With the market flooded with poker books, I thought it might be a good reality-check to list the cream of the crop. I’ll even go out on a limb here and say that if you read and master what’s in these ten poker books, they’re likely to be the only ten you ever need to read.
The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. It’s a true classic written by one of poker’s few true geniuses. It’s a tad difficult to read for complete newbies but it’s a book even the most experienced players will refer back to over their playing career.
Weighing the Odds in Hold ‘Em Poker by King Yao. Yao does an excellent job explaining some of the more complex issues regarding odds and outs. While Sklanksy is often criticized for breezing over topics that he feels should be obvious, Yao goes the other direction and explains many of those same topics in depth.
Winning Low-Limit Hold ‘Em by Lee Jones. Whenever I’m asked what books I would recommend for a total beginner I suggest reading Winning Low-Limit Hold ‘Em and Small Stakes Hold ‘Em and to read them in that order. Jones teaches a very weak/tight form of poker which is probably best for a beginning player. I feel that it’s far too easy for players to spew chips if they try to play aggressively too early in the learning curve.
Small Stakes Hold ‘Em by Ed Miller (with David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth). I know some people don’t agree with everything in this book or with this particular style of play but I think it overcomes the typical flaw in most other poker books in that Miller teaches aggressive poker. Both Sklansky and Malmuth have said that their previous works were aimed at middle and high-limit games. Anybody who has seen a $1/$2 game on PartyPoker knows that if you follow the advice in Sklansky and Malmuth’s books you’ll get run over at today’s small stakes tables.
Hold’Em Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklanksy and Mason Malmuth. HEPFAP is another classic book from Sklanksy and Malmuth. Sklansky and Malmuth introduce you to many of the more advanced strategies that separate lower stakes players from higher stakes players. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the Small Stakes Hold ‘Em review, this isn’t the book to help you beat those .10/.20 online games. These guys were writing when $20/$40 used to be a solid game instead of the donkey-fest it normally is today. You’ll find truckloads of wisdom in here and as you move up the limit ladder, you’ll see how more and more of their strategies apply.
Harrington on Hold ‘Em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments: Strategic Play (Vol I) by Dan Harrington. Harrington’s accomplishments demonstrate that this man knows what he’s talking about. He won the 1995 World Series of Poker main event and made it to the final table of the main event two years in a row in 2003 and 2004. Although tournament poker may not be your thing, this was the first book that I had read in a long while that actually made me feel like a whole new world of poker had been opened to me. Many of the concepts he discusses will improve your game regardless of the type of poker you play.
Harrington on Hold ‘Em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments: Endgame (Vol II) by Dan Harrington. Harrington continues what he started in Vol I and keeps on packing the pages with insights never shared in books before.
Middle Limit Holdem Poker by Bob Ciaffone and Jim Brier. When you start hitting bumps in the road to poker mastery, Middle Limit Holdem Poker is a good book to regroup with. The book is a series of different situations that players commonly find themselves in. Ciaffone draws on his years of coaching to pull hand histories that others have asked him to analyze and he goes through step by step explaining what the right and wrong moves would be. MLHP is one of those books you’ll read and keep referring back to time and time again.
Doyle Brunson’s Super System II by Doyle Brunson. With Super System being one of the most famous books on poker, most should be familiar with the general layout of the book. Doyle picks the folks he thinks to be the best players of a type of poker and then asks them to write a chapter on that form of poker. Of course, Doyle saves the No Limit chapter for himself as he’s probably the best player to have ever played the game. Jennifer Harman, Lyle Berman, Todd Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, and many others fill out an all-star cast of players who contributed chapters to the book. While you might ask yourself why you would read a chapter on Triple Draw, you never know when a good mixed game might start up.
The Psychology of Poker by Dr. Alan Schoonmaker. Poker is nearly as much about mental states as it is about the cards. Learning to identify psychological patterns in yourself as well as your opponents is often that little extra edge you need to beat the game. Schoonmaker does an excellent job discussing and analyzing many of the things that keep us from becoming a better player and recognizing those patterns in our opponents to better exploit them. After you’ve spent many, many hours at the tables, this is a great book to help you make sense of all the various characters you’ll run into . . . including yourself.