Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Synopsis: An outrageous account of searching for the American Dream in Las Vegas.
Review: Blending fact and fiction, Hunter S. Thompson's account of a wild trip across Las Vegas has become one of the most important books published in the US, in the past fifty years. Spawned from two trips to Sin City, Thompson's novel records the excess of drug culture, alongside the more garish aspects of Las Vegas. Irreverent, hip and undeniably a classic, while Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was initially rejected by Sports Illustrated, who had sent Thompson out to cover the Mint 400 race (which is referred to in the novel), the book has since been recognised as an important contribution to American literature. The novel charts Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo's (based on Thompson and political attorney, Oscar Zeta Acosta, respectively), trip to Las Vegas, as well as the pair's decent into drug-fuelled madness. Poking fun at Las Vegas conventions (Duke and Dr Gonzo are particularly bemused by the National District Attorneys Association's Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs), as well as the sheer excess of Las Vegas, the narrator travels into the very heart of Sin City. Through drug-magnified lenses, Thompson draws attention to the outlandish nature of "America's playground", noting that Vegas "is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted." Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in Las Vegas and our number one gambling book.
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
From the moment Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas drops its bomb of a first sentence on us, we immediately know we're not reading The Great Gatsby. More known now for its movie adaptation starring Johnny Depp, Vegas was originally published in Rolling Stone Magazine, and then in book form in 1972. Using his own form of journalism called Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson delivers a ingenious portrayal of a life of excess while simultaneously providing us with a glimpse of an America many of us never saw.
Using his alter-ego Raoul Duke, Thompson dives into the hostile waters of Las Vegas, Nevada during the Nixon years. Front and center of the story we find gambling, drinking and the consumption of “almost every type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 A.D”. Searching for the so-called “American Dream”, Hunter favors style over facts and the result is an iconic piece of literature which made many an aspiring writer like myself feel we could actually write something like this. Vegas has held its own in the nearly 40 years since it's publication, and has continued to inspire new writers while keeping The Good Doctor's legacy alive and well.
Author: Ian Fleming
Synopsis: Bond's first adventure proves to be one of his best.
Review: Over the years, James Bond has become the most famous fictional spy ever to grace both print and screen. Bond’s adventures began back in 1953, when Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was published by Jonathan Cape. At the time, Ian Fleming’s creation was compared with similar detective fiction of the era, but in the past few decades, James Bond has become a household name. There are now 22 (EON) films featuring the charismatic secret agent and Bond’s adventures in Casino Royale are still as fresh and entertaining as they were over 50 years ago. Casino Royale follows James Bond’s adventures in the high-roller casino located in Royale-les-Eaux, France. Bond is assigned to bankrupt Le Chiffre, the treasurer for a 'SMERSH' (a Soviet intelligence unit) controlled union. What follows is a high-stakes baccarat game, an exploration of Bond’s dangerous and deadly relationship with his assistant, Vesper Lynd, as well as a truly harrowing torture scene. In true Bond style, 007 lives to fight another day – after all, a further 13 books penned by Fleming feature the secret agent – but the story remains both gripping and electrifying. If you’ve never read any of Fleming’s work, or are familiar with Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond in the 2006 film based on the book but would like to learn more about Bond’s roots, then Casino Royale is a must-read.
In Bond's world, even casinos are fighting fronts in Cold War. Big game is tense w/ MI6 & CIA money, an exotic gun and Soviet agent as bank. Matthew Sanborn Smith
Author: Edward O. Thorp
Synopsis: Often referred to as the book that started it all, Beat the Dealer is widely recognised as the original card counting manual.
Review: Before mathematics professor Edward Thorp published this book there were few theories and even less proof surrounding the possibility of beating blackjack. This all changed when Beat the Dealer hit the shelves, as it explains basic strategy, a winning strategy and various other systems, as well as stories of how they worked in practice in Las Vegas. The fact that this book has sold over 700,000 copies should come as no surprise as, at the time of publishing, it was highly innovative with no other book being able to offer the information and advice that it did. Beat the Dealer’s quality is illustrated by the slew of imitators that have followed since the book was first published in 1962. Another important factor of this book is its ability to appeal to gamblers with varying levels of blackjack knowledge and experience. For beginners, a comprehensive guide to the rules and basic strategy of the game is included to ease you in, before the complex theories on point counting systems and discussions on science versus chance take over. Possibly the most impressive feature of Beat the Dealer is that it still manages to stay relevant today, almost 50 years after being written. While it’s undeniable that simpler card counting systems have been created since then, the stories concerning the first systems, as well as being able to see how theories have developed, make reading Thorp’s book thoroughly worthwhile.
