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Gambling Book Reviews

The Gambling Headquarters, in association with In Association with Amazon.com, feature the following book reviews. I hope my reviews and my page in general motivate you to learn more about how to prepare yourself to face the casinos. If you do wish to buy one of these books through Amazon.com please use the links provided and I will get a cut of the sale. If you wish to buy any other book at Amazon.com please use the logo above and I will still get a cut. I am also including links to the books I don't like, just to be consistent and fair, not to encourage you to buy them.

Books on Gambling in General

  • American Casino Guide (Steve Bourie): This is not just a complete state by state listing of legalized casino gambling across the United States. The first 206 pages are full of interviews and stories about gambling. In addition there is specific gambling advice by various experts. There is good reading for gamblers at all skill levels. Plus there are lots of valuable coupons in the back. A very well done job!

     

  • American Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling (Andrew Brisman): Here is a book I would be proud of if I wrote it myself. The information and advice were very accurate. The author is very witty and descriptive, unlike other gambling writers who can be a bit dry (ahem).

     

  • Ask Barney: An Insider's Guide to Las Vegas (Barney Vinson): Questions and Answers from a man with 30 years experience in the casino business. Overall I find the book enjoyable, educational, truthful, and funny. One of the most enjoyable books about Las Vegas and gambling on the market.

     

  • Beat the House (Frederick Lembeck): If you want a book on nothing but betting systems this would be a good choice. In the event his systems don't work can you use his excuse on page 6, "For some unknown reason the law of probability is much harsher in casinos than it is at your kitchen table."

     

  • Beating the Casinos at Their Own Game (Peter Svoboda): This is a nice looking book with a glossy cover, lots of colorful diagrams, and good quality paper. The writing is directed toward the inexperienced player and takes plenty of time to explain the basics. However the amount of incorrect information is very high. The blackjack basic strategy is way off, for example advising always splitting twos and threes. In the Caribbean Stud chapter the author advises raising on everything (playing blind) with three of fewer players. The Let it Ride advice is also wrong as well as the explanation about how random numbers are used in slot machines. Betting systems are given entirely too much coverage. For the beginner who needs a slow and patient teacher this book does a good job at explaining the basics of casino gambling. However the strategy advice is so often incorrect that those parts should be ignored entirely.

     

  • BeatWebCasinos.Com (Bill Haywood): This book offers plenty of advice to those seeking to profit from online casino bonus incentives. There is lots of discussion about camouflage, record keeping, and avoiding casinos that are slow or argumentative about paying. There are also lists of milk (good), beef (bad), and poisoned beef (very bad) online casinos along with comments on various software providers and online casino portals (including mine). I respect this book for not trying to sell itself with big promises of easy money (as many other books do) but rather it is very honest and straightforward about the problems the bonus hustler is likely to encounter. Speaking from personal experience I strongly agree the overall content of the book.

     

  • Beyond Counting (James Grosjean): This book is not for everybody, in fact it would be too advanced for about 99.9% of gamblers. It mostly covers how to exploit various different casino games using such things are card flashing or unusual rules. There is an outstanding treatment of Three Card Poker. The book is very math heavy. If you're in that 0.1% that is willing to work for the edge any way you can then this book is in a class by itself and is highly recommended.

     

  • Casino Games (John Gollehon): The author covers eight different games with a mixture of commentary and analysis. There were some minor problems: the blackjack basic strategy is wrong in a few places (for examples splitting 9s against a 7) and his explanation of slot machine mechanics is outdated.
  • Casino Gambling for the Winner (Lyle Stuart): This book combines decent edge cutting advice with myth. The author spends a lot of time explaining how to look for trends which in the long run will not help the player.

     

  • Casino Tournament Strategy (Stanford Wong): A very good primer on playing casino tournaments. The advice applies to all games.

     

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gambling Like a Pro (Stanford Wong & Susan Spector): Game by game the authors go through the rules, the method of play, the optimal strategy, and the house edge. This is the book I turn to first when I am not sure about something. Written in plain simple English that even the most clueless person should be able to understand.

     

  • The Everything Casino Gambling Book (George Mandos): I only took a brief look at this book in the bookstore and noticed the following advice in the chapter on Caribbean stud poker the author says, "Another good tactic is if you have a pair that is higher than the dealer's up card, then stay; otherwise fold your hand." This is an extremely risk averse strategy that I can not recommend, costing the player up to 1.61 units each time.

     

  • Extra Stuff: Gambling Rambling (by Peter Griffin)This books is a collection of miscellaneous articles by gaming expert Peter Griffin. A great book if you are interested in the fine points of the mathematics of gambling but I wouldn't recommend it for the mathematically challenged or the casual gambler.

