The rules of poker might be easy, but it is a game which can take a lifetime to master. From live cash games to large-field tournaments, there are a whole host of strategies and psychological nuances to consider – and that’s even before you’ve sat down at the felt.
Fortunately, many of poker’s most successful players have scribbled down their wisdom in book form, giving us mere mortals the chance to learn and perfect their time-tested strategies. “But where to start?” we hear you cry. Don’t worry, we’ve cherry-picked six of the very best poker books to set you on your way…Just don’t forget us when you hit the big time!
1. Harrington on Hold’em, Dan Harrington
Best known for winning the Main Event at the 1995 World Series of Poker, Dan Harrington is a veteran of the game, having amassed nearly $7 million in career earnings over the last 40 years. His book, Harrington on Hold’Em, is the first of three books many pros cite as one of the most influential poker guides ever written.
Taking readers away from the cameras and, instead, into the nitty-gritty world of tournament poker, Harrington shares his time-tested strategies, including how to optimise betting patterns and respond to re-raises. In a nutshell, Hold’em helps you to not only play better but think better as a poker player.
2. Elements of Poker, Tommy Angelo
Every now and again, someone comes along and rips up the rule book. In the case of Tommy Angelo, this manifested itself in the form of Elements of Poker: a 266-page compendium of invaluable poker takeaways. Funny yet stern, light yet weighty, Angelo takes the reader into uncharted territory and asks them to think about things they had perhaps not considered before. Indeed, this isn’t a book about pot odds, hand ranges or percentages: this is a guide to considering professionalism, mindfulness and, what Angelo calls, lopping off the “C-game.”
If you’re looking to battle the psychological and physiological stresses of poker, look no further than this book.
3. Caro’s Book of Poker Tells, Mike Caro
Mike Caro’s Book of Tells is the most influential and highest-ranked volume on the psychology of body language. And for good reason. This tell-all and show-all paperback emphasises how, if poker players want to win consistently, they need to acknowledge, understand and interpret the movements of their opponents.
Caro perhaps explains this best when he says:
“A player gains an advantage if he observes and understands the meaning of another player’s tell, particularly if the poker tell is unconscious and reliable. Sometimes a player may even fake a tell, hoping to induce his opponents to make poor judgments in response to the false poker tell. After all, poker is a game of deception.
The general rule is that weakness usually means strength, and strength usually means weakness. But, you must decide how much weight to give a tell at any given moment. If you make learning tells fun, it will be an ever-changing, exciting part of your poker arsenal.”
From shrugs to eyebrow raises, this book will give you everything you need to interpret body language at the table.
4. Super System, Doyle Brunson
It wouldn’t be a proper list without mentioning the “Godfather of Poker,” now would it? Doyle Brunson’s first book, Super System, is just as legendary as the man who wrote it. Published in 1978, many players consider this book to be the holy grail of poker strategy.
And it’s not just Texas Dolly who gives away his secrets; this book is brimming with expert advice from poker luminaries like Mike Caro, David Reese, Bobby Baldwin, David Sklansky and Joey Hawthorne.
As a two-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion and a Poker Hall of Fame inductee, there is no one more qualified than Doyle Brunson to take your game to the next level.
5. Every Hand Revealed, Gus Hansen
You need only look as far as Gus Hansen’s total career earnings (more than $10 million!) and three World Poker Tour open titles to know that this is a man with some of the best experience and knowledge in the game.
His book Every Hand Revealed takes you deep into the mind of a loose aggressive player, giving readers an insight into how “The Madman” thinks at the poker table. Some of the topics include: making smart bluffs, raising out of position with bad holdings and how prize structures influence play. It also covers the 300+ hands he played at the Aussie Millions in 2007, where he beat a field of 747 players to win a whopping $1,192,919.
This is a must-read for any players who prefer the entertainment side of poker. If you’re looking for an instructional guide, look to other books.
6. Play Poker Like the Pros, Phil Hellmuth
Where do we even start with Phil Hellmuth? Though he may be one of the most polarising figures in the poker world, there is no denying the “Poker Brat’s” amazing success. In 2015, for instance, Hellmuth captured his record 14th World Series of Poker gold bracelet – a feat no one else has come close to claiming. While that alone should be enough to invest in his book, there’s more.
Play Poker Like the Pros will not only teach you how to play poker games like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud and Razz, but you will be given unprecedented access to Hellmuth’s tournament-tested strategies. You will learn how to play against every type of player: from the crazy and unpredictable “Jackal” through to the skilled and meticulous “Lion.”
These “million dollar winning strategies,” as Hellmuth so modestly puts it, are for every level of poker player: whether you’re an online poker newbie or a seasoned tournament pro. Love him or loathe him, Play Poker Like the Pros should feature on any serious poker players’ bookshelf.
Ready to test out your newfound knowledge? Head over to Grosvenor Poker.