Poker Book Reviews

Here are reviews of some of the most popular poker books on the market. I have read all of these and have written honest reviews about each one. Almost all of these books are worth reading if you are a beginner (hence the relatively high ratings on most of them). There are many generic poker books on the market that aren't worth reading or reviewing.

The first half of the book follows a traditional style. It tells you which starting hands to play and when and why to play them. The second half of the book is a collection of essays addressing a wide variety of topics, including: bluffing, semi-bluffing, playing with a pair on the board, raising, playing on the flop, 4th and 5th street, shorthanded games, playing the blinds.

This book is considered to be the Bible for Hold Em. But only use it for mid-limit games. If you use this book to play low-limit you will won't make as much money as you should. The main difference is the bluffing. Bluffing almost never happens in low-limit (sometimes in the right position and against the right people semi-bluffing will work). People who have never played poker before have these stereotypes of poker players who are always winning with inferior hands - this just isn't true. The majority of the money you make will be because you have the best hand. This is definitely not a book for beginning players. If you are starting out playing low-limit I suggest you read Lee Jones' book first and this one second. If you are starting out playing mid-limit or higher then I suggest you read a generic poker book (like Krieger's) or play about 100 hours of poker.

This is the best book for low-limit hold 'em. Most of this book resembles a typical introductory book. It covers pre-flop play, post-flop play, pot-odds and all the other basic concepts of poker. But it's philosophy about low-limit games in particular is where it excels. It emphasizes that bluffing won't work. Winning low-limit hold em is not about playing fancy, it is about playing good solid fundamental poker. Low-limit games have bigger pots (in terms of # of bets) and because of this you go on more draws, and it is also correct to sometimes call a bet after the flop with low pair looking to improve your hand because the pot is big enough to justify calling with an inferior hand. If you are starting out playing low-limit then I recommend you read this book first along with Gary Carson's Hold Em Poker and then graduate to Sklansky's Hold Em for Advanced Players.

Part of the appeal of poker is the interesting characters who play the game. Unfortunately, because the WPT and ESPN spend so much time showing the playing of the hands, we never get to really know a lot of the players. This book takes care of that problem. It is very informative and tells you about the lives and many of the top players. It also profiles many of the not-so-well-known players which demonstrates that the author really knows the poker world well. It is saturated with interesting facts about the player's lives. For example, did you know John Myung (winner of the Showdown at the Sans back in November of 2003) worked in the World Trade Center Towers a few floors above where the plane hit but quit his job just days before it happened?. Both the profiles and pictures in this book are great - 5 stars.

Published to coincide with the 1992 World Series of Poker, this is the story of a year spent by Anthony Holden as a professional poker player. Throughout the book you are sucked in by his enthralling and sometimes torturously suspenseful account of poker games, insightful remarks about gambling, and history of gambling and cards. And because of Holden's breezy writing style, you don't need to know a great deal about poker to enjoy the book, although a rudimentary knowledge of Hold'Em would certainly make the poker-table anecdotes even more exciting. I recommend this book highly.

Written 20 years ago, Alvarez focuses mostly on the personalities that made up the early years of the World Series of Poker. He gives their personal histories and also gives a captivating profile of Vegas itself. Although this book is 20 years old, and most of the anecdotes and stories seem old because the world of poker has changed so much since this book was written, it is a timeless classic amid a myriad of non-literary poker books out there. I definitely recommend you read this book.

This book is the leading work on poker theory. Sklansky, like always, focuses on the mathematical approach to the topics and paints a very businesslike portrait of what it takes to be a consistent winner at poker. He gives a much more in-depth discussion than other books regarding all the topics, such as: pot odds, implied odds, reverse implied-odds, semi-bluffing, etc. This is definitely not a beginner's book. Read this after you have played about 100 hours. Even though the writing is definitely dry and the book has that college-textbook feel to it, I definitely recommend you buy this book - but only after reading Hold Em for Advanced Player and playing 100-200 hours at the table first.

I believe this book is the most under-rated poker book out there because there are subjects addressed in it that aren't mentioned elsewhere. For example, he gives an explanation of the different types of philosophies of the games. Some people think poker is a battle for the blinds; some people think it is about having the best made hand, etc. These are vital when you are trying to classify your opponent and want something a little better than the traditional psychological poker player matrix (tight-aggressive, tight-passive, loose-passive, loose-aggressive). It also makes you more aware of your own philosophy and gives you additional insight as to why you play the way you do. The books also talks about dominating and dominated hands. It also has the most extensive starting hands charts I've seen. They are adjusted for raises, # of limpers, and position, etc. Although you don't need to memorize the charts or even play by them (you can develop you own style of play) it serves as a starting point to think about what hands you want to play and when.

From what I know, Gary Carson is an academic and seems to approach the game from a more theoretical point of view (although I have played with him alot at Americas Card Room) so he tends to be a little light on the real-life strategies such as bluffing. But every book can't be strong in every area and if this is meant to be a low-limit book then bluffing is a topic which shouldn't be focused on anyway. His book also has more information than the half-filled pages with the extra big fonts than the Sklansky books do. I hope he prints a new edition with an expanded no-limit section. I definitely recommend reading this book as a beginning low-limit book along with Jones's Winning Low-Limit Hold Em before graduating to Sklansky's Hold Em for Advanced Players.

