We’ve already covered the latest and greatest Texas holdem instructional
material found online, but while putting that page together, it occurred to us
that some poker players may not be so tech savvy.
It’s easy to tell readers to visit Twitch and live stream poker coaching
sessions, but plenty of poker players out there today just aren’t all that
comfortable using the internet for more than web browsing and email. And that’s
fine, spending time online isn’t for everybody, and many folks out there
actually learn more effectively when they’re exposed to more tangible teaching.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to create a companion piece to our main page
on Texas holdem Lessons, Coaching, and Strategy – one that focuses on
traditional teaching materials like books and live classes.
Of course, it is 2016, so you won’t find the same diversity of poker coaching
tools in print as you might have in the 1990s. But even so, several poker
authors have taken up the mantle from pioneers like Doyle Brunson, David
Sklansky, and Barry Greenstein, penning in depth poker books that reflect the
rapid advancement in strategic thinking over the last few years.
Additionally, a few poker training courses eschew the online route in favor
of a more personal experience. By inviting students to convene physically in
classes and seminars, live instruction sessions like the World Series of Poker
(WSOP) School are a great way to immerse yourself in the full fledged poker
experience. With cards in hand and teachers on hand to offer pointers and
advice, a live poker school can help bridge the gap between theory and
If you’re a poker player who prefers traditional forms of learning over the
digital alternative, you’re not alone. The demand for an alternative to online
poker coaching may not be as great as it once was, but it still represents an
important segment of the overall market.
This page is intended to provide a thorough introduction to some of the more
influential and widely read poker books and training manuals, along with a
rundown of the live classes and courses where aspiring players can gather and
hone their skills together.
Classic Poker Books That Still Hold Up
Before the dawn of the digital age, the most efficient way of disseminating a
lifetime’s worth of poker wisdom was by writing a book. Although much of the
advice found in these dusty tomes is quite outdated by now, a few classic titles
have managed to endure, capturing timeless poker lessons that will always remain
Super / System by Doyle Brunson (1979)
And in 1979, nobody had lived the poker life quite like Doyle Brunson. One of
the original Texas Road Gamblers, Brunson simply dominated the biggest poker
games played during the era, travelling from city to city alongside pals like
Puggy Pearson and Chip Reese and taking on all comers.
Between 1976 and 1978 alone, Brunson managed to win five gold bracelets at
the WSOP in Las Vegas, including back to back $10,000 Main Event World
Championships in ’76 and ’77.
One year after his amazing WSOP run, Brunson sat down to write what would
later become the undisputed Bible of poker strategy books: Super / System: A
Course in Power Poker.
Over the course of more than 600 pages, Brunson lays bare his personal
approach to Texas holdem poker, revealing to the world for the first time how
high stakes pros play the game. Brunson also invited friends and fellow pros
like Reese, Bobby Baldwin, David Sklansky, and Mike Caro to write various
chapters on their areas of expertise.
As a result, the original Super / System offered the general public their
first glimpse inside the real world of high stakes poker. Brunson and his team
of contributors combine to explain every aspect of the game, from deciding on
starting hands to sizing up opponents, and of course, Brunson’s signature
Back in the day, few players raided the table with repeated raises and
reraises like Brunson, and his ability to push talented opponents around with
ease was the stuff of legend. As the Course in Power Poker component of the
title suggests, Brunson devotes much of the text to teaching players how to
overcome their fear and apply aggression to their advantage.
Of course, in 2016 the idea of “playing back light” – or raising with a
lackluster hand on a bluff – has become a standard part of poker strategy. With
that in mind, Brunson’s book – along with its 2005 sequel Super / System II –
won’t be offering modern players all that much in the way of new information.
But who do you think invented the style employed by today’s young guns?
It was Brunson and his merry band of road gamblers, who were winning gold
bracelets and dragging six figure pots well before stars like Daniel Negreanu
and Phil Ivey were even born.
Adding Super / System to your poker library should be considered an essential
step within your overall poker tutelage, because you can’t understand the game
as it’s played today until you look back at the way it once was.
Holdem Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth (1988)
The name Mason Malmuth may not ring bells for poker players today, but if you
frequented casinos and card rooms during the ’80s and ’90s, you probably read
one of his many strategy books.