     

  • Finding the Edge (Edited by Olaf Vancura, Judy A. Collins, and William R. Eadington): This book is a collection of academic papers covering a host of gambling topics. A strong math background would be strongly suggested to get the most out of this book. The writing is very professional and I'm sure a huge amount of work went into its creation. Some of the greatest minds in gambling have contributed papers. However this book is not for the average person but for the person with a curiosity about mathematics and gambling.

     

  • The Frugal Gambler (Jean Scott): This book is all about milking casino comps for all they are worth. For the gambler, especially the machine player, who doesn't understand how the comp system works this book is highly advised. The knowledgeable gambler may already know much of the information presented. There can be little debate that the author, Jean Scott, knows and has lived this subject better than anybody.

     

  • How to Gamble in a Casino (Tom Ainslie): This book is another combination of decent edge cutting advice and betting systems.

     

  • Gambling Wizards (Richard W. Munchkin): This book is a collection of interviews of some of the most successful gamblers in the world. Take a rare look at the lives of those who win or lose huge amounts of money in a day's work. Plenty of great stories to keep you turning the pages. I read the whole thing in a week, which is very unusual for me.

     

  • How to Win at Gambling (Avery Cardoza): This is a fine, to the point, book covering fifteen games and a chapter on money management. The style is much like my own, skipping the chit chat and getting right to the facts. For the gambler with some experience who just wants to cut down the house edge I would recommend this one over all others. The only error I have seen is that he falsely suggests you raise on an unsuited (10,J,Q) or (J,Q,K) in let it ride, these plays have an expected return of 97.7 and 89.5 cents on the dollar respectively.

     

  • The Man with the $100,000 Breasts and Other Gambling Stories (Michael Konik): This book is an easy to read and hard to put down collection of stories about various gamblers and gambling topics. One chapter on the new casino games was quite well done. However the author incorrectly states that the difference in house edge in Caribbean Stud Poker between optimal strategy and raising on ace-king-jack-8-3 or better is .00000025%. Actually the house edge using optimal strategy is 5.224% and using ace-king-jack-8-3 is 5.316%, for a difference of 0.092%. The author also claims the house edge in Spanish 21 to be 0.8%. According to my analysis the house edge is closer to 0.7%. He also neglects to say that the player should opt for double down surrender on 17 against an ace. However don't let my nit picking keep you from reading this book. It is a real page turner and you will probably learn a lot about gambling without realizing it.

     

  • Scarne's New complete Guide to Gambling (John Scarne): Scarne is one of the pioneers in modern gaming analysis. Most authors have a 'get to the point' philosophy yet Scarne devotes much more time than most to discussing the odds. Unfortunately his advice is still incorrect sometimes, for example of the poor blackjack advice the author advises hitting a 12 vs. a dealer's 4 and never splitting 4s, 6s, or 9s.

     

  • Secrets of the New Casino Games (Marten Jensen): This is a very good idea for a book covering games difficult to find in most other books. The author covers in detail Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud Poker, Three-Card Poker, Pai Gow Poker, Spanish 21, Red Dog, Sic Bo, and Casino War. Unfortunately too much of the advice is wrong for me to award the book with a star. For example the author recommends raising on Caribbean Stud Poker on a ace-king-jack-9-5 or better. Ignoring the dealer's card the correct breakeven hand is ace-king-jack-8-3. The Let it Ride strategy advises letting it ride on any three to a straight flush which is not always a good bet. Although these are minor mistake the entire chapter on Casino War is seriously flawed by the assumption that "your chances of getting a tie are only 1 in 17" (page 130). With 13 ranks in the deck the correct odds are just under 1 in 13. This is probably why the author incorrectly advises surrendering on a tie when it is actually better to raise and go to war. However if you tear out the Casino War pages the other problems are minor enough to merit buying and using.

     

  • Silberstang's Encyclopedia of Games & Gambling (Edwin Silberstang): In this book the author covers both casino and non-casino games, from chess to strip poker. This book is an enjoyable read and with one exception seems mathematically sound. The one exception is when he states on page 110 about video poker jackpots, "But the longer it doesn't hit, the mover overdue it is." The fact is that a royal is equally likely to hit, assuming no changes in strategy, regardless of when the last royal was.

