Classics for poker fans

Apr 9, 2007 6:44 AM

Here are three poker books, a little of their history and background, which have stood the test of time and have spawned a generation of poker players who discovered them for a variety of reasons.

The Education of a Poker Player by Herbert Yardley (140 pages, paperbound, $14.95). Originally published in 1957, this book was an immediate sensation first because few books on the game existed then and also because of its entertaining stories, strategy and philosophy about the game and the players it attracts. What is unique too is that Yardley was a code breaker for the State Department. Hold’em did not exist in those days, but many home poker games and the popular ones did (draw, stud, split, low ball, for example). Read this one because it created a new generation of players, made the games exciting, and it was so sought after when it went out of print (it’s been in and out of print a half-dozen times in 50 years), people were willing to pay $40 for a battered copy.

Play Poker, Quit Work and Sleep till Noon! (subtitled The Complete Psychology, Mathematics and Tactics of Winning Poker) by John Fox (343 pages, paperbound, $14.95). Originally published in 1977, this intriguing title is still available although some Internet sites list it for $85! The author, a California resident, focuses on high and low draw poker, but it’s his psychological ploys or mind games you can apply to your own style at the table which fascinated poker players 30 years ago. There are 27 sections including those addressing bluffs, table image, when to leave the table, memorizing cards, reading opponents and their hands, importance of position.

I can’t be sure, but I’ll bet Mike Caro’s "tells" book was stimulated by author John Fox’s work.

The Biggest Game in Town by A. Alvarez (188 pages, paperbound, 1983). This book stimulated interest in tournament poker as few have done. Not since Doyle Brunson’s original Super System (published in 1978) did one book focus on the biggest tournament ever””the Binion’s World Series of Poker. Alvarez, who should be in the Poker Hall of Fame for all he’s done for the game, writes about the 1981 tournament; about Las Vegas; the players, their wives and about what money means or represents to big stakes players. His disarming style allowed him to penetrate many players’ "barrier of secrecy" as they offer insights into their own lives””including wins, losses, arrests, origins of slang expressions, tips on survival (in life in general or at the tables).

Alvarez helped make tournament poker a remarkable event to watch or participate in. Since then, more than a dozen books have been published about the World Series of Poker, the city, the action and the players. This one stands out among them all.

These and more are at the Gamblers Book Shop in Las Vegas.