The book we will be discussing this week is Barry Greenstein's 'Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide'. I chose this book a while back after watching a WPT special invitational episode – Poker by the Book, Chapter II. The line-up of this show featured 6 of the best poker players in the world, who also happened to be poker book authors.
Competing for the title of best poker author were Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Dan Harrington, Barry Greenstein, Antonio Esfandiari and Tom McEvoy. I decided to choose a book written by the player who won the event, and I was getting a little worried when I saw Tom McEvoy playing the final heads-up against Barry Greenstein. If McEvoy won, I would have had to choose from 1 of his 12 books, compared to Greenstein who had only written one book so far.
In the end Greenstein took down the event, and believe it or not, the final hand actually ended with an ace on the river.
Title: Ace on the River: An Advanced Poker Guide
Author: Barry Greenstein
Publisher: Last Knight Publishing Company
The story behind the book
In 2003, Barry Greenstein was approached by Doyle Brunson, who asked him to write a chapter for his new book Super System II. Barry got to work and was so absorbed by the writing of the chapter that he even missed out on a couple of tournaments during that time.
His contribution ends up being so long that, when handing it over to Brunson, Barry asked which parts needed to be crossed out. "None" was the clear answer from Brunson, and Barry's own book was born. Barry asked Doyle to write the foreword for his book and Doyle agreed. 'Ace on the River' was the result.
Barry hands a signed copy of his book to every player that kicks him out of a tournament. During an online heads-up match between Barry and Daniel Negreanu, Negreanu tells Barry that he can just send him a copy of the book if Negreanu would win the tournament. Barry, however, chose the easy way out and ended up winning the heads-up.
Build-up and content of the book: An Advanced Poker Guide?
When reading the subtitle 'An Advanced Poker Guide' some of you might expect a book that goes into poker strategy. Although the book does include some game situations that are being described and analysed, 'Ace on the River' is not a strategy book per se. Greenstein tried to give a detailed description of everything that has to do with poker, and he did a great job.
The book is split up into four parts with a total of 27 chapters. The first four chapters are about the poker world and how he ended up as a part of it. He talks about the different characters you can encounter, and there is one chapter about the superstition you come across in American cardrooms.
The second part includes a chapter about poker etiquette. By means of a list of questions, you yourself can find out if you have the right mindset to become a poker player. Questions such as 'When a car cuts you off on the highway, do you scold the driver?' and [I]'Do you try and win every discussion?' are for you to answer before Greenstein tells you about the correct way of reacting and correlates his answer with examples from the poker world.
In this part of the book, the reader finds numerous tips for becoming a better poker player, not in the usual way of analysing poker situations, but by tips that cover everything to do with poker. From choosing what limits to play to keeping your sexlife on track in the chapter 'Poker and Sexuality'. Yes, you read correctly; Barry Greenstein actually talks about every aspect that contributes to you becoming a better poker player.
The third part is a little more traditional in that it discusses various poker theories and lessons for the poker player who has moved on from simple ABC poker. Barry describes the differences between different limits and the big differences between cash games and tournaments.
Towards the end of this third part Barry includes a couple of interesting key-hands from the World Poker Tour, the World Series and other big televised tournaments. Barry describes his actions, hypothetical situations if he would have made a different choice, and what the ideal line would have been.
The last part includes charts with various outs, relationships between hands and other useful tools for Hold'em.
Writing style, layout and verdict
The entire book is written very enthusiastically, which is essential for a book like this. When reading 'Ace on the River' you will regularly be amazed about some of the things Barry Greenstein has been through. All the chapters are filled with anecdotes and beautiful pictures. Every tip given by Greenstein is backed up by a fitting example from something he experienced himself.
The content of the book correlates with the style of writing, which makes every part of the book interesting to read. The photos you find in the book don't always relate to what is being said, but they are always stylish and liven the whole thing up.
The game situations which Barry describes and the charts with probabilities are handy, but they should not be the reason for getting this book. If you're looking for a book with nice stories and useful tips for professional poker players, then 'Ace on the River' is exactly the right book for you.
Riddle: In his book, Barry describes a Hold'em situation in which a player has the winning hand on the turn, but there is no possible river card that will see him win the hand. In other words: if we would stop on the turn and never see a river, the player wins the hand, but with the river card, the player has no chance to win the entire pot. Honour and fame to whoever can figure this situation out first. Good Luck!