Author: Michael Shackleford
Synopsis: The 'wizard' offers a comprehensive guide to casino gameplay.
Review: Often recognised as a leading gambling mathematician, since 1995 Michael Shackleford (otherwise known as the ‘Wizard of Odds’) has provided web users with accurate information on how to play a wide range of casino games. In 2005, Huntington Press published Gambling 102, Shackelford’s contribution to the world of casino books. However, while most gambling books offer readers an introduction to casino games (and some offer little more), Shackleford assumes readers will already be familiar with the basics of games such as blackjack, casino war and roulette. The result of this is that the Wizard is deftly able to offer accurate and mathematically sound strategies for all of the casino games included – without alienating newcomers. There is a variety of gaming information available on Shackleton’s website (WizardofOdds.com), but Gambling 102 allows you easy access to several strategies: Perfect if you’re looking to brush up on your skills during a long flight to Las Vegas. While the book isn’t completely perfect (Shackelford includes a list of amendments on his website), Gambling 102 is by far one of the best all-round casino strategy guides currently available. If you’re looking for mathematical analysis you can trust, then look no further than Gambling 102.
Author: Kevin Blackwood
Synopsis: Casino Gambling for Dummies shows you how to "bet wisely, beat the house, and bring home the bucks!"
Review: Kevin Blackwood has used his considerable casino and casino games knowledge to create what’s more than just a beginner’s guide. Insider secrets and tips for maximising profits while minimising losses when playing all of the major casino games are just the basis of this comprehensive casino guide. In addition, Blackwood explains odds as well as detailing winning strategies, bad bets, how to manage your money and how to gamble online. Whilst being extremely informative, Casino Gambling for Dummies manages to maintain an easy to read prose, meaning that as well as serving as an occasional guide, it can also serve the purpose of a cover to cover read. A particularly pleasant addition to this book is the section containing a variety of top tens. These lists consist of the coolest places to gamble, the most common gambling mistakes and the best ways to score comps and are not only educational but also highly entertaining. Also of note is the information on how to score comps; obviously these tips are only useful in the bigger casinos but if nothing else, it still makes compelling reading. Casino Gambling For Dummies manages to succeed where other casino beginners guides have failed in that, as well as providing bucket loads of information, it’s still an enjoyable read.
Author: Dennis N. Griffin
Synopsis: Griffin sheds light on the battle between mobsters and law enforcement in Las Vegas.
Review: In recent years, Dennis N. Griffin has become renowned for his balanced and informative accounts of crime and mob life in Sin City. In the author’s 2008 book, The Battle for Las Vegas, Griffin focused his attention on the ongoing struggle between law enforcement and the Chicago mob outfit in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s. As with other Las Vegas crime related titles, the book dedicates considerable attention to underworld figures such as Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, but also focuses the limelight on detectives and police officials attempting to put an end to mob-rule in Las Vegas. The Battle for Las Vegas provides an in-depth and informative account of how Las Vegas was shaped by the mob, discussing in detail the early days of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel through to Spilotro’s death in Indiana and recent FBI developments, including information on “Operation Family Secrets”. Peppered with informative narratives from a variety of sources, ranging from relatives of the men who shaped Vegas, to news reporters of the era, The Battle for Las Vegas offers a wealth of sources for Las Vegas enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. Read our full review of The Battle for Las Vegas for more details.
Author: Ben Mezrich
Synopsis: Ben Mezrich’s tale of how MIT students won millions of dollars in Las Vegas is sure to excite and inspire.