Along with Sklansky, an analytical sort who turned his poker play into a
prolific career as a strategy writer, Malmuth wrote holdem Poker for Advanced
Players to tackle a specific variant of the game: Limit holdem.
Nowadays, Limit holdem tables run less frequently than the more popular No
Limit variety, but back then Limit was the only game in town. In the modern
world, Limit holdem still has its place, and plenty of players enjoy nothing
more than a relaxed session at the $3/$6 Limit tables grinding away against old
friends and foes.
At the higher stakes, Limit holdem becomes a surgical game preferred by
experts well versed in the game’s nuts and bolts. Many of the largest poker
games in the world, in terms of average pot size, are actually limit games –
with the famed “Big Game” at the Bellagio in Vegas typically running at
$800/$1,600 blinds and higher.
When reading through holdem Poker for Advanced Players, you may be surprised
to learn that terms like “semi bluff” – which are now common parts of the poker
vernacular – were actually coined by Sklansky and Malmuth.
Whether you consider yourself a Limit holdem aficionado, or you simply
recognize that Limit skills form the foundation for many high level No Limit
strategy concepts, sitting for a spell with holdem Poker for Advanced Players is
a great way to absorb integral knowledge about the classic poker variant.
Harrington on Holdem by Dan Harrington (2004 to 2006)
Published during the height of the poker boom, Harrington on holdem is really
a catchall term used to describe a three part series on tournament teachings,
and its companion piece on cash game play.
The first title in the series, Volume I: Strategic Play, was released in 2004
to critical acclaim form the poker community. Written by Dan Harrington, the
mild mannered veteran best known for his stunning 3rd 4th run in the ’03 and ’04
WSOP Main Events, Volume I introduces readers to several fundamental concepts
that have since gone on to become principal foundations of poker strategy.
In the book, Harrington explains an idea that he coined the M Ratio at the
time. Essentially, Harrington used the M Ratio to continually assess his own
stack’s health during the course of a tournament. By dividing his total chips by
the current big blind, Harrington was always able to determine the relative
value of his stack.
Today, poker players barely mention their current chip count, instead
referring to their stacks in terms of big blinds. Obviously, this is the optimal
way to think about tournament chips, because the constantly escalating blinds
work to devalue chips like clockwork. Through his development of the concept of
M Ratio, Harrington’s first volume literally changed the way we speak about
As you might imagine, Harrington on holdem covers much more than this one
lesson, offering a full tutorial on the advanced poker arsenal used by one of
the game’s most successful pros of his era.
The first volume was followed one year later by Volume II: The Endgame, which
focused on the crucial latter stages of tournaments when a single mistake can
mean the difference between a six figure score and a min cash. One year later,
Volume III: The Workbook was published, serving as a finishing course for the
first two volumes by testing readers with poker puzzles, example hands, and
other interactive teaching tools.
In 2008, Harrington expanded his oeuvre with the two volume Harrington on
Cash Games, which shifted from the tournament centric coverage of the original
series to teach readers the ropes of proficient cash game play.
All in all, the five books written by Harrington during his heyday as one of
the most consistent tournament pros on the planet form an essential addition to
any self taught poker class.
Modern Must Read Poker Books
The new generation of poker pros cut their collective teeth studying the
classics listed above, so it’s only right that a few young guns took their own
shot at becoming authors. Even while many of their peers are investing their
instructional energies to mediums like Twitch and YouTube, today’s poker writers
have chosen to reach out to audiences who still prefer to access information by
flipping through pages.
Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker by Jonathan Little (2011)
As one of the most consistent tournament performers of the day, Jonathan
Little has recorded 127 live tournament cashes for more than $6.3 million in
Along the way, Little has also carved a niche within the poker community as a
talented writer, publishing several instructional books to supplement his
growing Float the Turn coaching platform.
With Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, the best of Little’s
analytical approach to Texas holdem is on display. He begins by establishing a
firm understanding of the fundamentals, including the role of effective stack
size and the power of position. Throughout the more than 300 pages that follow,
Little invites readers to consider a variety of situational poker conundrums
that are regularly encountered during tournaments of every size and scope.
