888Poker Offers List of Most Influential Poker Books

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There are many a book regarding the game in the library of poker players and its historians. They can run the gamut from simple (or sometimes not so simple) strategy discussions to autobiographies to historical books regarding significant moments in time. There have been attempts in the past to “rank” the best out there, but an online poker site seems to have come up with the most comprehensive rating in some time.

Earlier this week, 888Poker and writer Lee Davy published their list of the “most influential poker books in history.” After surveying 56 poker professionals from around the world (actual names aren’t mentioned by Davy but he writes that they have accrued “$184 million in tournament earnings and more than 40 major titles”) and offering them 129 different titles for review, the numbers were crunched to come up with the Top 59 (counting ties) selections. Of course, when it comes to rankings, there are some highlights and lowlights.

The top two choices probably would have worked even if their rankings were switched. Dan Harrington’s Harrington on Hold’em Volume 1:  Strategic Play was the choice of the selection committee, citing the groundbreaking work that Harrington did in presenting an excellent primer for tournament poker players. The second choice, Doyle Brunson’s Super/System, was THE seminal poker books for decades (and is still pretty damn good today), discussing not only Texas Hold’em but other disciplines such as draw poker, stud and lowball.

The first surprise for some would be the third ranked book on the list. Gus Hansen’s Every Hand Revealed took Hansen’s thoughts on virtually every hand he played on his way to winning the 2007 Aussie Millions Main Event. It was an audacious task – you’re actually documenting ALL your hands on the way to winning the championship of a major tournament poker event towards writing about it afterwards? – and Hansen pulled it off well. There is some question as to its high ranking, however, in looking at some of the other books behind him.

The next four books on the 888Poker rankings attack the mental aspect of the game rather than the physical. Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman’s The Mathematics of Poker, Jared Tendler and Barry Carter’s The Mental Game of Poker, David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker and Cole South and Tri Nguyen’s Let There Be Range! all looked at various aspects beyond the cards in delivering their information to the reader. Each in their own right were tremendous tomes but, if you can encompass the information from all into your brain, you’d have a near-encyclopedic approach to playing the game of poker.

Rounding out the Top Ten are more strategy applications. Daniel Negreanu’s Power Hold’em Strategy, Brunson’s Super/System 2 and Matthew Janda’s Applications of No-Limit Hold’em:  A Guide to Understanding Theoretical Sound Poker are ranked from eighth to tenth, respectively, and both Negreanu and Brunson’s efforts are worth the price of admission. Having not examined Janda’s strategy effort, I am left with Davy’s take that “it is a book designed to help players who are already proficient in the art of No-Limit Hold’em become even better.” Sounds like something to check out!

Where the list is a bit deficient is in the fact that there is little in the history of the game – or biographies or autobiographies – on the list. The first book that could be considered an autobiography is Barry Greenstein’s Ace on the River, which doesn’t show up until #16 (many would put it higher as Greenstein doles out excellent advice through the pages). Anthony Holden’s Big Deal – his year-long trek on the tournament poker trail – only comes in at #25, while Jesse May’s Shut Up and Deal is relegated to #29. And what about Jim McManus’ seminal work Positively Fifth Street? Tied for #42.

McManus reflected on the 888Poker list – and his low ranking – during a discussion on social media. McManus suggested that there should have been dual lists – putting the hard core strategic books into one category, the historical and biographical tomes in another – to truly garner a look at the best. And in this writer’s opinion, while professional poker players would have knowledge and respect of strategy books, they might lack perspective in the historical sense; a segment of poker journalists/historians voting on this list might have been applicable.

Overall, the 888Poker list – and Davy’s commentary on the books selected – is worth perusing. How many do you have in your library? For those that haven’t built a catalog of material to learn about playing poker, the 888Poker effort is definitely a starting point.

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