Book Review: How to Beat NLHE 6-Max Cash Games

How to Beat No Limit Hold Em 6-Max Cash Games
by Bill “billyjex” Vosti

My One Minute Recommendation: Smaller stakes players who want a big picture view of advanced concepts that they’ll need to understand to win at higher stakes will probably get their money’s worth. Beginners, however, should find another resource that’s written specifically for them and presented in a more tiered and structured fashion.

Surprisingly, How to Beat NLHE 6-Max Cash Games is one of the only poker books on the market focusing on the short-handed games that are so popular online. Bill Vosti is a good author for such a book. Though he doesn’t have the winnings or reputation of an internet wunderkind like Phil Galfond or Brian Townsend, he’s been a solid winner in both tournament poker and cash games on the internet for several years.

What Vosti is not, however, is a teacher. While a lot of important fundamentals and advanced concepts can be found in his book, the presentation is often shallow and disorganized. The central problem is that the author seems not to have a clear audience in mind. The ad copy promoting his e-book appeals to complete newbs looking to get-rich-quick by playing poker online, and the book itself starts out pretty slow. There isn’t enough introductory information to help a complete novice get off the ground, though, while information about rakeback, Poker Tracker, and certain very basic concepts will be old hat to most experienced players reading this book to help them move into mid- to high-stakes games. Ultimately, there’s a little something for everyone, but the book is much less successful than it would have been if the author had a more clear audience and objective in mind from the beginning.

This approach hurts the beginning players more than the experienced ones. Marketing gimmicks notwithstanding, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone looking to get started in internet poker. There just isn’t enough coverage on the fundamentals that, though probably second-nature to Vosti, can be sticking points for new players.

More experienced players willing to pick through the overly simplistic material will find some solid discussion of advanced tactics and concepts that don’t appear elsewhere in print. Vosti’s in-depth analysis of semi-bluffing is particularly good, analyzing factors like the strength of your draw, your read on your opponent, and the size of the remaining stacks. While semi-bluffing is a popular concept explained by almost all poker books, Vosti’s emphasis on practical advice should be very helpful when readers need to use the concept at the tables.

Vosti’s brief discussion of board texture is also surprisingly insightful. In just two pages, he offers several good examples and identifies some of the key factors that should inform an analysis of flop texture.

This is typical of Vosti’s e-book, which is shorter but more expensive than most print books. Nevertheless, the author manages to say nearly as much as those who write with ink. This is despite the marginally useful introductory material, the many title pages and half-full pages, and Vosti’s tiresome shilling for his affiliate business and bragging about the “hundreds of thousands” he has won playing online poker.

Vosti makes good use of the e-book format, peppering the text with hyperlinks to related concepts and presenting key information with colored text and bullet points to enable easy skimming. He is also able to supplement the text with PDF charts and instructional videos where he explains concepts further and puts them into practice. These go a long way to make up for some of the shortcomings of the book, in particular the short shrift that it gives to complex ideas like forming reads, calling river bets, and higher level thinking.

Vosti’s videos also suffer some of the same shortcomings of the book, in particular their lack of a targeted audience. To date, there are three videos available: one for small stakes (25NL), one for medium stakes (200 NL), and one for slightly higher stakes (600NL). As good as these are, they obviously can’t cover everything, and more videos for the same game level would present more comprehensive lessons to a particular audience.

As good as Vosti is at offering practical advice for particular concepts, his book really lacks when it comes to putting it all together and evaluating competing factors. Too often, the author cops out of explaining the most difficult aspects of a concept by saying that “only experience” can lead to better decision-making. The videos are helpful on this front, since they simulate that experience, but more targeted videos would be more helpful, as would some attempt actually to explain the lessons that experience is supposed to teach.

The other danger arising from the book and videos is that some advice may lose value over time. In other words, Vosti sometimes focuses more on how to exploit certain mistakes or deal with plays that are popular in the current poker climate. Trends relating to bet sizing, timing tells, and light 3- and 4-betting can and do change over time, such that this advice could be dated in a year or two. Then again, the e-book format does enable the author to update the manual easily, if he’s willing to do that.

Overall, How to Beat NLHE 6-Max Cash Games could be better written, but it’s one of the only books of its type on the market. For that reason alone, smaller stakes players who want a big picture view of advanced concepts that they’ll need to understand to win at higher stakes will probably get their money’s worth. Beginners, however, should find another resource that’s written specifically for them and presented in a more tiered and structured fashion.

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