296 of 300 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2006
Sklansky's The Theory of Poker has generally been reguarded as a classic since its initial release. Along with Doyle Brunson's Super System and Mike Caro's Book of Poker Tells these three book were the the 1-2-3 knockout combo of poker books. Super System covered many main types of poker specifically, Caro's Book of Tells covered much of the psychology of poker, but Sklansky's Theory of Poker was quite different.
Instead of focusing on one aspect of poker, Sklansky decided to focus on the "big picture". Odds, psychology, information, using these things in combination to make the correct decisions is what poker is all about. And with The Theory of Poker Sklansky wrote a book that attempted to teach you how to do just that. Simply stated, if you make more correct decisions than your opponent, and make less wrong decisions, then in the long wrong, you will win. Luck is the thing that keeps beginners and gamblers coming back to try and "hit it big". And it's what keeps those in the know in the money.
That said, this book is not the easiest read for the uninformed. I admit that I was one of those caught up in Poker big boom a few years ago but I have truly fell in love with it since then and have become a true student of the game. I have gone from dead money to a profitable player - and alot of that thanks goes to many of the books I have read by many great authors. In an attempt to categorize them to help beginners like myself choose what's right for them (in order):
Phil Gordon's The Real Deal - A very easy read to get beginners thinking about the game.
Sklansky's Hold'Em Poker - Not much more complicated than Phil's book and offers more good ideas for the novice for getting started.
Caro's Book of Poker Tells - Pretty straight-forward. Even most beginners should be able to grasp the concept of the tells and the psychological aspects of poker. Just beware of others who've read this book.
Sklansky's The Theory of Poker - Certainly a must have. Will definitely get you thinking critically about the game.
Doyle Brunson's Super System - A classic, but you won't be able to dominate the tables like Doyle used to. And considering all the poker types it covers it's an invaluable book.
Harrington on Hold'Em vol. 1 and 2 - Even though this applies to mostly tournament play, much of this advice can be used in cash games. But if you play many tournaments (like I do) these are invaluable books and I would even put them ahead of Super System.
Phil Gordon's Little Green Book - A great suppliment to The Real Deal. Offers some great ideas and concepts and a pathway into the mind of one of the better Hold'Em players in the world.
Sklansky's Hold'Em for Advanced Players - Simply the best book on Hold'Em written but a pain in the brain to read if you're not in the know. Definitely work your way up to it.
Poker Essays vol. 1-3 by Mason Malmuth - Much like The Little Green Book these offer some great ideas but is more advanced. I still highly recommend them.
There are no doubt many other great books out there I haven't read. But the fact that these books have helped (and I say helped, because it requires much more than just reading books) turn me from dead money to a profitable player is good enough for me to recommend them. I recommend buying them in the order listed if you're new to Poker or reading them in that order if you've already bought several.
It's been more than a year since I wrote this review, and since then there's been a wealth of new poker literature out there.
Among them, Sklansky's No Limit Limit Hold'em: Theory and Practice is the most invaluable. It is akin to this wonderful book, but focuses on No Limit specifically. It belongs in the "super-advanced" section, but it has been the book that has raised my game to the next level.
Also in that advanced category, "The Mathematics of Poker" delves into the complicated math behind the game, and while it is not exactly a practical book, it may introduce the math inclined to an insightful look behind the math that rules the game.
Joe Navarro's "Read em' and Reap" is now the definitive book on poker tells. It was written by a career FBI agent who specializes in reading people. It not only gives you the tells, but goes into the deepest psychologies of what makes people reveal these tells.
Both Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book and Harrington vol. 3 tournament book are invaluable additions to each's library. Harrington vol. 3 especially for its breakdown of famous hands, and the thinking behind them. Weighing the Odds in Hold'em Poker is another superb Limit book, and has become perhaps my biggest aid when playing Limit. Doyle's Super System 2 is a valuable addition to vol. 1 if you wish to read up on various other games besides Hold'em.
I wish the best of luck to everyone at the tables - there's still enough fish to go around!
148 of 152 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2002
"Every time you play a hand differently than you would have played it if you could see all your opponents' cards, they gain; every time you play a hand the same as you would have if you could see all their cards, they lose." [This is an excerpt from what Sklansky humbly termed the fundamental theorem of poker.]
Statements like these will probably leave the average player, new to reading about his or her game, somewhat puzzled, but this is the main value of this book. It gives you a set of terms to describe conditions and actions in a poker game, and then tries to make you think about what you do and why. In the beginning, Sklansky says that this book does not try to answer, "What do you do in this particular situation?," but "What do you consider in this particular situation before determining what to do?"
