Guides and Strategy Books
The number of books giving advice and building strategies for the games of chance is countless. Every now and then, a new one will be published, claiming it has cracked the code to bringing down the house and helping you beat the odds, but amongst these, there are a few titles that have changed the world of gambling forever and remain cult classics for both amateur and professional players. Here are some of the bibles of gambling you need to add to your library now.
Beat the Dealer by Edward O. Thorp
Math genius Edward O. Thorp is the father of card counting, the inventor of the first wearable computer, and a pioneer in the modern applications of the probability theory for reliable financial gain. In 1962, he wrote Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One – the first book that proved mathematically that card counting could be used to overturn the house edge in blackjack. Since then, it has remained the ultimate guide to card counting used by amateurs and professional players. This classic book contains charts consolidating the essentials, easy for anyone to memorise and use.
Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling by John Scarne
Credited as “The World’s Foremost Gambling Authority” John Scarne is still widely popular as the most authoritative gambling expert ever, albeit not being a gambler per se. The greatest card manipulator of all time, he gradually became an expert not only on magic tricks but card games in general, writing a number of books in the process. This guide covers every aspect of gambling at games of chance like the official rules, odds and house percentages. Every game and sporting event involving betting is reviewed and analysed with detailed advice and instructions on playing strategy.
Gambling 102: The Best Strategies for all Casino Games by M. Shackleford
If you think gambling is about chance or intuition, prepare to have your world overturned. Gambling 102 is the end result of years of precise mathematical analysis, aided by computer simulation in combination with real casino play to give accurate explanations and assessments on odds for each game. The chapters are straightforward and clear-cut, as they present the basic strategies for the games based on the calculations carried out. Get ready to nerd out.
Doyle Brunson’s Super System by Doyle Brunson
The author of this book – one of the first books about poker strategy – is professional poker player Doyle Brunson who is also a multiple winner at the World Series of Poker. Known as the bible of poker, this a necessary read if you’re planning on taking poker up professionally. The Super System explains why poker is more than luck and probability and although it may seem outdated nowadays, it still contains some of the best explanations on all poker games, including No Limits Texas hold ‘em and Seven Card Stud, as well as the best strategy on stud poker.
“Poker is war. People just pretend it’s a game.”
Burning the Tables in Las Vegas by Ian Andersen
This classic book on casino behaviour 101 discusses practically every aspect of blackjack that you can put to your advantage at the table. Despite its longevity, it can still be relevant, as it covers all the basics like choosing the game variant, mastering techniques to distract and identify bluffing, and preventing emotions like stress and anger from influencing your game. It’s also got a complete guide on how to perfect your skills and manners at the casino including dress code, tipping, and more.
Some of the best selling gambling-related books are the biographies of the most important people in the history of betting that have changed the world of gambling with their vision, skill, and artistry. Enjoyed by a broader audience, they can be an example to people of walks of life as their inspiring stories celebrate the greatness of the human mind and set a level of excellence everyone can strive to achieve. Here are some bios of the people without whom gambling wouldn’t be the same.
Blood Aces by Doug J. Swanson
A non-fiction biography that seems more unbelievable than a piece of fiction, this book tells the story of Benny Binion – a mob boss, casino owner, and creator of the World Series of Poker. With the dynamics of a gangster film, the book lifts the curtain of the world of notorious mobsters and reveals previously classified government documents that shape up the image of the great American antihero.
A Man for All Markets by Edward E. Thorp
The book tells the true story of Edward E. Throp – the legendary mathematician who invented card counting and actually showed the world that the house doesn’t always win. Read all about his transition from teaching to gambling and ushering a Wall Street revolution in this biographical summation about the man who changed gambling forever. Whether you’re an aspiring professional gambler or you just like to know more about the people who leave an impact on the world, this is a must read.
“In the abstract, life is a mixture of chance and choice. Chance can be thought of as the cards you are dealt in life. Choice is how you play them.”
Edward O. Thorp, A Man for All Markets
Enemy Number One by Patrick Veitch
The book accounts the sensational true story of Britain’s most successful gambler Patrick Veitch who earned himself the reputation of a bookie tormentor, as he made a profit in his dealings with them of more than £10 million over an eight-year period. Told in a crude yet captivating style and with an intelligent wit you’d expect from Veitch, the book follows his story of a prey becoming predator that is now the UK’s most feared professional punter.
All Bets Are Off by Arnie Wexler
Buckle up for a ride into the dark world of gambling addiction as told by Arnie and Sheila Wexler. The gritty story details the fall into addiction of Arnie who began gambling at fourteen, gradually descending into compulsive betting that spiraled out of control, ultimately pushing him and his wife Sheila to the edge of life. However, they manage to escape the dungeon of addiction and recover to a normal and healthy lifestyle, now helping other people with trainings and programmes.
Bets, Drugs, and Rock & Roll by Steve Budin
The book is the autobiography of Steve Budin – the creator of the first sports betting company who revolutionised the murky business of spreads, using old-school methods like luring clients with drug-infused, hooker-studded trips to Vegas. Budin shaped bookmaking into the global industry we know today under the guidance of his father – a legendary bookmaker himself, making millions in the process.
Books on History and Notable Events
Are you interested in how gambling originated? What were the first objects used for the games of chance and who were the most famous gamblers in history? How about the most notable events that will go down the history of gambling? Here are a few suggestions for books that look at the origins of gambling and detail some of the most important poker tournaments and other noteworthy gambling events.