Chapters like “Do Not Play Robotically” and “Make Your Decisions Simple” are
direct and to the point, explaining reasons why beginners should avoid the
temptation to overdo things. When watching elite pros on TV one upping each
other with advanced moves, it can be easy to think that’s how every poker hand
goes down. Little dispels that notion repeatedly, urging his readers to focus on
the basics and work on mastering a few skills rather than trying and failing at
The Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler (2011)
As the coach for more than 450 poker players, Jared Tendler applies his
Master of Science degree to develop full service “mental game” improvement.
In his first book The Mental Game of Poker, Tendler delves into the esoteric
nature of poker psychology and how the brain can affect the body. As Tendler
teaches, concepts like controlling emotions and resisting tilt, exuding
confidence at the table, finding the motivation to play to your fullest
potential, dealing with the brutal swings caused by short term variance, and
others that remain in one’s head can directly and indirectly effect performance
over individual hands and prolonged sessions.
Tendler uses his scholarly background to explain the fundamentals of the
mental game, before providing useful advice on how to address the various
“mental leaks” plaguing every player from time to time.
Poker studs like 2012 WSOP Main Event winner Greg Merson, Team PokerStars Pro
Lex Veldhuis, and online legend “Ben “NeverScaredB” Wilinofsky swear by The
Mental Game of Poker. These high profile pros each point to the revelations
found within as pivotal in their own poker development, so surely you can learn
something about yourself by taking Tendler’s advice.
Reading Poker Tells by Zachary Elwood (2012)
Even though he’s not a well known pro, poker player Zachary Elwood still
managed to contribute a valuable addition to poker literature with Reading Poker
Approaching the game from a psychological profiler, Elwood devotes his
teachings to the role of “tells” in poker. Everybody who has watched poker
depicted in the movies has seen exaggerated poker tells, as blinks, flinches,
and smiles give away the strength or weakness of a player’s holding. And while
these dramatic poker tells aren’t the most common sight at a real poker table,
Elwood lets readers in on one of the game’s biggest secrets: tells do exist, and
they can mean the difference between winning or losing over the long run.
Elwood works to categorize the seemingly endless array of physical movements,
verbal statements, and involuntary actions that every human being cycles through
during moments of stress. In doing so, he constructs a valuable encyclopedia of
poker tells, complete with detailed descriptions of how they appear and sound.
In addition to teaching readers how to spot tells, Elwood spends several
chapters discussing how to interpret the scattered pieces of information you’re
able to notice. By examining the relationship between “strong” and “weak”
statements, confidence and hesitance, the speed with which a bet or action is
taken, and even subtleties like re checking hole cards and bet sizing patterns,
Elwood walks readers through the types of tells that even disciplined pros are
prone to display.
The significance of tells in modern poker is still a matter of debate, and
detractors of tell oriented poker strategies assert that this approach can rely
on unproven supposition rather than ironclad strategy. But if you remember that
tells are just one tool in a skilled poker player’s arsenal, Reading Poker Tells
is the perfect book to improve your observational abilities at the table.
Excelling at No Limit Holdem by Jonathan Little (2015)
Little is back again with yet another book that will likely go down as a
classic decades down the road, just like Brunson’s famed Super / System.
And just like that all timer from “Texas Dolly”, in Exceling at No Limit
holdem Little assembles several of the sharpest poker minds to contribute
individual chapters. The book offers poker knowledge from 17 pros and figures
within the game, including Chris Moneymaker, Phil Hellmuth, Olivier Busquet, and
In Moneymaker’s chapter, the 2003 WSOP Main Event winner that sparked poker’s
boom days tackles “Lower Buy In Tournament Strategies,” while Hellmuth discusses
“Short Stack Strategies: Old School Versus New School” with English pro Liv
Elwood contributes a chapter on “An Overview of Poker Tells,” and Dr. Tricia
Cardner gives her insights into poker thinking in a chapter titled “Mental
Toughness: The Ultimate Psychological Edge.”
Throughout the book, Little jumps in with two chapters of his own, “alue
Betting Versus Pot Control” and “Tackling a Final Table.”
As stated by Little in his Introduction, the goal of Excelling at No Limit
holdem is “to help beginning players transform into strong amateurs, (and) to
help strong amateurs become world class.”
By combining the different styles of 17 successful poker players and pundits,
Little does just that, offering neophytes a wide range of ideas to consider,
while giving veterans new ways to solve the same puzzles they’ve been pondering
Live Poker Coaching
Once you’ve read through a few of the poker books listed above, odds are high
you’ll want to take to the tables and put your new knowledge into action.
