Devilfish and Hilger Add to the Quality of Hot Poker Books . November 2006

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Devilfish and Hilger Add to the Quality of Hot Poker Books

By Howard Schwartz--Gambler's Book Shop

Like an exciting, electric light show, the parade of fascinating, illuminating poker books continues as the most exciting time of the year arrives for players and fans — World Series of Poker action. Among best of the newest arrivals are Des Wilson’s colorful, smoothly-written Swimming With the Devilfish: Under the Surface of Professional Poker (330 pages, paperbound, $19.95) and Matthew Hilger’s Texas Hold ‘Em Odds and Probabilities: Limit, No-Limit and Tournament Strategies (249 pages, paperbound, $24.95).

Wilson’s book, with the main focus on Dave The Devilfish Ulliott, whom the book cover quickly identifies as “…a former safe-cracker who spent his 21st birthday in prison, became a pawnbroker in Hull, and then conquered the poker world, winning the first Late-Night Poker final and a World Series gold bracelet in Las Vegas…” has all the makings of a fine British movie script. Colorful, instructive, switching quickly from personalities to gambling issues in the UK, then quickly to the action at the tables, this book has a slick balance to it. It appears Wilson has been influenced by British writers like Tony Holden, A. Alvarez ands the late David Spanier — which is good because these guys can write and they don’t waste words getting to the point. Short snappy sentences have power.

“Ask anyone in British poker about Devilfish and one particular word will always come up. Ego. Some of them say it’s his one major flaw … that he’ll act recklessly because his ego can’t tolerate anyone, especially anyone he perceives as a weaker player, to prevail …”

Wilson gets into the mindset of British players, who in many cases came from tough hard-life environments and pulled themselves up to respectable world-class players. He lets the players speak, and we understand what brings them to the tables, win or lose, again and again.

Well-indexed and illustrated, this is a world class tour of players throughout the UK, their venture into the U.S. and Las Vegas and elsewhere. Despite a few miscues on spelling of players’ names (Sklansky is correct, Slanksy is not; Erik Seidel is correct, Eric is not), Wilson scores a nine on a scale of one to ten.

About a quarter of the book is focused on how-to or how a big hand or big tournament went down—it’s more about people, attitudes, opinions, what their views are of the game — luck vs. Skill, daring, analysis, losing and gaining control, and above all, what makes a world class player and what makes Ulliott such a devilfish at the tables.

Matthew Hilger, a Georgia native, wrote Internet Texas Hold‘em three years ago and it became an immediate hit. His newest work is timed perfectly to fit the needs of the new high-flying generation of players searching for the answers to the question of when to call, raise, fold and figure their “outs.”

In 2004 Hilger finished 33 out of more than 2500 entrance in the World Series of Poker main event. He’s proven himself as a writer and player — a rare combination.

In the past year, there have been more questions about how to calculate odds and probabilities in limit and no-limit hold‘em than ever.

In a work packed with charts and statistics, Hilger even tells you about his own poker odds calculator at his web site which you can access with the CD which comes with each book. Besides running common heads-up scenarios, he says you can run scenarios against random hands or a large range of hands, which should make this one of the most sought-after books of the year for the price.

Hilger says “Understanding how often events will occur can help you effectively evaluate a given situation.” This is what a high percentage of players want. The book answers question like: What the odds are of your opponent is holding a pocket pair when he raises first in? How often does each starting hand win compared to every other hand in a heads-up situation?  How often will a player’s starting hand win against a random hand? How do you determine if a drawing hand is profitable or not?

Sections of the book explore implied pot odds and outs vs. Douts (a new word he’s invented which is short for discounted outs. Further, a dout is simply a value used to represent a card that is discounted based on how likely that card would improve you to the best hand. The discounted out or dout can range from 0 to 1).

Further, sections discuss drawing on the Internet vs. Live Games and backdoor draws. He continues with a vital look at drawing in a variety of all-in situations, including all-in on the flop and on the turn.

There is key material on the impact of stack sizes: pre-flop considerations and when exactly are you pot-committed? There are Test Your Skills follow-ups to each section, allowing you to relax and summarize what Hilger has presented.

This is a book which has to be read and re-read, with salient points underlined or highlighted. It is a true, hone-your-skills stuff, for every level player and even some of the know-it-alls who need to fill in the mathematical gaps they too often ignore. Excellent stuff to help you save money, make money and sharpen your game at every level.

Note: 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 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 by John and Edna Luckman, 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