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Howard Schwartz

Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

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Getting Started in Hold 'em

21 Apr 2005

By Howard Schwartz
Ed Miller, who wrote Small Stakes Hold 'em: Winning Big With Expert Play, has come up with another gem titled Getting Started in Hold 'em (206 pages, paperbound, $17.95). This new work consists of five major sections that are well-illustrated with sample hands to emphasize key points. Primarily a mid-and-low-limit player, the very talented Miller here gears his effort to the limit and no-limit players while adding a fine section on tournament play.

From explaining the types of poker hands on down, he moves to betting structures, common limit structures and how to learn to quickly and accurately read the board and which hand wins.

Beginners have a habit of short-circuiting their thought process when under stress and often, when it comes to the nuts, minds often go blank. Miller offers a quick lesson on how to make money in this situation, " you don't stop raising a guaranteed winner."

He also emphasizes in a following chapter the importance of understanding hand strength. "In hold 'em, a hand's strength isn't determined by its type (that is, full house, straight, etc.), but by how many hands could beat it."

Miller, ever the patient teacher, has a feel for the beginner's worries and potential for error. He instructs while placing the player (the reader) in the big blind, small blind, on the button, two off the button, middle position and early position. Midway through the book (page 98) he helps you put it all together. That's where some of his best advice comes--when he instructs on control.

"While you don't control the hands you are dealt, you do control which ones you play. You control your betting decisions. And you control your betting behavior."

He warns against trying to make something happen--trying to make your own luck with marginal hands.

The No-Limit Hold 'em section begins on page 114.

Here, Miller gives attention to stack size--understand its importance, when playing tight is right, playing against raisers, sizing your first raise, when you get re-raised and playing the flop.

A smaller section follows with instruction on playing with a large stack while understanding implied odds.

One section examines tournaments--where many beginners often venture without knowing where the land mines might be located. He follows through smoothly, leading the novice to an understanding of how a tourney works, how long it takes, understanding prize structure, the types of tournaments one may encounter and how satellites operate.

Miller's discussions of tournament psychology and multi-table tournament advice are solid, well-organized material. Overall, this book, combined with understanding your strengths and weaknesses and patience, should help improve every novice's game.

Copyright Gambler's Book Shop. All books reviewed in this article are available from Gambler's Book Shop (Gambler's Book Club), located at 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 and online at

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