In all fields there are pivotal and landmark books and tomes that have led to a total change of both outlook and approach. In poker then no other poker book has had as great an impact as SuperSystem by Doyle Brunson. The book is packed full of advice from players who at that time were the very best in the world. But it was how the book shaped the future thinking of millions of no limit hold’em players all over the world that is its real legacy. Whether you believe it or not and whether you realise it or not, SuperSystem paved the way for how we think and view the game of no limit hold’em today.
Doyle Brunson and his co-authors
It is very difficult to study or read about poker without having heard of Doyle Brunson. He is almost like the poker playing equivalent of John Wayne in so much that he is a larger than life character who has iconic status in his field. Brunson shot to fame in 1976 when he captured the World Poker Championship main event in Las Vegas and this was a feat that he repeated the following year in 1977.
Brunson’s story is an epic one from being a college basketball protégé and future star to having a horrendous injury that wrecked a career in professional basketball. He cheated death after recovering from a very serious illness and become one of the most feared of all of the old Texas road gamblers with his specialty being poker. He achieved iconic status when in 1976 and 1977 he not only won back to back world titles but the final hand of each heads up showdown ended up with him being dealt ten-deuce and making a full house each time.
Supersystem at over six hundred pages is as large and imposing as Doyle Brunson himself and almost reflects the man in that aspect. Its team of co-authors is a who’s who of the late seventies with people like 1978 world champion Bobby Baldwin writing the chapter on limit hold’em. Other notable players who contributed to the book were Mike Caro, David Sklansky, Chip Reese, Joey Hawthorne and the great “Amarillo Slim” Preston even wrote the foreword.
SuperSystem : Overview
The book takes a schematic look at many of the main forms of poker that were being played in card rooms over thirty years ago. It focuses on no limit hold’em, limit hold’em, draw poker, seven card stud, lowball, and high-low split. It doesn’t touch games like Omaha which was not in vogue or widely played at the time although the later published SuperSystem 2 addresses this issue.
The book was first published in 1978 and was easily the best book every written on the game at that time. In fact even now a full 34 years later, much of the material is not only still relevant but if I had to choose ten poker books to purchase and study for the aspiring player then Supersystem would still be on my list due to the vast amount of poker wisdom contained within the book. In fact the book was so advanced in its day that it originally sold for $100 which was a very significant amount of money at the time.
There is no doubt that Supersystem is a legendary book and rightly takes its place within the pantheon of great poker works. Much can be learned from the book but great caution has to be exercised as well which is not a reflection of the book or the ability of its contributors but simply a statement regarding the effects of ageing and the passing of time and how that affects the accuracy of the data.
For example the book deals with super deep stacked play in no limit hold’em which is rarely seen these days and especially online. The average stack sizes in online poker make many of the strategies in this book relatively obsolete or at the very least, far less effective. Also many of the forms of poker that are discussed in Supersystem are rarely played these days with the emphasis on no limit Texas Hold’em and Omaha in modern online poker.
The online arena is now awash with short stack players and minimum stack players and this is not discussed in the book and so unless you are playing deep stacked poker then even the no limit section written by Doyle Brunson himself has serious defects. The effect of ageing on all poker books is an inevitable consequence and one that has to be factored in when contemplating the purchase of any poker book over say five years old. But purely as an educational experience then I would always recommend to any student of poker to get themselves a copy of Doyle Brunson’s Supersystem and study it well.
Written by: Carl “The Dean” Sampson – Poker author, writer and professional player