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Patch asked me to do a book review for linking to the FAQ and this is it. I've attempted to include the hold'em books that represent the best and/or best known hold'em books. I hope this will be of some value to beginners and maybe even to some intermediate players. Of course, everyone is invited to comment and we can use those comments to improve future versions of the book review.

Note that these reviews are only for hold'em. Some of the books reviewed do contain substantial non-hold'em sections but I only consider the hold'em portions. The following books are reviewed in more detail below:

1. Limit Hold'Em (for Beginning Players)
* Ed Miller, "Getting Started in Hold'Em" (GSIH)
* Lee Jones, "Winning Low Limit Hold'em"
* David Sklansky, "Hold'Em Poker"

2. Limit Hold'Em (for Intermediate/Advanced Players)
* Miller, Sklansky, & Malmuth, "Small Stakes Hold'Em" (SSH)
* Sklansky & Malmuth, :Hold'Em Poker for Advanced Players" (HPFAP)
* Gary Carson, "Hold'Em Poker"
* King Yao, "Weighing the Odds in Hold'Em Poker"

3. No Limit & Tournament
* Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, "Harrington on Hold'em Vol. 1: Strategic Play" (HOH1)
* Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, "Harrington on Hold'em Vol. 2: Endgame" (HOH2)
* Doyle Brunson & Friends, "Super System" -- 1979 edition (SS or S/S)
* Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone, "Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker"
* David Sklansky, "Tournament Poker for Advanced Players"
* McEveoy & Cloutier, "Championship No Limit & Pot Limit Hold'Em"

4. Other
* Sklansky, "The Theory of Poker" (TOP)
* Mike Caro, "Caro's Book of Poker Tells"
* Alan Schoonmaker, "The Psychology of Poker"
* John Feeney and David Sklansky, "Inside the Poker Mind"

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1. Limit Hold'Em (for Beginning Players)

There are a number of beginner books out there and most of them represent a considerable improvement over attempting to learn on your own. Probably the best way to choose is just to browse at a bookstore and pick one or two that look good. That said, Ed Miller's book is among the first you should buy, and the Lee Jones book pretty much sets the standard for this category.

Ed Miller, "Getting Started in Hold'Em" (GSIH)

The heart of this book consists of nine example hands that are used to demonstrate and explain key limit hold'em concepts. Their purpose is to teach the reader how to think about playing hold'em rather than just tell him what to do, as most beginner books do. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for a standard how-to book when you are a beginner. I'd recommend reading Miller in conjunction with one of these (such as Lee Jones' book).

This book also has an interesting introduction to no limit play. In particular, it suggests a strategy for beginners that involves intentionally playing short stacked, which has generated some controversy. In any event, the no limit section provides a nice introduction to no limit. Overall, this book should be read by all beginning players, and would be a worthwhile read for most intermediate and advanced players.

Lee Jones, "Winning Low Limit Hold'em"

This is a solid and straightforward how-to book. It simply gets the job done, giving you a decent chance to win money (or at least break even) while you are still figuring out how to play this crazy game. And... Phil Hellmuth makes no money when you buy this book. (Note: This review is for the 2nd edition, but the 3rd edition was recently released)

David Sklansky, "Hold'Em Poker"

I'm including this primarily for historical interest. Originally published in 1976, this was the first definitive book on hold'em (according to its back cover). In particular, it introduced the Sklansky hand rankings/groups. It is still worth reading today, but at the same time it has really been made redundant by more recent books (some by Sklansky himself). It's still worthwhile reading for beginners, but don't start with it.

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2. Limit Hold'Em (for Intermediate/Advanced Players)

The recent poker explosion has been kind to this category, and I can only cover a few of them. Sklansky and Malmuth wrote the original classic that defines this category, but there are some new challengers to the throne. In particular, their collaboration with Ed Miller produced a new classic for limit poker and especially the profitable loose games.

Miller, Sklansky, & Malmuth, "Small Stakes Hold'Em" (SSH)

The explicit goal of this book is to help expert players maximize their earnings against less expert opponents, especially of the loose variety. It succeeds very well in this respect, stressing the importance of value betting and focusing on equity concepts. It also succeeds as a more general limit book. Particular strengths of the book are the discussion of pre-flop strategy and how to play overcards. The discussion of how to count outs is the best around, providing a practical method for including overcards and backdoor draws. In short, it's a must read for serious limit players.

