If you choose to play winning poker, you can't ever let your game become stale. Poker is a game that takes a lifetime to master; there's always more that can make you a better player. Books are a great resource to help you strengthen your skills - and here are our favorites.
There’s a sea of poker books and resources today, all claiming to be expert, so it’s hard to recognize which are worth investing in. So here’s a list of the best books on poker, covering a wide range of aspects. From different levels, to different game formats, different strategies and skills like math and psychology. Or even how to master online poker software.
Note there are some older books on this list which may be a bit outdated as of 2021 , but they still have lots to offer, which is why we put them on this list alongside more modern poker resources. Meanwhile, for the absolute freshest content, check out our strategy section in the menu.
Your Essential Poker Books
1) Harrington on Hold 'em (2004) - Dan Harrington
Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments Volumes I-II
The two best books ever written on tournament poker, by "Action Dan" himself. Learn how to play all the different stages of the tournament and how to adjust your play for each blind level. Dan goes into incredible detail with strategies that made him the successful tournament player that he is. Like how to think about starting hands, position, and other players, among others. It’s not for complete beginners, but can help you advance your current game at most levels.
2) Playing The Player (2012) – Ed Miller
Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents
Ever heard of “play the player, not the game”? It’s not just about playing GTO (game theory optimal) poker, you also need to learn how to adjust to other players’ styles and tendencies. And how to make money off them in various spots. However, most of the time, you may look for the wrong things and take a detrimental route. Ed Miller illustrates how to make correct reads and adjustments to crush your opponents. The book features how to:
- Get the nits
- Gain the upper hand against TAGs
- Use LAGs styles against them
- Profile opponents, spot weaknesses, and attack
3) Elements of Poker (2007) - Tommy Angelo
This is a poker strategy book with no real poker strategy. Tommy Angelo doesn't want to teach you to play poker, he knows you know how to play poker. He wants to teach you how to play your best poker. You can be the best player in the world when you're on your A-game, but if you only play you’re A-game 20% of the time, you're not going to be very profitable.
Conversely, a player that's nowhere near the best in the world but consistently plays his A-game is always going to be profitable. Elements of Poker teaches you how to stay at the top of your game and ultimately become a better poker player. Elevating your understanding of the game beyond pot odds, position, and EV. And diving into tilt issues, profiting from knowledge, and approaching the game from different angles.
4) Theory of Poker (1983) - David Sklansky
This is the book that started it all, in a way, by TwoPlusTwo - the best poker publishing company. This book showcases many strategies and theories that had never been put to paper before. Like poker variations and crucial concepts like bluffing, psychology, odds, position, and others. Although it was published in 1983, a lot of it is still relevant today and at least offers a solid foundation to build on. A must-read for any novice to intermediate poker player and a true turning point.
5) Essential Poker Math, Expanded Edition – Alton Hardin
Fundamental No Limit Hold'em Mathematics You Need To Know
Math is a big part of winning at poker and this book serves as a simple guide to pot odds, implied odds, expected value (EV), poker outs, and others. And it’s great for both new and experienced players alike, because you can always sharpen these skills. The foundational poker mathematics are ones you’ll use every time you sit at a table and ones you should know like the back of your hand. This book has recently been updated and expanded for cash games.
6) Kill Everyone (2007) – by Lee Nelson
The book explains the importance of well-timed aggression and how it can transform your game. A perfect blend of real-time experience, poker math, and GTO advanced strategies for MTTs, SNGs, and satellites. The book has recently been revised and expanded to make it relevant for today’s poker play. Including 50 pages commentary from Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier, and a new chapter on short-stack cash games to go with the original discussion of playing in short-handed cash games. You’ll also find fear-and-fold equity and equilibrium analysis, optimal bubble strategies, end-game and heads-up play.
7) Ace on the River (2005) – Barry Greenstein
Barry Greenstein is one of the most iconic pros known for his high stakes cash games and televised poker appearances over the decades. In his book, Greenstein talks about strategic ideas as well as life as a professional player. Focusing on psychology of poker, money management, family and sex. Thus, giving you a peep into the poker world beyond the cards.
8) Applications of No-Limit Hold em (2013) – Matthew Janda
The book introduces and explains theoretical and frazzling concepts like overbetting, balancing multiple bet-sizing ranges, donk betting, and check-raising as the preflop raiser, and more. So you’ll be able to better implement them into your game. You need to know how to play every hand in your range, not just the single hand you have. It’s impossible to actually think about every other hand in a range, but this book helps quickly design balanced ranges using proper bet-sizing while playing.