It uses examples from every form of poker found in a casino, but it does not deal with any one form in particular. For this, a few good choices include the 'Advanced Players' series from Two Plus Two Publishing, and 'Super/System' by 1976-1977 World Series of Poker Champion Doyle Brunson and his collaborators. Sklansky's object is to show that winning poker comes down to correct determination of your odds given cards seen and unseen, the size of the pot in play and the effect of less tangible, psychological factors on the odds set by the first two elements.
It's not the easiest reading, but the language therein will be used by most serious players of the game in discussions away from the table. Get 'Poker for Dummies' by Lou Krieger and Richard Harroch first, as well as a basic text for your favorite game, like 'Winning Low-Limit Hold'Em' by Lee Jones. After a few months of play, open this book to reevaluate your game and what you thought you understood about poker.
84 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2003
Invariably at or near the top of any list of serious titles on poker, this book is the leading work on poker theory. Since virtually every dedicated player has read it, to play without reading it is to put yourself at a disadvantage. Sklansky focuses on the math of poker--how to calculate odds, pot odds, reverse implied pot odds, etc. It's not a fun read; it reminded me of some of the college textbooks I dreaded, but it rewards hard work with a new depth of insight that will make you a smarter, more insightful player. It deserves five stars but I gave it four because it can be so dreary. No colorful stories of how so-and-so went all in with a pair of fours only to [take out a set on the River, etc. Sklansky is so professorial in tone it's hard to imagine him at smoky poker table betting the farm. And in truth, he's more noted as a theoretician than a player. But if you want to play poker for serious stakes, this book is required reading.
86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 1999
I prefer later titles by this author but the valuable information in here should not be bypassed. Contained in ALL their titles: The best advice backed up with easy to understand examples. Contains the least amount of dubious advice of any poker text. Skylansky and Malmouth will effect a huge difference in your poker fortunes. No matter how good a player you are you are a "clueless newbie" until you have mastered the knowledge offered by David and Mason. Once caveat: Keep in mind that in general their advice is directed towards your playing in a game with tight aggressive skilled players. These authors no longer play in low limit games and to some extent have lost touch with the type of player the low limit playing reader faces.You should add another title to your shopping basket here to read that addresses games with loose bad players in it so as to obtain a proper strategic approach to all situations. A good poker book teaches you how to think about situations more so than what to do in specific situationAny text by the team of skylansky malmouth is worth it's weight in gold. Look for a revision of some of their classic texts, subtitled- "year 2000 or 20c. update"
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2003
Sklansky is a scientist, not a teacher. He is an engineer, not a mechanic. This is a reference book, not a "how-to" instructional book. This is "Advanced Discourses on Structural Engineering Theory", not "How to Build a Deck", etc.......you get the point. If you keep this in mind, you will appreciate this book as much as any poker book you have, however, if you think you can read it and instantly improve your poker game, I think you will be disappointed. First of all, because you won't be able to read it. This is not a novel and cannot be read like one. Even if you could read it and improve your poker, I think there are easier and much more effective ways to do that. Personally, I think Bob Ciaffone is by far better poker teacher, and I think that if you want to improve your poker game quickly and practically, instead of increasing your theoretical knowledge, he (Ciaffone) is who you need to see. But if you want a reference book you can refer to when you want to study a particular aspect of the game, then The Theory of Poker is your book. I have read a few other reviews that said they read it and improved their game instantly, but I don't think that will be the case with most readers.
I don't dispute any of the information in the book, but honestly, how many of us, even the most advanced and experienced players, have the Fundamental Theorem of Poker going through our minds when we are at the poker table? The theorem is true, and it is good to understand it, but how does it help you at the table? You should be much more interested in sizing up the situation and making the correct play in that situation, and maintaining the discipline and patience to play winning poker.
The problem I have with many reference books on any subject is that though they contain a vast amount of information, facts and theory on the particular subject, they are of very little practical benefit, they contain very little APPLICATION! Poker is 10% theory, 90% application (if not more). The Theory of Poker will give you information, and lots of it, but it doesn't teach you a whole lot about how to THINK on your feet. How to analyze a situation, what to look for, what principles apply in this situation, and so on. It provides a little of this, but not nearly as much as the Ciaffone books.
