Poker Books for Christmas
Dec 08, 2005  
2005 Jason Kirk  

Instructional poker books are always helpful, and there's a wide variety of recently published volumes on strategy that might be a perfect fit for the poker player on your list - maybe even for you.

One of the most well-reviewed books to come out in recent months is Phil Gordon's Little Green Book. Gordon, who recently left Celebrity Poker Showdown, published the poker lifestyle book Poker: The Real Deal last year and this book is first foray into no-limit strategy. The number of endorsements for the book from prominent players is convincingly large and diverse. The consensus seems to be that Gordon's skill for teaching the game and humility (he says he isn't the world's best player) make this book a necessity for anyone playing no-limit hold'em. Intermediate players should benefit from it.

Also geared toward no-limit players is Kill Phil by Blair Rodman & Lee Nelson. Rodman is a tournament professional who has enjoyed a lot of recent success on the WPT and at the World Series, and Nelson is the Australasian Grand Champion player for 2000-2005. 2005 WSOP champ Joseph Hachem describes it as "a detailed strategy for future tournament-poker champions," while Marcel Luske said it's "like giving the gun to the rabbit."

If you're looking to shore up a weakness in limit hold'em, Winning Texas Hold'em might be worth a look. Maroon maintains a weblog known as the Poker Chronicles, where he has tracked his progression from 5-10 through 30-60 limit games. His book focuses on limit hold'em, covering the both the full ring game and the short-handed game so popular online. The only common complaint about the book is that some odds charts are misprinted and that there are typos in the text, but any review that has focused on what the book has to offer has generally been positive.

If the poker player you're shopping for is just as interested in the history and culture of poker as the play of the game itself, there are a few other books that might make good picks this Christmas.

The World Series of Poker, the grandaddy of all poker tournaments, is the subject of Jonathan Grotenstein's - All In: The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker. Grotenstein co-authored last year's Poker: The Real Deal with Phil Gordon, and this year he turns his pen to the history of the world's original big-money poker tournament. All In is the first comprehensive account of the growth in the popularity of the World Series of Poker, from the beginning where a dozen or so players voted Johnny Moss the best player to the 5,600-strong 2005 Main Event where first place paid a whopping $7.5 million.

In the category of Books About The Biggest Games In The World this year there's Michael Craig's The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King, an account of the infamous match played between Texan billionaire banker Andy Beal and a group of the world's top professional players. With its quick pacing and exploration of the psychology of the players in the world's biggest poker game, The Professor makes a great read for anyone who's interested in the world of high-stakes poker.

Another book exploring the character of a player who competed at the biggest stakes in the world is Nolan Dalla & Peter Alson's One Of A Kind, a biography of 3-time WSOP Main Event winner Stu Ungar. Almost universally recognized as one of the all-time great players, Ungar lived a roller-coaster life of high-stakes gambling and drug abuse that was brief but burned brightly. Dalla and Alson explore both his childhood and adult life, tracing his rise from gin rummy whiz-kid to world champion poker player and his relationships with some of the most recognized people in the poker world.

Finally, in the poker light reading category, there's Steve Rosenbloom's The Best Hand I Ever Played. This collection from the Chicago Tribune poker columnist features 52 interviews with famous poker players of both today and the past, telling the biggest stories from their careers at the tables. Big bluffs, big calls, big laydowns, and big beats make up this book of anecdotes that should interest anyone who plays the game.

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