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Poker Book Reviews

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Here are reviews of poker books that I have read. Each of these books is considered to be a bit of a poker classic. The numerous poker books, poker videos, and poker television broadcasts that are now available will help you become a better poker player, quicker than was ever possible before! Make sure that you buy poker books that are equivalent to your playing skill. Some books are very basic while others are more technical, it usually depends on the author or poker pro who is presenting the material.


The Theory of Poker

David Sklansky. 301 pages. Fourth Edition. Two Plus Two Publishing.

This book is a must for any serious poker player. It is not specific to hold'em but gives invaluable advice to anyone playing poker. It describes, in detail, the mathematics and rationale behind many concepts of poker. It describes the Fundamental Theorem of Poker ...

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; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.

Every poker decision you make depends on this theorem. The Theory of Poker describes how to put this theorem into action. It describes pot odds, implied odds, bluffing & semi-bluffing, the free card, slow playing, check-raising, position, reading hands, and heads-up play. The chapters on pot adds, effective odds, and implied odds are invaluable and form the foundation for any serious poker player. You must know the math behind the decisions that you should make and this book is the best available for achieving this. There is a good index, a glossary, and basic rules on how to play poker.

A word of warning, the Sklansky books are a bit hard to read. They take a dry, technical approach and cram a lot of information into a short space. The Sklansky books can be a bit intimidating if you are new to poker, but stick with it, it will be worth it in the long run. You need to understand the raw basics before you can get a little more fancy. Read this book, it will stay with you for the rest of your life. After you've finished reading this book, read something a little more specific to hold'em and advanced playing concepts ... something like the Harrington on Hold'em books.


Hold'em Poker For Advanced Players

David Sklansky.

This book is similar to Sklansky's The Theory of Poker but is more specific to hold'em poker, but not necessarily tournament hold'em. It is geared mostly towards middle/high stakes limit hold'em. Much of the material that is covered in The Theory of Poker is also included in this book, but not in as much detail. You could probably get by without buying The Theory of Poker if you buy this book, but owning both books is better.

The first half of the book deals with opening hands, position, pot odds and the basics of how to strategically play hold'em poker. The second half of the book deals with bluffing and semi-bluffing, slow playing, loose players, and short-handed tables. The sections on starting hand rankings and advice on playing in loose games is very good.

Like all Sklansky books, it is precise but a bit hard to read. The information provided in this book is good but if you are going to play mostly no-limit tournaments, you might be better off reading The Theory of Poker and the two Harrington books.


Tournament Poker For Advanced Players

David Sklansky. 245 pages. Second Edition. Two Plus Two Publishing.

This book was a bit of a disappointment. There is some good information about how to play in large tournaments but other than that, there is not much here. The Harrington or McEvoy/Cloutier books are much better for the average reader.

There are good sections on EV (Expected Value), declining chip values, making deals for the purse money, and the "Gap Concept" (It takes a better hand to call a raise than it does to make an opening bet) but not much else. About one third of the book is hand quizzes.

The book is a true Sklansky book, a bit hard to read but you might actually enjoy it if you like technical writing. The book is not meant for beginners and does not offer much in the way of how actual hands should be played. It is meant more for intermediate poker players who have been playing cash games for years and now want to try out some tournament play. Even then, this book specializes in large tournaments rather than smaller, internet or home poker tournaments.


Harrington on Hold'em Volume 1

Dan Harrington. 381 pages. First Edition. Two Plus Two Publishing.

I am presently reading this book. It is excellent, maybe one of the best poker books ever! Dan writes in a very easy-reading style and there are plenty of example hands. Volume 1 includes an Introduction, Playing Styles and Starting Hand Requirements, Reading the Table, Pot Odds and hand Analysis, and Betting Preflop, After the Flop, and on Fourth and Fifth Street.

I don't usually like doing the 'exercises' at the end of chapters in books but the ones included in this book are very good. You can learn as much from the exercises as you can from the rest of the chapter.

There are hundreds of different hands that are used as examples throughout this book. A typical chapter would be a page of instructional text followed by a hand example, then a couple more paragraphs of instructional text followed by yet another hand example, then a couple more paragraphs of instructional text followed by a hand example. The overall effect is very nice and flows very well. Dan's books are very easy to read, you never get bored because he keeps giving different examples of how you can use the information that he has just given you.

Not too many poker books concentrate on no-limit hold'em tournaments, this book is one of the few that does. It is probably the best book for no-limit hold'em play. Recommended for intermediate level poker players.


Harrington on Hold'em Volume 2

Dan Harrington. 450 pages. First Edition. Two Plus Two Publishing.

I just purchased this book but have not read it yet but it appears to be as good as Dan's first book. This book is a continuation of Harrington on Hold'em Volume 1. It contains information on Making Moves, Inflection Points, Short Tables, Heads-up Play, and Final Thoughts. It follows the same basic formula as Volume 1 - a page or two of information on a subject and then a hand example, followed by a couple paragraphs of text and then another hand example, etc..


