The last two decades have witnessed an explosion in the number of poker books available to the aspiring player. This has significantly impacted the way poker is played in today’s casinos and card rooms. However, just because poker has grown like wild over the last several years doesn’t mean that the first poker book was written in 1979. One of these earlier books was A. D. Livingston’s Poker Strategy and Winning Play, written in 1971. This book was reprinted in 1991 as Poker Strategy. So, how does it compare to more recent works?
Overall, most of Livingston’s strategic advice is sound, including the admonition to play tight. Many of the concepts he writes about have been echoed by more contemporary authors, including his belief that bluffs should pay for themselves. That is, that Livingston believes that bluffing just for advertizing is a mistake. On the other hand, it will come as no surprise that some of his notions are very much dated. For example, the high-low split games discussed in this book never require a qualifier for low. Also, it’s amusing to hear Livingston talk about an exciting new form of poker called “Hold Me” played with two cards dealt down and five community cards dealt face up on the table. His advice on strategy for this game isn’t any good by contemporary standards, but even without a great deal of experience in the game, the author realized the importance of kickers, which shows some general understanding of the game in question.
The second section of the book covers mathematics. His introduction to determining event probabilities using combinations is reasonably well explained, but much of Livingston’s calculations aren’t very important in the ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล games that are commonly played today. The general focus of the book is not on the games that are typically found in the modern card room, but rather on home games. Therefore, determining the probabilities of events in Cincinnati or Deuces Wild Draw is on topic for the book, even if it won’t seem terribly relevant to most poker players.
The third section of the book is a description of many kinds of poker played in home games, including some brief strategic information about each game. Much of this would be pretty obvious to the veteran poker player, for example, that one should play awfully tight without the ace of spades in the hole if the game is Chicago. At the same time, some of it is insightful. Occasionally, the terminology used in the book may be a little confusing to people used to the vocabulary of contemporary poker literature. When speaking of games with community cards, Livingston refers to every round of betting in which a new card is exposed as a “turn”. As long as the reader is aware of this, it probably won’t be too distracting.
By today’s standards, nothing in Poker Strategy would be considered ground breaking. There are some strategic errors in the text, but at the time it was originally written it probably contained some of the better poker advice available in print. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, no updates have been made to the original printing. Poker Strategy might be useful to those players who either want some pointers on how to improve their chances when someone calls for Baseball in a home game, or if they want to learn about some different and unusual games they might want to play next Friday night. Poker book junkies might find this book an amusing read, but I believe that $15 is a little steep for a book that hasn’t been updated in over 30 years.
Poker Strategy is a reprint of A. D. Livingston’s 1971 book Poker Strategy and Winning Play. While the book shows its age, it does contain some insight, especially when it comes to the wilder varieties of poker often played in home games. There’s nothing fundamental in this book that isn’t repeated more carefully in the contemporary poker literature, but for those who just like to read poker books it can provide some entertainment.