I'm a freelance writer and serious lower stakes poker player. I'm fascinated by poker's complex strategy as well as the psychology involved in this game of short-term luck and long-term certainties. Contact: onlinepokerdiary (at) gmail (dot) com

Book Review: The Beginner's Guide to Poker

The Beginner’s Guide to Poker by Golden Riviera Casino delivers just what you’d expect and more: a thorough but interesting introduction to the game of poker, including its history, rules, variations as well as key strategies you’ll need to know before hitting the tables. It’s perfect for poker newbies, although there still is plenty to learn for players who already have some familiarity.

Before getting into the book’s content proper, I feel I must give some mention to its physical qualities. In today’s immediate publishing environment, it’s easy to quickly dash off an e-book without anything special in the graphics department. This one, on the other hand, is a joy to look at. Attractive layout and images, good use of color, and sidebars filled with quotes, interesting facts, and additional visuals all make the reading experience more enjoyable.

But never judge a book by its cover, they say; nor its pretty layout. And the content of The Beginner’s Guide to Poker delivers as well. After a brief introduction to the game of poker and its mathematical, strategic and emotional nature, it jumps right into its origins.

Despite being an experienced poker player myself, I nevertheless learned a few things from this section. I especially enjoyed the point that there are a couple of different versions of poker’s history and historians are not in complete accordance as to what went down. The history lesson quickly launches into the present day, explaining how the development of poker strategy books in the 70s and 80s, online casinos in the 90s, and televised tournaments in the 2000s have all revolutionized the game.

The author describes the poker boom as a journey from a game to a sport, and shows how the industry got to today’s staggering size. But in addition to telling tales of multi-million dollar prizes, the book focuses on business realities. Directly following the history is a section explaining how online poker rooms make a profit, which is key for all players to understand.

The book then shifts from historical context to actionable advice with an in-depth exploration of the actual gameplay of poker. This section is perfect for new players, as it starts from the very beginning, including betting structures and procedures. Due to the many different variations of poker, though, it quickly becomes necessary to explain the complexity and different rules. The author here comes up with an effective solution: presenting first the main categories of games and then the popular variations for each category. With dozens of different games, including Q-Ball, Spit in the Ocean, Crazy Pineapple and Chowaha, poker novices will certainly not run out of new variations to call during dealer’s choice anytime soon. The section also includes a popular but often ignored variation: video poker.

The next section is one of the most important for a poker beginner: the hand rankings. From one pair all the way up to a straight flush, each hand value is clearly explained and supplemented by a helpful illustration.
After this, the book gets into additional betting rules and some key poker concepts such as the game of bluffing and common tells. One thing to remember when reading this part is that any one of these ideas requires a book of its own (if not more) to fully describe it.

Readers should consider the section on signs to look for when your opponent is bluffing, for example, as a mere introduction to the world of poker psychology, not hard and fast rules to memorize and follow in every game. Snapping off a bluff solely on the basis of a physical tell may be a romantic and exciting conception of great poker play, but it doesn’t always happen that way in real life. These types of tells are also completely dependent on context, including the poker variation, the stakes of the game, the caliber of the opponents, and more. What may be the best play in $1/$2 Texas Hold’em does not hold true for $5/$10, and it’s in a completely different world than stud or draw poker. Beginning poker players in low stakes games would be much better served to start to learn how to observe their opponents’ betting patters and categorize them into tight/loose and passive/aggressive players rather than try to pick up on gestures. Nevertheless, the section is compelling and goes over most of the popular poker tells.

Since the vast majority of poker shown on TV and played in tournaments is Texas Hold’em, it’s likely that some beginners would want to launch right into that variety and start learning winning strategies. That really isn’t the point of this book, which gives equal weight to all the main poker types and goes over techniques that work in any poker game. Those who are interested in learning about the exciting history of this great game and how to get started playing it, The Beginner’s Guide to Poker is the perfect book.


  1. Hey man keep up the good work. I'm enjoying the blog!

    David @Transformpoker

  2. Excellent poker guide you are sharing. Here is a good one as well http://online4poker.com/category/poker-guide/