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 Commerce Casino.
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.