David Sklansky's Theory of Poker Review
About David Sklansky
David Sklansky is generally considered the number one authority on gambling in the world today. Besides his ten books on the subject, David also has produced two videos and numerous writings for various gaming publications. His occasional poker seminars always receive an enthusiastic reception, including those given at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
More recently, David has been doing consulting work for casinos, Internet gaming sites, and gaming device companies. He has recently invented several games, soon to appear in casinos.
David attributes his standing in the gambling community to three things:
1. The fact that he presents his ideas as simply as possible (sometimes with Mason Malmuth) even though these ideas frequently involve concepts that are deep, subtle, and not to be found elsewhere.
2. The fact that the things he says and writes can be counted on to be accurate.
3. The fact that to this day a large portion of his income is still derived from gambling (usually poker, but occasionally blackjack, sports betting, horses, video games, casino promotions, or casino tournaments).
Thus, those who depend on David’s advice know that he still depends on it himself.
Inside Sklansky's Theory of Poker
The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky discusses theories and concepts applicable to nearly every variation of the game, including five-card draw (high), seven-card stud, hold ’em, lowball draw, and razz (seven-card lowball stud). This book introduces you to the Fundamental Theorem of Poker, its implications, and how it should affect your play. Other chapters discuss the value of deception, bluffing, raising, the slow-play, the value of position, psychology, heads-up play, game theory, implied odds, the free card, and semibluffing.
Many of today’s top poker players will tell you that this is the book that really made a difference in their play. That is, these are the ideas that separate the experts from the typical players. Those who read and study this book will literally leave behind those who don’t, and most serious players wear the covers off their copies. This is the best book ever written on poker.
In The Theory of Poker, Sklansky explains early that poker is a game of skill.
He talks about good players suffering bad beats
because they put lesser skilled players at the mercy of luck.
"However, it is more likely for a good player like Baldwin to
suffer these bad beats, as they are called, than for an average
player or a weak player to suffer them. 'I've heard good players
complain to me about how they get drawn out on all the time,'
Baldwin said after the 1981 tournament. 'But if they want to
better their game and better their emotional state while playing,
they should realize it's a mirage. If you are an excellent player,
people are going to draw out on you a lot more than you're going
to draw out on them because they're simply going to have the
worst hand against you a lot more times than you have the worst
hand against them. There's no way you're going to draw out on
anybody if you don't get all your money in there on the worst
hand.' As Baldwin implies, expert players do not rely on luck." [1-2]
Sklansky points out a common mistakes among poker players. Assuming
that winning a lot of pots at all costs equates to winning a lot of money
can be dangerous.
"You may occasionally be in a game where the best strategy is to
win as many pots as possible, but such games are exceptions. In
most games the bets you save are as important as the bets you
win, because your real goal is to maximize your wins and
minimize your losses. Ideally you want the pots you win to be as
big as possible and the pots you lose to contain nothing more
than your ante. You must remember that reducing losses - by not
making the calls, for example, that a weaker player would make
- adds that much more to your win when the game is over." 
The author takes this concept even further later on in the book.
"You should even derive satisfaction from a losing session when you know that
other players would have lost much more with your cards." 
The fundamental theory of poker is outlined early in the book.
"Every time you play a hand differently from the way
you would have played it if you could see all your
opponents' cards, they gain; and every time you play
your hand the same way you would have played it if
you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely,
every time opponents play their hands differently
from the way they would have if they could see all
your cards, you gain; and every time they play their
hands the same way they would have played if they
could see all your cards, you lose." [17-18]
Calculating pot odds is an important part of poker. Sklanksy
explains that it does not matter who put in what percentage of the pot.
"The fact that $1 or one-eigth of the ante money was
originally yours is of no consequence. In truth, it is no longer
yours. The moment you place your $1 ante in the pot, it belongs
to the pot, not to you ...
However, it is
absolutely irrelevent whether you put the money in there or
someone else did. It is the total amount, no part of which belongs
to you any longer, that should determine how you play your hand." [28-29]
An important adjustment is being able to change the style of play
based on the size of the ante.
"The general rule is that as the ante decreases, you must
tighten up." 
Implies odds are another important part of poker.
Implied odds are based on the possibility of winning money
in later betting rounds over and above what is in the pot already, and
calculating these implied odds can be difficult.
"In adding the possibility of future bets to the present pot to
get your implied odds, you should take into account whether the
strength of your hand is hidden." 
Like most things with poker, the timing and importance of deception are constantly changing.
"The general rule is: the better the players and the smaller the
pot, the more you disguise your hand when there are more cards
to come. The worse the players and the larger the pot, the more
you play your hand normally, without regard to giving anything away." 
FTR recommends David Sklansky's Theory of Poker as a must-have for your poker library.
Sklansky's Theory of Poker Reviews
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| “Theory of Poker” by drmcboy, 30 Mar 2006
Limit: No Limit: Tournament: Other Highlights: Overall Rating:
This is the book. Totally game non
specific, it will improve every poker
player. If you could read, digest and
properly apply everything in this book,
you could crush ANY game.
The bad news is that will be impossible!
But still, it's worth trying. You'll
re read this again and again and learn
more each time. And each time your game
improves, you'll come back to ToP and
Your first read, especially as a
beginner, may be frustrating and slow.
Each time, it gets more fun. I took it
on my last vacation like it was beach
It should be emphasized there are no
hand charts, limited examples (and those
are from mixed games), and very little
straight up strategy. Rather than
recommend, for example, semibluffing a
QJx flop with AK, David will help you
with the factors you should use to
consider whether a semi bluff is the
right play. And giving free cards. And
raising. And calling. It's ALL here.
The only reason this isn't the only
book you should everbuy is that you'll
probably need to see some of the
concepts in other books (or better, in
play!) first to get a handle on
| “Theory of Poker Review” by jax76, 18 Jan 2005
Limit: No Limit: Tournament: Other Highlights: Overall Rating:
This is simply the most useful took
available for understanding the
mathematical underpinnings of poker. It
can be a bit difficult to work through,
but even if you don't understand all
the math in detail, it's still worth a
read in order to understand the reasons
for playing in a particular way. For
instance, most authors of poker books
will tell you that it's better to raise
or fold and that calling is seldom the
right play, but Sklansky explains why
(hint: it has to do with comparing the
odds of making a particular hand with
the implied pot odds of a particular
This book will not teach you to play any
particular game of poker or tell you
which hands to play or how to play
specific situations. What this book does
is to explain the value of certain types
of play and to give specific examples
from different games, especially Hold
'Em, Omaha and Seven Card Stud, and to
illustrate how the theory changes in
practice if you're playing in limit or
no-limit games. Most people will
probably find the ideas presented here
more useful in cash games than for
tournaments, and will get better results
using them in limit games. It's small
comfort to play "correctly" and find
yourself knocked out of a tournament!
But even for no-limit tournaments,
Sklansky's book gets you strategizing
correctly and thinking about proper
play. My game has improved dramatically
since I read this book, and unlike most
poker books, this one obviously wasn't
written in a couple of weeks. The
meatiest, most useful book out there.
I'm glad most of my opponents have
never read it!
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