Given the number of so many home poker players, it was just a matter of time before a book about home poker came out. This book has some of the best published information on the issues involved on how to run a game - like rule setup, equipment needed, etc. But this book doesn't just go through the obvious how-to-set-up-a-home-game. It also dips its toe into the philosophical waters and sheds a light on the reasons why people play (which is something I planned to write about). On the World Poker Tour everyone is there to win money. At a $2 home game this isn't true. Some people play for fun, money, addiction, or social reasons. After the chapters that deal specifically with home-games, the book offers a basic poker primer, and although it doesn't necessarily add much value to the current information out there, the author doesn't attempt to waste reader's time by trying to reinvent the wheel.

Although this is not a how-to manual on poker, it doesn't pretend to be. It is a personal account of the life of a professional poker player and takes a sober glimpse into the often-glorified world of underground poker. Although the book is written in an easy, conversational style which keeps the story flowing, the book is peppered with awkwardly-placed, recycled poker history, as well as hand tables and mathematical odds which aren't going to appeal to a casual reader and just serve to interrupt the narrative.

Even though the author does a good job of familiarizing an inexperienced poker player with the basics of the game, this book is not as much about the game as it is about the people who play it. This is where the real value of the book is. The gloomy picture he paints of underground poker is filled with interweaving tales of unique characters and lessons about the effects that your poker life can have on your non-poker life. Also, the description of tells serves as a nice tutorial. I recommend you read this primarily for its entertainment value.

These books are good introductory books if you know nothing about the game as they address all the same fundamental concepts that other poker books. But they don't have too much original information in them that the Lee Jones or Sklansky books have so I would advise reading these only if you know nothing about poker or if you can get them cheap off EBay then I still think it is worth it to buy them. They aren't a necessity though. The author is a seasoned poker player and not just a writer and this makes it easier for you to identify with some of his ideas as opposed to other books which can be more theoretical and mathematical. His specific chapter on playing Big Slick is a favorite as that hand is a particularly difficult one to play.

I thought this book was a disappointment. Although I think Sklansky did a good job addressing certain issues (going all-in, making deals, chip values, the Gap Concept, and EV), and his books tend to be loaded with information, this one seemed to be going off on tangents that I didn't feel to be all that useful. It was also heavily mathematical and in tournament games (and no-limit games in particular) math becomes less important. He didn't seem to address certain universal no-limit laws like "Don't go on draws as much" because the opponent will usually raise the bet up to a point where you are not getting good enough odds to go on a draw. Not to mention, you chances of hitting a flush or straight draw is 30-35% and you shouldn't be betting on a hand you probably won't win because you have to balance your regular playing strategy with a chip conservation strategy. He kept making a reference about "assuming you are the best player then use this strategy" but what if you aren't the best player? It would have been nice if he gave advice to the underdogs. He also failed to show the different styles of play for tournament as compared to non-tournament play. For example, most people tend to play tighter in tournaments than in cash games because the cost of playing bad hands goes up. Also, most players play extremely loose early on in tournament with re-buys but then they tighten up after the re-buy period is over. He should have addressed this concept. I think Sklansky should have had a revised "Tournament starting hand chart" in there to adjust to this change. I also think the quiz section is too long.

Although this is specifically a tournament book and not a no-limit book in particular, he should have spent a lot more time on no-limit concepts because most tournaments are no-limit. And he spends no time on pot-limit games at all. I think the reader would like to know the differences in these games. Limit tourneys, in my opinion, are more about the cards you get than how you play them. The skills you use are no different than the skills you would use to play a ring game so there is really no "tournament advice" that will help you much. If you play in a limit tournament and you are far from the chip lead there is really nothing you can do. I do recommend that you buy this book for the good information that it has but part of my recommendation is based on the fact that there are almost no other no-limit books out there to read.

The texts are made up of collections of essays that are taken from Malmuth's writings in Poker Digest and other magazines over the past few years. As usual, Malmuth succeeds admirably in forcing the reader to think about many aspects of their game most players are usually unaware of. Most of these essays are interesting, thought-provoking and relevant. One of the things I like about Malmuth is that he writes about topics that are completely ignored or forgotten by most players but that are either directly or indirectly relevant to winning play. I recommend that you read these books after you have spent a lot of time at the tables because, while they have useful information, a lot of it is only applicable to people who have been playing for a while (like win rates and standard deviation, etc.).

If you are at all familiar with poker then this book is probably too basic to be of much value. It barely scratches the surface of any of the topics it brings up. It is basically a 200-page pamphlet. If you know that poker is played with cards then I recommend that you skip this book.

(Not available: ebook, pdf, free download, audiobook, download on scribd, online preview or summary.)


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I would recommend The Mental Game Of Poker by Jared Tendler and Treat Your Poker Like a Business by Dusty Schmidt. The latter book is a little dated in parts but it is interesting nonetheless and will be inspiring for aspiring grinders.

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Poker Book Reviews

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