Mason Malmuth has been one of the most prolific poker writers over the last twenty years. Every few years, he collects the best articles he has written, revises them, and publishes them as the next installment in his Poker Essays series. Poker Essays Volume III represents what Malmuth thinks were his best essays to have appeared in the magazines Poker Digest and Card Player as well as on the Two Plus Two web site over the last five years.
The articles are divided into seven sections, more to break up the book I think than because the categories are all that important. The sections include General Concepts, Technical Ideas, Strategic Ideas, In the Cardrooms, Hands to Talk About, The Ciaffone Quiz, and Two More Quizzes. If these categories seem familiar, it’s because five of them have appeared in all three volumes of the author’s Poker Essays series.
As one would expect from Malmuth, most of these essays are quite good, although they tend to not be as fundamental as the authors work in Slot Gambling Theory and Other Topics or even the earlier Poker Essays books. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as the author has laid the groundwork for his ideas on poker in his previous works. The articles in Poker Essays Volume III are predominantly focusing on refining ideas Malmuth (sometimes with David Sklansky) has presented in earlier books, or they compare or evaluate key concepts or situations.
Because of this, the reader would probably be best served by reading a great deal of the Two Plus Two catalog before attacking this book. I would suggest that reading and studying Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players, Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players, Sklansky’s Theory of Poker, and Gambling Theory and Other Topics before working on Malmuth’s latest. However, this isn’t strictly necessary. Also, while it would make some sense to read the first two volumes in the Poker Essays series first, this isn’t critical for understanding his latest book.
There are places in Malmuth’s essays where I might mildly disagree with the author on certain points and strategies, although in those cases one probably be well advised to put more stock in what Malmuth has to say than in my statements, and Malmuth points out several places where his ideas have been especially controversial in the essays themselves. However, even if several of these ideas turned out to be strictly incorrect, I still don’t believe it would detract significantly from the book. When one is attempting to master a complex field of study, whether it’s poker, medicine, physics, etc., key breakthroughs do not come when a student passes some threshold of knowledge, but when they have acquired the tools to think about problems in an expert way. Whether raising with 87 suited in late position in a Holdem game is correct or not isn’t very important. What is important is that a player can evaluate these situations in an expert manner. What Poker Essays Volume III provides are examples of the sorts of thought processes that are important in mastering the game. It’s not at all important that a poker student remember every specific situation that Malmuth writes about, but it is important that they do the sorts of analyses that Malmuth does quickly at the table and thoroughly away from it.
Over the years, Malmuth has also greatly improved his writing. In my opinion, his statements are more precise than they were a decade ago. Further, he goes to some lengths to diffuse tangental arguments and cover alternative situations which makes the theses of his essays manifest. Poker Essays Volume III is a very readable book whose ideas are clearly communicated. I also think it’s a very good book, although almost certainly more useful to relatively advanced poker students. While I strongly recommend reading the “core” elements of the Two Plus Two catalog first, this is a worthy addition to a serious poker player’s library.
Poker Essays Volume III provides a collection of articles which are excellent examples about how to think about poker at an expert level. This book is geared toward advanced players and is a quality extension of the Two Plus Two core poker catalog. I recommend it.