The Secrets of Online Poker Power Review
By Roger Kirkham

The truth: I’m a hopeless tournament player.

Perhaps it comes down to personality, but I’ve never been comfortable playing tournaments, never felt I had the aggression and willingness to gamble and “feel” that good tournament players have. In fact I’ve never had a tournament game plan, except to nurse my stack and go all in if dealt a pair of Aces. Sophisticated eh?

Unsurprisingly, up till now my typical tournament experience has been sitting for a couple of hours bleeding chips away, playing as best as I could and ending up with nothing except a “bad luck, mate,” when eliminated at least 30 places away from the money.

So you can imagine the mixed feelings I had when Winning Online kindly gave me this manual to review. The initial impression wasn’t good. Surf to the site (www.winonpoker.net) and you’re faced with a blizzard of hard sell, "it changed my life" testimonials from Joe Public and some amusing terms like "anti-theory."

So far, so bad, but lets ignore the hype - what about the manual itself?

It surprised me.

The first good thing the publishers have used is... well, a real author – Jesse May. Many of you know him from his television commentary, but a few years ago he wrote one of the best poker novels ever called “Shut Up and Deal.” As a novel it’s far from perfect, but most of the criticism came down to the plot (there isn’t one, really) and lots of the praise was for the vivid description and skilful writing.

So it was no surprise to find that this manual is also well written – the advice and instructions are clear, there is little or no ambiguity, and it’s well structured. Best of all it’s an easy read – I printed it off and read it on a train and it had me engrossed for several hours. David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth could do worse than employ Jesse May as their editor, preferably starting tomorrow.

But what about the advice?

In fairness to the authors, I don’t want to give too much away here. Basically the manual consists of three major elements:

  1. A series of playing styles called “gears” that range from super tight to super aggressive. Super tight means folding hands like Ace Jack, regardless of position, whereas super aggressive involves raising based almost entirely on position, and your hand value is secondary. In many ways the key to the manual’s system is changing gears at various points in the tournament.

  2. A structured way to assess your opponents. The authors are deadly serious, and they want you to make detailed notes on everyone you play. They provide the structure in the form of a sheet you fill in, one sheet for each opponent. This was a major surprise, and is a lot of work – it occupies you throughout the tournament. The idea is that as you play more and more tournaments, you build up a database of your opponents.

  3. Advice on the various stages of a typical on-line tournament, basically you change your playing style depending on the stage of the tournament, the size of your stack, the attributes of your opponents, the size of their stacks, and several other factors such as the size of the blinds.
Finally the bulk of the manual is a hand-by-hand analysis of “putting it all together.” The format of this is a hand history, with comments from Padraig Parkinson and Julian Gardner. Scott Gray is the player (he comments too) and the tournament is a large one (1100 players) at a major on-line site. It’s fascinating to see each hand (routine folds aren’t included), see the way that Scott plays it, and to read the comments of the other players. It is very clear that Scott really is using the system described in the manual and on one hand in particular, he’s honest enough to point out that he made a major mistake that might well have put him out of the tournament.

The manual ends with a summary of the major points and some advice on how to play mini-tournaments – one-table tournaments of 10 players, with money for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.

Does it work?

The advice offered in the manual is certainly a bit different, especially if you’re uneasy about tournaments like me. What I found impressive was its certainty – there was little “it depends” about it. Still sceptical but willing to give it a try, over the Easter holidays I was able to play more on-line tournaments than I’ve ever played in my life. In particular, I played cheap events ($1-$5 buy ins) with huge fields, and mini one-table tournaments. The strategy the manual gives for the one-table events is simplified somewhat, so I thought I’d be able to apply it more easily than the more complex one for the larger events.

The results astonished me.

I entered 10 large field (1000+ players) events and managed to finish in the money on three occasions. This is much better than chance would indicate. On two occasions I was rather unlucky to get eliminated, with QQ and AA cracked each time heads up by smaller pairs on 22-1 shots. My highest placing was 40th from a field of 1120 (the first 110 places were paid). Not bad but not quite enough to show a profit, although very close to one.

An aside – already the detailed notes on players were working – even in these huge fields it was surprising how often you’d come up against players you’d played against before a night or two previously. If you managed to keep taking notes for several months, they really would become very useful.

But the real surprise was the one-table mini-tournaments. I played 20 of these and managed to win six, and coming third a further three times. Even allowing for luck (I got outrageously lucky in one of them) this was a very good performance, when chance would indicate two firsts, two seconds, and two thirds. My bankroll grew nicely, and even allowing for the large luck factor in all forms of poker it suggests the system works.

Then the icing on the cake – a $25 buy-in no-limit Hold Em event with 419 players where I finished 11th, which made a nice profit for the whole week. In fact I should have made the final table, but made a stupid mistake the system specifically warns against. Clearly you must practise and continue to read the manual, as even an intensive week of study and playing isn’t quite enough, at least for people like me.

As a sanity check, I had a long conversation with a friend who plays almost nothing but on-line poker tournaments. It turned out that he heartily approved of the manual’s methods and used something close to its strategy himself. He’s interested enough to consider buying it.

Should you buy it?

There’s no doubt that huge amounts of money are available to the winners of these events, and the manual offers a powerful strategy that may well dramatically improve your results, especially if, like me, you really didn’t have a viable strategy before.

If this manual sold for £20 or so, I’d simply type YES – BUY IT NOW and finish the review here.

But it normally sells for £97, which is pretty expensive for any manual, although in real terms Doyle Bruson’s legendary “Super System” sold for $100 per copy back in the 1970s.

So I’m going to stick my neck out and say if you are remotely interested in on-line poker tournaments, buy it. I can’t be certain it will work for you, but it certainly worked for me. The decision is yours – I’m very pleased I read it, and so far it seems to work very well. So much so I’m considering changing from on-line ring-games to mini-tournaments, at least for the foreseeable future.

I’m still astonished!

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