What Poker Books are on Your Bookshelf?

RedVectorBookNolan Dalla has been doing a fantastic job compiling Top 10 lists of poker books (actually Nolan’s lists tend to exceed 20 entries as he includes a copious “Honorable Mention” list) which gave me the idea to put together my own top 10 list… An idea I have scrapped in order to take this column in a different but hopefully better direction.

So instead of trying to rank poker books –which would be little more than a reshuffling of Nolan’s lists anyway with maybe one or two substitutions– I’ve decided to divulge and somewhat explain my poker bookshelf, and how the 100 or so volumes that currently litter my home office have avoided being boxed up, sold off, or donated.

Poker book categories

This is probably something only bibliophiles will understand, but I don’t just have poker books…

I have poker strategy books — with numerous subsets for the game’s various formats.

From Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, to Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players, to The Winner’s Guide to Omaha Poker, to Kill Phil.

I have poker memoirs, historical books, and biographies.

Nick the Greek, by Cy Rice; Titanic Thompson, by Kevin Cook; Cowboys Gamblers and Hustlers, by Byron Wolford; and One of a Kind, by Nolan Dalla are just some of the books that land in this category.

I have poker psychology and philosophy books.

Here’s where you’ll find Theory of Poker, Tao of Poker, The Mental Game of Poker, Elements of Poker, Your Worst Poker Enemy, and more.

I have rare and collectible poker books.

First edition, near mint with dustjacket, Mike Caro’s Book of Tells; 1939’s Sucker’s Progress, by Herbert Asbury with a not so mint dustjacket… but it does have the author’s signature dated November 15, 1939 Chicago. The very hard to find Omaha Holdem Poker, by Bob Ciaffone. Copies of Oswald Jacoby on Poker, Education of a Poker Player, and more.

I have gambling books.

I have books that I refer to as non-poker poker books. Everything from Expert at the Card Table, by S.W. Erdnase, to The Art of War, to Teach Yourself Statistics, to a few Game Theory books.

My original idealistic dream

At one point in time (before the Poker Boom really boomed) I had it in my head that I would own every poker book ever written. This was a task I was excelling at until about 2005 when every Tom, Dick, and Scott Fischman started writing poker books, and most of them were little more than rehashing of previous author’s work with the most minor changes to starting hand charts and/or some newfangled term for “Middle Position.”

Let’s just say that in terms of advancing knowledge or building on what had come before them, most of the authors of poker books from about 2004 on were about as important to the game of poker as Scott Wedman was to the Boston Celtics.

So with a lot of shit books stacked up in my home I decided to thin the herd.

In addition to the 100 or so poker books I currently own, I’ve loaned (which apparently means give to the people that borrow books from me) and sold off at least 100 more over the years. Most of these wayward poker tomes I could care less about (good riddance actually) but there were a few that I have since replaced or plan to replace.

My current aspirations

Now my goal is to simply put together a collection of the most important poker/gambling/card playing books. Nowadays it’s not just about amassing books; I want to amass historically significant and rare books/editions as well as the really good ones.

But there is one thing you should know; I don’t buy poker books… well, I don’t buy newly released poker books anyway.

My poker book shelf (which is actually multiple shelves) expands in one of two ways these days:

  • Someone sends me a book to review (this is always appreciated by the way)
  • I locate a rare book I don’t have or an edition in better condition than the one I currently possess

Interestingly, the only book that is out of my price range is an excellent condition of the first edition of Super System, originally titled How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker. I’ve also seen some historically significant versions for sale/auction, one of which was supposedly signed by Doyle with the message “To Roman, Thanks for trading books with me, Doyle Brunson” after the person apparently gave Doyle their less worn copy. Basically the person was given Doyle’s personal copy of Super System and this can actually be tracked because of the inscription.

So if anyone has a spare $1,500 lying around I’ll use this final sentence to let you all know that my birthday is coming up soon.

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