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24 Books (Not About Poker) That Will Make You Great at Poker

At his peak, David Beckham was the richest sportsperson of his era.

The Manchester United/Real Madrid/England star was the icon for millions of people of all ages - a truly global star. Can you imagine Beckham turning up for training, drinking a can of Red Bull, a razor in one hand, and a rusty can of shaving foam in the other?

Do you think he had football genes enabling him to turn up and play - no training, no advanced learning, no need to reach peak fitness, no dietary considerations, no brand awareness, no business acumen -  and he was that good?

So why do so many poker players think they can sit down in the local library, read a few poker books by Dan Harrington and hey, presto!?

No Room for Troubled Joints

There has been a shift in power within the higher echelon of poker; gradual, but it's there. To win millions today you need to be a well-oiled machine. There is no room for frozen joints and troubled minds. It's time the casinos began erecting signs of poker boom players in wheelchairs leading to the exit.

The education of the new breed is different. Sure, they work on the technical aspects of their game, harder than anyone else. But they find their edge in the work they do away from the tables. The hard work is in the smoothie ingredients, the posture of the downward-facing dog and the 40-minutes of daily transcendental meditation.

They have Silicon Valley savvy, they draw business plans on the blackboard using the finest chalk and they exist in the most fulfilling, loving and spiritual relationships. If you want to join them, here are 24 books that will help get you there.

1. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

war of art

Steven Pressfield hammers home his points with a minimum of fuss. You will finish the book during your morning poo.

The War of Art is a tale about resistance and how it constantly tries to cripple us. Poker is art and resistance is everywhere in poker.

Also try Turning Pro and Do The Work.

2. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

At times this book can feel morally incomprehensible. But it’s perfect for the cutthroat world of poker.

  • Law #3 Conceal Your Intentions.
  • Law #4 Always Say Less Than Necessary.
  • Law #5 So Much Depends on Reputation - Guard it With Your Life.

Get the picture?


3. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Knowledge is power in poker but how you accrue knowledge is critical. Don't lie in bed watching RunItOnce training videos until you fall asleep. Focus on one thing and devote 100% of your attention. Distractions are a hum that will reverberate around your life until something cracks. 

4. Meaningful by Bernadette Jiwa

If you want to be a professional poker player you need to learn about marketing and branding. If you don't want to be a pro but you want to sell some action, or get backing, you still need to learn about marketing and branding.

Bernadette Jiwa is a genius in both areas. Also try: Marketing: a Love StoryDifference and Hunch.

5. It’s Not What You Sell It’s What You Stand For by Roy M. Spence

Here is another fantastic book on marketing and branding. Roy M. Spence shares his personal experience working with some of the world’s most profitable businesses during his time at the ad agency GSD&M.

Learn how the very best cultivate the right brand story and create your own.

6. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy

This book is designed to get you to see that eating meat is an invisible, violent and dominant belief system called Carnism. It makes this list - not for that purpose - but for the way it teaches you to look at the world more philosophically.

Thinking about the way the world works is a skill that is often overlooked by poker players and yet all the top poker players have this skill. Also, try watching Okja on Netflix.


7. Doing Good Better by William MacAskill

Poker has become one of the most charitable sports in the world. In recent years, Raising For Effective Giving (REG) has made it cool for young poker players to donate to effective charities.

If you want to know why people like Martin Jacobson donated over a quarter of a million dollars to charity, let the founder of Effective Altruism tell you all about it.

8. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The poker world is full of vices. Addiction lies not only within the core structure of the game but on the periphery in the form of drugs, alcohol, and expensive food bills.

Learn to understand why we do the things we do so that you can make a more informed decision next time.

9. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk comes across as a right dick. But deep down, his empathy is so far beyond what we can comprehend; it's invisible to us.

He is a man making billions of dollars so he can change the world in ways people haven't even considered. Poker players looking for greater meaning in life can learn a great deal by using Elon Musk as their poster boy.

10. An Astronauts Guide to Life by Chris Hadfield

There are two reasons why this book is perfect for poker players. The first was Chris Hadfield's desire to be an astronaut at a time when no Canadian had ever been in space and then making that dream come true.

The second reason is Hadfield's continual preparation and management of risk. When you are living millimetres from death, you always have to figure out what can go wrong and how to adapt. This should be one of poker's 10 Commandments.

11. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

Even those amongst us who have won 14 WSOP gold bracelets can feel a little depressed or unworthy from time to time. The pressure gets to us and, the next thing you know, you're calling cage fighters moronic motherfuckers.

David D. Burns is the Gandalf of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and this book is a brilliant way to diagnose and fix a variety of different mental disorders that will prevent you from reaching your true potential.

12. The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz

What are your Primary and Secondary choices in life and how do you make them? Have you made a Fundamental choice in life; and if so, in what direction will it take you?

Robert Fritz teaches you that The Path of Least Resistance is the one containing the most footprints but it's not the one that you want to be taking.

13. E3 by Pam Grout


Pam Grout's thought experiments are both fun and insightful. Think of the number ‘222' and it shall appear.

Do you want to see rabbits? You'll see them everywhere?

Based on the theory of the Law of Attraction this book is less hocus pocus and more about the power of positive mind and visualizing what it is you want in your life; WSOP bracelet, anyone?

Also try E2.

14. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

You should give this book to every person who doubts you can make a difference by playing poker.

Jane McGonigal is a gaming expert who believes that games have the power to change the world. As a poker player, you will learn a great deal about how you can add deeper meaning to the time you spend on the felt.

Also try SuperBetter.


15. Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse

Who doesn't need a little help organizing life? Poker players need to play, study and spend time with those they love.

Kevin Kruse asks the billionaires, Olympic athletes, top-grade students and some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world for their productivity tips. The only problem is where to start implementing all the strategy.

16. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

If you aren't religious, then this book may be a little difficult to stomach, but stomach it. If you can push aside the religious tone of the book and focus on Rick Warren’s message, there is some great advice on how to find meaning & purpose in life.

As a poker player, whose sole purpose is taking money from people, it will help.

17. The Here And Now Habit by Hugh G. Byrne

Fedor Holz didn’t create Primed Mind because he was bored. Holz believes that the edges in the game now come from places other than the game and mindset is on top of that list.

The Here and Now Habit is the perfect portrayal of mindfulness and how you can implement it into your life to help reduce stress, anxiety and tilt.

18. The Liver Cleansing Diet by Dr Sandra Cabot

Playing poker is a dangerous pursuit if you don’t look after yourself. Casinos aren’t renowned for the best haute cuisine in the world and even Jake Cody lives on Pot Noodles when in the midst of a Sunday online grind.

The Liver Cleansing Diet teaches you the importance of maintaining a tip-top liver and you will also lose a lot of weight in the process.

19. Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez

Money is fuel and you can't play poker without it. You need solid bankroll management skills to become a great poker player and why this book stands out is because of the way it uses your time as a financial metric. How many hours of your life are you willing to sacrifice playing poker, learning about poker and talking about poker? This book hits home the importance of prioritizing how you spend money.


20. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden

Paul Arden's classic is another one of those books that you can finish during a trip to the loo. It's short, sharp and concise. It's witty and thought provoking. If you want to persuade people to buy something from you - whether that's a bluff, pieces of action, or your brand - then this book is a delight.

21. Results by Jamie Smart

Every poker player has blamed external forces for their failures in the game. The deck, the idiotic fish who can't play, or the stupid dealer.

Jamie Smart is a student of Sydney Banks and the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness, and Thought. It's a perfect book for a poker player looking to find clarity through all the noise.

Results help you realize that all of your feelings come from thought in the moment, a powerful lesson for a poker player. Also try Clarity.

22. People Skills by Robert Bolton

How often do you see someone selling communications training for poker players? And yet, isn’t that what the game is all about? Robert Bolton helps you to communicate with people both verbally and non-verbally better than anyone, in particular, his advice on how to manage conflict. 

23. If The Buddha Married by Charlotte Kasl


Poker can be a very time-intensive pursuit that doesn't leave you much time for the special loved one in your life. If you find that time at the tables, or financial difficulties, is having an adverse impact on your relationships, Charlotte Kasl's book is a great way for you to resolve your issues.

24. Tribes by Seth Godin

All great poker players will confirm that the most exceptional education in poker is talking shop with other great poker players. But how do you do this? Where are they? Why would they listen?

Fedor Holz became one of the greatest players of his generation because of the support of his tribe. Martin Jacobson won the 2014 WSOP Main Event because of the support of his tribe.

