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As with nearly all pastimes, increased study brings on an improvement of skill. While many novice players may scoff at the idea of learning poker from a book, there are many valuable lessons to be had in the printed word. Books such as the ones I’ll discuss below (along with Doyle Brunson’s encyclopedic “Super System” and “Super System 2”) provide players of all games and levels with new insights and methods for approaching their cards.

Since getting back into the game after a brief absence, I’ve been going back through my library, skimming through some of the various tomes of poker knowledge I’ve amassed over the years. It’s been a welcome refresher, and my play has begun to reap the benefits. Here, briefly, are a few of the books I’ve found to be the most helpful.

“Hold ‘Em Wisdom for All Players” – Daniel Negreanu

This was the first poker book I read, mainly because it was short (166 pages) and relatively cheap ($14.95). Many years and thousands of hands latter, its impact remains. “Hold ‘Em Wisdom” is one of the most reliable, straightforward texts available. The advice contained in its pages will be worth more to new and intermediate players than any amount of rebuys or freerolls. Veteran card sharks may find the strategic guidance to be rather basic, but the tidbits on game philosophy and bankroll management should remain relevant, no matter your current status. Bottom line – you can’t go wrong with this short Negreanu crash-course.

“Online Ace” – Scott Fischman

Since I live several hours from the nearest card-room, I find myself playing internet poker far more often than the live game. The online animal can be completely different from the face-to-face experience of tangible felt, and so I figured this book would be a great read for an aspiring amateur. After wading through 205 pages of Fischman, I can say that yes, it was worth it. While some of the sections may be tedious, there is a great wealth of knowledge to be found here. Some of the author’s philosophies are, as one would expect, more suited to the internet world. But if you’re looking for an edge at the electronic tables, you could do much worse than picking up this volume from ESPN Books.

“Phil Hellmuth Presents: Read ‘Em and Reap” – Joe Navarro with Marvin Karlins

This is, without a doubt, my favorite poker book. Joe Navarro, former FBI special agent and interrogator extraordinaire, has managed to put together one of the most accurate and comprehensive studies of human behavior as witnessed at a poker table. By studying the physical and mental aspects found in “Read ‘Em and Reap”, I was able to nearly double my winning percentage at live events. The art and science of reading (and in some cases, broadcasting) poker “tells” has never been laid out in such an accessible fashion, allowing players not only to sense weakness in their opponents but also to determine their levels of aggression and overall confidence. Navarro’s observations are shockingly accurate, and his pictorial depictions make the entire volume easily digestible. While it may not help your online game, this is a must-read for any ambitious player.