But heading straight to the casino for a tournament or cash game may not be
the best idea, especially if you lack live poker experience. Playing on the
internet is one thing, but sitting across from eight stone faced opponents
starting you down from across the felt is another animal altogether.
One of the best ways to prepare for the rigors of live poker is to
participate in a physical poker coaching seminar or academy. While most require
travel to a central location like Las Vegas, if you can get yourself there,
learning in person from experienced pros and instructors is a tremendous
resource to take advantage of.
WSOP School of Poker
Formerly known as Zen Poker Mentoring, this live seminar program was created
by Las Vegas poker pro Brian Rast. He may not be a household name, but Rast is
widely regarded as one of the top players in the world’s largest tournaments.
Since 2015 alone Rast has won more than $10.5 million in live tournaments,
including a historic $7.5 million haul from his first place finish in the
inaugural Super High Roller Bowl $500,000 buy in tournament. All told, Rast has
earned over $19.1 million playing live poker since 2005.
For Rast, creating Zen Poker Mentoring in late 2014 was a labor of love, as
the veteran pro saw an avenue to use his downtime as a way of giving back to the
poker community. The company, which specializes in live coaching sessions
involving 15 20 students and several well known instructors, was later acquired
by the WSOP to form the WSOP School of Poker.
WPT Bootcamp and WPT League
Products of the World Poker Tour, both WPT Boot Camp
and WPT League cater to
recreational players who know enough about the game to know they want to get
Under the stewardship of fan favorites Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten –
both accomplished players in their own right while also announcing the WPT –
these instructional groups have blossomed into beloved segments of the poker
For over a decade now, the WPT Boot Camp has served as a meeting ground for
aspiring poker pros looking to learn alongside likeminded individuals. After
taking part in group classes – led by poker luminaries like six time WSOP
bracelet winner T.J. Cloutier, Doyle Brunson’s Todd Brunson, and the first woman
to win a $1 million prize, Kathy Liebert – attendees gather to test their
knowledge against one another in freezeout style tournaments.
The goal is to prepare beginners for the reality of a live poker session,
including the long hours, the logistics of handling chips and cards, observing
the rules, and even advice on etiquette at the table.
After graduating from the camp, players tend to transition to the WPT League,
a worldwide network of small pub poker leagues that meet regularly in towns and
cities all across America, Europe, and Australia. These leagues compete in free
to play tournaments, but the games are serious despite the low stakes, with
league standing points and even entries to genuine WPT tournaments up for grabs.
The atmosphere at a WPT League event is laid back and casual, with players
ranging from 18 to 80 getting in on the action. In fact, an 85 year old
grandmother in Australia made headlines this year, after Nita Day stormed
through her Gold Coast WPT League to claim first place in the season long
Playing in a casual setting can be a great way to take the pressure off while
you work on improving your game, and WPT League is as casual as it gets. With no
money on the line, a friendly lineup of opponents, and the opportunity to
experiment with new plays without punishing your bankroll, these pub poker get
togethers are perfect for beginners looking for an easy entry point.
Advanced Poker Training
To supplement the site’s wide array of interactive instructional material, Advanced Poker
Training also provides a convenient link to connect students with
While scrolling through the Advanced Poker Training stable of coaches, you
can read up on the resumes of respected pros like Scott Clements, Jonathan
Little, Ed Miller, and even Mike “Mad Genius of Poker” Caro.
Rates for coaching services vary between $100 and $300 per hour, which is a
bit expensive, but if you’re willing to invest a few hours and few more bucks,
the insights gained can prove to be invaluable over the long run.
Another thing to consider is the sunk cost of playing without consulting a
coach first, because raw rookies inevitably drop a few buy ins before ever
becoming profitable. So if you’re going to drop $1,000 to get better at poker,
you might as well do it with a pro like Clements – 2x WSOP bracelet winner, WPT
champion, and $7.1 million earner in live tournaments – showing you the ropes.
Sometimes the best Texas holdem lessons aren’t found online. Some of the bet
lessons are found in an old fashioned book. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring
the classics when you’re looking for the best Texas holdem poker lessons.
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