You are already a part of a tribe. You are a poker player. Learn how to cultivate and create more intimate tribes through this fantastic book.

Bonus: 4 More Non-Poker Books to Help Your Game

1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (Ego)


I know a lot of poker players who have read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. And why not? it makes perfect sense to learn to be present. Rocky Balboa told baby Creed to take it "One step. One punch. One round at a time." If Eckhart Tolle was a poker player I'm sure he would say to take it "One card. One hand. One Level at a time."

I chose A New Earth -- not only to be different but because I think his two chapters on Ego are essential reading for everyone. Ego, or 'Everyone has Got One' as I like to say, is one of the main reasons players suffer from losses of emotional control or seemingly random acts of madness at the poker table.

Take complaining about a hand as an example:

"Resentment is the emotion that goes with complaining and the mental labeling of people and adds, even more, energy to the ego."

When you ridicule a player for making the bad play, Tolle refers to a quote from Jesus Christ: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” The answer is: "When I criticize or condemn another it makes me feel bigger, superior."

The reason you need to read this book spills from Tolle’s mouth when he says:

“I didn’t realize yet that thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence.”

2. Start Something That Matters by Blake MyCoskie (Service)


I believe that it’s within service that we find happiness. I am an effective altruist. I am a member of Raising for Effective Giving (REG). I considered suggesting a series of books by Peter Singer or William MacAskill, but it was MyCoskie - Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS - who first infiltrated my mind and made me want to give to others.

I think service is incredibly valuable in the poker industry. We take from people. That's what we do. I think it evens up the scales to use some of that money to improve the lives of others. If you think like that, then even the losers in the game are winners.

TOMS is much more than a shoe. It's a story. This book was a New York Times Bestseller, and so it should be. It gets you thinking about helping others but at the same time also helping yourself. The one-for-one model means you are running a for-profit organization instead of a non-profit organization and I think that might appeal to the poker-playing community.

3. Transcendental Meditation by Jack Forem (Spirituality)


I honestly believe that the difference between two similarly skilled poker players lies in their spiritual practice. Before I found Transcendental Meditation (TM) I was consumed by anger. I was like a volcano. You wouldn't know it; then BOOM. Lava still flows occasionally but nowhere near the veracity it once did.

It’s not just in life. In poker I am so much calmer. The bad beats don't affect me like they used to. Players who used to wind me up can't find the lever. I have more compassion for those who deliver the game. It all stemmed from TM.

It costs too much money and there is an "airy fairy" ritual during your learning that involves cake, candles and a lot of chanting. But it’s the only form of meditation that has stuck with me. I don’t have to remember to meditate anymore because I am a meditator.

4. Holistic Dental Care by Nadine Artemis (Health)


I didn't just choose this book because poker players have bad breath and work in proximity to one another (although it's a point worthy of the book entry on its own merit). I chose this book because I never understood the importance of dental health and the relationship that it has to the rest of the body until I picked up this little beauty.

Artemis talks about the traditional form of dentistry and how they are always treating symptoms instead of working hard at discovering the causes.

“Treating the decay instead of correcting the sources may explain the statistic that 90% of 60-year olds have 63% of their teeth missing, filled or decayed.”

She also clues you in on the relationship between mouth hygiene and the rest of the body.

“80% of all illness is related to decay in the mouth.”

Did you know that there is a ‘constant microscopic flow of fluid in the teeth that originates near the intestinal area and flows upward and outward through the tooth?’ Nadine Artemis did. And don’t get me started on Mercury amalgam. Did you know that Mercury is the second-most toxic substance on earth after plutonium? And dentists tell us this is fine to put into our mouth?

Google "Mercury Vapor From Mouth" and you will be spending your next three-bet on a dentist who knows how to extract Mercury amalgams (which by the way go into a bag labeled "toxic waste.") Those talented Swedes won't know what I am talking about. Mercury amalgams were banned in their country back in 2009.

Since reading this book I have created my own toothpaste from baking soda, coconut oil, salt and peppermint oil. I have also created my own mouthwash from tea tree oil, baking soda and salt. Since using these new inventions my gums don't bleed, my breath smells better and my teeth are whiter. According to Nadine Artemis, I will now be healthier.


Now it’s your turn. What non-poker book would you recommend?

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