Doyle Brunson's Super System

Doyle Brunson. 605 pages. Third Edition. Cardoza Publishing.

Super System has been known as the 'bible' of poker for the past couple decades. This book assumes that you already have a basic knowledge of the game of poker, the rules are hardly covered at all. Beginners will probably be a little intimidated by this book.

Doyle Brunson on no-limit hold'em, Bobby Baldwin on limit hold'em; David "Chip" Reese on seven card stud, Doyle's expert on seven-card stud; Joey Hawthorne on Low-Ball; David Sklansky on Hi-Low, and Mike Caro on draw poker. Brunson's section on no-limit hold'em and Chip Reese's section on Seven Card Stud are considered to be classics. Chip Reese's section on Seven Card Stud is not included in Super System 2.

Some of the information in this book is a bit dated. Brunson talks about showing cards and looking for your opponent's reaction, clearly a move that is not allowed in today's no-limit hold'em poker tournaments.


Doyle Brunson's Super System 2

Doyle Brunson. Cardoza Publishing.

Super System 2 was written as a companion to Super System 1 which has been known as the 'bible' of poker for the past couple decades. This book assumes that you already have a basic knowledge of the game of poker, the rules are hardly covered at all. Beginners will probably be a little intimidated by this book.

Each section of Super System 2 is about 50 to 60 pages long and is written by a different author. The strength of this book is that it covers many different variations of poker and each section is written by an accomplished master at each variation. There are contributions from Daniel Negreanu, Todd Brunson, Jennifer Harman, and others.

The no-limit section is written by Brunson and hardly differs from the original version. This is a major letdown. There is a new limit hold'em section written by Jennifer Harman. This section is very good but Super System 2 does not contain Chip Reese's section on Seven Card Stud so you must make a choice - Super System 1 with the Seven Card Stud section or Super System 2 with the limit Hold'em section. There is a Triple Draw section in Super System 2 but this game is hardly ever played.


Winning Low-Limit Hold'em

Lee Jones. 198 pages. Second Edition. ConJelCo.

This book has been the standard introduction to hold'em poker for the past ten years. The book concentrates on low limit cash games and if you play at the low limits in a casino, this book is invaluable. I reviewed the Second Edition but the newest edition has added sections on no-limit hold'em single-table tournaments.

The book covers playing a hand from deal to showdown, how to play pre-flop and post-flop from various table positions, how to play from the blinds and when you flop top pair, or two pair, trips, overcards, you name it! It is a very good all-around introduction to how to play hold'em. There are numerous hand examples. but not quite as many as the Harrington books. The writing style is good and book is easy to read. This book has been recommended for years as one of the best books for beginners.


Mike Caro's Book of Poker Tells

Mike Caro. 313 pages. Cardoza Publishing.

This book is the standard in books on poker tells. This book is similar to the Harrington books in that you can absorb chunks of information at a time. Each tell is a page or two in length. This book is perfect reading material for those times when you are seated alone for a couple minutes.

There are 58 tells (chapters) in this book. There are also some additional aural (sound) tells. There are hundreds of black & White photographs to help show the tells. The tells are broken down into three broad categories - tells from those who are unaware of their tells, tells from those who are aware of their tells (actors), and general tells. There is a play-along photo quiz at the end of the book. Like the Harrington books, these quizzes actually do help you learn.

This was the original book on poker tells and is still the best. I like this book and I think it would help anyone's live poker game. Even if you can't pick up on other players' tells, it will help you avoid giving tells in your own actions and mannerisms. You can also use the information in the book to intentionally show false tells to your opponents.


The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook

Dan Paymar. 259 pages

This book was originally used as a teaching manual at the Casino Gaming School in Las Vegas. It is in it's second printing as of August 2005. The book is written with the professional poker dealer in mind but also applies to anyone dealing poker, even for home games.

The book explains the proper procedures and mechanical skills needed to deal poker. It gets into specifics about how to hold the deck, pitch (throw) cards, burn cards, spread the flop, splitting and awarding pots, missed blinds, button rules, changing seats, changing tables, calling and controlling the action, reading hands, and taking the rake. I was particularly interested in the chapters on holding the deck and pitching playing cards. The proper method of pitching (throwing) cards is a very difficult concept to explain in written words and diagrams.

There are three pages of information on how to properly shuffle a deck of playing cards and another couple pages of information on how to spread, suit, scramble, and setup playing cards. The information contained in the book is very good and accurate. There is also a bit of info on how to cut and stack poker chips.

The book is geared towards cash games and there are only two pages of information specific to dealing in tournaments. Having said that, almost all the cash game information also applies to tournament play. There is a very good glossary and index. Overall, this book was a bit of a disappointment. I include it here since the information it contains is so relevant to this website.

Other poker books from Amazom

Doyle Brunson

Dan Harrington

David Sklansky

Mike Caro

Tri "SlowHabit" Nguyen

Various Authors

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