Sklansky & Malmuth, "Hold'Em Poker for Advanced Players" (HPFAP)

This book assumes you understand the main concepts and proceeds to cover all the tactics you'll need to know and when to use them: semi-bluffing, slowplaying, the free card play, etc. Originally published in 1988, it was the bible for good players playing against tough competition. More recent editions added a section on loose games which has received mixed reviews. They also expanded the section on short handed play which is excellent. The competition has closed the gap on this book, but it is still the standard limit hold'em reference.

Gary Carson, "Hold'Em Poker"

This book could also be classified as a beginner's book, but should not be among the first two or three books read. It's strength is in providing a theoretical framework for playing in loose games, explaining for example that strong draws are often more desirable than made hands. Perhaps the best testimonial for this book is the fact that many of its ideas were included or co-opted by Miller, Sklansky, & Malmuth in "Small Stakes Hold'Em". At the same time, "Small Stakes Hold'Em" overall is superior to this book, making it less important, though certainly still worth reading.

King Yao, "Weighing the Odds in Hold'Em Poker"

If the above is not enough and you still need more, this book is a solid choice. Its strengths are simply that it is comprehensive and well written. In contrast to some books, it never asks "Do you see why?". It simply presents concepts and then provides relevant examples. It includes a nice section on playing in short hand games.

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3. No Limit & Tournament

Since no limit and tournaments usually go together nowadays, I'm putting them in a combined group. As far as no limit tournaments are concerned, by far the best books in this category are the two by Harrington and Robertie. As far as cash no limit is concerned, Reuben & Ciaffone's book is probably the best, but Doyle Brunson's is still a classic.

Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, "Harrington on Hold'em Vol. 1: Strategic Play" (HOH1)
Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, "Harrington on Hold'em Vol. 2: Endgame" (HOH2)


Taken together, these books cover no limit tournament strategy from the early stages when stack sizes are large relative to the blinds (Vol. 1) to the endgame, when stack sizes become small relative to the blinds and the prize structure becomes important (Vol. 2). Vol. 1 may also serve as an introduction to no limit cash games, where the stacks are generally relatively large, though it is of limited use for true deep stack poker where stacks are 100 times the big blind or larger.

The format of the books is to first present a concept and then several relevant examples. The result is a well written book that can be understood by beginners yet is sophisticated enough that most intermediate/advanced players will find the book worth their time.

While covering nearly all aspects of tournament play, the most important innovation of this book is it's explanation of play as stack sizes become small relative to the blinds. While the general strategy required for this situation were already well known, this was the first book to give a clear explanation of what adjustments to make and when to make them. This has made the book particularly indispensable as a guide for single table tournaments.

Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone, "Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker"

This is probably the best book for cash no limit games, especially where the stacks are deep (100 times the big blind). This book actually covers a number of other games (including Omaha and Stud) so that the portion dedicated to hold'em is not that large. Nevertheless, it provides a good discussion of key concepts such as position and stack size as they relate to hold'em. It isn't a particularly easy read and assumes at least an intermediate level of experience.

Doyle Brunson & Friends, "Super System" -- Original 1979 version (SS or S/S)

The most famous poker book ever, Brunson published this in 1979 on the heels of his two victories in the World Series of Poker. This book actually covers several different games and features a number of co-authors, but it is primarily known for Brunson's chapter on no limit hold'em.

All in all, the no limit chapter could be better and has largely been surpassed by more recent books (such as the above) but it is a worthwhile read for most no limit players. The bottom line is that it's a poker classic and is still loved by many of today's players. (Note: Super System II was released in 2004, but this review is for the original Super System. Apparently, the no limit chapter was little different than in the original.)

David Sklansky, "Tournament Poker for Advanced Players"

This book provides an excellent discussion of tournament concepts, but is limited in terms of practical application to no limit tournaments. For most players, this book was made largely irrelevant by the release of the Harrington & Robertie books.

McEveoy & Cloutier, "Championship No Limit & Pot Limit Hold'Em"

T.J. Cloutier is one of the better known tournament pros and this book mostly consists of his anecdotes interspersed with (often questionable) advice on strategy. I include it here only because it is fairly well known and some people like it. I would not personally recommend it for strategy advice, but some may find the anecdotes interesting.

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4. Other

This is the miscellaneous section. The most significant book here by far is Sklansky's "The Theory of Poker" which is a must read for any serious poker player. Nevertheless, the others here are also worth reading.

