Two decades ago, industrious poker players, Yours Truly among them, wore the covers off WSOP two-time grand champion Doyle Brunson's Super System and poet laureate Al Alvarez' Biggest Game in Town. Super System was quickly revered as the definitive poker text book, and Al Alvarez' riveting narrative about the players and the action at the World Series of Poker taught and entertained all who populated the poker scene circa 1980.
In those days, I was not yet schooled in poker strategies and emerging theories that authors such as Mike Caro and David Sklansky were bringing to the tables, and I had no inkling that Alvarez' acclaimed Biggest Game in Town would serve as inspiration for James McManus' bestseller, Positively Fifth Street, some fifteen years later.
Doyle, Mike, David, and my friends Tom Mc Evoy and TJ Cloutier have been the major authors in my 200 plus book poker library of the last several years. They have stood the test of time, as has Alvarez and James McManus. McManus has sold the movie rights to his tale of murder, Cheetahs and the 2000 World Series of Poker.
At the 2005 World Series of Poker Lifestyles Show, a plethora of biographies, autobiographies, and other poker adventure stories were offered up for sale along with scores of classic and newer "how to " poker books, of variable merit.
All manner of poker books are happily making their way onto the bookshelves of both mainstream bookstores and specialty distribution outlets, these days.
Among the scores of "how to" tomes, three certain winners are on display. Doyle Brunson's Super System 2 is a winner of the first order, in no small measure due to the collaborators he chose for the sequel to his original definitive poker textbook.
Once again, he turned to Caro and Bobby Baldwin (the latter is the WSOP champion who turned in his poker jacket to become a top suit), but he also looked to an expanded group of top-notch pros, as collaborators , this time around. The next generation of super stars came on board to join the poker king - his son Todd Brunson and young poker tigers Jennifer Harmon and Daniel Negreanu, among them. Doyle's latest book is filled with sophisticated poker lessons, but it does not stand alone. The additional standouts this year in the "how to" category, include two formidable players that have mounted the stage as poker teachers extraordinaire.
Dan Harrington's Harrington on Holdem is a two-volume work that lays out his winning ways in clear and detailed prose. Harrington, in his book, and Barry Greenstein in Ace on the River both underscore the increasingly sophisticated concepts that must be mastered to excel in a modern-day poker world, and they show how important it is to continuously review and refine both technical expertise and individual game plans.
Harrington's first strategy book was a smash hit among experienced players, and anyone who seriously seeks first place prizes cannot afford to miss his second one either. Co-authored by Bill Robertie, an expert games player, Harrington on Hold'em offers a superb guide for advanced play, but is not beyond the comprehension of lesser skilled players. If you use his words of wisdom, diligently, your game cannot help but improve.
Beyond the world of poker instruction, for which millions of players seem to have an unquenchable thirst, there are three poker adventure books that I suspect will knock your socks off as they did mine. They are as follows: Aces and Kings by Michael Kaplan and Brad Reagan, One of a Kind by Peter Alson and Nolan Dalla, and Michael Craig's The Banker, The Professor and the Suicide King.
Ace on the River by Barry Greenstein, is, as one might expect, a horse of a totally different color from any other teaching manual.
The unique presentation of complicated material in simple terms and a beautiful assortment of accompanying photographs that are relevant to the text is typical of Barry's independent and uniquely brilliant perspective about poker, not only in card rooms but far beyond the felt.
In Aces and Kings, you'll be enlightened about the struggles as well as the brighter side of the most notable stars on the poker planet. Kaplan and Reagan are both gifted writers that bring their subjects to life instantly, and there is something new (and significant) to learn in this book for even the most well informed poker journalists and seasoned players of all ages.
In One of a Kind, Nolan Dalla, who had done a ton of interviews with Stu Unger during the later years of his life, teamed up with Harvard educated writer Peter Alson. Peter transposed the goods that Nolan acquired into a compelling portrait of Unger's life and tragic death. One of a Kind will challenge you to soak up the pain and learn from it.
In Michael Craig's in-depth account of the Big Game in which a wealthy Texas banker pits his skills against a "corporation," brings the reader to the table that saw the highest stakes poker games ever hosted in a public card room. You will be awed by the access and the details he obtained about the assembled players, and the wild games they played. You'll also learn about the failed plans for the "ultimate poker battle."
No matter how far and wide you have roamed around the poker world, and no matter how well schooled you may be, the poker books I've highlighted here should keep your rapt attention from the first page to the last. Every one of them offers valuable insight into the mind-sets of icons of the poker world, and striking strategy tips for winning at the toughest tables.
Wendeen Eolis is CEO of EOLIS International Group a legal/business consultancy. A longtime confidante and advisor to Rudy Giuliani, she also served as first assistant to Governor George E. Pataki. She is consulted by law firms, companies, and governments around the world. In her spare time Wendeen became a poker ace; she was elected to the WPT's Inaugural Professional Poker Tour and has cashed in five WSOP events. She has written articles for various law journals as well as the poker industry. Visit eolis.com for info on her book, and availability as a speaker