Before we go any further, I need to explain the criteria I used in the selection process.
First of all, these books aren’t necessarily my favorite ones. A favorite book is, in fact, a very personal thing to say about what you like best. Poker books that helped us learn more about the game should be among our “favorite(s).” Every player has a different set of needs and remedies because we all have different levels of experience and growth. For example, an advanced poker book that talks about complicated ideas might be a good start for people who already know a lot about the game. But for most people who play games for fun and aren’t very good, something much simpler is probably needed. The more advanced strategies might even be dangerous for people who don’t understand the basics of the game.
I think there are about 450 books on poker strategy that are available through Amazon and other places. Many of these books have names and texts that you probably haven’t heard of, and as time goes on, they’ll be forgotten.
Any poker book that helps us better understand the game and makes us think more deeply about how to play is likely to be worth the money. Poker strategy books, even if they give bad advice, are worth reading even if you don’t follow them to the letter.
What I’ve talked about here are the books that had a big impact on the game and changed the way a lot of people thought about it. I talk about books that changed the way poker is played. A lot of the Two Plus Two (2+2) catalog applies here. Some books were so important when they were written that not reading them put people who didn’t know them at a big disadvantage. Most of the books on poker strategy were written by the top-ranked authors, and they made poker strategy clearer than ever before. There’s now little or no debate about what to do and what to play. In addition to making us better players, these master works helped us understand how to make the conclusions we came to be right.
My bet is that you’ll agree with some of these choices, which are obvious and can’t be changed. It doesn’t matter if these other books aren’t very well-known. They helped to shape how great thinkers and players played the game! A few of them have titles that aren’t as well-known, but they still earned the respect of their peers and even helped to change the science of poker thinking.
Critical and public reaction to each of these books had a big impact on whether or not they were included or excluded. To be chosen, each book had to have some level of success. This is how it worked: I think of success as a good review, a big book deal, or both. The best books were well-liked by the critics and also sold a fair amount.
Finally, I thought about the book’s “shelf life.” How long did each book stay useful? Was the book forgotten after only a few years? Or, could the book still be worth reading today?
Our first choice is one that got a “Honorable Mention.” Because each of the top 10 books was chosen in a progressive order, I’ll explain why each one was chosen in more detail. Then, I’ll get to number one.
The Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide by Michael Craig (2007)
“Full Tilt” might be a bad name now and a bad memory for a lot of people who play poker. But there was a time when the Full Tilt Poker pros were the best in the world. Powerful and ambitious, this 437-page strategy guide is organized and overseen by Michael Craig, one of the game’s best writers, with help from many of poker’s most successful pros. It’s top-notch all the way through. A lot of what people say is good if you can get past a few names and not pay attention to how bad they made the game.
Kill Phil by Blair Rodman and Lee Nelson (2005)
For a while, this book changed how poker was played. In particular, it changed how no-limit hold’em tournaments were played. Oversimplifying its main advice, the authors say that the best way to play the game is to be ultra-aggressive, which effectively takes out the game’s best players. Once in a while, when you can, put the best players to the test for all their chips. When I was a kid, three of the best poker players had the same first name: “Phil.” That’s where the title of this book comes from!
Elements of Poker by Tommy Angelo (2007)
There have been a lot of poker books that have made people think outside the box. This is one of them. It should probably be in the top 10, but for some reason, it hasn’t had as many people see it as it should. Angelo, a well-known professional player and coach, looks at poker from 144 different angles. His main idea is called “reciprocality,” which means that if you do something different from what’s normal, you’ll be more successful (or expected). In addition to containing lots of ideas you’ve probably never thought about before, Elements of Poker is also a fun read. It needs a lot more attention.
Little Green Book by Phil Gordon (2009)
A lot of people thought Phil Gordon was a big poker player in the 2000s. This book came out at the height of his fame, right after he was the host of the TV show Celebrity Poker. This was a poker book that was based on a golf book called The Little Green Golf Book by Harvey Penick, which was based on Mao’s Little Red Book, but that’s not the point. The Little Green Book was a big hit. Some people thought it was a shorter version of Dan Harrington’s strategy books. High praise, to be sure.
The Psychology of Poker by Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker (2000)
He is a retired psychologist who likes to play low-risk games in Las Vegas, but he doesn’t play for money. He’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever met. This is what makes him so unique. It makes me think this author cares a lot about certain things. Whenever I see Dr. Schoonmaker around Las Vegas, he talks to other people and listens when they talk about poker, which is important. The Psychology of Poker and Your Worst Poker Enemy: Mastering the Mental Game are two of his best-selling books. They were filtered through his years as a psychologist and his nights at the poker table to come up with this wisdom.