Champion poker player Annie Duke is
up-front about the nature of How to Beat the Big Boys: this is
an advanced instructional program, not for poker newbies. As she puts
it, the idea here is to help good players become great ones, so she
assumes that you're already a good, winning player to start with.
I've often noticed that so-called "advanced" instructional
programs are frequently just the basics trying to puff themselves
(and the viewer) up, but in this case it's completely correct: this
really is all about high-level strategy for Texas no-limit hold 'em.
That focus on high-level strategy
definitely makes How to Beat the Big Boys stand out from more
ordinary poker instructional programs. Duke spends a lot of time on
the all-important subject of "tells": how to read your
opponents' tells, how to judge who's bluffing and who's not, how to
hide your own tells, and how to prevent opponents from learning any
extra useful information from your own playing habits. One way that
she approaches this is to use profiling techniques adopted from the
FBI; after all, bluffing is a form of lying, so it's very helpful to
be able to identify when the person across the table is trying to
fake you out. Other aspects of strategy that Duke covers include how
to make decisions about betting and calculating pot odds. It's in
these areas that the advanced nature of the program is clearest, as
she goes into the subtleties of what you should do, or avoid doing,
based on how likely you are to get the cards you want later on. This
kind of material will make a lot of sense, and be quite helpful, if
you already have a solid grounding in poker.
The overall content is quite solid
and worthwhile for the serious player (either competitive or serious
recreational player), with a substantial hour and forty-five minutes
of running time. It's definitely not as good a program as it could
be, though. Annie Duke does the program as more or less an informal
lecture: she sits across a poker table and tells you what you need to
know. On the one hand, this makes the material less intimidating...
but on the other hand, it has all the weaknesses of an impromptu
speech. Duke's presentation is so unscripted that she often repeats
herself, which can get a bit grating; she also peppers her speech
with "you know," which is a conversational glitch that
would have been easy enough to iron out (or at least reduce!) with a
little bit of practice.
The presentation is also very
bare-bones; as I said, it's just Duke and a poker table. It would
really have been helpful to see her demonstrate some of the
techniques on other participants at the table, but instead we just
get her describing situations and explaining how she would deal, or
has dealt, with them. The program's producers have done a bit to
supplement her lecture by providing graphic overlays with bullet
points of key concepts, but it's still fairly stripped-down. (I also
noticed a spelling mistake at one point. Oops.)
One thing that's abundantly clear
from How to Beat the Big Boys is that Annie Duke is a very
smart, experienced, sharp poker player; the program is a bit rough
around the edges, but it has a lot of content that will be new and
valuable for the serious player.
There's not much to comment on here:
How to Beat the Big Boys appears in its intended 1.33:1 aspect
ratio, and looks fine for what it is... a basic instructional video.
The image is clean and clear, with the on-screen text reasonably easy
to read, and no faults in the image.
The sound quality is unfortunately
not very good. Annie Duke's voice sounds tinny and at the same time
slightly muted and flat. There's also a recurring bit of background
noise from something. Overall, you can hear Duke adequately, but the
audio experience is definitely lackluster.
A "Tips" section, about
nine minutes long, has Duke providing information on how to manage
your hand; it looks just like part of the main program that was cut
out. A text poker dictionary (somewhat clunky to use) offers
definitions of various poker terms. We also get trailers for Annie
Duke's other poker instructional DVDs, and a short advertisement for
Poker players who are in the
intermediate-to-advanced stage and want to move on to the next level
will find Annie Duke's How to Beat the Big Boys to be quite
interesting and useful. Despite its slightly too-unstructured format
and bare-bones approach, the program does live up to its claim of
being advanced material. I'll give it a "recommended" for
serious poker players, while beginners will want to start with a more
basic instructional program and save this one for later on.