Lederer's Hold'em DVD; Super Pro Charts for Beginners . May 2004

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Lederer's Hold'em DVD; Super Pro Charts for Beginners; New Betting Baseball Book

Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

Hold'em poker players have two new tools by which to sharpen their skills with the arrival of Howard Lederer's Secrets of No-Limit Hold'em (DVD, approximately one hour, $29.95) and the Texas Hold'em Super Pro Charts ($14.95) from PokerSmarts. Meanwhile, with 2004's baseball season approaching, Michael Murray's Betting Baseball (104 pages, 8x11 plastic spiralbound, $39.95) should trigger some new ideas on how to handicap the sport.

Lederer's lessons are designed to speed up the process by which a home poker player gains enough confidence and skill to venture into the world of casino card rooms. He does put much emphasis on no-limit tournament play, an aspect of the game that has gained tremendous interest in the last two years.

Lederer explains how to conduct a home-based tournament (the principles can also be applied to conducting the tourney in a bowling alley, pool room, country club situation). One of the world's younger-generation world-class poker players (sisters Annie and Katie are nationally-known as well, though the latter prefers poetry to poker), Lederer takes the role of a teacher-tutor in explaining everything from choosing chip denominations and why; creating a cut card; why plastic cards are best; how and why to structure different blind (ante) levels; shuffling to speed the game up; and explaining format differences between home play and casino action.

His explanations and examples of pre-flop action; side pots; the dangers of "falling in love with aces" and what the beginner should know about "traps" are done clearly and structured in a logical, easy-to-follow format.

He guides the novices through what might be for some a land mine of decision-making including how to disguise the true strength of your hand; developing a "good feel" for proper odds; why certain high cards have great value; understanding concepts like "outs" and "drawing dead."

He offers advice on why it's dangerous to draw for straight or flushes with a pair on the board; how to play the turn (fourth card) and the river (final card).

A final section offers examples of poker tells including "the stare down" and "the early peek" and why it's important not to look at your cards until it's your turn to act.

Overall, a fine way of learning, at your own leisure, the basics and some finer points of America's hottest poker game. (As a bonus, along with the DVD comes an Odds Chart; a Pre-Flop Strategy Chart and a Structure Chart for Home No-Limit Tournament play. )

For those who forget what starting hands are worth staying with initially (especially for those who need a "cheat sheet" (as blackjack players often use at the tables to let them know when to hit, split or double down); a company smartly named PokerSmarts has produced their Texas Hold'em Super Pro Charts in three different-sized formats. The Internet player may well want to post one on the wall or near the computer because it is large enough to be seen. The other two charts can be kept in a jacket pocket or in a wallet for quick reference, at the table if the situation allows it) or as a quick tutorial for memorization in your spare time-at the airport, while in a restaurant, etc.

"The information printed overlaying each two-card hand lists the percentages of that hand winning in a nine-player game, where each and every player stays in until the end (the river card)," the Pro Charts creator advises. "The beauty of the Texas Hold'em Super Pro Charts is that the 64 best starting hands are about the best possible guidelines you can use in order to make a judgment as to whether or not to even get involved...."

This format also allows you to see the types of lower percentage hands-like lower-ranked suited connectors (6-7 for example) and mid-value suited one-gap connectors (8-10 for example), which are worth playing when there are many players in the pot. "Obviously, you need to be in a mid-to-late position in order to make the decision," enclosed literature for product advises.

For the price, this is one of the most important tutorials for beginners and those with short memories about which hands are worth staying with and which are to be avoided at all costs.

Michael Murray loves betting baseball and he's produced a book that should open up new avenues of wagering. An admirer of the legendary Sabermetrics genius Bill James, Murray admits baseball betting ... "is one of the most difficult sports in which to make a consistent long-term profit..." However, if you truly understand the process of betting baseball, he says, "...it can be the most profitable game out there."

Murray understands the important of analyzing statistics and explains it well. He then looks at the money line; follows with the run line, calling it "a form of pointspread." Little has been written about this wager, and Murray points out that a single run won almost 28% of the time last year. His section on totals betting looks at two seasons (2001 and 2002) and what the key numbers were and how often they were landed on.

How does one measure offense? How much weight do we give to pitching and what three categories does a pitcher have complete control over? (strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed). Can one measure consistency in starters and what about injuries? How does a bettor factor items like number of innings pitched?

Murray dissects and examines unique areas like wind; temperature, humidity and overall individual ballpark effects to help totals bettors be more disciplined.

One question many beginning bettors ask is how one can create his or her own baseball line. This book explains it as well as anything ever in print. When should one bet? What about taking advantage of trends?

For those who believe umpires play a key role in determining number of runs scored in a game because of individual quirks or interpretation of the strike zone, Murray has done a super job. He also explains Ques-Tec (a computerized technique to help "standardize the strike zone").

A special section on umpires discusses Umpire Rotation; Adjusting Your Totals; Home Umpires; Rating Umpires by name and performance and Over-Under Results for each Umpire. A 10-page section with biographical information about umpires, in alphabetical order offers tidbits sucy as "...large inconsistent strike zone.." or ..."one of the smallest strike zones in the game today" and ..."horrible umpire...has shown poor judgment in all phases of the game."

This is one of the most original books ever written for every level baseball bettor-so for beginner to grizzled old pro, who's been betting since the days of Cobb or Ruth, it's worth reading and worth applying the principles from a new, refreshing bettor-compiler. (3/24)

(The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at www.gamblersbook.com and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.)