Best Books to Read to Increase Your Poker Edge

I’ll use this article to review some of my favorite books. There are a variety of poker books on the market, but many contain poor advice, are out of date, or are simply rehashed versions of more popular books. Even books by big-name professionals often lack the kind of sound pokier theory that are published by unnamed poker professionals.

No Limit Hold’em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky – One of the preeminent texts on No Limit poker, this book is worth its weight in gold. It covers the theory behind the actions that poker players take and it illustrates, with good examples and mathematical reasoning, the results of our decisions. The book is divided into two parts. The theory section sets forth a group of theorems that talk about things like bluffing, continuation bets, playing turns and rivers, and getting all in. The practice section talks about more practical situations, including hand examples, so readers get a good sense of how the theory from the first section can be applied in a live poker game.

The Mathematics of Poker by Bill Chen – This book is more suited for an intermediate or advanced poker player, students with a background in mathematics. or readers who enjoy thinking of poker as a puzzle to solve or a chess game. Chen’s book often reduces poker games to single streets where we can solve for absolutely correct plays, then extrapolates the results to real poker games to come to conclusions that often go against popular advice.

Start Winning by Samuel Smith – A text covering one of the most complicated forms of poker, No Limit Hold’em, Start Winning talks about how each player has to change their thinking, not just their playing style, in order to master heads up poker. According to the author, heads up is the most profitable form of poker, which is why many of the highest stakes games are played heads up at stakes as high as $20.000 or more. Tournament players must read this book, because the largest pay increase in the tournament is between first and second place. Even cash game players often end up heads-up after everybody but their opponent folds, and players with more experience playing heads up games excel in these situations.

Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen – This text details every hand played by Gus Hansen during his victory run at the Aussie Millions. According to the book’s introduction, after every hand that he played, he went and noted down the cards he had, the action, and thoughts about players at the table. After he took home the multi-million dollar tournament prize, he compiled all of his notes from every stage of the tournament and presented them, hand by hand, in Every Hand Revealed. Hansen is often known as “the madman” of poker by those who see him play many hands, but this book illustrates the methodical rhyme and reason of his decision.

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