The Best Place to Try Newly-learned Poker Skills:
Beginner Poker Books
1) Small Stakes Hold'em (2004) - Ed Miller ft. David Sklansky
This is a book about Limit Hold'em that even a No-Limit player can benefit from, as it’s all about complex concepts written in straightforward language. One of the most complete texts ever written for crushing low-stakes Hold'em. This book will teach you the fundamentals to play any game and give you the tools to win.
It teaches aggressive and attacking style and shows you how to make pro decisions via clear, detailed examples. As well as topics implied odds, pot equity, speculative hands, position, suited hands, counting outs, flop evaluation, pot size, protecting your hand, betting for value, and playing overcards. You can then test yourself with 50+ quizzes on critical hold 'em decisions.
2) Getting Started in Hold'em - Edward Miller
Ed crossed over from beginner to professional in under 18 months, so he’s uniquely qualified to teach amateur players the fastest way to profit in hold 'em. This beginner book will teach you the fundamental building blocks that any solid game is built on. Like preflop hand valuation, domination, betting for value, protecting your hand, semi-bluffing, pot equity, pot odds, implied odds, free card plays, stack size and chips importance, and more.It’s not advanced but should be the starting point for any new player wanting to learn Texas Hold'em - limit, no-limit, tournament or cash game.
3) Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em - Edward Miller
Unless you’re playing Limit Hold’em you probably missed this book. However, Limit-player or not, that would be a huge mistake. Small Stakes No-Limit Hold'em is probably the best book for novice poker players. It goes through everything you need to be a winning poker player: expected value, pre-flop hand ranking guides, adjusting for tight and loose games, odds, implied odds, everything. Even for players wanting to play No-Limit Hold'em this should be the foundation you build your game on.
4) Small Stakes Poker Tournaments – Jonathan Little
Small stakes tournaments are usually where you start to build your bankroll so this poker book discusses specific strategies and adjustments for this environment. You’ll need to know how to make these adjustments if you want to avoid mistakes, become profitable at this level so that you can eventually move up stakes.
5) Winning Low-Limit Hold'em - Lee Jones
If you’re new to the world of poker, read this for all the fundamentals, including insights and advice from the pros. It’s also been read by Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari and Greg Raymer - yes, it was published a while ago. However, it’s recently been updated and expanded to cover online poker and no-limit holdem single-table tournaments too.
Poker Tournament Books
1) Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker (2011) – Jonathan Little
Teaching you how to play tournaments to win. It may be a bit tough to follow if you’re a total beginner, but there’s lots of valuable info on how to play when stack depths keep changing, as in tournaments. Plus, how to adjust your ranges, and up the aggression, the right way, along with the following:
- Why tournaments are profitable
- Playing small vs long ball
- Understanding effective stack size
- Adapting your play to winning, not just cashing
2) Every Hand Revealed - Gus Hansen
In 2007 Gus Hansen outlasted 747 players for a $1.2 million win at the Aussie Millions to add to his four WPT titles and countless massive tournament scores. In Every Hand Revealed Gus goes into amazing detail about over 300 hands that he played en route to victory. During the tournament Hansen could be seen whispering into his voice recorder after every hand. Here's your chance to hear what he was saying.
3) Sit-and-Go Strategy (2007) - Collin Moshman
Expert Advice for Beating One-Table Poker Tournaments
This is the best book on sit-and-go play ever written, published by TwoPlusTwo. If you play single-table tournaments, run (or navigate) to a bookstore now and pick this up. It's guaranteed to increase your ROI and make you a better player not only in sit-and-gos but in multi-table tournaments as well. You’ll learn how to go through the different stages of SNG play, and how to make adjustments, among others.
4) Tournament Poker for Advanced Players: Expanded Edition - David Sklansky
Sklansky's Tournament Poker for Advanced Players is a book for those who have already been playing for a while but want to up their game. Specifically those transitioning from cash games to tournament poker. So the biggest takeaways in the book include the differences between both formats and the strategies you have to adopt to remain successful.
5) The Raiser’s Edge (2011) – Bertrand Grospellier
This book is all about modern tournament play, including advanced strategies like playing the LAG style, floating your opponents and putting them through their paces, when to squeeze, higher-stakes tournaments, and more.
6) Moorman’s Book of Poker (2014) – Chris Moorman
Chris “Moorman1” is one of the most successful online tournament players ever. Becoming the first to hit the $10 Million milestone in lifetime online tournament winnings on PocketFives. He credits this to hand reading, which is a big focus in his book, with detailed analysis of 100 hands or so. He’ll explain the adjustments you need to make at each turn in these examples. The language is engaging and easy to follow so we recommend this book as one of your resources.
7) Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time – Eric ‘Rizen’ Lynch
During tournament play, you should play every single hand optimally since your tournament life could be on the line. This book basically covers all stages of a tournament, including early play, bubble time, ICM poker considerations and heads-up. Revealing the pros’ decision-making processes from real-life examples. Deep-stacked or short-stacked, against single or multiple opponents, you'll learn how to:
- Play aggressive and when to make moves
- C-bet and when to hold back
- Induce and pick off bluffs
- Accumulate chips with minimal risk.
Now Put Your Knowledge to the Test:
Cash Game Books
1. Harrington on Cash Games – Dan Harrington
All about Hold’em cash games with loads of tips on deep stack play and adjusting to different opponents. You can use this book to help tailor your starting hand ranges properly, play better deep, and how to handle tricky scenarios like having multiple opponents in a pot.
2. Phil Gordon's Little Green Book (2005) – Phil Gordon
This is somewhat of a classic by an author who played among the best in the world. And so he shares his insights from his experiences. Some concepts and ideas may be controversial and/or outdated, but it’s a good addition to have if you want to create a new style of play.
3. Optimizing Ace-King - Adam Jones and James Sweeney
The Right Strategy for Playing Poker's Most Complex Starting Hand
Ace-King is one of the most misplayed hands, and you’re likely going to play big pots with this holding. So making mistakes can cost you a lot. Shortstack is easy, but the deeper you get, the more complicated it becomes. So read this to learn how to play AK when you whiff the flop, when you want to extract max value when you hit, and various other situationsIncluding clear examples and tests.
4. Hole Card Confessions – Owen Gaines
Information in poker gives you a lot of power. So being able to read your opponents and put them on a range is important to up your win rates in cash games. Gaines shares how to read opponents and make accurate reads based on the information you have.
5. Poker Math That Matters – Owen Gaines
There’s a lot of math in poker, so naturally there will be a book dedicated to this skill, and this is a good one. If the math isn’t your forte, this is a great resource to master calculations like EV, pot odds, outs, and more. Plus, there are also 100+ poker quiz questions to help you memorize faster. It’s a relatively easy read that even beginners can understand well.
6. Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Cash Games – Jonathan Little
It’s all in the title - this poker book covers basic strategies to win in cash games - specifically ones you can utilize at lower stakes. You need to adapt your play for different levels - there;s no use trying advanced strategies on players who are not advanced. You need to take advantage of your opponent's mistakes. You’ll certainly notice the games get easier after you read this book.
7. Excelling At No-Limit Hold’em – Jonathan Little
This is an extensive No-Limit Hold’em guide that covers basically everything from fundamentals to more advanced strategies. This poker book will give you more tools and help you turn yourself into a winning player.
The Best Card Room to Try New Cash Game Skills is:
Books For Different Poker Variants
1. Secrets of Short-handed Pot-Limit Omaha – Rolf Slotboom
This PLO-specific book addresses shorthanded play directly, since this is how most online games are played. It covers a lot of six-max strategy including hand selection, bet and raise sizing, representing monsters, and other cool stuff. You’ll also get some knowledge on how to dodge common mistakes when playing short-handed and make better decisions overall.
2. High-Low-Split Poker (1992) – Ray Zee
This is still a valuable resource for Seven Card Stud and Omaha 8 games, despite it being an oldie on our shelves. So if these are the games you want to jump into more, this book is a great help. Remember these advanced mixed games games can be more lucrative and have smaller, more beatable fields than NLH games and tournaments. So read this book to build solid fundamentals.
3. Super System 2 – Doyle Brunson & More
Super System v1 focused on Hold’em, while this one focuses on various formats like Stud, 2-7 Triple Draw, and Omaha 8 or Better. There are also lots of chapters written by high-profile pros like Daniel Negreanu, Bobby Baldwin, and Johnny Chan.
4. How Good is Your Pot-Limit Omaha? – Stewart Reuben
This is more of a workbook on PLO as it discusses hand examples and situations and invites you to assess them and give your answers. This book helps you get a feel for the types of Omaha hands you may get into - which you should pursue, and which you shouldn’t.
5. Mastering Pot-limit Omaha: The Modern Aggressive Approach – Herbert Okolowitz
This is one of the best poker books for modern PLO games, especially if you’re looking to transition from Hold’em. It will help you master this variant with a variety of tools you need to start winning from the start.
6. Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players (1989) – David Sklansky & Mason Malmuth
This book is still an excellent resource for Seven Card Stud strategy - especially for more Advanced Players to gain a leg up. You’ll learn how to play different boards and choose the best strategies on every street.
