According to poker authorities (ie: the WTP), there are at least 100 million poker players throughout the world. One of the most popular ways to play poker is in tournaments, of both small and large stakes. Tournaments can be extremely frustrating because even if you are a better player, its all about strategies and reading your opponents. If you do not have the right tools in your arsenal, no matter how sound your actual game is you will continue to lose at even the smallest of tournaments. We have looked into some of the best books to help you sharpen your mental poker game.
Below you will find what we feel the top 5 books are to help you come out at the top of your tournament, along with a buyers guide to expand on these choices if you want to.
1) Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments by Jonathan Little
In Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments, poker pro turned best-selling-author Jonathan Little goes into the strategies that you have to master to start consistently winning tournaments.
In this book, Little is teaching that in order to eventually go big, you first must master how to win small. Doing that very much lies in the mental game. Fixing the common mistakes people often make in betting is at the heart of this book. Removing these common yet costly issues from your game will make an immediate impact on your rank.
A useful part of this book is that Little shares the strategies many pros use. He explains not only the strategy itself, but why pros tend to use these strategies. Little then goes into how you can learn and implement these strategies seamlessly into your own game, bringing some pro skills to any tournament.
- Easy tips to instantly help your game
- Tips to stop counting on luck and start learning skills
- Learning to identify/fix your own weaknesses
- How to exploit opponents weaknesses
- Betting to win
- Available on Kindle Unlimited
- Audiobook available
- Works best when used with some of Little’s other guides
- Maybe harder for complete novices to follow
2) Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood
Zachary Elwood has written what many feel is the best guide on reading your opponents “tells.” Professional players often talk about poker tells and how they can make or break your game. In Reading Poker Tells, Elwood talks about how the inability to read tells will handicap you before your tournament even begins.
To overcome this issue, Elwood has written about not only the obvious tells, but ones others may never have thought of. He explains that tells are not just in the face, but also in the body, the demeanor and even the very words of your opponents.
After laying out the many ways you can get tells off of the other players, he continues with this foundation. Identifying possible tells is only part of it. You must also be able to interpret and react appropriately to the actions of everyone at your table if you are going to be the one to win and advance through your tournament.
- Goes into common and not common tells
- Explains how to read and exploit opponents tells
- Teaches how to eliminate your own tells
- Explains the psychology needed to be a poker winner
- Available in Audiobook
- Experienced players may find it too basic
- Gets repetitive
- Subjective due to the theme
3) Essential Poker Math, Expanded Edition: Fundamental No Limit Hold’em Mathematics You Need To Know by Alton Hardin
Poker is a numbers game. From what each hand contains to the odds of you getting a Royal flush, through to the wagers, numbers are in every part of poker. Which means that a part of understanding and becoming successful is understanding the math that is involved with these numbers. In this new and improved version of his hit book, Alton Hardin teaches newbies and experienced players alike the math behind the game.
Hardin starts by explaining the theory of the math behind not only the odds at the table and the likely cards in play, but betting to intimidate and so much more. He lays it out in this book in a sequential way, and makes it an easy arithmetic to bring with you.
In this new expanded edition, Hardin even includes enrollment into his online course by the same name – Essential Poker Math.
- Introduces beginning players to poker math
- Expands on experienced players existing knowledge
- Teaches equations to calculate odds, values and more in your head
- Gives you math knowledge to apply to other skills
- Available through Kindle Unlimited
- Gets wordy
- Uses Jargon
- May be hard to comprehend all theories first read through
4) The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How To Think Like One by David Sklansky
David Sklansky has been considered one of the leading experts on gambling for the past few decades. In this definitive book, Sklansky deftly shows why he continues to make the majority of his income gambling – and the majority of that at the poker tables.
Sklansky’s book is not new, but it is timeless. His theories that were solid in 1999 when he first wrote this book remain as solid now. In this book Sklansky outlines strategies and ideas that can be used in all variations of poker. His ideas are collected from not only his own experiences, but weaved together with other experts to give an overarching and complete view.
Standing the test of time, Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker has been counted on consistently to deliver advancments to players games and winning pots.
- Will introduce you to the “Fundamental Theorem of Poker”
- Glossary at back of book
- Written in an easy to read tone
- Gives readers the underlying structure of poker from an expert
- Great for established, serious poker players
- Will improve the game of the best low stakes players
- Advanced terminology will confuse novices
- Not easy to read if you don’t understand the basics of poker
- The amount of knowledge in the book can seem to contradict self
- Examples will be understood only by long time players
5) Thursday-Night Poker: How to Understand, Enjoy–and Win by Peter O. Steiner
Peter O. Steiner is not a professional poker player or gambler, which makes the fifth book on this list in a league of its own. As an establish economics professor and a successful economics book author, Steiner’s Thursday-Night Poker is aimed at those players who are serious amateurs looking to improve their game.
Steiner’s book is by far written in the most laymen’s terms and is easy to relate to for those who don’t make a living at cards. The book covers much of the same things as above, but in one easy to read manual. If you are looking to take your game to the next level, this will become your go-to tip book.
Despite the title, this book will give those players looking to graduate from their bi-weekly or monthly games to the next level…tournaments, casino tables and so forth.
- Fully illustrated for easy reference
- Outlines for a weekly ever-evolving strategy
- Geared to the oft-forgotten middle of the road player
- Clarity of writing makes it clear he is talking from experience
- An academic and logical approach
- Great foundation to read more advanced guides
- Will appeal to a narrow field
- The title is misleading – novices may be fooled into buying
- Examples of players may seem stereotypical
How to find the right poker tournament book for you
For any player that is looking to advance within their level of tournament, a how-to or guide poker book is essential. Not just a game of chance, there are many aspects that can help to improve your game in drastically different ways.
Please keep the following things in mind as you search for the one that is right for you.
Your skill level
There are books geared to every level of poker player. If you are a novice just starting out, books that go into pros strategies and the underlying structures of games may do little more then confuse and frustrate you.
If you are an expert looking to increase your winnings, books that teach fundamental will do nothing for you.
Poker players generally know what they are good at already. A great way to increase your skill level is to focus on taking okay traits up to good strength level.
If you know your opponents facial tells, search for books that will help you read the next level of tell. Research theories on reading body posture or listening to what your opponents are saying and how they are saying it.
If you typically win but never bet enough, read books on proper betting and how to run a pot up.
On the flip side, do an honest inventory of where you are a weak player. Increasing your strengths can help you to win but turning weaknesses into strengths can completely transform your game.
In conclusion, there are a lot of books out there for guiding you through the ups and downs of being a tournament poker player. If you can stay honest to yourself and are willing to put in the mental work, you can amass a library that will help you to hone your skills and help bring the big pots home.
Remember, whether you go all in or not at the table, you should definitely go all in on trying to win.