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Mark Pilarski

Mark  Pilarski
Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the gambling trenches, working for seven different casinos. He now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer, and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.

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Rake in the chips with these books on poker

24 May 2004

By Mark Pilarski
I got into a friendly low-stakes poker game with friends. I absolutely loved it, though I did not understand some of the different games and rules. I need you to recommend a beginner poker book, one that explains checking, raises and the different games. A poker for dummies book, if there is such a thing, is what I am looking for. Any recommendations will be helpful. Mike S.

Dear Mark,
Do you have any recommendations for general books on poker and Texas Hold'em specifically? Donald M.

There is such a book for dummies, Mike, and surprise, surprise, it's called Poker for Dummies. Because one of its authors is Lou Kreiger (I am a longtime fan of his witticism and knowledge), I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Poker for Dummies will show you systematically how to bet, bluff and play your way to the top, from seven-card stud, to Omaha, to Texas Hold'em. Read it, Mike, and you'll be a dummy no more.

Now Donald's question forced me to sort out, then categorize my entire gambling library. On Texas Hold'em alone, I have 37 books. As one who believes that getting just one tip from a book makes it worth more than the price of the book itself, it was tough to choose among them a half-dozen that would take you from Beginner to Winner. These six books will certainly give you an enormous edge at your weekly game; even make you a competitive tournament player.


Lou Krieger's Hold'em Excellence makes my list as an entry-level favorite for fostering poker skills at Texas Hold'em. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned tournament player, it is loaded with expert tips on almost every page. This book would be a good starter on your World Series of Poker journey.

THEORY OF POKER by David Sklansky:

Considered one of the top general poker books of all time, it should be on every want-to-be poker players' bedside nightstand. This book will definitely help you understand the logic and principles of skillful play. If you want to go into the head of the most skillful players in the world, I highly recommend this book.


If you are serious about winning, you will realize that most profits come from being able to read you opponent. Caro's book is designed to help serious players recognize other players "tells." This book teaches you how to interpret tells, such as subtle shrugs, sighs, shaky hands, eye contact and much, much more.

Once you have mastered the basics, the three expert-level books below are probably the best books ever written on poker. They will certainly take you to a much higher level of play, possibly even the final table of a major tournament. These best-of-the-best tomes contain expert level advice from the most highly regarded authors/players in the world. I only wish I had read them years ago as a substitute to my poker school of hard knocks education.

HOLD'EM POKER FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS by David Sklansky & Mason Malmuth:

SUPER/SYSTEM (A Course in Poker Power) by Doyle Brunson:

There is enough information in any of the books mentioned to make a winning player out of anyone willing to study and apply the concepts they learn in them. If you can't find any these books at your local bookstore, try the Gamblers Book Club (GBC: 800-522-1777) or their online bookstore:

Gambling quote of the week: "I like to play poker with politicians. They're easy to beat. Sometimes in poker it's smarter to lose with a winning hand so that you can win later with a losing hand. Politicians can't accept that." Robert Redford, Havana (1990)

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