Book Review: In the Money by Antonio Esfandiari
The World Poker Tour recently released the third in its series of books on poker, In the Money by Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari. The book takes a different approach than many of the recent poker books on the market, providing readers with a guide on how to become a winning Texas Hold'em cash game player.By eliminating the tournament aspect of poker, the format of the book allows Esfandiari to focus solely on the game itself, rather than the extra factors a tournament brings, such as chip stacks, increasing blind levels, and tournament payouts.
Perhaps the best part of the book, however, is its voice. Esfandiari fills the book with stories about the games he's played and the friends he's made. Whether it's a heads-up match with Phil Hellmuth to determine his fee for a magic show or the story about how he won the first poker tournament he entered, In the Money is an entertaining read. Phil "The Unabomber" Laak gives the reader an insight into Esfandiari's personality in the foreword, while Hellmuth and Annie Duke also provide interesting stories about the author.
Esfandiari spends one chapter detailing the differences between Limit and No Limit Hold'em. The concrete examples are excellent, such as how to play pocket fives in late position, or the effect of a raise in Limit vs. No Limit. Esfandiari explains the phrase "Limit Hold'em is a science, No Limit Hold'em is an art," and he makes it clear that he prefers the No Limit version. No Limit Hold'em, in Esfandiari's view, requires more skill, and is also much more rewarding.
Esfandiari goes back and forth between Limit and No Limit Hold'em when describing how to play each part of the hand. The transition, or lack thereof, can be a bit confusing, and one can't help but think that these topics should have been covered in separate books. Esfandiari may have been better served with a focus solely on No Limit Hold'em. After discussing how to play in given situations, Esfandiari offers advice on more abstract parts of the game, such as establishing a table image and identifying the texture of the game (i.e. passive vs. aggressive). While the section lacks specific guidelines, Esfandiari explains that these aspects of poker can only be mastered with time and practice, and are therefore hard to glean from a book. Overall, the poker advice is a little thin, but it's the perfect combination of strategy and entertainment for someone just getting serious about the game. Intermediate players will find a few nuggets of wisdom while getting a refresher course, but players with a great deal of experience should look elsewhere for advanced strategy.