The only profitable strategy in poker is to be learning constantly. The easiest shortcut to knowledge has always been reading books, and I personally prefer it more than forum discussions or watching other people playing.
In poker, every hand is a puzzle. Sometimes the puzzle is simple and straightforward – I have two Aces, how do I get my opponent all-in preflop? More often though, you are in the fog of war, and you have to make the right decision, quickly, again and again. How is that done?
It is done by analyzing specific hands and plays with a clear head away from the table. In a poker game, anything that you don’t understand is a leak.
In a good book you will get a deconstruction of the problem, and then you will be offered a solution.
Never trust a solution based on who offers it. It doesn’t matter who is giving the advice: take it only on the basis of its own merit. If an approach makes sense to you, use it. If not, better stay away: even if it is a good advice, if you don’t understanding its logic, you will use it in the wrong way.
The joy of poker is not in hitting an unlikely draw or bluffing your way out of a jam. The joy is to bask in the delightful inevitability of your opponents’ complete annihilation, secure in the knowledge that the laws of the universe stand firmly on your side.
Here are the best poker books to help you achieve this state.
Winning Low-Limit Hold’em by Lee Jones
Key concept: follow the fundamental principles.
The first book I ever read on poker. In many ways still the best I’ve ever read. It will lay out the fundamentals for you and get you on the right track. If you understand and follow the advice here, it is a mathematical certainty that you will beat the micro and most low limit games. No foolish mistakes – leave that to the other players. Play tight, play right and collect. The book will tell you what cards to play where and how. An experienced player would be able to exploit your style, but you will be too busy to collect earnings from the clueless players on the table to notice that.
Harrington on Poker, Book Series
Dan Harrington is my favorite poker author. He has a very approachable style of hands analysis and he will show you the right mental attitude to make decisions based on insufficient information. In his Cash Games book series he tackles more advanced strategies involving the pot to stack size relation, while his Tournaments series is still considered to be “the Bible” of successful tournament play.
Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen
Gus is a solid, no-thrills professional poker player with a long list of international titles. In 2007 he became the 2007 Aussie Millions Champion, beating 747 players and winning $1.2 million. During the tournament he took notes about each hand meticulously, and now you can read in extreme detail what goes through the head of a professional poker player during the game. This book won’t show you new strategies to winning, but you can learn a lot about mental attitude and aggressive style you need to win a poker tournament.
The books above are poker classics for a reason.
They contain the fundamental concepts you need to consistently beat the amateur players. To handle the pros you will need lots of experience, but crushing the amateurs will give you the confidence and resources to gain that experience. Believe in yourself, have fun reading and good luck at the tables!