At a time when new poker books are pouring onto store shelves, Dennis Purdy is the first author to offer a unique approach to learning poker with The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold ‘Em. The former gambling pro uses a visual problem-solving approach rather than a textual approach at teaching poker strategy.
The first three chapters of the guide start off very similarly to many beginner books on the poker market, covering the basic rules of how to play Hold ‘Em, what you might wear to a table, how much you should buy-in for and some rules of good poker etiquette. The fourth chapter presents eight brief rules of ‘good basic poker strategy’ followed by a detailed explanation of actual odds and pot odds. Chapter five is where this book becomes unique as the next 300 pages are filled with 150 different, illustrated Texas Hold ‘Em poker scenarios, matched with the author’s answer to each of the practice situations! Purdy ends the book with a noteworthy 30-page poker terminology glossary.
The cover indicates that this guide may make a winner out of an advanced player but this book was really designed to captivate those unlikely readers that shy away from the other poker books already published. The introduction warns that this book is not ‘targeted towards sophisticated and knowledgeable players’, and I would agree. Advanced players will find too many examples stating ‘the obvious’ like situation #2: folding 27 offsuit before the flop.
Purdy’s advice is mostly in-line with most other poker authors however there are certainly some debatable answers to a few of his problems (i.e. Problem #46 suggests to cap the betting with 36s pre-flop?). There is often more than one correct way to play any individual poker hand however I sometimes found myself wondering why Purdy would suggest such advanced plays, especially since these situations can be easily misinterpreted by new players. The intention of this guide may have been to give definitive situational advice to poker scenarios, however, I suggest that readers actually place more importance on the general strategy advice given in the answers rather than the specific action to take. It’s really the whole strategic approach you take to the game that will make the most difference in your results.
The visual representation of each of the poker situations is by far this book’s greatest asset. I personally know readers to have picked up this book after ignoring the other acclaimed texts on the premise of its simple and fun-looking learning method. Another quality point is that no commitment is needed as the reader can easily review a couple of pages and put the book back down again without losing the value of the material. The teaching pattern also follows through with its ideas, enabling the reader to encounter the same notions and strategies in various problems throughout the book (for example, each of situations #17, #38 & #148 address folding small pocket pairs in early position before the flop).
Due to the popular nature of problem-solving gamebooks, this teaching poker style is expected to appeal to many players and will most likely be adopted in more books to come. Like many books of its nature, The Illustrated Guide to Texas Hold ‘Em is not recommended as the only book to teach you sound poker strategy, but as a visual practice supplement for those players not interested in studying the more technical texts. Readers that insist on keeping the fun and excitement first and foremost in their poker education will appreciate this chance to learn without being bogged down with abstract concepts or complicated terminology.