Table of Contents
About this Guide
What Is a Poker Bankroll?
How Much do I Need?
When Do I Move Up In
When Do I Move Down?
Types of Poker
Pot Limit/No Limit
Single Table Tournaments (STT)
Multi Table Tournaments (MTT)
Full vs. Shorthanded (6-max)
What Should I Play?
Reviewing your Own Hands
Starting Hands Chart
Other Pages of Interest
Recommended Poker Books
An update (as of January 27, 2008)
A problem that anyone faces who writes a summary of suggested reading is that the book suggestions risk becoming obsolete. This is doubly true for poker; not only is the number of new books coming out each year increasing, but the game itself is evolving.
I'm going to leave this list as-is, and recommend that you take it with a grain of salt. While many of these books still hold a special place in any poker player's book collection, there are in many cases better books to be read, and in any case there is a better order in which to read them, compared to what I suggested in 2005.
Because of how the literature evolves, I've decided that there's no great point in trying to keep this particular list updated. I'll make one closing statement - valid as of January 2008 - and that is that Ed Miller's "Getting Started" is still one of the best books I've read for anyone who hasn't yet read his or her first poker book.
For the Casual
There were many books I want to recommend, but ultimately, I realized that I need to keep this list as short as possible. If you truly are a casual player - and by this I mean a player who plays recreationally, who doesn't have as a primary objective to win money (and might not even mind so much if he loses a bit), but to just hang out and gamble a little - you will still find more enjoyment in the game if you're introduced to some of the finer points. But, that said, if you read just one book on poker, make it this one:
Super System 2, by Doyle Brunson et al.
Now, it's ironic that I recommend the largest, thickest and heaviest book in my poker book library to the people who want to study as little as possible, but I do it for good reason: SS2 contains a little bit of everything, and is greatly useful without being complicated. It will teach you to play tight and aggressive, it will explain pot odds, it will explain the rules and basic strategies for the most common forms of poker today. If you really, truly, will
just read one book, make it this one. It will, I believe, be the best bang for the buck you can find, yet still broad enough that you will be able to dive
deeper if you would like to.
However, if you read it, and realize that "hey! - this book really helped," and you want to read more, start to look at the list for the serious player.
Now, I need to make another recommendation for the casual who know that they want to play Texas Hold 'em, and only Texas Hold 'em:
Getting Started in Hold 'em, by Ed Miller
This is a great beginner's book. It covers the most commonly played variants of Hold 'em; limit, no-limit, Sit'N'Goes, etc, and it shows how you should think as a poker player. Perhaps more importantly to the beginner, it's a very inspirational book. It makes it look so easy, and Ed Miller skillfully makes poker theory and correct poker look not just simple, but fun. If you still insist on buying only one book on poker at all, I think Super System 2 is the better buy, because you will get a look into different forms of poker. But since Hold 'em is by far the most commonly played variant, picking up this book (which is relatively cheap, as well) is very much recommended for those bent on sticking to Hold 'em.
For the Serious
If you want to be serious about poker, you should realize that you will want to read as many books as possible on the subject. If you pick up only one little nugget from the entire 300 pages of a book, chances are the $20 you spent on it will already have paid itself (or will very soon). But I'm not recommending you go out and pick up every book available on the market and randomly start to digest them. If you know that you're willing to move through 2000+ pages of poker literature (contained in the books I list below), then reading the books in a smart order will make your learning a lot more efficient. For most of the list, the order in which you read the books is not of huge importance. Focus on the ones that are most applicable to the poker games you play, though. But there is one book you should read first: I will recommend - wholeheartedly, and regardless what form of poker you're interested in - that you start with this one:
Theory of Poker, by David Sklansky
I start you off with this book (the "ToP"), because it rises above strategies, situations and starting hands, and takes a bird's eye view on the game of poker, explaining the fundamental concepts at work. Chances are that, unless you're an experienced player already, you will have a difficult time digesting the wealth of information this book will try to teach you, without reading it many times and playing a lot of poker. But despite that, just having read this book - and read it carefully - will make any other book you read on poker so much more valuable. If you read any other book later on, and you see that they suggest a strategy that seems a bit counterintuitive, you should try to think about it in the terms that you've learned from ToP, possibly re-reading some of its chapters. This will take you from learning the strategy to understanding it.
