Best Books About Poker
Lots of poker fans love to read about the game but of the thousands of poker books on the market, 95% of them deal solely with things like poker strategy and the mechanics of the game. While everyone would love to know the optimal way to play pocket jacks from early position, it doesn’t exactly make for gripping reading, especially if you’re a more casual fan of the game (or buying a present for a poker playing friend or family member). Below you’ll find some of the best books about poker that take a broader, more writerly approach to the game and include a lot of the fascinating history that makes poker such an interesting game.
“The Biggest Game in Town” by Al Alvarez is one of the most compelling books about poker, coming from a writer that’s well-known in literary circles. Alvarez deals with poker before the online boom of the early 2000s, weaving together a variety of amazing stories, anecdotes, and interviews with poker players in the early 1980s as they made their way to Las Vegas to take on the world’s biggest poker games. Be forewarned, though, that Alvarez deals with an older generation of poker players (such as Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, Johnny Moss, and Nick the Greek), so you’re not going to find any ink spilled on players that weren’t even born in 1983 such as Tom Dwan or Viktor Blom.
Anthony Holden’s “Big Deal’ is another amazing poker book, which chronicles Holden’s attempt to make a go of it on the professional poker circuit for a year from 1988-1989. His book deals much more with the psychological and emotional toll that poker can exact, with players chasing a big score that often remains just out of reach. While it’s very much about poker it also appeals in a broader sense to anyone who’s found themselves chasing a dream that takes them farther and farther away from the people they care the most about in their lives — a plight that many poker players face each and every day.
Jim McManus has contributed two excellent poker books to the canon: “Posititively Fifth Street” and “Cowboys Full: the Story of Poker”. “Positively Fifth Street” includes personal poker action from McManus’ deep run in the in the 2000 WSOP Main Event, with the backdrop of the murder trial of Ted Binion (which is the story he was originally sent to Vegas to cover). “Cowboys Full” is a more historical piece on the evolution of the game of poker over the years, from its humble beginnings to the poker boom fueled by online poker rooms that has seen it grow into a multi-billion dollar global industry.
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