Learn New Poker Variants at PokerStars:
Poker Mindset and Tells Books
1) Reading Poker Tells (1) (2012) – Zachary Elwood
Intended for those who love live poker. You can learn how to recognize and interpret common player behaviors, expressions, posture, gestures and verbal cues. And how to profit off them. As well as learn how to confuse them by giving away false poker tells. This is the first book in Zach’s poker tells trilogy. It gives you a mental framework by emphasizing how common situations can be similar or different. Many commented that the best knowledge they got out of this book were the tells they themselves had been displaying. A worthy read you’ll likely get through quickly.
2) Verbal Poker Tells (2) (2014) – Zachary Elwood
Verbal Poker Tells if for players who spend a lot of time playing live. Players will undoubtedly reveal information with their table talk. So this book helps you understand how to interpret this kind of language and use it to your advantage when you play. Using many real-life examples, you’ll be able to adjust your play and make better decisions long-term.
3) Exploiting Poker Tells (3) (2017) – Zachary Elwood
Exploiting Poker Tells is the third and final book in Elwood's poker tells trilogy. Focusing on practical stuff like what factors are involved to make great poker reads, behaviours to pay attention to and which to ignore. This book includes:
- Over 140 detailed hand histories
- Pros interviewed about reads and tells
- A poker tells quiz to test you
4) What Every BODY is Saying – Joe Navarro
Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent, writes about poker tells, which you can apply to any format you play live. From instincts, to behaviors, you can gain control and take advantage of a situation at the table. Definitely a must-read.
5) The Mental Game of Poker (2011) – Jared Tendler
You play perfect on every turn and still lose hands, bust or spend months without profiting. So this book covers all that to help you deal with all these ups and downs. Written by a leading mental game coach that offers handy tips on how to handle tilt and downswings, and achieve a good balance between poker and life.
Fun Poker Books
1. Doyle Brunson's Super System (1979) – Doyle Brunson
It may be outdated, but Super System is still considered the Poker Bible by many, written by two-time WSOP champ, and Poker Hall of Famer - the Godfather of Poker himself. Along with five leading experts in their fields: Chip Reese, Mike Caro, David Sklansky, Joey Hawthorne, and Bobby Baldwin. At the time it was written, the concepts it outlines were totally new but are now common sense. Like when to raise, call, bet, and fold at hold 'em (limit and no-limit), 7-stud (high and low), draw poker, and lowball. The level of play is way higher today, so it should not be used as a strategy guide, but as a fun read about the poker fundamentals back in the day and how different poker was back then. This is the must-have book for poker players.
2. One of a Kind (2005) - Nolan Dalla & Peter Alson
The Rise and Fall of Stuey, 'The Kid', Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player
Stu Ungar was a lot of things. He dropped out of school to become an underground card-table sensation, bankrolled by the mob. He was a father, a drug addict, a poker player, the best gin rummy player to have ever lived, a degenerate, and one of only two players to win the WSOP Main Event 3 times. That alone would make for an interesting enough book but One of A Kind goes above and beyond and brings you the stories behind the stories. Like when his luck began to run out.
He was notorious for gambling every dollar he had. He was found dead in a Vegas motel at 45 years old —with $800 on his person, the very last of his money. Nolan Dalla was commissioned by Stuey in 1998 to write his biography from hundreds of hours of taped interviews with the dark genius of one of poker's most iconic personas. It's a gripping and heart-wrenching story and you won't be able to put it down.
Watch our short documentary on Stu Ungar right here:
3) The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King - Michael Craig
In 2001 a billionaire banker by the name Andy Beal strolled into the Bellagio Poker Room. It didn't take long before he was playing for the highest stakes in history. The games took place over a number of years, and each year Beal came back better and better. But that didn't stop a “corporation” of poker players from pooling their money and taking turns playing the Dallas billionaire heads-up with mind boggling high-stakes ranging from $500/$1,000 to $50,000/$100,000 limit hold'em. Michael Craig tells the story of an amateur who takes on the best in the world for the highest stakes ever. If that doesn’t make you read it nothing will.
4) Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People - Amarillo Slim
In a World Full of Fat People tells the tale of one of the greatest gamblers of all time. He beats a Chinese Ping Pong champion using Coke bottles for paddles. He beats Minnesota fats at pool with a broomstick. He gets robbed at gunpoint more often than I can count. He wins the WSOP Main Event and he does it all and for higher stakes than you or I could even imagine. A book could be written about just one of these stories but Slim’s got a hundred.