Review: Described by many as not your typical blackjack book, Bringing Down The House follows Kevin Lewis (real name Jeff Ma) as he relives an incredible four years that transformed him from a hard working, mild mannered student into a controversial millionaire. The amount of twists and moments of tension in Bringing Down The House means that you could easily be forgiven for mistaking this book as a work of fiction, especially when it comes to the descriptions of success at the blackjack tables. Despite the accusations about the potential fabrication of some events, Mezrich’s book has proved to be so popular that it was adapted into hit film 21, starring Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. Even though the story was adapted considerably to create the film, it goes to show just how incredible Mezrich’s book is. While there are enough tips, hints and mathematical information to allow you to grasp the basics of card counting, those looking to learn the systems and strategies are best directed to one of the various other manuals available on the topic. Bringing Down The House focuses more on telling the story of how six students became Las Vegas high rollers and manages to do so with great effect, whilst providing a gripping and enjoyable read.
Despite artistic liberties taken by #BenMezrich "Bringing Down the House" is an engrossing read about M.I.T card counters taking on Vegas. Bill Becker
Author: John Grochowski
Synopsis: John Grochowski’s addresses common player concerns in his complete guide to video poker.
Review: While games such as blackjack and poker have several books dedicated to them, video poker used to be curiously disregarded by the gaming elite. However, John Grochowski’s landmark book on the game, The Video Poker Answer Book, has addressed the imbalance between publications on traditional card games and more modern, electronic casino games. The Video Poker Answer Book provides a plethora of tips, strategies and guides for a variety of video poker variations, but perhaps what really makes the book so interesting is that its author is an all-round casino expert. Grochowski’s career in the gambling industry began back in the early 1990s, when he was asked to contribute gambling tips to the Chicago Sun-Times. From then onwards, Grochowski has become one of the most celebrated and prolific gambling authors of our time, contributing numerous articles to a variety of publications, as well as writing several helpful gaming books - The Video Poker Answer Book, included. Perfect for players who want to understand the mechanics behind video poker, without becoming overwhelmed by facts and figures, The Video Poker Answer Book, offers a friendly and knowledgeable approach to the popular casino game. The book has even been praised by Jean Scott, author of another top 50 book, Frugal Gambling, who suggested that she “bet some people learned a lot (from reading the book) without even realizing they had been studying!”
Author: Stanford Wong
Synopsis: Stanford Wong’s Blackjack Secrets offers advice for more advanced card counters.
Review: This offering by Stanford Wong manages to avoid one of the most common failings in blackjack books; it’s easy to read. In the 250 pages that make up Blackjack Secrets, there are just 19 tables, which allows lots of space for descriptive text that makes the more complex card counting systems a lot less complicated. For those hoping to master the art of card counting, this book not only discusses the technical aspects such as producing tables of strategy numbers and counting down decks, but it also details how to hide your activity with your behaviour and appearance. However, Blackjack Secrets isn’t just for the card counting maestros among us; it also includes interesting stories surrounding blackjack as well as a comprehensive guide to blackjack as a game. Amongst these stories is how Wong and his acquaintances have taken advantage of new casino blackjack promotions on several occasions to stunning effect. Also of note are the sections describing which blackjack variations are best suited to the card counter, as well as which type of promotions can be taken advantage of by players. In writing Blackjack Secrets, Wong has managed to make a complex subject seem simple, meaning that this book is ideal for anyone wishing to become a blackjack expert.
Author: Arnold Snyder
Synopsis: Arnold Snyder has created an informative guide that’s bound to make any reader become a blackjack pro.
Snyder’s comprehensive guide to blackjack strategy manages to encompass all of the elements associated with blackjack strategy. This, like most blackjack books, consists of basic strategy, money management and table variations. However, unlike many other similar books, Blackbelt in Blackjack goes into impressive detail concerning high roller play, shuffle tracking, team play and remaining undetected whilst counting cards. These sections make Snyder’s guide an excellent manual for experienced players looking to use complex strategy in order to gain the best results while playing blackjack. The book takes you through white belt, green belt and finally black belt to turn any player into a card counting pro. Blackbelt for Blackjack is certainly a must read for anyone looking to discover more about card counting.
Author: Bill Burton
Synopsis: A straight forward guide to casino games.
Review: As any avid casino player will tell you, there have been numerous gambling books released over the past few decades, which all aim to inform players on everything they need to know about casino games. However, Bill Burton’s 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets still stands as one of the best books of the genre. As the title of the book suggests, there are a 1,000 unique casino tips for players to get to grips with and Burton covers a variety of casino games, ranging from slots and blackjack, to keno and craps. If you’re looking for a light read which doesn’t skimp on facts, then 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets is for you.
Author: Josh Axelrad
Synopsis: A warm and darkly humorous account of life as part of a card-counting team.
Review:: Before becoming a card-counter, Axelrad was settled in a comfortable, if tedious job. However, a meeting with a card-counter at a party leads Axelrad on a whirlwind adventure across the United States. For five years, Axelrad was part of a blackjack team known as ‘Mossad’, which featured members with a variety of skills, ranging from the ability to card-count, to spotting new opportunities at other tables. Written with insight and charm, Axelrad’s Repeat Until Rich is a wide-eyed account of life as a card-counter in the US. Those who are new to skilled blackjack play will no doubt be amused by Axelrad’s discussions of the various disguises and personas he took on while playing and card counters will appreciate his honest story of how anyone can learn to play blackjack in a skilful manner. Free from embellishment and starkly truthful, perhaps what makes Repeat Until Rich so unique is Axelrad’s examination of card-counting post 9/11. Following new legislative measures which meant that large sums of money could no longer be taken on planes, Mossad is disbanded and Axelrad retires, only to find himself trapped between writing Repeat Until Rich and becoming increasingly hooked by online poker. Players looking for an honest account of card-counting would do well to read Axelrad’s truthful account of life as part of a blackjack team.
Author: David G. Schwartz
Synopsis: Roll the Bones offers an entertaining history of gambling, from the stone ages to the internet.
Review: In Roll the Bones, David Schwartz has compiled one of the most thorough historical accounts of gambling available. Schwartz manages to include gambling’s development in different areas of the world including Native America, China, Western Europe and the U.S. Events are set out in chronological order, which makes the book very easy to read, and all forms of gambling are covered. Towards the later stages of the book, the author moves to more modern issues and offers some enlightening discussions about gambling’s importance and place in society. Also of note is the thought-provoking musings about the future of gambling and how it might change. All in all, Roll the Bones is strongly recommended to anyone interested in the history of any form of gambling, or even anyone just looking for a good read.
Author: Ian Andersen
Synopsis: Burning the Tables in Las Vegas covers everything you need to know about blackjack advantage play.
Review: Almost 25 years after Ian Andersen published Turning the Tables on Las Vegas, which became a massive hit amongst blackjack players and card counters alike, comes Burning the Tables in Las Vegas. Burning the Tables...follows very much in the same vein as its predecessor, by detailing advanced strategies, as well as offering advice on all aspects relating to card counting. The most impressive feature of Andersen’s book is the range of topics that it covers. Among the usual aspects of card counting such as game selection, comps and disguises are less covered areas, such as employee relations, false identification and even diet. For those looking to card count in a big way, this is the book for you.
Author: Thomas A. Bass
Synopsis: A group of students team up to beat Las Vegas at their own game.
Review: Since it was first published in 1985, Thomas A. Bass’ The Eudaemonic Pie (known as The Newtonian Casino, in the UK), has bewitched readers with its account of a high-tech roulette system which really works. As Bass makes clear early on in the book, “there is no mathematical system” which can help players win at roulette. However, through the aid of “computer sandwiches” in their shoes, the group (known as the Eudaemons), headed by Doyne Farmer and Norman Packard, were able to predict the movements of the roulette ball. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting aspects of Bass’ The Eudaemonic Pie is the sheer technical and scientific skill involved in creating their own system. However, Bass also mixes the technological advances of the group alongside personal tales, discussing in chapters such as “Silver City” how Farmer became interested in physics. Readers of more recent tales of students beating casinos, such as Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House, will no doubt find much to enjoy in Bass’ tale, but the book also attracts praise from more scientifically-minded readers, as well as those who enjoy the idea of the casino’s being beaten at their own game.
The book shows the practical application of math to real-world problems that can make people money. Mike Cane, Writer
Finished reading and want to see more? Head right along to positions 26 to 50 in our Top 50 Gambling Books of all time.