“Phil Hellmuth’s Texas Hold’em” Review

[DD] As the players are moving to their tables to start the tournament, Deb the Duchess discovered that Iggy the Improver and Roderick the Rock would be sharing the felt with her again. “So Iggy, did you finish the book, what was it…?”

[II] “The Everything Hold’em Book“,1 Iggy answered. “Yes, I’m already half way done with the next one.”

[RR] “Which would be?” Rod inquired, hoping to obtain some very useful information.

[II] “Phil Hellmuth’s Texas Hold’em.”2

[RR] “You must have a very strong stomach.”

[II] “How so?”

[RR] “Phil spends half the book bragging about hands that he’s played and tournaments and bracelets that he’s won. I’ll give him credit for not going overboard, but he also shills for the now defunct Ultimate Bet and his own web site, where you get to listen to him brag about all the famous people he hangs out with.”

[DD] “So you really like the book ;-).”

[RR] “I wouldn’t have bothered reading it, but my wife gave it to me as a gift, so I sort of felt obligated. Definitely an hour of my life I’d like back though.”

[II] After folding every hand for almost an hour, Iggy finally raised under the gun to two times the big blind. Everyone folded. The button orbited three more times around the table before the Iggy opened again, this time a min-raise in middle position with the blinds at 200/400. Again everyone folded, and Iggy grumbled, “I finally get a hand, and nobody wants to play.” Roderick and Deb glanced at each other with a smile but said nothing. Ten hands later, Iggy was short-stacked enough to shove a pair of Nines in late position. The button called with A♦Q♦, hit a Queen on the flop, and sent Iggy packing.

[RR] In the postmortem after Rod and Deb had busted out just inside the money, Rod had some advice for Iggy, “So, not only were you playing Limit Hold ‘Em in a No Limit tournament today, but you were playing so tight even Figaro the Fish noticed.”

[II] “I was just doing what Phil told me to do. He’s won umpteen bracelets playing tight.”

[DD] “He wants everyone to think that so he gets respect for his bets.”

[RR] “Tight play can work in a deep cash game, but in a tournament the blinds will eat up your stack, as you saw. I take it you were playing just his top ten hands: a pair of Nines or higher, Ace-King, and Ace-Queen?”3

[II] “True.”

[RR] “That’s just five percent of all hands. You can’t win a tournament if you’re only playing one out of every twenty hands!”

[RR] “When you get to the No Limit chapters, you’ll see that Hellmuth opens up his playable range to the top fifteen4: any pair, Ace-King, and Ace-Queen. That’s still only eight percent of all hands, or one out of every twelve hands. I’m probably the tightest player here normally, and that’s way too tight even for me. You’re not a beginner, so Hellmuth says you can add suited Aces. That gets you over eleven percent, more than one in nine hands. That’s pretty close to what I play not including limps in multiway pots and blind steals.”

[RR] “But I honestly wouldn’t even bother finishing the book. If you like tight play, read the Harrington on Hold ‘Em series instead.”

Title Phil Hellmuth’s Texas Hold’em
Author Phil Hellmuth
Year 2005 (originally published 2003)
Skill Level Beginner
Pros Decent introduction to Texas Hold ‘Em. Plenty of poker stories.
Cons Mostly about Limit Hold ‘Em, with just a couple short chapters on No Limit. Recommends play that’s too tight.
Rating 2.5 (out of five) for No Limit players; 3.0 for Limit players


  1. Covered in last week’s article, “The Everything Texas Hold’em Book” Review.
  2. The link provided above points to the 2009 Kindle version, as that includes a “Look Inside” feature with the table of contents, introduction, and first chapter. You may prefer the paperback version.
  3. Hellmuth ignores suitedness. Most players count suited and offsuit hands as different starting hands, so the top ten is really the top twelve.
  4. Again, that ignores suitedness, so actually seventeen hands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Brought to you by THETA Poker Pro for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV.