Beginners and pros alike will agree that, ultimately, gambling comes down to two things: strategy and luck. While we cannot create or influence luck, when it comes to strategy, we have something to work with. Now we’re not talking about planned or game-specific strategy – knowledge that comes with study and experience – but rather, strategic thinking.
Strategic thinking is an intentional and rational thought process where one 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.
If you’re looking to improve your strategic thinking skills, read on as we explore some of the best books on strategic thinking. We’re reviewing seven great books (in no particular order) on general strategic reasoning, as well as more game-specific books authored by gambling professionals.
1. Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist known for his work in behavioral finance and hedonic psychology. His book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, has sold more than two million copies and is a New York Times bestseller.
This book introduces readers to the mind and the two systems that drive our thinking – namely, the quick, emotional and intuitive system, and the slow, deliberate, logical system. Kahneman explores how these systems work together to influence our judgments and decisions, their benefits and downfalls, as well as techniques to effectively tap into both – thus avoiding mistakes we may otherwise make in high-stake situations.
2. The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life – 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 to it. 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 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: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win – Maria Konnikova
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 indeed, especially if you enjoy playing live dealer casino table games.
4. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
The author of five New York Times bestsellers, Malcolm Gladwell, 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 the decisions they make, and “think about thinking” in a new way.
This book revolutionizes the way we understand decision making, revealing how great decision makers aren’t – as we may have thought – those who deliberate for long periods of time, but those who have mastered the art of separating what is essential from a number of variables, and those who are able to make decisions in the blink of an eye.
With a 4.5-star average rating from more than 6,000 people on Amazon, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is essential to anyone wanting to master strategic thinking and decision making.
5. Learning To Think Strategically – Julia Sloan
Julia Sloan is a lecturer at Columbia University and the principal of a New York-based firm that specializes 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: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts – Annie Duke
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,” meaning a decision with an uncertain outcome – involving risk, chance and probability.
The book draws on a number of practical examples from sports, business, politics and, of course, poker, to share tools on how to become a more skilled decision-maker. It also reviews common fallacies that people tend to fall for during the decision-making process. As the book explains, “Thinking in bets starts with recognizing that there are exactly two things that 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 – Maria Konnikova
Maria Konnikova makes our 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 not only at how and why con artists do what they do, but also at 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!
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. We offer an array of both strategy and pure-chance games, from live casino online games to online slots and much more, so you’re bound to find something that’s fun to play.