OK, I'll admit it: I tend to look askance at anything that bills itself as a "Girl's Guide" to something. But I know that Annie Duke is a no-nonsense, honest-to-goodness poker champion, so I was interested in seeing what she had to say in Annie Duke's Girl's Guide to Texas Hold'em.
What the title amounts to, I think, is an effort to draw in an audience of female poker players who may have the impression that it's going to be tough to break into the undeniably male-dominated world of playing poker. Annie Duke is just as straightforward with her advice here as she is in her non-gender-specific instructional DVDs; she just takes the opportunity to emphasize that women can compete against men successfully without any special tricks. All it takes is some self-confidence, and certainly Duke's a great role model there: she's the absolute picture of self-assurance, but with a down-to-earth quality that prevents confidence from becoming arrogance.
The Girl's Guide to Texas Hold'em is basically an introduction to the game. The slightly more than two-hour program starts with the basics of gameplay and moves into various aspects of betting strategy, calculating odds, understanding table position, and so on. She also discusses poker etiquette, and finishes up with a section on "home games and beyond."
There's no doubt that Duke knows what she's talking about, and has a wealth of practical experience as well as skill. Unfortunately, the creators of these instructional DVDs haven't done more than the bare minimum in terms of presentation. The entire program consists of Duke seated at the poker table, talking about the various topics; it's basically an audio book that happens to have a video component, as there's no use of visuals whatsoever. The program is practically crying out to have some basic support elements, like a few other players to create simulated play situations, but we get nothing but Duke talking. And let's face it... she's pretty unpolished. The program feels unrehearsed, and at times even unscripted, as Duke simply talks about a particular topic off the cuff. As a result, it starts to get a bit tedious to watch.
This poker program has some solid content, so it's tough to downgrade it on presentation, but the truth is that it's definitely a bit rough around the edges. Given that there are other poker DVDs out there that present material at the introductory level, this particular one doesn't have much of an edge, though women poker players may find it worthwhile to get inspiration from Annie Duke.
The program is presented in a workmanlike 1.33:1 transfer, with decent colors and a reasonably clean presentation. There's not much else to say: it's a competent but otherwise ordinary filmed presentation of someone talking while seated at a poker table.
The audio here is rather lackluster, which is definitely a disappointment considering that the program consists of listening to Annie Duke talk about poker. While Duke's voice is clear, there's a rather harsh and tinny quality to the sound.
This DVD is billed as a "special edition," though I'm not really sure why. It does have a few special features, but not many.
The eight-minute "Casino Tips" section actually takes us out of the room where the rest of the program was filmed, as Annie Duke walks us through the process of signing up for a game and playing at a casino. It definitely has the feel of a promotion for Commerce Casino, but it's reasonably informative anyway. We do get a genuine promotional clip for Commerce Casino, but it's only half a minute long. A text poker dictionary and trailers for the other Annie Duke DVDs are also included.
Last but not least is a two-minute segment that I quite liked. In "All-Girl Tournaments" Duke takes a moment to strongly encourage women to go out and play in open (mixed) poker tournaments, pitting their minds against the men on an equal footing. You go girl!
Annie Duke's Girl's Guide to Texas Hold'em has the merit that it may inspire women poker players with more confidence, but it's not the best beginner instructional DVD out there. While Duke clearly knows her stuff when it comes to winning at poker, her presentation skills for sharing that information could use some work. If you're interested in getting poker tips from Annie Duke, I'd suggest that a better purchase would be the intermediate-to-advanced How to Beat the Big Boys, which has the same presentation problems but offers a depth of material that's not really offered elsewhere. As far as the Girl's Guide to Texas Hold'em, I'll suggest it as a rental.