Harrington on Cash Games Volume I
The newest book is called Harrington on Cash Games. In 2004, Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie brought out the book "Harrington on Hold'em", and a guide for tournament players was born. In 2005 they brought out part 2 of the series, which was wrapped up when part 3 appeared in 2006. Together, these three books were (are) a must-have for many beginning and advanced tournament grinders.
The quality of these books is still being praised today and they are generally seen as one of the best book series on tournament poker ever. Just after finishing part III of the series, the duo started working on a book about Cash Games. When this rumour hit the poker community in 2007, many were in two minds about the idea. The question was whether this book could turn out to be as good as the previous three. Dan Harrington is known for his good tournament play, but wasn't known as a cash game fanatic.
For a long time there wasn't much to be heard or read about this book, but then it came out that they had so much material, they were going to spread it out over two books. The release of the two books was postponed a couple of times but now they are finally here. Today I will start with the review on Volume I.
Authors: Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie
Publisher: Two Plus Two Publishing (2008)
The structure of the book
The book starts with a short introduction, followed by an example hand that covers 10 pages. The example is a hand from the third season of the popular show 'High Stakes Poker' which is being discussed from beginning to end, going into details about every player, every betting round, thought processes and betting patterns. By discussing this hand, Harrington and Robertie break the ice, and we now know how they approach poker and what we can expect from the rest of the book.
The first chapter is on the basic concepts of No Limit Hold'em cash games. Expected value (EV), Pot Odds, betting types (the value bet, the probe bet, the bluff and the semi-bluff) and implied odds are explained in great detail for the beginning player, but also for advanced players who want to refresh their memories. Every topic includes various examples to help understand the different concepts. These examples are sometimes imaginary, like the ones we know from many 2+2 books, with fictitious situations and players. Every now and then they also use examples from High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark and the World Poker Tour.
In the second chapter they talk about concepts that are indispensable if you want to become a good cash game player. These aren't completely new concepts and neither did they originate from the minds of our authors, but the way in which they explain these concepts is a lot clearer than in many other books or articles. The first part is about the stacksizes at the table and the effect this should have on our playing style. Adjusting your playable starting hands is a crucial element to your game and is thoroughly explained in this chapter. When playing with smaller stacks, a lot of hands can be eliminated from your starting hand selection because they just can't be played as profitably, while deeper stacks make sure that you can play a lot more hands, which again effects all other considerations when starting a hand.
Other elements that are discussed in this chapter are balancing the hands that you play, reading of hands and everything that has to do with the so-called 'metagame'. Again, no new concepts here, but they are concepts that you have to fully understand in order to become a winning player at the higher limits.
The third chapter discusses the tight-aggressive approach preflop. Various hands are discussed in great detail, including, for example, two pages on how to play AK preflop. AQ also gets two pages, and another two pages are consumed by suited connectors. All in all, this chapter includes a lot of details about the hands with which we can limp, raise or immediately fold, and examples of situations where we can play our hand with deception. One great thing about this book is that all the different topics can be read separately, so if you ever find yourself in a tricky situation, you can always go back to that certain topic in the book and look for 'guidance'.
The whole fourth chapter is on playing heads-up after the flop. The fifth chapter also discusses the flop, but in this case we're up against more than one opponent. The different examples include various hands with which we raised preflop, or with which we see a flop because we limped or called. Four pages are taken up by talking about raising with KK and the various flops we can run into. The examples are very clearly explained and always offer different possibilities. For example, the authors will advise you to continuation bet a hand 80% of the time but check behind 20% of the time. In this way the book offers a lot options on how to vary your game and keep it unpredictable.
Dan Harrington is a real live player and his screen names on the well known poker sites are unknown. Although this book includes a lot of examples that take place 'online', you can't help but feel that the book was written by a live player who doesn't play much online. The very aggressive games that you see online nowadays are a big difference to the live games, but the authors of this book do try to prepare you for that. Many elements can be used online as well as live, and the chapter about hand reading is perfect for today's online poker games. Online cash games are mainly played at tables with a maximum of 6 players. Because the blinds come around more often and every round is more expensive to play, the game becomes a lot more aggressive at these tables, where a 3-bet preflop doesn't have to mean that your opponent has aces or kings.
In this book, not a single 6-max hand is discussed, and all examples and situations take place at full ring tables with 9 or 10 players. In many ways the 6-max tables can be compared to full ring tables minus the seats in early position. Principally we can say that UTG at a 6-max table is middle position at a full ring table, but when considering the aggression that takes place as a result of the 6-max game, the comparison to full ring tables minus early position doesn't really work out. And this is a shame because Harrington on Cash Games doesn't discuss a single 6-max situation. This doesn't mean, however, that the theory in this book is useless to you if you are a strict online 6-max player. The book still discusses many vital elements of the game that shouldn't be too difficult to adjust to 6-max situations.
Writing style, layout and verdict.
The writing style is different from many 2+2 books and comparable to the writing style in the Harrington on Hold'em series. Sometimes you run into little humoristic remarks throughout the book, and the detailed description of examples that we know from TV shows is a nice way of illustrating the theory.
The layout of the book is similar to other 2+2 books. There are no pictures in the parts with the TV shows and no illustrated photos for each chapter. The examples are accompanied by a graphic replica of the situation and charts with the stacksizes of the players at the table. This is as much diversion as we're going to get from the text in this book, but this fits perfectly to the layout of the book.
Although this book concentrates on full ring games, which predominantly occur in live games, this book can also be useful for online players. If you fully understand the concepts described in this book, then you will also know how to adjust these concepts for 6-max games.