Making The Final Table - Erick Lindgren

(ISBN: 006076306X)
Price: £7.19, Pages: 224
Rating: 7
Review by snoopy
Submitted by: snoopy on Fri, 30/12/2005 - 12:50am
'I play to win, not to survive' is Erick Lindgren's message. Over and over again, he pushes the view that chip accumulation is the key to tournament success, not the protection of your stack. If this means risking your whole comp on marginal situations, then so be it. This 'young gun' approach is shared by a new breed of players who, in recent years, have been taking the poker world by storm. Young, confident, and aggressive, the emergence of this style has turned poker on its head, and left the veterans questioning their increasingly vulnerable strategy.

In 'Making The Final Table', Lindgren takes us from first hand to heads up play in eight easy-to-read chapters. Along the journey, he shares the thought and logic behind this aggressive style of play, outlining how and why it's brought him so much success.

As a two time WPT champion and commonly regarded as one of the World's most dangerous tournament players, Lindgren is undoubtedly in a position to preach. He may not hold the experience of Brunson or the mathematical brain of Sklansky, but as one of poker's millionaires from four WPT final tables, he's surely a player worth listening to.

After the usual preface, foreword, and introduction, the book moves briskly into Chapter One, 'Welcome to the World Poker Tour'. Here we receive welcome advice on satellite play, a topic which is often neglected by other poker offerings. From knowing when to gamble to finding opportunities to attack the blinds, Lindgren's words are useful and thorough, with the odd hypothetical hand thrown in for good measure.

Chapter Two, 'Winning Tournament Philosophy' is where we are introduced to the world of chip accumulation. A crucial chapter as it immediately explains any future advice regarding loose plays that may cause a raised eyebrow or two. His aim? To ensure us that mere survival is not an option. This therefore means a dispelling of the theory that the good player can fold marginal hands early on with the intention of outplaying an opponent later in the tournament. Instead, Lindgren regards these marginal hands as opportunities to obtain an early chip lead, one which could be vital in ensuring a long and profitable tournament span. Comments such as, 'You don't need the best hand to be plus-EV' and 'Getting "in the money" is not the goal' give the reader a good idea of what the chapter, and the book on a whole, is all about.

Chapter Three is where the fun begins as Lindgren's WPT tournament commences. It is here that we realise that Lindgren isn't the maniac we first thought he was. He very much errs on the side of cautious aggression, letting your opponents know you've come to play without ever risking too many chips. However, this tends to rely on the ability to keep pots small preflop with the intention of outplaying opponents postflop. Therefore, calling a reraise with rags is considered a feasible option. Where the problem lies, though, is that few readers possess these natural abilities, thereby making Lindgren's simple strategy so much harder to adopt than one may initially think.

After a useful chapter on postflop play, we move on to Lindgren's approach to the Middle Stages of The Tournament. After advocating a good night's sleep, he considers Day 2 of the comp to be 'an opportunity to put yourself in a fantastic position.' With the antes raised and now worth stealing, how to play the small and big blinds becomes a key segment of the chapter, and one which should prove educational to novices and experts alike. Lindgren addresses key issues such as, when to defend, when to nick, and what to do if your steal reaches a flop. Meanwhile he takes into account stack sizes, player types, and your own table image. All vital angles that he would be foolish to ignore.

Chapter Six addresses 'Making The Money'. Of course, not worrying about the bubble, taking advantage of the tight players, and staying aggressive are all heavily emphasised, much as you'd expect. Then again, a healthy reminder that 10th is often a paltry 1% of the pool prize is always worth highlighting.

Finally, Chapters Seven and Eight move us onto the final table, to which only 20 pages have been allocated, yet millions are won and lost. Although still focused on playing aggressively, Lindgren does concede that, with the huge financial gaps, climbing the ladder is a feasible option. Also, he addresses the size of the blinds, which by now are huge. Therefore, being first into a pot is paramount. His earlier strategy of smooth calling raises or trying to outplay opponents postflop becomes minimal. Fortunately, Lindgren manages to identify these features, ensuring that his readers don't adopt the same style throughout the whole comp.

Although brief, and lacking in an abundance of examples, the heads up advice is certainly worth a read. Bluffing, value betting, and check-calling are all addressed here to satisfactory levels, but you may be left feeling that some secrets have been held back. Perhaps Lindgren's admittance to battling heads up online for thousands of dollars goes somewhat to explain this.

Right, WPT event won, what next? How to live the life of a pro, that's what! Personally, I had to hold my excitement, as the final chapter wasn't going to shine any light on my current state of affairs. In fact, I was merely teased. In this somewhat pointless section, Lindgren discusses how to deal with a million dollar victory with regards to payment of tax, what games to play next, and how to manage the new bankroll. Not the most useful of information considering most of his readers will never see a WPT event, never mind actually taking home the insurmountable prizes it has to offer.

In fact, this is probably one of my main qualms with the book. There appears to be an overly optimistic assumption that readers will soon be sitting at a WPT table playing for these big sums. My belief, however, is that few will ever share Lindgren's experiences and, even if they did, it would hardly be to the regularity that he has encountered. This therefore begs the question, 'who is this book actually aimed at?' From what I can see, there are conflicting target audiences as this is often aimed at those who can only dream of playing such an event. For the majority who qualify, however, I can only imagine that they are already aware of 95% of the advice offered in the book.

Having said this, Lindgren does make us aware of key skills that could be transferred over to more local events, but these would have to consist of large starting stacks and no rebuys, as much of the advice is centred on the ability to use chips to your advantage. Therefore, if you play in festival freezouts, say £200 and upwards, then this book is definitely worth a read.

Worth a mention is the contribution made by Matt Matros. Bringing up the rear, the Yale graduate enlightens us with some light maths involving insight into topics such as inducing bluffs and folding equity. Although I was slightly concerned by the level of obsession and geekiness expressed by
Matros, this segment provided the book with an original spin. Many may find his mathematical jargon tedious, but dig deep and you'll find some interesting points being made. Either way, I can't condemn its inclusion as it sits in a harmless position whilst offering several minutes of intense mental activity to some of the more enthusiastic braniacs out there.

There is lot to credit Lindgren with in what is his debut offering to the written word. Although painstakingly short and containing a rather fruitless appendix, the book is direct and to the point, thankfully avoiding the sinful crime of waffling. Also, his approach contains a real sense of energy and vigour to it. He writes with the freshness of youth and any future ventures into poker literature will surely help revitalise an industry that has become rather stale of late.

Well structured, with plenty of carefully set out categories, Lindgren provides a very enjoyable and entertaining read. However, E-Dog, as he is affectionately known, seems to forget that the reader isn't necessarily as good as him, so preaching advice on chip accumulation and outplaying opponents postflop is often dangerous as it requires many hours of experience. Similarly, it's vital to note that this isn't your local £20 rebuy comp with small stacks and fast rising blinds. If you're aware of these factors, then I fully recommend 'Making The Final Table' as it's fun, fresh, and original, with many useful tips to take on board.

I give it 7 blonde stars out of 10.
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