Recently, someone asked me to recommend a basic book on poker strategy for him to read. Being an older player, my first thought was to point at the books from the 1940s through the 1970s that covered all the then-common games being played (5-stud, 7-stud, draw poker, the various community-card games–the forerunners of the Hold’em/Omaha family of games). Authors like John Scarne, Oswald Jacoby, A. D. Livingston, David Spanier, Frank Wallace, and Peter Steiner came to mind. The basic strategies of poker are timeless, they can’t change just because some new form of dealing the game comes along.
But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought the strategies may not have changed with the mechanics, but how we need to apply them does change. If we took hop-scotch and added turning a cartwheel in the middle, it would revolutionize the game, wouldn’t it? It would suddenly be far more difficult to master. That’s what the Hold’em/Omaha family of games has done to poker. So, yes, the oldest maxims still apply, but they’ve been altered by the new reality.
I guess the only “modern” poker strategy book I’d be comfortable recommending is Brunson’s Super System because it deals largely with the new family of games. In the 1980s and 1990s, Sklansky and Malmouth wrote several books on strategy at Hold’em, all of them pretty good. Mike Cappelletti wrote several books on Omaha and Omaha High-Low strategy–though he does say “Only a madman would play Omaha High-Low as a no limit game” because of its volatility.
So, if you could only recommend one modern poker strategy book, what would it be?
Actually, I prefer to watch the pros play live poker. Watching live poker shows you what the pros actually do (including their mistakes) in a particular situation. I also enjoy the commentary on the action. This isn’t to say that poker books aren’t helpful, it’s just that I find watching live play to be more interesting and instructive.
At the time Brunson published his book, some players were upset with him because it revealed a lot of trade secrets. This is one of the reasons I prefer watching poker – it reveals more about how to play than will ever be revealed in a book. That said, I am curious about what people think about Hansen’s Every Hand Revealed. I have not read it, and am interested to know if it is worth it.
Brunson advises to always observe what your opponent is doing to get to understand them. Similarly, I think that observing the top players play the game is a good way to understand the game.
Hansen’s book is a fun read but I wouldn’t take much of it’s strategy to the table in today’s environment.
Doyle’s Super System and the SS2 are great but you really need to go to the ‘specialized’ books on each game. Anything by Sklansky and Malmuth are the nuts. I talked to Mason a few times (about the Civil War generals while we were waiting for a game at the Mirage…lol…although he was a regular in the $20-40 holdem game at the Horseshoe during my years there as a dealer and shift boss. A very solid professional player in the nineties when I was around him most days). Played seven-stud with him numerous times.
Another guy that wrote a few books on ohl who was a small-time professional back in those days was Andy Nelson. Can’t vouch for his books as I never looked at more than one but he was a winning pro in the low-limit ohl games around Vegas. Another nice guy.
I started off playing poker as a youngster in Gardena when only five-card draw and lowball were legal in L.A. As outdated as it may seem Fox’s book 'Quit Work Play Poker and Sleep Til Noon is still relevant even though it’s mostly about draw and those days in Gardena. So, I agree that the older books on different games are a good place to start for any player with real ambition. I don’t do tv so I don’t get to watch the current pros. There’s an ancient saying though, times change but people don’t.
Of course RP is a special (free) case where one must adapt their play to the players and circumstances.
Thanks for an inside view, Area51. I guess my favorite “old time player” would be Mike Sexton. Heck of a nice guy, a gentleman, and always a credit to the game…
There is a ton of free download stuff online including some really good books.Here’s a link to Daniel Negreanus’ book
Check out a thread here . The Links Library. and see all that great stuff
Sklansky for Advanced all the way.
…I remember the Sleep till Noon book and another Fox wrote emphasizing the starting-hand tables; can’t recall title.
Tom McEvoy has a good book for beginners and another one for tournaments.
…by the way I have a full box of great poker books for sale, cheep! ask me for a list. Mint Brunson PB copy.
I can’t recommend a good book for learning to play poker, but just for a good read I recommend “Tap City” . An older book but you can still find it around, either online or at a used book store.