Table of Contents
We live in a digital age where we primarily consume content via computers, smartphones, and other electrical devices. This includes poker strategy, with dozens of poker training sites offering their services online and tens of thousands of poker coaches, mentors, and players taking to Twitch, where they showcase their skills.
Despite technology governing our lives, there is a place in our hearts for books. Physical books. There’s something special about that new book smell and the act of turning over a page. Over the years, hundreds upon hundreds of poker books have hit the shelves. Some are superb, others not so much. The following five books are not necessarily the best poker strategy books out there because some are outdated, with poker continually evolving. However, these five poker strategy books are iconic in their own right and deserve a place on your bookshelf for reasons you are about to learn.
Super System – Poker’s Bible
Originally entitled “How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker,” Super System was one of the first poker strategy books released. The legendary Doyle Brunson wrote most of Super System, which was published in 1979; Brunson won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1976 and 1977.
Poker strategy was not openly discussed in the 1970s and 1980s. Brunson bucked that trend by giving everyone an insight into how top-level poker players of the time thought, how they approached the game, how they controlled their emotions, and how to take advantage of the tight-passive style so many poker players adopted.
Many of Brunson’s pros were unhappy with him revealing their trade secrets. Brunson openly admitted that he thinks the book cost him more than he was paid to write it because Super System became so influential.
In addition to Brunson writing the Lowball and No-Limit Hold’em sections, seasoned pros Chip Reese penned the section on Seven-Card Stud, Bobby Baldwin wrote about Limit Hold’em, Mike Caro wrote all about Draw poker, while David Sklansky has a section on Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo.
Super System 2 launched in October 2004, adding more poker variants and authors. Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Todd Brunson, and Jennifer Harman contributed to the sequel, which is still a classic but was less successful than the original.
The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky
David Sklansky published “The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How To Think Like One” in 1978, although there has been a handful of re-released over the years. Rather than go into minute detail about poker strategy, The Theory of Poker discusses theories and concepts that you can apply to almost every poker variant and format.
Key to the discussions is the Fundamental Theorem of Poker. It states, “Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they gain. Every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose.”
Sklansky’s book spans 276 pages and features 25 chapters. There are very few players that take their game seriously that have not read The Theory of Poker; this poker strategy book set the benchmark for all future strategy debates.
The Harrington on Hold’em series – Tournament poker’s OG books
Dan Harrington launched a trio of poker tournament strategy books between 2004-2006 called Harrington On Hold’em. We can guarantee that every poker player playing around that time has read at least the first two volumes.
Volume 1 is dedicated to strategic play and features dozens of hands where Harrington explains the best way to approach the hand. Volume 2 is called The Endgame and is arguably the best poker tournament strategy book ever written. Harrington introduces the M-ratio and Q-ratio that many MTT players still use today. Volume 3 is called The Workbook and is a workbook with examples and scenarios from the first two volumes.
The Harrington on Hold’em series is mostly outdated because Harrington is infamously tight-aggressive, rendering some of his strategies obsolete in today’s game. However, some concepts are still valid, and a poker book with such legendary status deserves a place in your collection.
Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen
Poker players flocked to bookstores when Denmark’s Gus Hansen released Every Hand Revealed in 2008. Hansen had been hugely successful in live poker tournaments since bursting onto the scene in 2008, and that success came from his seemingly crazy play.
Where most poker strategy books of the time advocated a tight-aggressive strategy, Hansen was a hyper-loose-aggressive player that would play any two cards at any time. Hansen made notes on every hand he played during the 2007 Aussie Millions in Melbourne. Amazingly, Hansen went all the way and won the Main Event for A$1,500,000, and what better way to publish a book than using every hand from a major live victory? The book was ground-breaking at the time yet is still underappreciated.
The Mental Game of Poker series – Arguably the most important poker books you’ll read
Jared Tendler and co-author Barry Carter penned The Mental Game of Poker: Proven Strategies for Improving Tile Control, Confidence, Motivation, Coping with Variance, and More in May 2011 and followed it up with The Mental Game of Poker 2: Proven Strategies for Improving Poker Skill, Increasing Mental Endurance, and Playing in the Zone Consistently in April 2013. Both poker books are nothing short of incredible.
Poker players tend to focus on improving their poker skills and knowledge but neglect the mental side of the game despite the latter being a key component in a player’s success. Tendler and Carter clearly explain psychological concepts and apply them to poker. You can also use some ideas, such as The Inchworm, in other walks of life, not only at the poker tables.
If you find yourself regularly tilting, being stuck at the same stakes and fearing taking a shot at higher limits, or just feeling your game is missing something, the Mental Game of Poker series will almost certainly be that missing component.
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