The Best Books To Improve Strategic Thinking

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Stacked chess pieces and books on a wooden table.
BetMGM Nov 01, 2023, 2:32 AM

Beginners and pros alike will agree that, ultimately, gambling comes down to two things: strategy and luck. While one cannot create or influence luck, there’s something to work with when it comes to strategic thinking. However, note that strategic thinking is a concept different from planned or game-specific strategy — knowledge that comes with study and experience.

What Is Strategic Thinking?

Strategic thinking is an intentional and rational thought process that analyzes variables, considers vulnerabilities and threats, and explores potential opportunities. This kind of thought processing is necessary in business, in life, and especially in gambling.

Of course, some online casino games have a greater demand for cognitive skills than others. So, while slot players may not necessarily need to hone in on this way of thinking, online poker players cannot do without it. Thinking strategically in gambling involves creating carefully curated plans to help you achieve your end goal — winning.

If you’re looking to improve your strategic thinking skills, read on to discover some of the best books on strategic thinking. This list reviews seven great books (in no particular order) on general strategic reasoning and developing strategic skills, as well as more game-specific books authored by gambling professionals.

1. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist known for his work in behavioral finance and hedonic psychology. His strategic thinking book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” has sold more than 2.6 million copies and is a New York Times bestseller.

This strategic planning book introduces readers to the mind and the two systems that drive thinking — the quick, emotional, and intuitive system and the slow, deliberate, logical system. Kahneman explores how these systems work together to influence people’s judgments and decisions, their benefits and downfalls. He also explores techniques to tap into both effectively, helping avoid mistakes people may otherwise make in high-stakes situations.

2. “The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life” by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff

“The Art of Strategy” takes the point of view that everything in life, whether business or personal, has a game-theory component. Game theory requires strategic thinking, anticipating your opponent’s moves while being aware that your opponent is doing the same in reverse. It’s the understanding that you are playing against someone who is trying just as hard to beat you as you are to beat them.

By applying game-theory strategy, which aims to sharpen your decision-making skills, this book translates complex ideas into understandable, unique, and entertaining methods and perspectives to win, whether while playing blackjack at a casino or at life in general.

3. “The Biggest Bluff” by ​​Maria Konnikova

Women sitting on a windowsill, reading a book.

Russian-American psychologist Maria Konnikova delves into the mathematics and psychology of high-stakes poker in “The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.” The tale follows Konnikova, who famously approached Poker Hall of Fame inductee Erik Seidel and convinced him to be her mentor, having never played poker before. It follows her journey from novice to professional poker player, and what she learned about herself and human behavior in the process.

The lessons she shares are invaluable as she explores the line between luck and skill, and sets out “to learn what I could control and what I couldn’t.” Konnikova states, “Bad cards will come our way, but keeping our focus on how we play them and not on the outcome will keep us moving through many a dark patch until luck once again breaks our way.” Wise words, especially if you enjoy playing live dealer casino table games.

4. “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of five New York Times bestsellers, has been featured on the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and proclaimed one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers. In “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” Gladwell draws on leading neuroscience and psychology to help readers understand their decisions and “think about thinking” in a new way.

This book revolutionizes how to understand decision-making. It reveals how great decision-makers aren’t those who deliberate for long periods, but instead, those who have mastered the art of separating what is essential, and those who are able to make decisions in the blink of an eye. 

With a 4.5-star average rating from more than 13,000 people on Amazon, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” is one of the best strategy books out there and is essential to anyone wanting to master strategic thinking and decision-making.

5. “Learning To Think Strategically” by Julia Sloan

Julia Sloan is a lecturer at Columbia University and the principal of a New York-based firm specializing in strategic thinking for business, government, and international agency leaders.

In “Learning to Think Strategically,” Sloan examines the relationship between the learning process and strategic thinking, translating academic methods into everyday tools. The book explores the history of strategy, reviews the roles of rationality and intuition, and discusses key attributes for learning to think strategically.

6. “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke

Top view of a woman reading a book and drinking coffee.