     

  • The Unofficial Guide to Casino Gambling (Basil Nestor): This is a very fine and carefully prepared piece of work. The book's 321 pages cover 9 games in depth, 3 briefly, and has five chapters of advice and information on gambling in general. Game by game the author explains the rules and protocol, identifies the best and worst bets, and gives advice on how to cut down the house edge as much as possible. The first two chapters state the mathematical truths that apply to all games in an easy to understand manner. Visit the author's website for more information.

     

  • The Winner's Guide to Casino Gambling (Edwin Silberstang): Definitely one of the better books in its class. The book covers seven games in depth and has four chapters on broader topics. Silberstang obviously knows what he is talking about and doesn't oversimplify his explanations as many other books do. The writing is very rich and laced with lots of stories and lessons from the author's own experiences. My only criticism is that he incorrectly states that slot machines are on a repeating cycle.

Books on Blackjack

  • Basic Blackjack (Stanford Wong): This books has a huge informational content but I wouldn't recommend it as a first or an only book on blackjack. The book is a study of the basic strategy and the its adjustments under a host of different rules. Much of the book is devoted to analysis of short term gimmicks that happened in a limited area years ago. I would recommend this book to the player who plays a lot and may encounter unusual rules from time to time, including those who may play in Europe or Asia, or anyone with a mathematical interest with the game. For the beginner I would suggest something less dry and technical.

     

  • Blackbelt in Blackjack (Arnold Snyder): Here is a great A to Z book on blackjack counting. Highly recommended for beginning to intermediate counters. Snyder quickly cuts to point on everything important to a card counter without being too technical or number heavy. Included is coverage of the Red Seven and Zen Counts.

     

  • Blackjack Attack (Don Schlesinger): This book is largely comprised of the Blackjack Forum articles by Don Schlesinger. The reader should have a strong background in basic strategy and card counting to appreciate this book. Experienced players can gain a lot from one of the masters of blackjack theory but it may be too advanced for beginning or intermediate players.

     

  • Blackjack Autumn (Barry Meadow): The story of one man's quest to count card at every casino in Nevada with at least one blackjack table. The writing is full of humorous similes and observations. There are plenty of interesting stories to tell, from a car breakdown on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to the death of the writer's father. Compared to Las Vegas Blackjack Diary the reading is lighter and more entertaining. This seems to be because the endeavor in Blackjack Autumn was mainly for the purpose of the book, while that of Las Vegas Blackjack Diary was a serious attempt at making money and the book an afterthought. If you want an enjoyable read get this book, if you want a more realistic depiction of card counting get Las Vegas Blackjack Diary.

     

  • Blackjack: The Real Deal (J. Phillip Vogel): Yet another combination of decent advice and betting systems.

     

  • Blackjack Secrets (Stanford Wong): There is nobody who I respect more on the subject of blackjack and gambling in general than Stanford Wong. In Blackjack Secrets he packs plenty of information into 256 pages. The basics are there for the beginner as well as fresh material for experienced players. This should not be the first book on blackjack or card counting but I'm sure anyone at any level of expertise can learn a lot from it.

     

  • Blackjack Wisdom (Bishop Arnold Snyder): This book is a collection of magazine articles by Synder. Fun and interesting reading for the reader with a solid blackjack background. No charts or math heavy analysis, just stories and talk about blackjack. A good bedside book.

     

  • Burning the Tables in Las Vegas (Ian Andersen): This is a follow up to 'Turning the Tables in Las Vegas' (see review below). In the 20 years since that book blackjack has changed and Andersen has a lot more advice to offer on player camouflage. One chapter was co-written with Stanford Wong on the costs and benefits of Andersen's basic strategy deviations and wider bet range. At 305 pages this book packs lots of information from topics varying from how to change your name to Chinese herbs that can sharpen your play. If you find yourself betting backed off or barred playing blackjack this book may be just what you need.

     

  • John Patrick's Blackjack (John Patrick): I can't recommend this book because the basic strategy is incorrect. Where Patrick differs with the conventional basic strategy is to avoid doubling and splitting against strong dealer cards. Following his strategy will result is losing more over the long run, but also less short term bankroll volatility.

     

  • Ken Uston on Blackjack (Ken Uston): More real life stories from one of blackjack's best and most interesting players. Not much technical information but an enjoyable read.
  • Knock-Out Blackjack (Olaf Vancura & Ken Fuchs): This book presents the Knock-Out count. It is a unbalanced counting system in which no running count to true count conversion is required. I respect the system and know many legitimate counters use it. There are two sets of index numbers, an easy set for beginners and a finer set for advanced players. Personally I'm engrained in the hi-low and don't plan to switch. Plus I'm a bit skeptical of claims in the book about the superiority of the Knock-Out to the Hi-Opt I and Red 7 count. I'm hoping to see an independent comparison by Wong, Snyder, or Schlesinger one of these days. For the blackjack player who puts a priority on an easy to use system the Knock-Out count would make a good choice, and this is the book to get to learn about it.
  • Las Vegas Blackjack Diary (Stuart Perry): This book follows the ups and downs of an eight week campaign of a card counter against the city. Session by session the author takes you through both the financial and emotional ups and downs. This book is full of practical advice for survival as a card counter as well as being an enjoyable read.
  • Million Dollar Blackjack (Ken Uston): Another good choice for anyone serious about studying Blackjack. This book contains five levels of strategy from basic to the Uston Advanced Point Count, including the Uston Simple Plus/Minus and Advanced Plus/Minus. There are also plenty of stories from Uston's exciting life as a professional blackjack player and in depth advice on playing as a team. A basic strategy for double exposure and European blackjack is also included. It is rather dated (copyright 1981) but his strategies are still powerful. The main difference between the Uston Advanced Plus/Minus and the Hi-Opt I is that the Advanced Plus/Minus does not require a side count of aces, but also is marginally less powerful. It is the opinion of Stanford Wong that the ace side count is more trouble than it is worth and I would tend to agree and thus go with this book over Humble/Cooper.
     

     

  • The Most Powerful Blackjack Manual (Jay Moore): Move over John Patrick you have some competition. Moore's book tells us we can beat blackjack by using an incorrect basic strategy combined with a betting system. If you want my opinion stick to what the experts like Wong, Schlesinger, Braun, Griffin, and Snyder have been saying for years: start with a foundation in the basic strategy and then move onto card counting. It isn't easy but if there were an easier way then everyone would be doing it. Meanwhile my heart goes out to the tree that was cut down to make this book.
     
  • Playing Blackjack as a Business (Lawrence Revere): At one time this was probably the best book on blackjack but it has since become dated. Revere has the best treatment of the basic strategy I have ever seen and explains clearly and mathematically his argument that you can make a lot of money at blackjack. Many of the tables are in color, which makes memorization easier. His book contains three count strategies but his more powerful Plus-Minus or Point Count you have to order separately.

     

  • Professional Blackjack (Stanford Wong): This book has the most in depth coverage of blackjack I have ever seen. Wong introduces the "high low" count strategy (+1 for 2-6, -1 for tens, aces) and gives complete index numbers for every rule variation imaginable, including many unusual rules I have never seen. In the back are several appendices of interesting statistics. He claims his "high low" has a better win rate than the Hi-Opt I (table 82) and I never doubt anything Wong says. This book is not for the beginner but a great choice for anyone ready to take move from basic strategy to card counting. Blackjack Secrets compliments Professional Blackjack with more information on avoiding detection as well as other tangential subjects.

     

  • The Theory of Blackjack (Peter A. Griffin): Just as the title says this book in on the theory of blackjack. The book is very mathematically advanced and presumes a strong background in card counting. This book was not meant to help the typical counter's game but reads more like a college text exploring the math behind card counting. For the person with an academic interest in blackjack you can't sink your teeth much deeper into the game than this. For the casual player or anybody who hates math I would recommend lighter reading.

     

  • Turning the Tables on Las Vegas (Ian Andersen): This book seems to be the most respected source of information on how not to get barred as counter. He also gives a good treatment of the mechanics of card counting. In his book is a strategy with card values ranging from -2 to +2, without ace side count.

     

  • Winning at Blackjack (Bryan Evans): This is a good book that goes through slowly and carefully the basic strategy and a +1/-1 count system with index values ranging from -4 to +3. No nonsense and to the point.

     

  • Winning Blackjack for the Serious Player (Edwin Silberstang): This is a well written book on the basics of good blackjack strategy. Silberstang takes you from the rules of the game to a simple count strategy. For the person who needs the basics but not a lot of technical information or a powerful count strategy this book would be a good choice.

     

  • Winning Casino Blackjack for the Non-Counter (Avery Cardoza): This book takes the beginner slowly and easily through the basic strategy and rule variations. In chapter VIII, 'The Winning Edge,' he presents a good strategy on betting more when the deck is rich in tens and aces, without necessitating the counting every card.

     

  • The World's Greatest Blackjack Book (Lance Humble and Carl Cooper): Certainly one of the better blackjack books. It packs a great deal of information in its pages and word for word is a good buy. He tells you everything you need to know from the basic strategy to the Hi-Opt I count strategy. Also amusing is a criticism of Lawrence Revere.