Sklansky, "The Theory of Poker" (TOP)

The name says it all. Unlike most poker books, this book does not tell you how to play, it tells you what you should be thinking about when you play. For example, under which conditions should you slowplay? Other topics include semi-bluffing, the free card play, inducing bluffs, and heads up play on the river. Examples are not just from hold'em but include draw, stud, and razz. Overall, this book is just a classic and if you are a serious player you'll buy it and read it several times.

Mike Caro, "Caro's Book of Poker Tells"

This book shows you how to interpret the body language of opponents in live poker games, helping to determine whether they are bluffing or whether they have the goods. For example, it explains that shaking hands generally indicate a huge hand. To a large degree, this is the kind of thing that can't be learned from a book. But to the extent it can, this is your book.

Alan Schoonmaker, "The Psychology of Poker"
John Feeney and David Sklansky, "Inside the Poker Mind"


These are two "big picture" books, often categorized as "Psychology of Poker" as in the title of the first book. They are intended for advanced players who understand basic strategy but need a better understanding of bankroll management, motivation (of self and others), dealing with tilt, etc.
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Nice work Spy. Don't take it as criticism of what you tried to do but I do have one major disagreement.

Mike Caro, "Caro's Book of Poker Tells"

This book shows you how to interpret the body language of opponents in live poker games, helping to determine whether they are bluffing or whether they have the goods. For example, it explains that shaking hands generally indicate a huge hand. To a large degree, this is the kind of thing that can't be learned from a book. But to the extent it can, this is your book.


I can't agree with this at all. The book is so weak it isn't worth any time at all. The quality of the book is poor and the photographs are useless. The major thrust of the book is built on fallacy.

There is never a single action that is a useful "tell." Or if there is such a tell hanging off a player, it's going to be so easy to take the money from the player, no reading is necessary.

I've been meaning to sit down and try and write something out about this and perhaps I will over the Christmas break (or sooner if I get impatient.) Tells are what we use to know if we can trust Joe Blow when we meet him and decide to do some business. The bigger the business the more important the skill. Tells are what we use to know if the hot stranger is worth the risk of a date and a further invitation to become more intimate. It's never one thing, it's more a feeling we get. That feeling is not random. It's a collection of reads we have on a person. It's a collection of bits of information we get and there are a hundred of them. It's really a form of pattern recognition. And honestly, the smarter we are, the faster we make these reads and the more accurate we are.

The same holds true at a live poker table. It's never one thing. It's the way a player bets over a period of time... is she loose, is she aggressive, is she timid, is she crazy. On top of that, is she particularly eager this hand, is she doing something just slightly different than the 30 hands before, is she moving her eyes just a slight bit towards the pot, is she holding her cards in her hand, etc, etc, etc. It's about patterns and are her patterns different on this particular play and if they are, does that mean her hand is better than normal or worse?

It's not anywhere near as simple as whether or not a player is looking bored at the table, or interested, or stacking her chips in a certain way or any one big thing that Caro tries to sell. He is selling and I think we should save starting players the cost of this book. I'll bet Mike Caro has dated a lot of crazy women in his life if he uses the tells he describes in his book. Really crazy chicks.

I recommend that Caro's book be given a negative review, not even a neutral review.

Rick
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Good work. I would nominate Middle Limit Holdem Poker by Bob Ciaffone and Jim Brier to be added to the Intermediate/Advanced section. The conceptual discussions are invaluable. Most importantly, the book teaches you to save money by not overvaluing your draws, to avoid giving up value by trying to play too cute and creative, and when a bluff has a good chance of success. Priority reading.
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Mike Caro, "Caro's Book of Poker Tells"

This book shows you how to interpret the body language of opponents in live poker games, helping to determine whether they are bluffing or whether they have the goods. For example, it explains that shaking hands generally indicate a huge hand. To a large degree, this is the kind of thing that can't be learned from a book. But to the extent it can, this is your book.


I can't agree with this at all. The book is so weak it isn't worth any time at all. The quality of the book is poor and the photographs are useless. The major thrust of the book is built on fallacy.


I have to disagree with Rick here. Well, I agree that the quality of the book is poor and that the photographs are useless. The MCU charts are also unnecessary. However, I think the ideas presented are in aggregate extremely valuable. I'll give an example in a following thread.
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I think this thread should have its own sidebar space, so anyone that wants to write or discuss a review should just add to it.

