Super System II is almost 10 years old now (that’s hard to believe) and it still occupies a special place in my heart. The book wasn’t perfect, but it was instrumental in introducing me to a new style of no-limit strategy that I had never heard of before at that time.
At about 640 pages, Super System II is a massive book. It’s priced at $24.33 at BarnesAndNoble.com, so there’s some value to be had there. Other poker books sell for similar prices while providing just a hundred or two hundred pages. This one covers no-limit Holdem, fixed-limit Holdem, Omaha 8/b, 8 Card Stud 8/b, pot limit Omaha, triple draw and no limit tournament strategy.
There are also supplemental chapters dedicated to topics such as the history of poker, online poker, the World Poker Tour and tips from Mike Caro. These other sections are basically just filler in my opinion. You don’t buy a book like Super System 2 to learn about the history of poker. You buy it to win money.
Super System II is attributed to Doyle Brunson, but it is actually a product of multiple authors with contributions from Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Todd Brunson, Crandell Addington, Bobby Baldwin, Lyle Berman, Jennifer Harmon, Steven Lipscomb, Steven Zolotow, Johnny Chan and Mike Caro.
The Good and the Bad
The book has its good points and bad points. On the positive side, it covers a wide variety of games that don’t normally get attention in print. The Triple Draw and Omaha 8 sections are impressive simply because they are there. There are not many books that cover these games.
There’s a lot to read here and that’s a good thing. Go browse the poker section at your local bookstore and you’ll see other similarly-priced books that are as thick as pencils. By the time you finish this behemoth, you should feel like you got your money’s worth.
The wide variety of games covered in the book is also a downside. No single game gets the full treatment it deserves. Poker strategy is a complex topic. Any one of these sections could have been expanded into a book on its own. If you rely on this book as your sole source of strategy, you’ll know how to play a lot of games, but you will excel at none.
The No Limit Section
Super System 2 received quite a bit of criticism from serious poker players and much of that criticism was directed at the no-limit section. I found that surprising because the no-limit chapter was my favorite part of the book. People do have legitimate complaints, but I’ll explain why I see it differently than most of the other reviewers out there.
This won’t sound as groundbreaking today, but Super System II was the first mainstream poker book to openly discuss the merits of a fast and aggressive style of play. Back in those early days of poker, every other book read just like every other book: play tight, bet good hands, repeat.
Super System II was all about abusing your opponents and maintaining a fluid style of play. Once your opponents adjusted to your crazy play, you would change your style and slow down. Once they adjusted to that, you sped back up again. Again, this isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking, but the no-limit section of Super System II is very well-written.
Back when Super System 2 came out, this was the first time I had read about a legitimate loose-aggressive style of play. It changed my entire outlook on poker and I put it to great use at the tables. After I read Super System 2, I became an aggressive, thinking player.
Here’s where I think other reviewers don’t like the no-limit chapter. The no-limit chapter is not a ready-made package for winning at poker. It doesn’t tell you which hands to play in each position. It explains a style and a philosophy.
For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this at your first poker strategy book. Super System II doesn’t explain the basics of poker strategy or explain WHY we follow certain rules in poker. For your first book, I would recommend Sklanksy’s Theory of Poker and/or Winning Low Limit Holdem by Lee Jones.
Those two books do a better job of helping you understand why we play certain hands, how the math works and how to beat small stakes games. Super System II is more about changing the way you approach poker at a general level.
Looking at Super System 2 today, the information isn’t as groundbreaking. Poker forums, training websites and overall player knowledge have grown greatly in both quantity and quality since Super System II was originally published.
But still, I think it’s a good book for those of you who want to try a new style and move on beyond basic ABC poker. Doyle Brunson is not a polished author, but he has a way with words that is motivating and enlightening. Poker training sites are awesome resources, but a physical book will stay with you forever. You don’t have to pay subscription fees or a working hard drive to go back and read a book years later.
Remember, this book is $24. If you read the book and apply what you learn to the tables, it will pay for itself many times over. It’s hard to imagine anyone in the world getting absolutely NOTHING out of this book.
The Other Stuff
The other stuff is pretty decent but none of it goes into much detail. It’s nice to see some of the less-popular games such as Omaha 8, Stud 8 and Triple Draw receive a little love. Strategy for those games is hard to find even on the internet.
I didn’t find much value in the sections that explained the history of poker or tournament strategy. That stuff was all very basic and is covered in greater detail in other books. Jennifer Harmon’s section on fixed limit Holdem was quite well done, however. Both new and experienced limit players will benefit from that section.
The chapters dedicated to online poker and the World Poker Tour are worthless. Don’t buy the book for any meaningful discussion on these topics. You won’t learn anything useful or interesting in those two chapters.
Is it worth $25?
You can pick up a copy of Super System 2 for about $25 at most retailers. Some parts of Super System 2 are stellar; other parts are useless. Despite its weaknesses, Super System 2 is a great value for $25. There’s a lot of good information in here.
Super System II has a special place in my heart because of its no-limit section, but there’s much more to the book than that. You won’t turn into a jack-of-all-trades overnight, but the book offers a solid foundation for a variety of games. At $25, Super System II is an easy book to recommend.