The Best Poker Books ever Written

In this article I will take a look at the books that have shaped the current poker world. These books are divided into two distinct categories, the first of which will focus on the strategy tomes that have been released over the years that have caused a drastic shift in the way poker is played. The second category will focus on the poker books that deal with non-strategic aspects of the game like the personalities, history of the game, and stories.

The Best Poker Strategy Books

The following list does not constitute what I feel are “the best” poker strategy books (I would now substitute Jonathan Little’s Secrets of Tournament Poker for Harrington on Holdem for instance) but the books that had the biggest impact on the game at the time they were published.

Super System, by Doyle Brunson et al

Super System wasn’t the first strategy book ever written, but it was by far the most in-depth and altered the game almost instantly. Brunson and Company’s no-nonsense approach detailing why they win and you don’t must have hit readers like a slap in the face.

40 years later, Super System is likely the first book that will come to a poker player’s mind when asked about poker strategy books.

Holdem Poker for Advanced Players, by David Sklansky

Holdem Poker for Advanced Players changed the way people thought about the different strategies and concepts they were employing at the limit Holdem tables. Although the strategies and concepts are somewhat outdated in today’s poker world, if you do find yourself in a loose Limit Holdem game you can still clean-up employing the strategies laid-out in HPFAP.

Theory of Poker, by David Sklansky

Theory of Poker was the first book that tackled the universal strategies in poker, whether the game was Limit Holdem, Pot Limit Omaha, or 7-Card-Stud. Theory of Poker also conceptualized what winning players had been doing intuitively for years, allowing them to better understand the strategies and theories and perfect them further.

If you want to understand how far poker strategy has come over the past decade, Theory of poker was once considered an “advanced” book, whereas in today’s poker world the concepts outlined are considered common knowledge.

Small Stakes Holdem, By Ed Miller

Small Stakes Holdem was basically an updated version of Holdem Poker for Advanced Players combined with Theory of Poker. Miller’s first contribution to poker bookshelves was the first step in making Limit Holdem a “solved” game, and introduced new ways of looking at math while at the tables.

Caro’s Book of Poker Tells, by Mike Caro

This book is timeless thanks to human nature, and in the decades since the first printing of Caro’s Book of Poker Tells a slew of new poker players have sat down at a table and given off the very tells and body cues explained in this book.

Harrington on Holdem, by Dan Harrington

Harrington on Holdem was the first definitive tournament strategy book ever published, and remains a favorite for beginning players to this day –where most strategy books have a shelf-life of a year or two, HOH has managed to remain relevant.

Let There be Range, by Tri Nguyen and Cole South

With a $1,850 price-tag Let There be Range ushered in a new type of poker strategy book: the expensive E-Book. This book changed the way poker books were priced and how they were published based on what was offered within their pages.

The Best Non-Strategy Poker Books

Positively Fifth Street, by James McManus

The story of Ted Binion’s murder interwoven with McManus’ run to the final table of the 2000 World Series of Poker makes for a very interesting read from start to finish. Not only is this a great poker book, but Positively Fifth Street is simply a great book that anyone (poker player or not) will love.

Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker, by James McManus

This book is a must-read for any poker enthusiast, and sheds some light on the game’s history, the individuals responsible for the rise (and sometimes fall) of poker, and how the game has changed over the years. Cowboys Full is the quintessential book on poker history.

The Biggest Game in Town, by Al Alvarez

The UK author was the first to take a look behind the curtain and detail the lives of the best poker players in the world. Set with a backdrop of the WSOP the book looks at the life of poker players from an outsider’s perspective.

Big Deal, By Anthony Holden

Holden, another UK author, decided that after being the last Brit standing in the WSOP Main Event he would undertake the daunting challenge of spending a year as a professional poker player; at the same time chronicling his ups and downs (mostly downs) for a book. The result was Big Deal.

Education of a Poker Player, by Herbert O’Yardley

When you think of interesting people in history one name that should surely come to mind is Herbert O’Yardley. Intertwined with his autobiography O’Yardley reveals some of the tips that made him a top-notch poker player in his time.

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything, by Kevin Cook

Cook’s biopic of Alvin Clarence Thomas, known as Titanic Thompson to most, delves into one of the biggest personalities to have ever lived. Titanic was the consummate gambler, con-man, and hustler, who Cook manages to turn into a sympathetic figure despite his exploits that included marrying teenage beauties and killing at least a handful of men.

Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People, by Greg Dinkins

Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People is yet another biography on my list, this one dealing with one of the poker world’s most colorful characters, Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston. Preston was the Daniel Negreanu of his day, bringing poker to the general public when poker was generally viewed in a negative light; with his larger than life personality and fondness of cameras Preston turned into poker’s #1 spokesman in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Ace on the River, by Barry Greenstein

Ace on the River is one part autobiography, two parts of a look into the world of poker professionals, and a dash of strategy. All of these things combined, the book has become one of the best-selling poker books of all-time, and is must-read material for anyone thinking about playing poker seriously.

Fast Company, by Jon Bradshaw

Fast Company details the lives of professional gamblers covering a number of genres including poker. Everyone from Minnesota Fats, to titanic Thompson, to Puggy Pearson, to Bobby Riggs is covered. Bradshaw has a flair for the dramatics, and is accused of embellishing some stories, but when you are writing about the highest-stakes gamblers in the world this is precisely what is needed.

One of a Kind, by Nolan Dalla

One of a Kind details the life and times of the most enigmatic gambler of all-time, Stu Ungar. A complete gambling savant in certain games (Ungar couldn’t even get a Gin game he was so good) but a complete degenerate in other areas. Ungar epitomized everything good and bad about gamblers, and Nolan Dalla does a magnificent job of capturing the human side of this often superhuman man.

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