In 1978 Doyle Brunson published one of the first significant poker books, the Super System.
Nearly 45 years later, there are 622 poker books on the market. There must be a good reason why so many authors decided to write them…
Benefits of reading in general
Before we try to answer the question if reading poker books helps to improve your game, let’s look at the scientifically-proven benefits that regular reading gives you:
Reading improves your ability to empathize.
Researchers have shown that reading literary fiction can improve understanding of the feelings and beliefs of others. Researchers call this ability the “theory of mind,”
Here you go, read fiction books and improve your reading skills at a poker table.
Reading reduces stress levels.
In 2009, researchers checked the effects of reading books on stress levels. The study discovered that reading lowers stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate.
Research also shows that regular reading:
- helps to decrease depression symptoms
- increases brain connectivity
- expands your vocabulary
- helps with sleep
- regular book readers live longer
Someone once said:
“When you open a book, you open a new world.”
It’s difficult not to agree with this statement. Unquestionably, books are still an essential part of our lives and have been for centuries. Without books, history, cultures and advancements would have been unknown. Just think about this: how would the World look like if intellectuals never documented their research?
There are many benefits to reading in general, but how does it look like for poker books in particular?
Does reading poker books help your game?
Many known players claim they have never read any poker books. For example, Patrick Antonius once said:
“No one has ever taught me a single thing about poker. I’ve never read a book, not a single page. I’ve never taken a lesson from anyone. It’s very good to play to figure out yourself. You have to use your own imagination, think all of the situations through, and [determine] what would be the best options. When you make mistakes, you try to remember those and not make them again.”
So, is NOT reading poker books the right approach?
This method could undoubtedly work for some poker players who have a lot of free time. However, you will improve your game quicker if you add to your poker routine some studying methods like reading poker books, coaching, reading strategy articles, etc. (at the end of this article, you will find the Pros and Cons of each poker studying method).
When learning from other players, you get ready solutions instead of finding them out through your own experience. Why would you try to work something out that has already been discovered? Avoiding reading poker books is not +EV.
The same applies to anything else that you want to study in life. For example, you learn Mathematics or Latin from other people through courses, books, videos, articles, etc. You don’t try to discover it yourself!
Poker books are packed with authors’ knowledge, advice, and insights. They put on paper their experience that has been acquired through many years of playing poker. It often takes more than a year to write a good poker book, which shows you how thoughtful and valuable the information included in a good poker book is. So definitely, reading the right poker books will help to improve your game.
What categories of poker books are there?
There are several different poker book subcategories. However, we can split them into two main categories:
- Strategy Books (for example, tournaments, cash games, body language)
- Entertaining Books (for example, biography, poker stories)
*You can see the whole list of subcategories here in the menu of this website – ‘Poker Books.’
The Strategy Poker Books are the ones that, in theory, should improve your game — assuming that you choose the right book and correctly apply the lessons taught in the book.
The second of the main categories, Entertaining Books, will most probably not improve your poker game as there are no strategies discussed in those types of books.
What is the best poker book to read?
I see players often ask the question, what is the best Poker book? The truth is that there is no best poker book! But, there is a wrongly asked question. What we should be asking instead is, what is the best poker book FOR ME?
When I started my poker carrier back in 2010, I had no clue about poker and wanted to improve my game asap. I bought ‘Super System,’ which is considered by many as the best poker book. After reading about 30% of the book, I felt that I don’t understand what the author is trying to teach me. How could this be the best poker book?
The problem was that I was not ready for Super System and should have started with a book that was right for me.
Each player has a different level of poker knowledge and can be interested in different kinds of poker games. For an advanced tournament player reading FossilMan’s Winning Tournament Strategies could be most beneficial. Though, for a person who begins their poker carrier, Texas Hold ’em For Dummies would be more exciting and helpful.
Research before buying a poker book
Researching before buying the correct poker book will take you a few minutes, but you will be sure that you will not waste your precious time reading it.
Before you can decide what’s the best poker book for you, you must ask yourself the following questions:
- Which areas of my game need improvement?
- What is the level of my poker knowledge? Be very careful with answering this one, because as we all know, poker players are often exaggerating when it comes to evaluating their poker abilities (it also happened to me).
- Which games am I interested in (Holdem, Omaha, live, online, cash, MTT, etc.)? If something is not appealing to you, there is no need to waste your time and money.
Now that you know the theme of the book, think about the following tips:
Tips to consider before buying a poker book
- Research the author – If the book’s author has been playing poker for a short time and has no authority in the poker world, then the book’s quality could be poor.
- Read the reviews
- Try to find something unique in the book, some new concepts, something different, because there is a lot of duplication among books. Each book has some concepts that are new and can improve your game.
- Read the summary (if available)
- Read the Table of Content (if available)
- Check what other poker players say about the book
- Make sure that the book is not outdated. Although, this one is tricky… let’s give it a closer look:
Can poker books be outdated?
While some poker books can be outdated, especially for advanced players, most poker books do not quickly become ineffective.
The basic poker knowledge related to fundamental logical and mathematical concepts, statistics, or body language has not changed and will probably not change anytime soon. The same applies to history or biography poker books. They will never get outdated!
In addition to the correct poker book selection, you must take extra steps when reading the book:
Tips for reading poker books
- Always be focused on the text
- Quit reading if you are not enjoying or finding it useful
- If you don’t understand something, reread it until you get it
- Make notes while reading
- Implement what you have learned
- Find the reading strategy that suits you
- Read in a distraction-free place
- Not everything in the book is always 100% correct. If you disagree with a specific strategy, that’s is fine. What works for the author doesn’t always have to work for you.
Knowing that reading poker books help and how to choose the correct book, you can check out the categories I have created and see if there is something for you:
What are the alternatives to reading poker books? How else do I get better at poker?
In addition to reading poker books, many other ways can help you to improve your poker game:
- Hire a poker coach
- Complete a poker course
- Study your hand history
- Study hands of other players
- Post your hands for review online
- Watch other players on YouTube, Twitch, or live
- Read poker articles
- Listen to poker podcasts
- Create a Poker Mastermind Group
Each of the above has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at them and see how they compete against reading a poker book:
Reading Poker Books - Pros and Cons
Hiring a poker coach - Pros and Cons
Completing a poker course - Pros and Cons
Studying your hand history - Pros and Cons
Studying hands of other players - Pros and Cons
Posting your hands for review online - Pros and Cons
Watching other players on YouTube, Twitch, or live - Pros and Cons
Reading a poker article - Pros and Cons
Listening to poker podcasts - Pros and Cons
Creating a Poker Mastermind Group - Pros and Cons
As you can see, there are many ways to get better at poker, and reading poker books is one of the top options. Try all of them and see what works for you. Above all, make sure you enjoy it, although studying poker is never as much fun as playing.
Whatever you choose will require a substantial amount of effort. However, your playing will be more FUN after you learn the theory.