First of all, I DO recommend the purchase of this book. However, I have some question marks about it which is why I do not give it a 4 or 5 star ranking. I think this volume should be read with an open mind, especially as to the author's approach to poker.
Swayne seems to have the full endorsement of Daniel Negreanu. Daniel wrote the foreword, and Swayne does the mathematical presentations on the training site which features Negreanu. So, no doubt Swayne is very competent. Primarily, I question his approach.
My first objection is that Swayne offers a poker "pyramid" or hierarchy. At the bottom, or base, is $10/$20 and lower limit poker. Then the next level is $30/$60 and up limit poker. Next is cash no limit, then no-limit tournaments in which the blinds progress fast, and finally, at the apex, are no-limit tournaments in which the blinds progress slowly. (As an aside, I think Daniel is a recognized, world-class player in these types of tournaments.... deep stacked, slow blind progression tournaments). Perhaps Swayne doesn't mean to say that we should all aspire to the top-level of the pyramid, or that the person who reaches that level is the "best" of the poker world. But, he sure implies that. Personally, I know some individuals who are EXCELLENT limit players. They would probably beat the socks off of a tournament player in a limit cash game. From a personal standpoint, I prefer a no-limit cash game. Does that make me "better" than the limit player, or "not-as-good" as the tournament player. No. It just involves a different skill set.
And by-the-way, if you happen to enjoy sit-n-gos, this book will be of only marginal benefit for you. Sit-n-gos are their own beast, and you can find other books that will generally be more helpful.
I think what this book DOES excel at is providing information on the hand strength of starting cards. All to often we see books that say, "Don't play Ace-rag at all, or at least not in early position." Or they say, "K-T unsuited is a dangerous hand to play." Swayne goes to great effort to quantify the value of hands, based upon position and other factors. It really "brings home" why some starting hands, which many play, really belong in the muck.
Note that a huge part of this book is devoted to quantifying the value of your two hole cards for PRE-flop play. His post-flop advice is really nothing more that several pages of rather generic advice. Valuable, yes. But still, fairly bland. For instance: "If you can't decide between betting or checking on the turn, bet." Or... "if you have a set, and nothing else is apparent on the board, bet hard, raise; reraise." Nothing wrong with any of this advice.... but by and large it's pretty generic.
If you are a no-limit player, you go through 10 chapters before you get to the one-and-only chapter devoted to no-limit. At that point you get one chapter devoted to no-limit (and you learn that some of the things you learned in the first 10 chapters no longer apply). An additional problem I have with this chapter is that Swayne sort of slips into discussions about tournament play, but doesn't do a very good job of making the point as to whether he is discussing cash strategy or tournament strategy. I do get the feeling that he considers no-limit cash play an after-thought. But, that is my perception. The whole chapter on no-limit play really needs to be re-written. Perhaps split into two chapters...one devoted to cash play, and the other devoted to tournament play.
Swayne also has some recommendations that I question. For instance, he wants you to first play 250,000 hands of low-limit cash games before "progressing." Do the math. How long will it take you to play 250,000 hands of low-limit cash games..... and you will then need to *change* your style of you really prefer no-limit cash games or no-limit tournaments. He also has other memorization tasks for the reader that seem to be of marginal value.
And then...a chapter on "Ultimate Texas Hold'em." This is a casino "carnival" game. Doesn't belong in this book, in my opinion. His argument is that UTH can, like blackjack, be beaten. But really, is any serious poker player going to be playing UTH?
Swayne is heavily oriented to the brick & mortar poker player. For a person who talks about figuring out if the table and the individual players are tight/loose aggressive/passive, he doesn't do ANY discussion of heads up displays. Actually, anyone who wants to fully incorporate Swayne would do best, in my opinion, playing on-line using a HUD.
I probably sound pretty critical. As noted, I don't think his chapter on no-limit is handled well, and to be honest I don't think you need to be accomplished limit player in order to be an accomplished no-limit player. They are really two different games that require two different playing styles. However, I DO think that that his rather detailed discussions on starting hand strength, position, and the characteristics of your table make this book a definite buy. Learning those things will make you a better poker player. But I'm not convinced that following Swayne's homework assignments in a step-by-step manner will make you a better player.