The Best Poker Books for Improving (and Expanding) Your Game

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Overview

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Mental Game

Poker is an emotional pastime. Large sums of money come and go, and egos run wild as bankrolls fluctuate and championships are awarded.

Don’t hop onto a roller coaster like that without being prepared for the ride ahead.

An overemotional (or “tilted”) poker session can be disastrous for your overall results. Many otherwise competent players can recklessly lose their whole bankroll when their mental game isn’t sharp, leaving them unable to continue playing without a loan or staking arrangement.

It’s hard to imagine a more counterproductive issue, but it’s one that most players neglect.

If you can keep your head level through the inevitable swings of poker (including upswings!), you’ll not only have an edge on your less mindful opponents, but you’ll protect your bankroll and keep yourself in the game on your own terms. This keeps you on a path towards achieving your poker goals, and the ups and downs of the game will be less jarring for your psyche.

Many would agree that the gold standard in mental game literature is Jared Tendler’s The Mental Game of Poker.

After reading it (or listening to the audiobook, which you can get for free with an Audible trial as a new customer), you’ll have new insight into your own tendencies and you’ll be on a path towards not letting this emotional card game get the best of you.

Especially if you’re playing a high-variance form of poker like Pot Limit Omaha or multi-table tournaments, having a strong mental game is crucial for sustainable success. Make sure it’s part of your study plan, in addition to the more nuts-and-bolts strategic material below.

Big Bet Games

No Limit Hold ‘Em (NLHE)

As the most popular poker variant of recent history, no limit hold ‘em is also the most written-about poker game.

That means there’s an enormous body of literature to navigate.

However, there is one book that everyone but absolute beginners would probably gain the most from: Matthew Janda’s No Limit Hold ‘Em for Advanced Players. It won’t walk readers through the utter basics, but it will catch readers up with modern NLHE strategy with exceptional efficiency.

Another relatively accessible primer on modern NLHE strategy is a somewhat unusual recommendation for PokerSyllabus, with it not being a book.

PokerSnowie is an interactive poker AI whose training features are not only edifying but a lot of fun, too.

PokerSnowie Free Trial

After downloading the free trial or paying for full access, you’ll be able to play both cash games and tournaments against PokerSnowie that include real-time feedback. There are also advanced tools for analyzing your play. Overall, it’s one of the most engaging ways to learn modern NLHE strategy.

Check out PokerSnowie in action on the Twitch channel of Poker Syllabus’s own Devin Wilson!

Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)

From the venerable poker strategy publisher Two Plus Two, William Jockusch’s underrated Pot-Limit Omaha: Understanding Winning Play may have suffered from being published at an awkward time. It came out before PLO’s peak in popularity, but after books began to decline as most players’ preferred study material.

Regardless of any timing with regard to the market, this volume offers the best PLO foundation available to inexperienced players, due to its uniquely robust and digestible advice for a variety of common situations.

For this form, price, and learning level, there is likely no more comprehensive resource for becoming competitive at the PLO tables.

Also, perhaps more impressively: the book lays out a clear, actionable path for players to continue to improve after finishing the book.

Even as sophisticated resources increase in availability and knowledge of PLO evolves, Jockusch’s book is an immensely valuable resource for those still developing the fundamentals of their PLO play. Despite its relative age, Jockusch’s book aligns better with modern, solver-based insights than some other written materials do.

Speaking of, insights from the aforementioned Janda NLHE book—and even PokerSnowie—will be more applicable to PLO than you might expect. Consider adding them to your training library too, even if NLHE isn’t your main game.

Love PLO? Poker Syllabus’s Devin Wilson makes PLO videos like the one above! Check him out on YouTube and Twitch.

HORSE Mix: Fixed Limits, Studs, and Split Pots

A wide scope of poker knowledge is demanded by the commonly-played HORSE mix (whether by itself or as part of 8-game, which includes the above Big Bet games plus Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw).

Thankfully, it doesn’t take shelves upon shelves of books to get familiarized with most of the HORSE mix.

Many players will still recommend old Two Plus Two classics for these games: first, Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players by Sklansky, Malmuth, and Zee. Not only does this book cover the “S” of the HORSE mix, it lays a foundation for the other two stud games in the rotation (though they get more detailed treatment in other volumes). (For a somewhat more compact introduction to Seven-Card Stud strategy, you could also check out the legendary Chip Reese’s chapter of the original Super System.)

Speaking of, you can cover the “R” of HORSE—Razz—by reading Sklansky on Poker, which features a helpful chapter on Razz.

Continuing with the theme of 7CS4AP co-authors helping with other areas of HORSE, there is a single book that covers an additional 40% of the HORSE mix (bringing us to 80%): Ray Zee’s High-Low-Split Poker: Seven-Card Stud and Omaha Eight-or-Better for Advanced Players (the “E” and “O” of HORSE, respectively).

Brushing up on the final 20% of HORSE: fixed limit hold ’em—the “H” of the mix—is somewhat less obvious. But read on to the next section for a workable recommendation that will also prepare you for the 8-game mix!

8-Game and Beyond

Mixed games don’t stop at the five-game HORSE rotation. The canonical “8-game mix” is increasingly common, perhaps being best known as the format of the Poker Player’s Championship at the World Series of Poker.

Resources for six of the eight games in the mix are listed above already, and you can round out your knowledge efficiently with a copy of Super System 2. Jennifer Harman’s chapter on fixed limit hold ’em (a game she won a WSOP bracelet in!) is not going to be the most comprehensive printed matter on the game, but that combined with Daniel Negreanu’s Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw chapter should at least keep you from making expensive mistakes in the eight-game mix. Successfully applying their insights (and studying further) will almost assuredly give you the tools necessary to beat low stakes games with this mix.

Poker doesn’t stop at these eight games though!

For some other games that are available in other mixes, you may want to check out Barry Greenstein’s The Badugi Chapter as well as Jim Donahue’s simply-titled book on the increasingly popular (and very enjoyable) game of Dramaha.

In the midst of all of your study with the above materials… remember to enjoy the game!

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