Former World Series of Poker Champion Annie Duke wrote this Wall Street Journal bestseller, which teaches readers how to accept uncertainty and make better decisions as a result. The basic premise in “Thinking in Bets” is that all decisions are, ultimately, bets. What is a bet? Well, it’s basically “a choice made by thinking about what will probably happen.” In other words, it’s a decision with an uncertain outcome involving risk, chance, and probability.

The book draws on several practical examples from sports, business, politics, and poker to share tools on how to become a more skilled decision-maker. It also reviews common fallacies people tend to fall for during the decision-making process. As the book explains, “Thinking in bets starts with recognizing that exactly two things determine how our lives turn out: the quality of our decisions and luck. Learning to recognize the difference between the two is what thinking in bets is all about.” 

7. “The Confidence Game” by Maria Konnikova

Maria Konnikova makes the list once again, this time with an intriguing investigation into the minds and methods of con artists (and their victims). “The Confidence Game” takes a look at how and why con artists do what they do, the act of believing, and how truth can be manipulated. 

Reviewing a selection of true stories, Konnikova explores what all successful con artists have in common from a scientific and psychological perspective. “The Confidence Game” is a gripping read.

Why Strategic Thinking Is Important In Gambling

So, why should you be reading these books on strategy? The answer is simple: strategic thinking is a game-changer in gambling. It helps you set realistic goals, spot opportunities to boost your chances of winning, and predict the odds of your strategy succeeding. It’s like having a secret weapon that allows you to dig into the nitty-gritty of every game you play. Plus, the critical thinking and problem-solving skills you learn from some games can even be carried over into other areas of your life, like your work style. 

This approach gives you a keen eye for your strategy’s strengths and weaknesses, and it lets you size up how your competitors are playing. It helps you see things in the game that your rivals might miss, keeping you ahead of the curve. So, with gambling, strategic thinking isn’t just an option; it’s your ace in the hole.

How To Improve Your Strategic Thinking Skills

If you’re looking to strengthen your competitive advantage in online casino games, working on your strategic thinking skills is a good way to get there. So, how can you get better at thinking strategically?


The key to getting better at anything is practice — trial and error. So, if you enjoy playing online poker, for example, this could involve playing more low-stakes online poker games to ensure you completely understand the rules, the odds, which strategies work, and which ones don’t. Branching out and playing other casino games that are good for your brain and can help hone your strategy skills is also a good way to ensure you’re developing a well-rounded approach to your strategic thinking. 

Set clear goals

Make sure you clearly define your objectives for each gambling session. Setting clear goals will help you make strategic choices that align with your intentions.

Manage Your Bankroll

Effective bankroll management is a cornerstone of strategic gambling. Set limits on how much you’re willing to spend and stick to them. Avoid chasing losses, and have a plan for when to walk away, whether you’re winning or losing.

Practice Patience

Impulsive decisions can lead to losses. You must ensure you’re taking your time to assess the situation and make calculated moves. Train yourself to be patient and avoid making rash bets. 

Analyze Your Past Performance

Keep a record of your gambling activities. Analyze your wins and losses to identify patterns and trends. This can help you refine your strategy over time.

Embrace Adaptability

Adaptability is extremely important in gambling. No strategy works all the time. So, you need to be open to adjusting your approach based on the specific circumstances of the game. 

Control Your Emotions

Emotional control is vital for strategic thinking. Don’t let frustration or overconfidence drive your decisions. Stick to your strategy and make sure you stay level-headed.

Remember, strategic thinking in gambling is about making informed decisions and managing risk. You can become a more strategic and successful gambler with time and practice.

Play All Kinds of Online Casino Games at BetMGM

Put your skills to the test when you play casino table games at BetMGM! Popular games that require strategic thinking include poker, baccarat, and craps — all of which you can enjoy when you register with BetMGM. You’ll have access to strategy and pure-chance games, including some of the best games to challenge strategic thinkers. From live casino online games to online slots and much more, you’re bound to find something that’s fun to play.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.