Once you've done this, your continued reading depends largely on what form of poker you play. If you're a beginning hold 'em player, I would like to recommend...
Small Stakes Hold 'em, by Ed Miller, David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth
This book ("SSHE") is widely praised, and rightfully so. It's the same author (with the help of Sklansky and Malmuth) as Getting Started in Hold 'em, recommended for the casual. You will learn many valuable lessons in this book, and this can take you from being a break-even player to a very successful low-limit hold 'em player. The strategies in this book are aimed specifically at loose tables (where people play poorly in the sense that they see too many flops, call without having the odds for it, etc.) and shows you how you can make the most of these favorable conditions. Since low limit hold 'em is a great way to learn poker in general, this book is a natural choice. And if limit hold 'em is your game of choice, be sure to also pick up...
Hold 'em Poker for Advanced Players, by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth
This book ("HPFAP") came before Small Stakes Hold 'em, and has been the standard reading for most serious hold 'em players. Unlike SSHE, it does not presume that the table condition is loose, but focuses on a very solid strategy for limit hold 'em. It will teach a more tight and tricky style than SSHE, and is better aimed at higher stakes where the competition is tougher. But even for a low limit player, this book will pay for itself. That said, I do not recommend that you simply "skip to" this book just because it has the word "advanced" in the title. If you make this your first poker book, you're not ready for it. Trust me.
Psychology of Poker, by Dr. Alan Schoonmaker
This is not a strategy book. Dr. Schoonmaker takes a look at different aspect of poker; why you play the way you do. Understanding your own motives for playing the game can be quite an eye-opener, and if nothing else, can be a refreshing change of pace in poker literature from the endless strategy discussions.
Tournament Poker for Advanced Players, by David Sklansky
This book will teach you what adjustments you should make when you play tournaments as compared to cash games. It does not focus on any specific form of poker, but draws its examples from all sorts of tournaments, whether it's limit or no-limit, stud or hold 'em, etc. To be an expert tournament player, this book is perhaps not mandatory, but will sure speed up the way there. For those who want to play no-limit hold 'em tournaments, however, there is a series of two books (soon to be three) that has in a very short time become the standard pieces:
Harrington on Hold 'em, Volumes I and II, by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie
Even if you read all the books I recommend above, you will still feel like three times the tournament player after you finish these two. The text makes complex ideas fairly straightforward, primarily by using many examples to show how to play. If you remember taking math in school, you usually had a couple of pages of text you were supposed to read, then a large bunch of problems to solve. Reading the text was helpful, but it was by solving the problems that you learned, and this is the basic idea behind the HoH books. They focus heavily on examples and problems, and each chapter ends with a large number of them. When you reach the end of the list of problems for a chapter, you find that they are now easy to solve - you've picked up on the correct way of thinking solely by practising on problems.
With the recent poker boom, there are so many poker books available that attempting to make any form of complete list would be silly. An observant reader will notice that I didn't include SuperSystem2 in the list for the serious reader; this is not because it's a bad book, or because the book caters only to beginners. No, I recommend any poker player to read it. You may also notice that I haven't named any books specific to non-hold 'em games. This is in part because I'm predominantly a hold 'em player myself, and in part because the literature that covers other games simply isn't as exhaustive. Hold 'em is all the rage today, and finding good books on other games is difficult - although SS2 does cover many of them, so that could be a good place to start.
Oh, and if you want to play live poker, don't forget to pick up "Caro's Book of Poker Tells" (by Mike Caro).
Next: Reviewing your own hands