5) Check-Raising the Devil - Mike Matusow
Mike Matusow's road to the top of the poker world was not a smooth one. From humble beginnings as a video poker degenerate to low limit poker player/ dealer to the Main Event final table to jail and back again. In Check-Raising the Devil Matusow waives the fifth and tells all, whether it’s flattering or not.
6) Positively Fifth Street - James McManus
In 2000 James McManus was sent to Vegas by Harper's Magazine to write stories on women in the WSOP and Ted Binion's murder. When he got there, however, he took his front money and entered a satellite to the Main Event. He improbably went on to the final table and wrote a book detailing all three story lines. Positively Fifth Street is an improbable “only in Vegas” story that can't be missed.
7) According to Doyle (1987) – Doyle Brunson
This one never got the same attention as Doyle’s two other books which are more strategic. However, it’s worth a read for the poker stories, spots and situations from his rich, long career.
How to Apply Poker Books Advice IRL (in real life)
Some of history's greatest players and strategists have put their thoughts and poker secrets inside a dust cover. Any kid with a library card can grab these books and absorb the little intricacies and high-level thinking that go on in a pro's head. They can benefit from years of experience in just a few hours of reading. But it's one thing to read a strategy book; it's another to understand it. And it's another thing altogether to truly accept and integrate the knowledge into your own game.
Be Honest About Your Poker Skill Level
Your skill level and general poker comprehension have to be taken into account when reading poker books. You have to remember that the players writing these books are typically very advanced ones and play with some of the world's best players. The strategies used to beat players like Daniel Negreanu aren't directly transferable to the players in your weekly 25¢/50¢ game.
It's not possible to make a read-based play on reverse implied odds if you don't understand the concept of implied odds to start with. Solving even the most simple calculus problems is impossible until you first understand algebra. Poker is no different. Until you understand and truly master the very basic building blocks of the game, the advanced stuff is useless to you.
You can look at a calculus question and its answer, memorize it and never get that question wrong. But without knowing how to get from the question to the answer, if a single variable is changed you have no idea where to start. You want to understand the reason for making a play rather than memorizing a specific situation to make it. Players who progress too quickly, skipping the basics, often know when to raise or just call. But they can't tell you why they should raise; they just know they should.
If you don't understand that one specific raise you're making is exclusively for value, you'll never understand how to size that raise properly, depending on the player you're extracting the value from. Or, even worse, you may not know when the raise would lose you money.
What Poker Game Are You Playing?
One of the best cash-game books available these days is Harrington on Cash Games, Volumes I and II. These books explain every aspect of cash-game play in a well-laid-out format with plenty of example hands to help drive home the concepts. But unless you're playing at the same tables as Dan the information isn't directly transferable.
His books talk about raise sizing, explaining how you should be raising preflop typically from 3-5x the big blind. There are many games in the world where this simply doesn't work. Plenty of $2/$5 games out there have a standard opening raise of around $35 or 7x the big blind. This is a standard raise, meaning it can vary. If you make a larger-than-average raise you'll have to raise to $50 in this game as anything less is almost irrelevant.
An opening raise of 10x the big blind completely changes the dynamic of the game. If you're playing $2/$5 with a $35 standard bring you're actually playing a $5/$10 game with a short buy-in. The concepts that apply to a $2/$5 game don't qualify since it's playing one full limit higher, but the concepts for a $5/$10 game also don't apply, because the whole table has bought in short.
Poker is never constant - the texture of the game will change from city to city, even from room to room. The ideas in books are absolutely worthwhile and greatly beneficial but they have to be taken as theory. Use them to understand the reasoning and the route to the solution; don't just follow the example plays mindlessly. Only once you understand why the author is telling you to do something, break it down and reapply it to the game you're in.
Poker Theory Versus Poker Practice
You could sit down, read and reread every poker book ever written and understand the concepts of how poker works and the theories behind playing it. But this doesn't mean that you will be successful your first time at the table. Poker is a skill game based as much on practice as on knowledge. If you take two similar players with the same amount of poker experience and have one of them read a stack of poker books, that player will come back to the table stronger than the other.
When poker books hit the masses, many pros were worried the average skill level would catch up to theirs. But it didn't happen exactly as they feared. Even though many players read the books almost no players had nearly as much experience as the pros. In the end those with experience got the better of the new poker students.
When the Internet came along you had kids seeing more hands in one month than the old pros had seen in their first few years at the tables. With the Internet expediting the experience the new students of the game were able to put their book-learnin' to use. As a result the combined influence of playing online poker and access to poker books has substantially raised the average skill level of the common poker player. The more poker you play, the more books you should read, but without one the other is of little use.
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