Book Review: PLO QuickPro by John Beauprez

My Two-Minute Review: At $297 and nearly as many dense, 8.5 x 11 pages, John Beauprez’s PLO QuickPro Manual demands a substantial investment of time, money, and hard work. Those who put the effort in, though, will find a well-organized and -explained soup-to-nuts manual for mastering pot-limit omaha.

I imagine that most people’s first question, upon seeing the $297 price tag on John Beauprez’s PLO QuickPro Manual, is “What exactly am I getting for such a substantial investment?” The book consists of 283 extremely dense 8.5 x 11 pages – the word “manual” really is appropriate – covering everything from pre-flop hand selection to bluffing the river. Not that this would necessarily be a good idea, but if a complete PLO novice were to master the contents of this book without ever consulting another resource, he’d come away with a pretty sophisticated game.

One reason for this is that the author draws explicitly on many of the other leading PLO resources. His book is peppered with references to Hwang, Nguyen, and especially Chambers.

Of course a $300 poker book isn’t for everyone. Although Beauprez doesn’t assume much in the way of prior PLO knowledge, the PLO QuickPro Manual clearly expects its audience to have a sophisticated understanding of general poker concepts as well as the accompanying jargon. It’s not a book that you can skim or even read closely just once and expect to grasp. Personally I’ve been through it just once and know that a lot of the content went by unabsorbed.

That’s not a knock on the writing. Beauprez explains himself clearly and makes good use of examples to illustrate key concepts and demonstrate how changing one element of a hand – a different turn card, say, or different behavior from an opponent – would lead to a different play. Everything is laid out clearly and logically. There’s simply a lot of complex information here.

A big question any poker writer faces is how to strike a balance between offering clear-cut, easy-to-follow advice and accounting for all of the nuance and exceptions, especially in a game with as many possibilities as pot-limit omaha. Beauprez comes down firmly on the side of complexity, which, in addition to the price tag, is what makes the PLO QuickPro Manual ill-suited to anyone who is only casually interested in learning the game. The “QuickPro” in the title isn’t really appropriate, because the book demands a substantial investment of both time and money.

Most of Beauprez’s examples come from online, 6-max PLO cash games, but the material is broad enough to apply to live, full-ring, and/or tournament contexts as well. This is largely because his focus is not on teaching a particular, exploitive style or strategy but rather on how to think through virtually any situation on any street. There’s nothing like a starting hand chart, for example, but rather a set of principles that should guide your opening, three-betting, and four-betting ranges depening on your opponents and table compositions.

This isn’t nut-peddling PLO. Beauprez teaches you how to go to war (one of the chapters is even titled Post-Flop Warfare) with examples of how to read hands and make plays on different types of board textures. His examples make a lot of sense when he breaks down his reasoning, but I think it’s going to be a while before I see the same opportunities that he does.

That’s perhaps one of the few weaknesses of the book, that there isn’t a lot of scaffolding. Although Beauprez does a good job of highlighting the most important points and tying everything back to a few basic principles, as a relatively inexperienced PLO player I still feel like I’m not sure what to practice first when I finally get a chance to sit down and play the game. I can tell you that I’m eager to try, though.

My other quibbles with the book are mostly stylistic. Personally I’d be a little insulted, had I actually paid for the book, that there are many minor typos and some blatant page-setting errors. None of it interfered with my understanding of the content, but it comes across as sloppy, like he couldn’t be bothered to hire a proofreader or even to flip through the book to notice the many accidental line breaks in the middle of paragraphs.

The other thing that many people probably wouldn’t mind but that rubbed me the wrong way was an occasionally juvenile tone. To be clear, most of the book is written quite well, in an unobtrusive and professional way. That makes it especially jarring when Beauprez names a category of hands “but-a-faces” after a nickname for girls with “really sexy bodies, but faces that looked like catchers’ mitts.”

That’s the most blatant example, but there are instances of tone and jargon that serve to remind the reader that this book was written by a 20-something male online poker player with a similar audience in mind. While many other types of poker players may benefit from reading it, they may find that tone off-putting. I did, and I fall outside of that demographic by only the narrowest of margins.

Looking past that, though, there’s no reason why a serious student of PLO with a strong understanding of poker generally wouldn’t benefit from this book. There’s even an interview with Ben Lamb at the end of the book where he and Beauprez discuss tournament PLO, though it may be of limited use to people who aren’t Ben Lamb. Ben advocates a low-variance style that’s most appropriate for a player with a big edge over the field, which may not apply to the average reader until they’ve mastered this book, a task which could easily take months.

Which brings us back to the question of whether you’re getting what you pay for. Typos aside, it’s clear that a lot of work went into creating this large and thorough manual. Key concepts are identified as such and well-explained, examples are well-chosen both to illustrate and build upon these concepts, and everything is organized logically. If it’s a challenging book to master, that’s mostly because of how rich the content is. Expect it to keep you busy for quite some time.

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