‘Hold’em Poker’ by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth – Book Review

Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players is a huge, 300+ page instruction manual for beating the game of Texas Hold’em poker. Written by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth, the book has been around for many years, but was updated in a “21st Century Edition” that has grown with the evolution of the game and is still relevant to today’s poker games.

The book may be a bit confusing for some readers, because it really is geared to advanced players. If the reader has a good general knowledge of how to play poker, that’s a start, but there are strategic concepts here that will only help players that have a good grounding in game theory, and Texas Hold’em.

High Points

Precise, detailed instruction

Written by 3-time WSOP bracelet winner, David Skalansky with Mason Malmuth

Over 300 pages of instruction for live and online poker

Low Points

A workbook, so slightly dry and business-like

Not much on “other player” psychology

Concepts may be too tough to grasp for many readers


Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players was first released in 1988, but don’t let the date fool you. The book has been updated and the Two Plus Two Publishing copy, 2003, easily fits the “modern” Texas Hold’em game. The book is paperback, 6×9, with long, wordy pages of instruction.

Guide Review – ‘Hold’em Poker’ by David Skalansky and Mason Malmuth

Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players cuts right to the meat of understanding how the most popular poker game in the world, Texas Hold’em, needs to be understood to be mastered. The Advanced Player part of the title is very important. The book is not a beginner’s manual, it is an in-depth look at the game, and it builds on the foundation a player already has for Texas Hold’em.

Learning to play poker is like learning to do math. You can’t do algebra until well after you learn to do addition and subtraction. If you don’t understand the mathematics of pot odds, the psychology of gambling, and why you sometimes want players in the pot with you and why you often want to scare them out, even when you hold a big hand, this book is going to be tough to understand.

There is a glossary, so if some poker terms stump you, you can look them up, and the book does start right out with how to consider your first two cards, so many players will be able to follow the writing. For those who do, Sklansky and Malmuth start right out with ranking Texas Hold’em poker hands into groups, which seems very old-fashioned, but is an integral part of Sklansky’s teaching system.

Years ago, players were not nearly as aggressive at Texas Hold’em poker as they are today. It is rare to sit at a table where any player lets a table of “checks” go by from the button or late position without a bet. So, the information on semi-bluffing, play from late positions, and slow-playing needs to be taken with a grain of salt. If you are ready to become an advanced player, you will know some of the concepts, and you’ll be able to pass over a few that are outdated.

The book presents plenty of information on playing in loose games, playing “with a maniac,” and also playing short-handed. If you aren’t skilled at short-handed play, especially when it comes to tournament play, you may find the information here is invaluable to you. No player is complete until they can at least hold there own at a short-handed, Texas Hold’em poker.

The Best Part

For many readers, the best part of Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players will be Part Eight, Questions and Answers, and for less-schooled players, reading this section first, will give them enough information about the game of Texas Hold’em to grasp the concepts presented at the beginning of the book. So, consider starting near the back of the book, reading the questions and answers thoroughly, and then returning to the beginning.

Following all the advice that Sklansky and Malmuth offer will change your perception of the other players, and your approach to the game. Their system is geared more toward mathematics and control, as opposed to the teachings of Doyle Brunson, who puts much more faith in psychology and reading players. For many readers, the Sklansky approach will be easier. It also has good application to online poker.

In addition, if you start with the strong foundation this book presents, learn it well, and are able to apply it to your Texas Hold’em game, you can always learn to improve your people-reading skills later. Well worth the read for every Texas Hold’em poker enthusiast!

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