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14/05/2007 No. 25
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday May 14, 2007

A hotly awaited sequel to Anthony Holden's classic 1990 poker book, Big Deal, is published this week. If you can't guess the title, poker probably isn't the game for you. (Oh dear, I suppose Tony's publisher might be annoyed if I don't actually spell out that it is called Bigger Deal.)

The author dives manfully into the dizzying world of 21st-century poker, as well as reporting (in a storyline that will sadden fans of the original) the decline of his relationship with "the Moll", lovely Cindy Blake. If you haven't read the original, do so immediately. I might even treat myself to a re-read.

The more cheap strategy guides are knocked out for the modern market, the more I treasure great poker narratives of the past: Big Deal, Al Alvarez's The Biggest Game in Town, Jon Bradshaw's Fast Company, Jesse May's Shut Up and Deal, Richard Jessup's The Cincinnati Kid. It is the anecdotes, the characters, the feelings and spirit of the action that make a gambling book worth reading. Buy these classic stories - don't waste your time with useless technical guides from people who never made a profit at the game.

Even good strategy books have their dangers. In Bigger Deal, Holden reports my exit hand from the 2006 World Series, in which (after a raise and a call) I reraised all-in with AK and the button called for half his stack with AJ. As he hit the straight and I staggered away, I was utterly baffled by the button's weak, sceptical call. Experiencing it again here, I suddenly realize the most likely explanation: the guy had read Harrington On Holdem and thought I was making a "squeeze play". Seven point three times out of 10, this wisdom would cost him a lot of money.

A great poker narrative, meanwhile, costs you only the cover price for true pleasure and, often, understanding.

Your can read more from Anthony Holden at his website

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