Finally, I can't put my finger on it, but Sklansky's writing style is in itself a little difficult to follow. It is rather boring to put it bluntly, but he also seems to complicate issues just by the way he addresses and explains the topic at hand. This is a very difficult and technical book, but he doesn't help matters any with his writing style.
Do I recommend this book? Despite my previous comments, to experienced players, an overwhelming YES! To others, I recommend it with the reminder that this is a reference book and not a "how-to" book. Bob Ciaffone's "Improve Your Poker" and his other books hit the nail on the head and are of much more practical value to the eager poker student.
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Sorry Brunson and Caro, I'm gonna save people some money and summarize your books right here.
BRUNSON: Play aggressively and make the other players react to what you're doing. Lead the betting or get out.
CARO: If an opponent projects strength, he's probably got a weak hand. If he feigns weakness, watch out. Loud, flashy dudes take more risks than quiet accountant types.
Now, use the aforementioned knowledge with the mathematical theory Sklansky spells out and you've got as good a chance of being lucky as everyone else at the table. The "math" here basically consists of doing a quick calculation of the strength of your hole cards in conjunction with what's on the table and what's likely to come up. For example, If you have two suited (let's say diamonds) cards, one being an ace, in your hand and two diamonds on the board at 4th street (I'm talking Hold 'em, here), you have an approximate 25% chance that fifth street will be a diamond, to give you a virtual lock on the hand. Knowing this (25% chance of ending with best hand) one can determine an appropriate amount to bet/call. If the pot will end up being $100, it is appropriate to risk up to 25% of that ($25) in hopes of hitting the flush. If someone else's bet, however, requires you to match more than 25%, it's not worth the call. It's basic high school math applied to wagering in poker.
CASE AND POINT: Last year, there was a Poker Book Legends tournament broadcast on TV. Sklansky, Brunson, Doyle and other note-worthies were at the table. And they each played according to the style dictated by their respective books. Brunson played aggressively. Caro constantly goaded his opponents in an attempt to get some sort of readable reaction.... and Sklansky just sat there quietly, waiting for high percentage hole cards, seemingly ignoring everyone elses actions. Pure math. Sklansky walked away with everyone's money.
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2003
This book has some good information in it for all levels of poker players. However, if you have already bought Sklansky's two books on Hold 'Em, then you already have the information that's in this book. However, I prefer having the information as presented in the hold 'em books because the examples are are Texas hold 'em examples whereas for this book the information has been generalized to all poker games in general. Personally, I would buy the two hold 'em books and not buy this book--there's nothing I would have missed out on (and these poker books aren't cheap).
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2003
I recently bought two books about poker from Amazon.com and this book is so vastly superior in content that I cannot reasonably compare the two books. Yes, it's a little dry, but so what. The excitement comes when you bring David's logic and strategies to the poker table and SEE THEM WORK. For all intents and purposes, I'm a novice player. But reading David's book has given me such an advantage at the table that sometimes I feel as though I'm cheating.
If you're looking for a book that's easy to read and comprehend, buy Andy Nelson's "Poker: 101 Ways to Win." If you want to study and learn and really elevate your game, then buy "The Theory of Poker," and tap into David's encyclopedic knowledge of the game. This book will not let you down. Is it little tough to read? Yes, in some parts, it is. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2004
Anyone that has played poker for any length of time has most likely read Sklansky's Theory of Poker. At the very least they have heard of the concepts covered in the book. It is a poker classic along side Super Systems and Caro's Book of Tells. It is a must read if you are serious about poker.
Be warned that this is not an "Introductory How to play" book. The book is written under the premise that you already have a good understanding of the game. If you are looking for a book that will help you beat the low limit games then take a look at Ken Warren's books, or Lee Jones Low Limit Hold'em book. They will give you a great base to start your learning. Then once you have read a few of these type of books sink your teeth into the Theory of Poker.
If you have been playing for a while, have read other texts on more basic poker strategy, and are not intimidated by math then this book is for you.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 1998
If you thought you knew before how to approach the game of poker, this book will completely change your mind. Sklansky paints a very businesslike portrait of what it takes to be a consistent winner at real stakes poker. From understanding raising, to caculating your odds for actually betting your hand, this book can give any weekend player a boost to the next level. The best part is that this book is not a one time read. To fully benefit, one must continue to study the tools provided within in order to eventually master the basic mathmatics that will make the average player become a powerful player. Already I am reaping the benefits, and I feel as if I am just starting to learn. The "Theory of Poker" is an excellent text for learning an age old game you thought you already knew.