations and GTO play which is obviously aimed at the more advanced players. Another chapter aimed at advanced players was that of Dr Patricia Cardner; a professional sport and peak performance psychology consultant and poker player who works with players who seek better performance and increased mental toughness.

Her chapter, entitled ‘Mental toughness: The ultimate psychological edge’ touched on everything from positive visualisation to increasing your self-awareness of emotional responses and setting goals to increase mental toughness. The chapter was, at times, a little complex for me, but that’s the thing about this book; there is something for everyone. From the amateur player looking to improve their lower buy-in tournament strategies (Chapter 2 – Chris Moneymaker), to professionals looking to reduce their levels of tilt (Chapter 15 – Jared Tendler), or improving their satellite play (Chapter 6 – Bernard Lee).

When someone who is interested in studying poker more asks which poker book they should purchase, the answer is usually a mixture of Super System for the complete basics, and Harrington on Hold’em for further more up-to-date clarifications. However, it is my belief that Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em could become the new go-to book for those wishing to read up on tournament poker.

Whilst reading Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em I didn’t feel as if I was reading a strategy book. There weren’t pages after pages of push/fold charts, or hand selections. These topics were covered, but in their own dedicated chapters. Each chapter felt like a book within a book, and this was helped by the fact that each chapter had its own author.

Jonathan Little

Jonathan Little should be commended for bringing such a talented group of individuals together for what is an outstanding poker book. I’d like to finish with a line from his concluding chapter:

Some concepts that did not quite resonate with you today may lead you to a big breakthrough in the future.

Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em is currently available for pre-ordering at the D&B Publishing website and at Amazon.

For those at the World Series of Poker, the book will be launched at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino on Saturday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m.