“Championship Hold’em Tournament Hands” Review

[LL] “Championship Hold’em Tournament Hands is really two books in one”, Leroy the Lion explained. “Fortunately, the strategy sections were written by a WSOP Main Event winner, Tom McEvoy. Unfortunately, over half of his chapters discuss Limit Hold ‘Em. Fortunately, even without those, the book still has over 200 pages. Unfortunately, the 1983 champ spends 22 of them on how to play a pair of Aces in the hole, a hand you’ll only get once every 221 hands. Fortunately, T.J. Cloutier’s part of the book on important tournament hands is excellent. Unfortunately, he fills less than a third of the book. Fortunately, most of the hands are the pivotal hands from the World Series of Poker Main Event. Unfortunately, he only covers 1978 to 2001, so an entire decade was already missing when the book was published (and now it’s less than half of the years).”

[RR] “She loves me… she loves me not…” Roderick the Rock suggested.

[LL] “I could barely bring myself to read another 150 pages on Limit Hold ‘Em. I’ve never even played the game against human opponents. In 2016, the World Series of Poker had twelve No Limit Hold ‘Em tournaments for every Limit Hold ‘Em tournament, which is already a pretty big ratio. More telling, 90 times as many players entered the No Limit events!”1

[RR] “Times have changed. Don’t blame the authors.”

[LL] “You’re right. I’ll give the book a pass on the Limit sections and only say that McEvoy wants you to play supertight, especially in early position. Players he described as ‘Super Aggressors’ then are almost considered average now.

For No Limit Hold ‘Em, McEvoy dedicates a short section to each of the top nine hands (Aces through Tens, Ace-King to Ace-Jack, and King-Queen2) plus Ace-Wheel,3 Middle Pairs, Small Pairs, and Middle Suited Connectors, with everything else folded. Some of these sections are split into Early, Middle, Late Position, and occasionally the Blinds. This means the advice, as accurate as it may be, is necessarily very brief. In general, McEvoy recommends playing very tightly, which is certainly an excellent beginner’s strategy.”

[RR] “Sounds a lot like Phil Hellmuth’s advice.”

[LL] “Very similar. They even have a common weakness that I might have glossed over when I talked about Play Poker Like the Pros… The advice is very heavy on preflop hand selection and very light on everything after that. I think the implication is that if you pick the right hands to play, good results will follow. If only it were that simple.”

[RR] “I think that’s more applicable in Limit games where the bets are only twice as big on the river as they are preflop.”

[LL] “This book certainly could have used a second part covering postflop play. But the actual second part was my favorite part of the book, the last third (actually closer to a quarter), covered 44 key hands from the WSOP Main Event plus one from the 2002 Four Queens Classic.4 Only about a quarter of these hands are the final hands of the event, so many were new to me. Cloutier gives the back story where it’s relevant, includes most of the details like blind, stack, and bet sizes, and offers some analysis of the play. It was fascinating to read about some of the most important hands in the history of poker.”

Title Championship Hold’em Tournament Hands
Author Tom McEvoy and T.J. Cloutier
Year 2003 (2005 edition)
Skill Level Beginner (strategy)/Any (hand recaps)
Pros Solid, basic advice on playing Limit and No Limit Hold ‘Em. Excellent collection of important WSOP Main Event hands.
Cons Over half of the book is on Limit Hold ‘Em, and all of the advice is a bit tight for modern play.
Rating 3.0 (2.5 for the strategy and 4.0 for the hands)

Footnotes:

  1. The No Limit Hold ‘Em section of this book includes a few scattered notes about how play would differ for the Pot Limit variation, which was last contested in the WSOP in 2015.
  2. McEvoy discounts the value of suitedness greatly, saying on page 21, “…we want you to understand that the ranks of the cards are more important than whether they are suited.” Modern players probably value suited Aces and Kings much more highly than he did.
  3. Ace-Wheel means an Ace with a Deuce, Trey, Four, or Five.
  4. Actually, although 45 hands are featured, several others are mentioned bringing the total over fifty.

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