Books on Games Other Than Blackjack

  • Craps: Take the Money and Run (Henry J. Tamburin): The only thing I don't like about this book is the title. I do like the author's "just the facts" approach, explaining all the rules, the etiquette, and the house
  • How to Win Millions Playing Slot Machines...or Lose Trying (Frank Legato): Great title. This could just as easily be classified as a humor book as a gambling book. Among other topics the book explains how slots work and debunks the numerous myths that abound with slot players. Looking for a way to beat slots? You won't find it in this book, or anywhere. However I found the information accurate and enjoyable to read. On the other hand there was a lot of fluff and filler. The essential information could have been boiled down to something 10% the size.
  • Get the Edge at Low-Limit Texas Hold'em (Bill Burton): This book covers the basics of Hold'em. Targeted to beginners, it is easy to read and has lots of stories and examples from the author's own experience. Unlike another poker book I read (and lost) it isn't heavy on memorizing hands and how to play them but rather understanding the reasons behind the plays.
  • John Patrick's Craps (John Patrick): While I only skimmed the book in the book store I can't recommend it because the author advocates the any craps bet as a hedge. The any craps bet has a house edge of 11.11% and should not be made for any reason. However following his advice will result in less short term bankroll volatility.

     

  • The Lottery Book (Don Catlin): I'm not big on playing the lottery but if you do have an interest this book covers the topic quite thoroughly. The author is a former math professor and gives the topic a professional treatment. The book features a chapter on how to calculate lottery odds, stories about past winners, explanation of the various kinds of lotteries, and a state by state breakdown of the house advantage of each game. There isn't too much more to say about lotteries in my opinion.

     

  • Mastering the Game of Caribbean Stud Poker (Stanley Ko): Just about everything there is to say about Caribbean Stud Poker.

     

  • Mastering the Game of Let it Ride (Stanley Ko): Just about everything there is to say about Let it Ride. Includes a strategy on how to adjust your strategy based on other player's cards you can see.

     

  • Mastering the Game of Three Card Poker (Stanley Ko): Just about everything there is to say about Three Card Poker. Includes information on how to play if you can see one of the dealer's cards.

     

  • Optimal Strategy for Pai Gow Poker (Stanford Wong): As usual anything by Stanford Wong is about as good as it gets. The book explains why the rules in southern California are the best for playing pai gow poker and his strategies are designed for playing against other good players, as opposed to the casino house way. The 160 pages also contain a complete optimal strategy, an abbreviated one that will cover the vast majority of hands correctly, and 29 pages of practice hands.

     

  • Sharp Sports Betting (Stanford Wong): If you liked my section on sports betting you will like this book much more. Wong has crunched the numbers on every NFL game from 1990-2000 to determine when and how to bet. The book gives some tips on general trends that can help choosing which side of a game to bet on, but in general it is light on handicapping information. What the book does do it highlight vulnerable bets that can be exploited by "sharp" players. The book is very number heavy so Wong gives sample problems and answers to challenge the reader.

     

  • Video Poker Optimum Play (Dan Paymar): This 198 page book contains a close to perfect strategy for jacks or better, deuces wild, and joker poker. There are also chapters briefly covering other games as well as a host of video poker related topics. The writing is a bit dry but the math seems very solid. This is the best overall book on video poker I have seen.

     

  • Winning Craps for the Serious Player (J. Edward Allen): This book will tell you everything you need to know about craps. The author takes the reader though all the various bets, explaining the odds and house edge, while mixing in stories and examples to make the reading more colorful. My only complaint is the overdoing it with the promises of beating the casinos on the cover.

Fiction

  • The Counter (Kevin Blackwood): The story follows the character of Raven as he falls from his Baptist faith and deep into the life as a professional gambler. He starts out as a card counter but once he wears out is welcome in Las Vegas he takes up with some dubious characters in other more dangerous and illegal gambling schemes. The author is a former card counter and his depiction of the technical elements of counting and other advantageous strategies is honest and accurate, based on my own limited experience and knowledge. The book was a good page turner but I didn't care for the ending.

     

  • Dice Angel (Brian Rouff): This 222 page novel follows the story of Jimmy, a cynical Las Vegas bar owner, and his efforts to save his bar. After a robbery and embezzlement by his accountant Jimmy must come up with a lot of money on short notice or lose the bar to the IRS. As a last resort he turns to the "dice angel" who promises to turn his luck around at craps. The way the story is told is the best part. Every scene is rich in humor as Jimmy encounters everything ridiculous about Las Vegas at every turn. I found myself laughing from beginning to end.

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