Poker for Dummies
Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // $16.98 // July 13, 2004
Review by James W. Powell | posted June 21, 2004
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Graphical Version
It seems like everyone is playing poker these days, so it should come as no surprise that the people behind the Dummies line of books would put out a guide for playing cards. Now formatted for your DVD player, the Poker for Dummies guide is perfect for those just starting out or for those novice home players who want to increase their odds of finally beating their drinking buddies. For those who've been around, however, there might not be that many tips you don't already know, but it most certainly would work as a refresher that might point out a few errors you've been prone to making.

Hosted by Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 World Series of Poker champion, and Barry Shulman, publisher of Card Player magazine, the 50-minute Poker for Dummies feature walks you through the key points of playing poker with a strong emphasis on Texas Hold 'Em. Unlike those ab routines that promise you a firmer stomach overnight, Poker for Dummies won't supply you with the secret formula for winning millions of dollars on your next trip to Las Vegas. However, it does deliver enough information to help amateurs improve their methods.

The feature consists of seven key sections: Poker Basics, Texas Hold 'Em, Essential Strategies, The Bluff, Tells, World Series Secrets, and Home Games.

Poker Basics
You won't learn anything new here unless you've never played cards before. This section is a very basic tutorial on suits, card rankings, poker chips, how to bet, how to win, etc. The key here is that it does highlight some key terms that come into play in the other sections.

Texas Hold 'Em
Shulman and Moneymaker describe the rules of the popular game through several example hands. With the help of a few players and a dealer, you'll learn about the game's structure and the basic rules for betting. This section continues the trend of covering the basics but the rules detailed here are essential for anyone who has never played the game. Plus, it sets the groundwork for the next lesson.

Essential Strategies
Here's the section that helped me the most. Shulman walks you through the key strategies for winning at Texas Hold 'Em. He describes why the late position at the table is key and explains how all good players have starting standards that help regulate their betting strategies. Without these, you'll be counting on luck to see you through, and that's not a good thing. He also explains how to play the flop, turn, or river to your advantage. Shulman details the rarity of certain hands, too, which helps tie everything together. In essence, this section explains the keys to building a solid foundation for your future in poker.

The Bluff
This lesson isn't as in depth as I was hoping it would be. Moneymaker basically shares his top ten tips for bluffing, which is a deception to keep the other players off balance. While these tips are insightful, the lack of walk through examples makes them less powerful. I needed to see them in action for the tips to really sink in. However, many of these tips will certainly help players who like to bluff discover what's holding them back in their game.

This one is a bit more explanatory than the previous section in that Shulman explains the intentional and subconscious tells while a player acts them out. Doing so helps the learning experience (at least for me). I for one have fallen into the trap for many of these tells. With Shulman's explanations, I now can not only see these tells in other players, but I can at least try to change my style of play to stop myself from performing some of the more obvious ones.

World Series Secrets
Here, Moneymaker explains his secrets for being a poker champion. These aren't really tips and may not help your game, but some may help you enjoy the game more, regardless of whether you're winning or not.

Home Games
In this lesson, you'll get a guided tour through the basic rules of Omaha High, 7 Card Stud, and 5 Card draw. You won't get any major strategy points here, but beginners should like the easy-to-follow explanation of the rules.

Anchor Bay presents Poker for Dummies in full frame as you might expect. While most fans won't be looking at this DVD for it's video quality (and why would you?), it should be noted that it's a fine presentation. The image is consistently detailed and crisp, with no noise to speak of. All focal points, whether that be the host, pop-up diagrams, or the poker table look sharp and bright. Colors are vibrant, although skin tone looks a shade on the red side. Some of the detail is lost in the shadows for those looking that closely.

Poker for Dummies is presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround. All that you really need to know is that the voices are clear throughout the program. The narrators and card players stumble over their lines a few times so it comes off a bit rough, which isn't really the fault of the DVD's audio track. The majority of the audio is crisp and clean.

In reality, all you get is a printed reference of hand rankings and poker slang. The 10-minute lesson on common home games is actually a part of the main program. If you access it through the "bonus" link on the main menu, you'll still get the main program's end credits just as you would if you accessed it after the feature.

Poker for Dummies is a great DVD for those interested in playing poker. It's pretty basic so if you've been around awhile, you might not find many benefits. While the DVD doesn't offer any surprises, there are enough quality tips for me to think that there's something here for everyone, so it's at least worth a rental.

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