The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King by Michael Craig
This adventure story with a fascinating narrative ushers readers into an exclusive world that very few have the chance to peek into, let alone be part of. Meet the Professor – the mathematical poker mind Howard Lederer, the Banker – none other than Andrew Beal himself, and the famous poker player Ted Forrest as the Suicide King and join them in the highest stakes poker match of all time.
The Dark Side of the Felt by Tyler Nals
Even if you don’t play poker yourself, this book gives you a fine exposure of what the game is all about, minus the glam side of TV broadcast tournaments, as the author narrates his own story of playing underground poker games on a nightly basis in Long Island and Charlotte. If you want to take a glimpse at the side of poker that has been avoided by marketers, you need to read this entertaining book, as it gives a realistic idea and some useful pointers that players might enjoy.
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
One of the most popular gambling-related books that was adapted into an equally popular gambling film, Bringing Down the House maintains its popularity thanks to its gripping narrative of the true story of the MIT Blackjack groups and the most successful scheme of card-counting in history. The action-packed #1 bestseller keeps the reader interested with a glimpse into the world of card savants who manage to take millions from the most sophisticated Vegas casinos over two years.
Positively Fifth Street by James McManus
With a title inspired by Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street and written two floors above the den of excess where Hunter S. Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the book follows James McManus on his assignment by Harper’s Bazaar to cover the 2000 World Series of Poker tournament and the murder of Ted Binion – the infamous creator of the WSOP. The book follows McManus’ adventures in a suspenseful account of gaudiness, luck, greed, and murder, as he decides to use the advance he got from the magazine to see how far in the tournament he can get himself.
The Biggest Game in Town by Al Álvarez
In this gambling classic, often called the best book about poker, acclaimed poet and literary critic Al Álvarez lifts the curtain of the high-stakes poker tables with a vivid depiction of the ambience of the World Series of Poker and the players – from the high rollers to the real-life coolers who never seem to win, to those who think they can exert skill over a game of chance. Offering an insight into the psychology of gamblers, this was the first book to account the experiences of professional poker players and is considered to have set the beginning the genre of poker literature.
“When there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph.”
Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling by David G. Schwartz
In the first narrative history of gambling through the ages, historian and director of the Centre for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada David G. Schwartz gives a compelling insight into the origins of gambling and how games of chance have been shaped into their current versions with the evolution of gambling paraphernalia. It also tells the stories of famous gamblers throughout history like Voltaire who devised a way to trick the lottery, winning 9 million francs, and the less fortunate Dostoevsky who went bankrupt due to his gambling addiction.
Works of Fiction and More
Although the real events in the world of gambling already seem like a work of fiction with stories of colossal winnings (or losses) and inspiring personages, there are some novels and collections of stories that make captivating and entertaining reads as they peel layer by layer the mind of a gambler, making the characters relatable with their personal stories, or they just give us a good laugh with some bizarre description that, given the strange world of gambling, might as well be a real one.
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dostoyevsky has his own dark story of gambling addiction, as his compulsive betting on roulette rendered him bankrupt several times, having a negative effect on his family as well. Ironically enough, he penned the short novel The Gambler as a way to pay off his gambling debts. Given his personal experience and his great psychological writing, you can expect full-bodied stunning portraits and compelling, albeit dark, narrative of the downward spiral of gambling losses that the protagonist Alexey Ivanovich experiences.
“But gamblers know how a man can sit for almost twenty-four hours at cards, without looking to right, or to left.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gambler
Telling Lies and Getting Paid: Gambling Stories by Michael Konik
This interesting read contains a small collection of gambling stories including a peek into the world of offshore online gambling and high-steak backgammon. It also offers the author’s view on the game of poker but rather than peddling oh-so-familiar strategies for pages, it shows his retrospect on time spent playing and its effect on his relationships and family. It also offers some funny insights on the philosophy of the game that will humour anyone who has frequented the felt table.
Duelling with Kings by Daniel Barbarisi
A recommended read for those of you who love sports betting (and for those who have no idea what DFS stands for), this book is an entertaining read about a newly emerged subculture in the USA. While it reads like fiction, it details pretty accurately both the business and the legal side to this phenomenon. DFS has its roots in poker and online gambling so if that’s your line of interest and you’re willing to broaden the scope, check out this interesting read.
The Man with the $100,000 Breasts by Michael Konik
Prepare yourself to meet some of the quirkiest characters in the world of professional gambling in this collection of stories that describes the oddities of casino life with precision and humour. From the fearless gambler who got himself breast implants to win a $100,000 bet, to the dice shooter who managed to turn a borrowed stake of $10,000 into $17 million, to the marketing genius who developed a “900” line for selecting winners of NFL football games – these are the kind of characters that make the game great, described in an intriguing fashion by Konik – a gambling expert himself.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
One of the most famous books that touches on gambling, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a prime example of gonzo journalism, as it narrates the psychedelic drug-induced haze of a trip to Las Vegas that the author embarked upon together with attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in 1971. This roman à clef accounts the details of the journey that has gone down in literary history as one of the most bizarre road trips ever, illustrated by Ralph Steadman and brought to the screen by Terry Gilliam, with Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro as “Raoul Duke” and “Dr Gonzo” respectively in the eponymous 1995 movie.
“Too weird to live, too rare to die!”
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas