One of the best ways to improve your game is to read every bit of expert poker advice you can get your hands on. There are hundreds of books and eBooks on poker, so how do you know where to start? This list of must-read poker strategy books should help you select the ones you’ll want for your poker library.
If a book does not reside in the list below, we do not wish to infer that it is not a quality resource. We simply feel that if you are limited in the number of books you can buy and/or read, the books listed here provide you the best foundation for your game, whether you’re a novice player, or wanting to take your game to the next level.
Click on the link of any book to purchase it through Amazon.com.
Internet Texas Hold’em: Winning Strategies from an Internet Pro by Matthew Hilger – This book provided me with the biggest “ah-ha!” in my first year of playing online poker. I can’t promote this book enough. It is written in great detail about pre-flop starting hands as well as play on the flop, turn and river. Hilger also covers general concepts of probability, odds, bluffing, raising, and check-raising. He also discusses the differences in strategies between Internet and live play. To top it off, there are countless practice hands provided so that you can begin to put the concepts into action. If you only bought one book off of this list, this one should be the one!!
The Poker Mindset: Essential Attitudes for Poker Success by Matthew Hilger and Ian Taylor – The authors of “The Poker Mindset” are quick to point out that poker is a mental game, and what distinguishes the most skilled poker players is a specific approach to the emotional, psychological, and behavioral framework for playing at a superior level. The book analyzes all of the factors that could negatively affect your mental game. All those situations that distract us from what should be the goal in poker: to win. The authors do a good job of explaining how to deal with tilt. Starting with the various types of tilt that can affect your game, the two writers explain why and when a poker player is prone to tilt and how to avoid it. The book also explains how to manage your bankroll both from a technical and psychological standpoint. One of the chapters also provides advice about what it means to be a professional poker player and teaches the reader how to combine poker with everyday life. This book is a must-read, as it will help you to dramatically improve your game, teaching you how to “arm yourself mentally” and accept the reality of poker and how to use the mental game to your advantage.
Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, Volume 1 by Jonathon Little – This book came out in 2011. Jonathan Little is a successful poker player who has won over $5 million in poker tournaments over his career to date. In ‘Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker’, he explains exactly how to succeed in this highly competitive MTT field. It’s essential reading for anyone wanting to improve their No limit Hold’em tournament poker skills. This first volume analyses a number of different situations in tournaments, giving solid advice in an easy to read writing style. The two-time World Poker Tour champion advocates a LAG style of play, which is necessary to beat MTTs as it lends itself to winning tournaments not just making the money. The books deals mainly with how to play with different stack sizes during the course of the tournament. Whether it’s playing very deep stacked (125bb+), a medium sized stack (40-60bbs), and smaller stacks (12-35bbs).
Winning Low-Limit Hold’em by Lee Jones – A bible for low-limit players, this book provides a solid foundation on which you can build more advanced strategies. Pre-flop and post-flop play is covered extensively, as well as money management and patience, two virtues usually missing from many a low-limit poker player’s game. If low-limit stakes ($4/$8 and below) are where you play, this book is definitely for you!
The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How To Think Like One by David Sklansky – This is one of the best poker books ever written. If you take poker seriously, you will get this book and study it like a bible. He goes over many advanced concepts that could apply to a wide variety of situations, including hold’em, five-card draw, seven-card stud, lowball draw, and razz. This book introduces you to all the important aspects of playing fundamentally solid poker including concepts such as bluffing, semi-bluffing, slow-playing, playing position well, psychology, heads-up play, game theory, implied odds, the list goes on.
Serious Poker by Daniel Kimberg – This book is very easy to read and is very useful. Serious Poker does not cover quite the number of advanced concepts that several other poker books on the list cover, it would be better suited for new or intermediate players, although still a good book for anyone. He has a nice section that would help make things go smoother if you have never played poker at a land based poker room before. Anyone who would like to feel more at ease before playing live poker for the first time would want this book.
Small Stakes Hold ’em: Winning Big With Expert Play by Ed Miller, David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth – Anything Sklansky is a part of will be a solid work and this book is no different. Ed Miller, the primary author, takes many of the concepts from Sklansky and Malmuth’s earlier works and applies them to the loose low-limit stakes games you find everywhere today. There are over 50 hand quizzes as well, which are great tools. One word of caution I will give is that these books are not as easy of a read as some others on the list. The concepts are fantastic and considered by many players as the foundation for their game, but in the hands of a novice player who does not understand the logic and math behind these concepts, these advanced concepts could lead them into trouble.
Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood – This book came out in 2012. It’s the first major contribution to live poker tells since Mike Caro’s book on poker tells, which is a bit dated now. It would be a great addition to a poker library for any player who is making the transition from online to live play. A great deal of discussion is given to correlating the behaviour of players over time and forming a read based on that. It provides scientific analysis and doesn’t just say “this means that” and so forth. Definitely worth picking up!
Middle Limit Holdem Poker by Bob Ciaffone – This book is underrated and overlooked (so underrated Amazon doesn’t even have a picture of it!). It is a fabulous book that addresses the necessary changes one must make in their game when moving up from low-limit games to middle limit games. Ciaffone provides real-life examples (a feature, by now you know we love!) to support the theory in the book, which is arranged in a logical, thematic format. Do not be one of those to overlook this book!
$16 / Hour SNG Blueprint by Planet Mark – This is a free eBook course by Mark over at Sit and Go Planet. It comes over 4 e-mailed parts and shows you how to grind 1-table SNG tournaments for up to $16 profit per hour. Mark does not expect readers to be playing SNGs forever. The idea is to use these games to build your bankroll up, then move on to either cash games or tournaments. An ideal choice for beginning players looking to quickly make a steady income from online poker – and best of all, this book is completely free.
Championship No-Limit & Pot-Limit Hold’em by Tom McEvoy and T.J. Cloutier – When you are ready to take on the Cadillac of Poker, No-limit hold ‘em, you need to be prepared with a new set of skills in addition to what you bring with you from the limit tables. McEvoy and Cloutier teach you those skills in yet another fine book in the Championship series. T.J. Cloutier is arguably the greatest no-limit tournament player in history with more no-limit and pot-limit titles than any other player. He not only shares his winning strategies but a number of personal poker experiences as well which add a great deal to the book.
Tournament Poker for Advanced Players: Expanded Edition by David Sklansky – As I mentioned earlier, Sklansky is not for the casual reader. His attention to the mathematics of the game can be lost on some readers, but his concepts are spot-on. This book is another that fits that bill, but I must give it some props because it provided me another “ah-ha!” with regard to my tournament play. Sklansky discusses the Gap Concept and this concept opened my eyes to a shift in strategy I did not make moving from cash ring games to tournament play. Since that time, my return on investment in tournaments went up significantly. This book covers more than hold’em in its examples, so if you do not play stud, you will have to wade through those examples.
Harrington on Hold ’em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments, Vol. 1: Strategic Play by Dan Harrington – I included this book in our list, because “Action” Dan Harrington is the player I most aspire to be like. He is a tight player who has managed to make the final table at the main event of the WSOP four times, winning in 1995 and cutting through nearly 2,600 players in 2004 to make it to fourth. I think that fact alone should warrant reading his book!
Super System 2: A Course in Power Poker by Doyle Brunson – I would be terribly remiss if I did not pay homage to what many professional players consider to be the bible of all poker play. Super System and now Super System 2 are comprehensive discussions regarding all poker games. You will want to read this at some point, if for no other reason than that many of your good opponents will have read it. Each chapter is written by a different contributor, all of whom are experts in the field of poker. Doyle’s chapter on no-limit is considered the gospel, but it is a VERY aggressive style and recreational players should use it at their own risk.
Play Poker Like the Pros by Phil Hellmuth – Ah, Phil Hellmuth, the player everyone loves to hate. Well, love him or hate him, there is always action surrounding him. I read this book when it first came out and enjoyed it very much. In hindsight, there are probably several better poker books when it comes to no-limit strategy, but Hellmuth does a good job of touching on a number of hand situations. I particularly enjoyed his defining of the types of players you will face and how to beat each of them. He categorizes players as Jackals, Elephants, Mice, Lions, and the one we all aspire to – the Eagles.
Pot-Limit Omaha Poker by Jeff Hwang – If you’re a Hold’em player that is just getting into Omaha you will want to pickup this book many people consider it to be the bible for Pot Limit Omaha. The author does a great job of explaining the complexities of the game and how playing hands that can make the nuts will provide a solid foundation for playing at a winning level in most low stakes Omaha poker games.
If you can read and digest all the content in the above poker books, you are guaranteed to gain an edge against any opponent you face in the live poker arena or on the virtual felt. But for the best outcome, you should not just read these, but also see how each concept applies to real hands.