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Review: Carson's "The Complete Book of Holdem Poker"
By Ashley Adams

The Complete Book of Holdem Poker by Gary Carson (Kensington Books, 2001).

New Texas holdem players typically start with those texts designed to help players master a basic strategy that can win money in the long run at the low stakes casino table.  They learn the rudiments of tight and aggressive holdem play.  For the past five years or so there have been two authors who have addressed that topic best:  Lee Jones in Winning Low Limit Hold ‘Em (Conjelco, 2000) and Lou Kreiger in Hold'Em Excellence from Beginner to Winner (Conjelco, 1999).  These are excellent books that will truly help the home game player learn the necessary hand selection,  discipline and tight playing style that is necessary to adjust to the world of casino Texas holdem.

However,  although tight,  careful,  conservative play is enough to win some money,  it is not an optimal strategy for those ultra-loose,  passive,  or wild games that one often finds among the lower-stakes texas holdem tables in southern California,  Connecticut,  and New Jersey.  Players looking to master those games  --  truly looking to exploit the wild and loose play  --  need to understand something more.  And that’s where Gary Carson’s book, The Complete Book of HoldEm Poker comes in.

Carson’s book explores winning limit holdem poker from the perspective of the way the game is most often played at the low stakes tables:  figuring out with the reader,  round by round,  how to capitalize on the many opponents that a player in these loose games is apt to face.  Unlike the other authors,  who tend to recommend folding with all but the premium hands before and after the flop,  Carson recognizes the large implied odds  (how much money one will eventually win if he wins the hand vs. the amount he must invest)  of a game with lots of callers,  and shows players how to play loosely enough to maximize wins in those situations.

The book broadly incorporates other topics as well:  Women and Poker,  Shorthanded games,  Player Stereotypes,  Table Image,  Playing for a Living,  Cheating,  Tournaments and the like.  And there is even a very brief section on no limit and pot limit play.  But the meat of the book is the development and explanation of a theory of poker that instructs the player to play loosely when the situation calls for it  --  as it often does in the lower stakes limit holdem games.

Carson’s instruction is sound,  as thousands of successful texas holdem players who relied on this comprehensive guide have demonstrated.  His book is a useful addition to the literature,  giving the players in the low- and mid-limit holdem games something new and refreshing to use.

The book is not without flaws.  I would have liked the author to address the tighter and more aggressive games that one finds from time to time  --  especially as one moves up in limit or moves closer to Las Vegas.  And I thought the section on no limit and pot limit play was too skimpy  (though I suspect that was by design).  The book should more accurately be called  The Complete Book of Low Limit Holdem Poker, I suppose.  The organization of the book leaves something to be desired,  as topics do not always flow logically from one to the next.  The book could have used more careful editing at times;  the prose occasionally is less than tight and clear.  But those are minor squabbles for a book that really changed the landscape of low limit texas holdem poker literature.  It would be a welcome addition to anyone’s poker library.  I know it changed my game for the better.

Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 42 years,  since learning the game literally at his grandfather's knee.  He's been playing seriously  (and winning)  in casinos,  poker rooms,  living rooms and kitchens all over the world,  for the past 12 years.  He started playing seriously in 1993 at the poker room in Foxwoods Resort Casino and he's been winning just about ever since.  He's won No Limit Hold‘Em and 7-Card Stud tournaments in Connecticut,  Massachusetts,  California and Nevada.

He is the author of  Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003)  and articles in Card Player Magazine,  Poker Player Magazine,  Live Action Poker Magazine,  Southwestern Poker Magazine,  5thStreet Magazine,  and numerous online sites.  He is under agreement for his next book,  Winning Low Limit/No Limit Hold‘Em,  due to be published by Kensington in early 2006.

He is by profession a union organizer and negotiator,  representing broadcasters,  health care workers and now teachers.  He has two daughters,  both of whom play poker.


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