So Relentless, if you want to write up MLHE please do.
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I have to disagree with Rick here.

I'll agree with him. I had actually been putting together a post for the UK fool board on this subject, but was having trouble articulating it.

I think Caro's book teaches people to look for the "oreo cookie" style tells. The "out there, in your face, so obvious you can't miss it" tells that almost nobody in the real world actually has.

Sure, if a guy is so bad that he sits there staring at the TV for 45 minutes and then perks up, leans forward, and grabs his chips when he gets AA, then the book is useful. Of course if you needed a book to tell you that guy hit a hand, then you have other problems.

Tells are, as Rick said, an aggregate of behavior. In the normal course of interacting with people, our bodies offer and interpret subtle signals that help us form our opinions of each other. A tell is when the signals change. Far more often than not, it isn't an obvious action. It's just a sense you get that something isn't right. Something in your opponent's behavior is different than what you expected based on his previous behavior.

Caro's book boiled down to 1 simple idea - opponents are trying to deceive you, and in that effort, often act opposite their true strength. That's good to know, and it is true, but it doesn't take a couple hundred pages to make the point. Furthermore, only the most oafish opponents are going to be obvious in their deception. Most good players I have played against seem to prefer randomizing play to hide their true strength rather than trying to win an academy award broadcasting fake tells.

I think you'll get more out of observing betting patterns over time and paying attention to your intuition than you will looking for a laundry list of obvious physical tells.

Personally, had I to do it over again, I would skip Caro's book.

Steve
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Trick: I recommend that Caro's book be given a negative review, not even a neutral review.

Rick, This seems a little harsh to me, but I see what you are saying (and I did note that this is not really something that can be learned from a book). Personally, I didn't get a lot out of this book, but some people swear by it and it is pretty well known -- that's really all I was trying to communicate. And you have to admit, the photos are pretty funny...

But I am not offended by the criticism at all and would certainly encourage everyone to offer alternative viewpoints. Of course, if you mess with Ed Miller, I will defend him to the death!

TMFRelentless: I would nominate Middle Limit Holdem Poker by Bob Ciaffone and Jim Brier to be added to the Intermediate/Advanced section.

Cool. I haven't read this book (among others), so the omission doesn't imply anything negative. Like Patch, I would definitely encourage everyone to add their own reviews here. One obvious one that I left out (b/c it was non-hold-em) was Ray Zee's High/Low book (for Omaha/Stud). Someone should take a shot at that (even though I limited my review to hold'em, I think all poker books are fair game here).
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awesome, I would just add a section for "other recommended books to read" - Middle Limit Hold Em -- Brier and Ciaffone.

And people can add others, of course.

Naj
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Nice work Spy.

Phil Gordon's Little Green Book would be a good one to add to the No Limit/Tourney section.

Eric
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Miller, Sklansky, & Malmuth, "Small Stakes Hold'Em" (SSH)

The explicit goal of this book is to help expert players maximize their earnings against less expert opponents, especially of the loose variety. It succeeds very well in this respect, stressing the importance of value betting and focusing on equity concepts. It also succeeds as a more general limit book. Particular strengths of the book are the discussion of pre-flop strategy and how to play overcards. The discussion of how to count outs is the best around, providing a practical method for including overcards and backdoor draws. In short, it's a must read for serious limit players.


Yesterday's discussion of the 6-way, top pair, weak kicker, weak draw hand got me thinking about Ed Miller again, as this hand and the way I described how I'd play it I thought was very "Millerian" so I went back and reread most of the book last night.

I cannot overestimate how good this book is, and I think it remains very underappreciated despite the positive reviews it receives. I think the book has a terrible title that is very misleading, as it seems like kind of a beginners book, and I think that's what people sort of assume when they see it. What differentiates it is that the style is advocates is really hyper-aggressive, and there are a lot of people ou there and on this board who say they like this book, but I don't think they really appeciate a lot of the advice from the book, at least based on how they analyze poker situations.

More specifically on what I like about what is in this book is his advice on how you have to think systematically differently in large pots vs. small pots, and how big the relative errors can be. This is hugely important, and I don't think I've seen in appropriately addressed elsewhere. Other highlights are his approach to protecting hands, free card plays, and the shifts in edges throughout hands and how this should affect when you raise (i.e. two overcard pair hands chapter).

