May 20 2010

The 9 Best Books on Poker

written by: John under Poker, Poker Pros Comments: Comments Off

There is just no substitute for learning by experience, but you can still benefit from adding the advice from the world’s best poker players. For a long time, the classic Super System by Doyle Brunson was the only reliable book out there, but now there is no shortage of books on poker. One click on Amazon and you get over a thousand selections. So here are few books that show up over and over on “The Best to Read” lists for aspiring poker pros…

DOYLE BRUNSON’S SUPER SYSTEM II—You are going to get a lot for your money in this consistent best seller. The book gathers together the greatest players, theorists, and world champions and expands upon the original with more games, new authors, and most importantly, more professional secrets from the best in the business. It is even believed by many people that Brunson and his colleagues have given away too much information, allowing poker amateurs to catch up with the experts. The sections on NL Texas Hold ‘em and Seven Card Stud Hi are as important today as when Super System was first written 30+ years ago, considered by many to be the bible of poker. But Super System II updates its predecessor to address poker as a modern game. The concepts are powerful, yet easy to understand. The best part is how Doyle takes his massive poker intellect and directs it towards the world of online poker, something many professional players do not have the capacity to do with such insight. You can’t afford not to read it.

HARRINGTON ON HOLD ‘EM VOLUME 1 & 2—Thanks to televised tournaments, tens of thousands of new players are eager to play Texas Hold ‘em, which is why this book is a must read. In the first volume, Harrington on Hold’em Volume I: Strategic Play, Dan Harrington explains how to play in the early phases of tournaments when most players at the table have plenty of chips and the blinds and antes are small. In Volume II: The Endgame, he shows you how to play in the later phases of a tournament when the field has been cut down, the blinds and antes are growing, and the big prize money is near. You’ll learn how to make moves, handle tricky inflection point plays, and maneuver when it is down to the last few players and the end is in sight. There is also a whole chapter on heads-up play with strategies that, up until now, have been known to only a few top players. Everything is backed up with thorough analysis based on both experience and mathematics. Although the book is heavy on in-depth strategy, it is also surprisingly fun to read and noticeably written with a sense of humor which makes for an easy read.

THE THEORY OF POKER—David Sklansky has written 10 books on poker, but this is the one that seems to be the favorite of intermediate and advanced players. This book discusses classic poker theories and concepts applicable to nearly every variations of the game, including 5 Card Draw, Seven Card Stud, Hold ‘em and Razz (a.k.a. Seven Card Lowball Stud). Other chapters discuss the value of deception, bluffing, raising, the slow-play, the value of position, psychology, heads-up play, game theory, implied odds, the free card, and semi-bluffing. Just reading this book is not going to transform you into an excellent poker player, though. Dedication and many hours of study is what you do need to improve your game. This means reading and re-reading until you truly understand the theory behind the game of poker. Many top poker players will tell you that this is the book that really made a difference in their play. It is worth the effort to read this book.

ACES ON THE RIVER—Barry Greenstein’s book is not about strategy like the last three books but rather a philosophical look at the game from one of its most thoughtful minds. It teaches you how to think and act like a professional player. While it might not make you a better player in technical skill, it will provide you with a greater understanding of issues that are just as important such as mental strength and a better psychological understanding of both yourself and poker. This is easily one of the most visually appealing poker books on the market with many colorful pictures, some of which were taken at the high stakes room at the Bellagio where normally no photographers are allowed. There are some 60 pages of in-depth NL Hold ‘em tournament hand analysis, which alone is worth the price of this book. Greenstein writes in a style that is easy to read and simple to understand.

BEAT TEXAS HOLD’EM—Tom McEvoy and Shane Smith aim to benefit beginners who have just started playing the game. The reader learns the basics: what kind of hands are good/bad, how to bet in many different situations, relative chances of making certain hands, reading bluffs, and how to act depending on your position at the table, whether it be your chip stack or seat location. The best part of this book is the section on NL cash games. While it may be simple advice, your hard pressed to find any book that deals with this form of ring game. Almost all popular strategy books are on fixed limit or tournaments. Thank you McEvoy for actually addressing No-Limit ring games.

The following books won’t teach you how to play, but there are valuable tips to be had from these stories about gamblers and the people that surround them:

BID DEAL—First published as “Big Deal,” this book is actually Anthony Holden’s personal memoir on life as a professional poker player. Written in 1990, this book still stands up despite the fact that there are a ton of poker autobiographies out there. Holden is a private-school-educated Brit, and it is entertaining to get an English ‘flavor’ on an almost exclusively American activity. Holden quits his day job and lives the life of a poker pro for one year. Informative as well as entertaining, this book is not just for poker players, but anyone interested in peeking into the lives of those who live on the edge.

POSITIVELY FIFTH STREET—James McManus was sent to Las Vegas in 2000 by Harper’s magazine to write a story about the World Series of Poker. But then, as so often happens on trips to Las Vegas, something happened. McManus’s article ultimately evolved into a memoir, as he put his entire advance on the line, got lucky with his cards, and won a spot at the final table. Besides telling his own story, he relates the unpleasant tale of Ted Binion, whose death is blamed on Binion’s former stripper girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend. It’s a riveting read with plenty of poker action.

THE PROFESSOR, THE BANKER, AND THE SUICIDE KING—Michael Craig gives us a fascinating look at outside egos, appetites, and ambitions. This is a true story of banker, Andy Beal, 20 million dollars, and the most expensive game of poker ever played. Challenging some of the best players in the world, including Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Howard Lederer, and Jennifer Harman, this is a well written book that gives an incredible level of insight on the lifestyles of poker pros and the motives and methods of Beal as he attempts (and sometimes succeeds) to beat the best players in the world.

THE WORLD POKER TRAVEL GUIDE—Written by Tanya Peck and Jordon Devenport, this is the first book of its kind. It is a comprehensive rundown on poker rooms around the world that will show you where, when, and what to expect when playing away from home. There is a chapter dedicated to the first-time visitor of a poker room,  a guide for the poker players ultimate vacation—a trip to the WSOP,  listings of the best and loosest games, by game type and limit, and the best poker vacation spots in the world. You will also learn about tournament details and schedules as well as rewards programs and the playing atmosphere you will find at each venue. Nobody likes to look like a tourist, so check out this book before you head off to the big casino.

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