Since this site launched about two months ago, readers of the blog and listeners and of the podcast have consistently asked what poker books I recommend reading to start out. Well I've finally gotten around to publicly displaying what I think are the five most useful poker books for those working on playing live low stakes no limit hold-em. Next to each book you'll find a short description as to why that particular book is essential, and these are listed in order of importance. I personally reference all of the books on a regular basis for coaching as well as my own personal study and consider all of these invaluable resources.
1) The Theory of Poker has been the classic poker book ever since it came out in 1999. Instead of focusing on one particular variant or aspect of poker, Sklansky covers all the core aspects of playing many of the most common variants of poker. He successfully introduces fundamental concepts like pot odds, position, and game theory in a way that is accessible to someone who has never played poker, yet still offers depth on these topics for seasoned players. If you had to just read one poker book, this would be it.
2) Playing the Player is the gold-standard of poker books when it comes to clearly explaining the most common types of players you will encounter when playing live, low stakes poker in the United States. In each chapter Miller writes about a different player type telling the reader a) how to spot the tell-tale signs of this player, b) what the leaks in this player's game are, c) and then most importantly, how to specifically exploit this type of opponent. This is a must-read before stepping foot inside any card room
3) The Mental Game of Poker is most different from all the others. It doesn't actually deal at all with poker strategy, but in how to implement the strategy you'd pick up somewhere else effectively and consistently at the tables. At first, understanding the game should be top priority for improving as a poker player. But even for players that still have a long way to go in feeling comfortable at $1/2, reading and working through the exercises Tendler recommends for 20-45 minutes each day will likely boost your hourly rate at a much faster pace than purely studying poker strategy.
4) Poker's 1% seeks to simplify the crucial, yet challenging, topic of thinking about what you would do with your entire range in a given spot, as opposed to just the individual hand you have at the moment. Ed Miller is the best in the business at explaining difficult poker concepts in as plain-language as possible and this book is no exception. He clearly demonstrates the benefits of thinking about constructing ranges in terms of frequencies, and spends the remainder of the book reinforcing this 'secret' of elite players. While implementing these concepts into your game takes a lot of hard work and can be quite difficult, simply reading this book and understanding his argument will provide immediate benefits to your game.
5) Applications of No-Limit Hold 'Em came last for a reason: it's really meant for more advanced and experienced players. In Applications, Janda exhaustively expands upon the concepts presented in Poker's 1%: In every spot you find yourself in he considers all the different possible options and their relative merits. Before deciding which individual hands to put in each range, he explains all the theoretically sound reasons for what percentage of hands should go into each range. Furthermore, Janda gives copious examples of what he would do with every hand in his range for a variety of different spots, with the accompanying reasoning all rooted in game theory. For the player already familiar with game theory and ranges, putting some study into just a few of the chapters in this book will have lasting wonders on your theoretical understanding of poker.
While we certainly only recommend books we believe are essential to any serious poker player, we would like to make it clear that we make a small commission on any Amazon purchases linked to from our site. That being said, these are truly must-reads and their purchase is a great way to support the podcast.