To give people a better idea of key Miller strategy, I have always loved this 2+2 post (http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Number=462860&page=&view=&sb=5&o=):

There was a post just this morning where someone limped in with A3s on the button after two limpers. The big blind raise behind and everyone called. The flop was AQ2, and the action went BB bet, one limper called, and it was your action. You have top frickin pair in a big (i.e. raised) pot, and it is one bet to you. The BB's bet shows no more strength than what he showed when he raised before the flop. He could easily have KQ or TT or 76s. The limper called... that means he has.. well, two cards. You are getting 11-1 on a call, and did I mention that you have top frickin pair?

And yet half (or more) of the advice told him to fold. TERRIBLE! Horrible, terrible, wretched poker advice. The pot is big, you have a good hand, no one has shown any real strength, and you are gonna bail? Absurd. Yes, sometimes the raiser will have AQ and you'll lose a couple of bets. But the pot is already way bigger than a "couple of bets." And when you have the raiser beaten, he's gonna be the one losing a couple of bets to you when he pays YOU off with his KK or whatever.

WHEN THE POT IS BIG DO NOT FOLD DECENT HANDS FOR ONE BET! Just stop doing it.


Anyway, just thought I would share. After reading Yao I was thinking I liked that book better, but after reviewing Miller I changed my mind. Maybe if I read Yao again I'll change my mind again, we'll see.
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WHEN THE POT IS BIG DO NOT FOLD DECENT HANDS FOR ONE BET! Just stop doing it.

At work so I can't see the thread, but did anybody point out that Miller would probably tell you not only to avoid folding but rather to raise instead of call? I really like that first page of the post-flop section.

dan
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WHEN THE POT IS BIG DO NOT FOLD DECENT HANDS FOR ONE BET! Just stop doing it.

Fair nuff, but I think the big differences between this hand (A3s) and the other hand (Q8s) are that

(1) you have better prospects for getting to the showdown cheaply w/ A3s, and

(2) you are relatively unlikely to get outdrawn w/ A3s if you are ahead
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Fair nuff, but I think the big differences between this hand (A3s) and the other hand (Q8s) are that

(1) you have better prospects for getting to the showdown cheaply w/ A3s, and

(2) you are relatively unlikely to get outdrawn w/ A3s if you are ahead


Yes, always tough to compare two completely different hands.

But to me the big difference is in the A3 hand we've already seen post flop betting, in the Q8 hand, no one has even bet yet. In fact, say you check the Q8 hand and it is one bet to you, you are getting a much bigger overlay than in the A3 hand which has to partially offset the more drawy nature of the board. With the Q8 hand, you are likely going to be offered 14 to 1 to call, or worst case say 8 to 1. I can't conceive that you have worse than 11% equity, though the reverse implied odds are a bit difficult to value. Still though, if a scary card comes off it should be pretty easy to limit the damage.
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In fact, say you check the Q8 hand and it is one bet to you, you are getting a much bigger overlay than in the A3 hand which has to partially offset the more drawy nature of the board.

Right, I'm not saying auto check-fold the Q8. If I could close the betting for a single bet, I'm definitely calling.
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7 Card Stud Curriculum by TMFRelentless:

http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=23668866
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Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone, "Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker"


This one seems to be out of print now. I'm playing some online poker now, trying to pick up the fundamentals. If anyone has any new suggestions on books that have been published since the end of 2005 let me know!
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Stewart Reuben & Bob Ciaffone, "Pot-Limit & No-Limit Poker"

This one seems to be out of print now.


Did you type "ciafone"? That is what I did accidentally at Amazon and got nothing.

Since the book review, however, Sklansky/Miller came out with an NL book that is awesome IMO, but also pretty high level.

Also, there is a new NL book by Flynn/Mehta/Miller. I just ordered it. Take this for what it's worth, but with out seeing it I'm almost 100% sure it will be awesome based on who is writing it.

Just depends on your level also, which I have no idea about.
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Hmm, actually its available at amazon.com now that I check again. But Barnesandnoble.com doesn't carry it anymore. Strange.
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Professional No-Limit Hold'em Vol 1 should be the first book an aspiring no-limit hold'em player reads.

Much better a starter than Super/System (doesn't provide enough concrete examples, overvalues suited connectors, undervalues big pairs), better than Ciaffone/Reuben PL&NL Poker (covers many other types of games), and SPR is a vital concept that is not mentioned directly in other books.
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anyone want to update some of the later books?
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