I believe poker is the most complicated game that humans play. With the exception of heads up fixed-limit hold’em, poker is the only game where computers cannot compete with us. The more I learn about poker, the more I realize how little I know, and I am a serious student of the game. This makes it tough to talk poker strategy with the average player at the table unless I feel like giving free lessons. My students usually have some idea how much there is to learn within a few lessons, and some of them are even intimidated by how long the road in front of them appears to be.
a game so complex, with so many unique skills using different parts of
your brain and personality, it’s important to learn efficiently and be
smart about how you study. The game has a constant evolution, with the
strongest players staying in the game and the weakest players going
broke and leaving, so if you don’t continue to improve, the game will
leave you behind. Luckily, the rewards for working hard enough to stay
ahead of the curve are significant and are usually paid in cash.
Over the next few months, I’ll be covering different ways to learn
the game, providing some reviews and ideas about how to use each method.
This month, I’ll start off with the basics, poker books.
When I first got serious about the game 10 years ago, books were the
best way to get a solid foundation, and in the first six months, I read
every book I could get my hands on. I filled notebooks with notes from
those books and studied hard, but there were only about six or eight
good books on the market so I ran out of material. Books are still a
great way to get some concepts, but now there are so many books on the
market that it’s tough to choose one and no one has time to read them
The flood of poker books that rolled in with the poker boom included a
lot of terrible books, which is certainly good news for those of us who
can recognize junk and ignore it. I’ve met a lot of players over the
years whose games have suffered terribly because of books they have
read. Even many books that have a good reputation are outdated, so
players who are asking about good books at the tables will often get a
recommendation for a book that was good five or 10 years ago. Stick with
newer books, books that still get good reviews on forums, and the books
on this list, and you should have more than enough reading material to
keep you busy.
Non-Game Specific Books
“The Theory of Poker” by David Sklansky — Still an important book
after all these years, “The Theory of Poker” is the ultimate work on
poker theory. It’s not fun to read, because it deals with a lot of math
and logic and is presented in the dry writing style that Sklansky is
known for, so skip it if you hate math. If you want to know how poker
really works, struggle through it, you will definitely be a better
player for it.
“Your Worst Poker Enemy” by Dr. Alan Schoonmaker — If you have a tilt
problem, this book is a necessity. If you think you don’t have a tilt
problem, then you need this book to help you see that you aren’t playing
your best game all the time. A great work on how to play as well as you
can and how to plug some important, and very common, leaks.
“The Poker Party is Over” by Dr. Alan Schoonmaker — Dr.
Schoonmaker’s most recent work is incredibly well-researched and makes
some excellent points about how the game has changed and how you might
be able to survive in the new, and tougher, poker climate. If you are
serious about playing for a living or at least playing part-time for
extra income, this book will be a big help.
“Read ’Em and Reap” by Joe Navarro — As far as tells in live
games, “Read ’Em and Reap” has no peer. While I wish it was longer and
more in-depth, it has some excellent information and is easy to read and
learn from. You will make more money in live games if you study this
“Professional No-Limit Hold’em” by Sunny Mehta, Matt Flynn
and Ed Miller — A very systematic and ordered way to play no-limit
hold’em cash games, this book will help you to play well by following a
set of guidelines to prevent the most common mistakes that no-limit cash
“No-Limits: The Fundamentals of No-Limit Hold’em” by Chris “Fox” Wallace and Adam Stemple
— Man, this book is really good. I should know, I wrote it
(nolimitsbook.com, buy one now!) but I also firmly believe that it’s a
great companion book to Mehta, Flynn, and Miller’s book. While they give
you a systematic approach, I teach you how the game works. They give
you a set of rules; I give you a set of tools to use to break them
whenever you can find a profitable spot.
“Hold’em Excellence” and “More Hold’em Excellence” by Lou Krieger
— Getting started playing fixed-limit hold’em? Buy these two books.
Easy to read because Lou is a great writer and accurate because he beats
smaller fixed-limit games in California for much of his living.
“Small Stakes Hold’em” by Ed Miller — This is the best
advanced book on fixed-limit hold’em at this point. If you are seriously
studying the game, this book will give you all the tools you need.
“Harrington on Hold’em Volumes 1-2” by Dan Harrington —
While the style advocated in these books won’t win in bigger
tournaments, they are an excellent base for beginning players who are
playing smaller buy-in events.
“Kill Everyone Expanded Elky Edition” by Lee Nelson, Tyson Streib and Kim Lee — “Kill Everyone” is a solid work on tournament theory that any serious tournament player should read.
“Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time Volumes I, II, III” by Rizen, Apestyles, Pearljammer, and Matthew Hilger
— These books are the most modern and advanced tournament instruction
from some of the best players in the world. A must read for anyone
looking to move up and play bigger buy-ins or improve beyond the basics.
The third volume in particular covers a number of advanced topics and
in my opinion is the best tournament poker book on the market.
“Raiser’s Edge” by Elky, and Jonathan Little’s tournament books get an honorable mention here. Both are solid and speak to the way the game is played these days.
Tired of Hold’em? Many of the newest games haven’t been covered in
books, but the old standards, Omaha and stud variants, are still alive
“Super/System 2” by Doyle Brunson and friends — With
multiple experts at his disposal, Doyle put together an excellent book
with solid practical advice on a number of games. Other than no-limit
hold’em, SS2 covers Omaha/8, stud/8, triple draw, and pot-limit Omaha.
“High-Low Split Poker” by Ray Zee — This book has been the standard text on stud/8 and Omaha/8 for many years and is the most advanced text on both games.
“The Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide” by various authors —
Care to learn tournament strategy involving mixed games from some of the
best players in the world? Excellent chapters by the former Full Tilt
pro team on nearly every common tournament game.
“Stud for Advanced Players” by David Sklansky — No other
book covers one game so well. Read this book twice and crush every stud
game you play. Really, it’s that good. Not an easy read, but well done
“Winning Omaha/8 Poker” by Mark Tenner and Lou Krieger — The best book for new O/8 players and a great introduction to the game that is easy to read and absorb.
Books are an excellent way to improve many of your poker skills,
though they won’t teach you everything. They are a great way to get a
solid foundation before you move on to more advanced studies that are
hard to teach in print, and books are the cheapest option for smaller
bankrolls as well.
Over the next few months I’ll cover training sites, forums, coaches,
and other ways to improve your game, with recommendations for each. If
you save each article and put them in a binder, you will have a free
copy of “Fox’s Guide to Learning How to Be Really Good at Poker” (it’s a
source : bluff