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The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How To Think Like One by David Sklansky
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The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How to Think Like One by David Sklansky

Much has happened in the poker universe since the first publication of The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How to Think like One. Author David Sklansky has himself written numerous other titles about the game, while other literature on poker is abundant. Despite the 34 years that have passed since its 1978 release, (34 years that included the rise in Texas Hold’em and internet poker) Sklansky’s effort remains a must have for avid poker players everywhere.

Sklansky has really drawn a royal flush with this opus and there is much to be gained by intermediates and experienced poker players alike, while beginners may find it outreaches their knowledge so should stick to one of the books recommended later in the review. Sklansky is quick to point out that the hints and tips you may find in other poker literature are ineffective in practice and he offers a much more scientific and measured approach. Although do not be expecting just a maths lesson, there is a much deeper look at the game of poker in evidence here.

Sklansky along with Doyle Brunson (Super System) and Mike Claro (Book of Poker Tells) are the pre-eminent forces in written Poker tomes, and while Claro offers great psychological advice and Brunson aimed to cover many poker forms, it is Sklansky who offers a complete work. Yes the other two are essential reads for the intermediate to professional level player (and should be read), but Theory of Poker is set apart from the rest as the complete guide to the game.

In many ways this book is a bible for poker players because it strives to give a complete account of the game and its nuances, and achieves it. Focus is on all the major poker forms and not just the typical Hold’em game, so those looking for a more specific learning experience may want to try something else like Sklansky’s own “Hold’em Poker” or “Harrington on Hold’em” by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie.

Like any other Poker guide or how to, Sklansky cannot transform your game, and no book is a sure fire way to improvement. However Sklansky offers a concise and detailed companion for those who are taking their Poker seriously. If you treat this book as a helping hand rather than a strategy on how to become a world beater then it will surely prove a good bedfellow.

After being in publication for close to 30 years, many of the ideas presented here have been put into practise such is the classic status that this book holds. Players the world over have taken the concepts that lie within the pages of the Theory of Poker on board, and Sklansky has delivered one of the most detailed and narrative Poker instructional books available.

As already stated, for the experienced player there is probably more to gain from The Theory of Poker than there is for a beginner. There is a lot of logical explanation and ideas here that will appeal and progress the fortunes of any level from lower intermediate and up, and Sklansky also introduces us to his Fundamental Theorem of Poker.

There are some downsides of course, chiefly among which is that this book appeals to those who already have some skill at poker. Total beginners approaching this opus will likely feel cold and somewhat detached as it is possible to get lost in the jargon and theories if you are not already versed in the game. The Theory of Poker can be a tough read as well, and some may feel bogged down in the literature. If you are one such beginner it is advised to avoid this book (although you can return to it once you gain experience) and opt for something like Mike Caro’s “Secrets of Winning Poker” which is generally an easier read and appeals more to some beginner strategies, although itself is an advised read for all levels.

These negatives are merely small gripes for what is an exceptional guide to Poker and how to play the game. Take it from someone who has benefited from Sklansky and his teachings, this book should be on the table of any serious poker player. If you find it a little dry and tough to take on board then Doyle Brunson’s “Super System” is a fine alternative, although getting both is recommended. If you are seeking to understand and improve your game get it now, it could change your whole experience.

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