Pat Holland brings the mathematics of gambling to life in Red Joker Rules. This valuable guide, which sees little distinction between investing and gambling, relates its wisdom through an imaginary dialogue between a common man and a fictitious red joker. Holland's training as an educator and penchant for humour make this an entertaining and informative read even if you don't care for maths. Potential bettors and investors alike will want to take the time to read and master all 35 red joker rules.
First published in 2009, Pat Holland’s Red Joker Rules follows a fictional conversation between the “Common Man” and the “Red Joker”, who, in his own words, is “the spirit you encounter every time you place a bet.” Holland’s fourth book suggests that “there is no qualitative difference between...gambling and investing” and he illustrates this fact through flourishes of dry humour, impressive mathematical insight and helpful doses of useful advice to aid gamblers as well as investors.
With a strong background in mathematics, as well as a current career in journalism, Holland’s Red Joker Rules, dazzles where other gambling books falter. Rather than simply reiterating mathematical equations, Holland, through a fictional interview between himself and the elusive red joker, is able to pair mathematical principals with relatable gambling experiences. Books on gambling tend to make one of the following mistakes; they either concentrate on advanced techniques, thus alienating the common man, or offer vague tips about “beating the casino”, without ever really saying how. Holland is able to briskly move between explanations of how to grasp percentages and equations, whilst still entertaining readers with quips and genuinely interesting anecdotes, thus sidestepping the danger of stumbling down the labyrinth of poor gaming journalism.
Using the example of Nicholas “Nick the Greek” Dandolos, Holland explains the gameplay of a gambling legend in relation to the “Theory of Large Numbers” and, from there, lays out the optimum strategies for both investors and gamblers. However, if you’re planning on purchasing Holland’s book in an effort to learn how to pick a good hand from a poor one, or to spot a horse which can win you thousands, think again. As the Red Joker Rules points out in “Study the Form”:
I am not trying to educate you on how to pick winners. I am trying to make you see that you cannot possibly distinguish winners from losers unless you learn everything that is possible to be learnt about them. I am trying to make you see that professional gamblers put a great deal of study into any gambling situation before they risk money.
Whilst such advice might seem daunting, one of the key insights which we gained from Red Joker Rules is that, in order to be a successful gambler, you have to learn to specialise. As observed late on in the book, you can “Improve Your Edge” by picking and choosing “a few likely situations and studying them intensively”. This is integral advice for casino gamblers, who tend to switch between games without really optimising or intensively learning about any of them.
Throughout the book, Holland separates gamblers into categories, ranging from the one-armed bandit gambler who is “single-handedly responsible for the school of thought that all gamblers ultimately gamble in order to lose” to the blackjack player, whom investors “can learn the most” from. The common man and the red joker deftly define the different types of gamblers in order to shed light on the similarities between investments and gambling and the results are illuminating, whether you’re interested in gambling, investing, or perhaps even both. Never before has a book explained how gambling works, without aimlessly spouting spiel about how you’ll finally be the one to take down the casino. Red Joker Rules is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn a few pearls of gaming wisdom from the Red Joker, "the playing card that is an observer in some games and a live, disruptive presence in others."