Which poker books are the “best”? How do we know what poker books we should be reading? Are the authors washed up and not providing current advice? These are all tough questions to answer, but I’ll take a swing :). One thing I can guarentee you is, if you type in “best poker books” on google you will fall right into the marketers trap. Unfortunately, the best marketed books don’t always have the best content. In fact, there has been an increasing movement among authors in this field to self publish due to the incredibly high royalty cuts that distributors websites take just to rank highest for “best poker books”. I talk extensively about this in my post on poker book sales.
The biggest mistake consumers make when trying to decide which book to buy is, they ask the wrong question, in the wrong place. For example, I see players who pop over to 2 plus 2 poker and ask what poker book should I buy? Then, I see responses that are frequently from people who are trying to drive the sales of their own books or they have friends who are helping them drive their books sales. Mason Malmuth explicitly prevents authors from directly plugging their own books, but that doesn’t stop lots of indirect plugs.
1) Does the author currently play in the games they are writing about?
I don’t mean to say that for an author to be relevant talking about mid-stakes poker they need to be currently playing in those games, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Many of today’s most well known authors about the game are effectively professional authors. Unfortunately, those authors may not be able to provide you the kind of in-depth analysis you need to compete against modern highly skilled players.
2) Is this a cutting edge book or decade old content?
In my opinion most poker literature lags behind the changes that are happening in real time at the tables. Unfortunately, for an aspiring player this means if you are trying to get better by reading a ton of books you will always be one step behind. Learning to innovate is the key!
2) Is the focus of the book on concepts or on examples?
Poker books that are heavily loaded with examples tend to become extremely dated quickly. Poker has changed so much in the past 5 years alone that it would make any examples prior to that mostly useless. Generally speaking the more a book focuses on concepts and ways of thinking about the game the better. As I mentioned above most poker literature tends to lag behind actual play. In Exploitive No Limit Holdem I focused on theory and didn’t include a tremendous number of examples. The examples are related directly to theoretical points.
Before picking a poker book its important to determine the goals of the purchase. One important question to ask is, what is your biggest strength/weakness as a poker player? This is a great question to ask prior to deciding what book to invest in. If your problems are mental, a poker strategy book might not help you – it would be better to buy a book focused on the mental game. If your redline is swooning then you may want to find a book that is focused on increasing your aggression in a calculated manner (this should include GTO and Exploitive suggestions). For players that are extremely creative and have a solid grasp of the fundamentals I would encourage them to focus on exploitive strategies. Here are a couple of other key points.
One other word of advice, nver pay more than a $100-$200 for a poker book. Frankly, most of the best books are in the $20-$60 price range. There are a couple notable examples of extremely overpriced poker books, but those are outside of the norm. These books were essentially marketing scams and not a good product for consumers. The reality is that you pay for what you get, up to a point. At some point paying more is simply throwing money away – in the poker book market that level is around $100. In fact, I don’t think you should be paying more than $60. However, I raised the number because if a good author came out with a solid book for $90 or $110, that might still be value.
Hope you guys are crushing it out there on the poker tables – today’s games remain a challenging place to make money. Best!
I started writing Exploitive NLHE: An Experts Insight on How to become a Winning Poker Player in the fall of 2012. The process has been simultaneously incredibly rewarding and frustrating. I decided to write Exploitive NLHE because I enjoy the process of teaching and sharing with others, and I feel that many can benefit from my extensive poker experience. Writing the book was fun, but explaining the complexities of poker in words was significantly more challenging than I had anticipated. Now that I am done, I can happily say that the final product turned out significantly better than I anticipated, and I hope that my readers will enjoy reading it. There is a ton of great material in this book for online and live players who are striving to deepen their understanding of NLHE. For those of you who are wondering what it was like to write, edit, and publish a poker book, I am sharing my insights below.