The 8 best gambling books on the market
Raw talent will only take you so far. If you want to enter the premier league of pro gambling greats, you need to do your homework.
There are experts out there who’ve made their names by developing wagering systems and algorithmic betting models that allow them to spot advantages and optimise their play. Some of these ‘advantage gamblers’ have shared their secrets in best-selling gambling books, meaning you too can master their methods.
The RightCasino.com experts regularly use advanced game guides to help us get an edge at the casino. The following six are our favourites …
REMEMBER: these books are not guaranteed to make you win. They will, however, help you play intelligently, avoid silly errors and get the most out of your bankroll.
by John Scarne (1986)
What more can we say about John Scarne? This legendary stage magician was also an advantage card player and widely regarded as the most authoritative expert on gambling ever to have lived.
He even served as a gambling consultant to several governments and invented a few card games of his own, most famously ‘Teeko’ (a favourite of Orson Welles.)
Scarne was incredibly prolific and published dozens of books, but this volume is his most complete work. Despite being more than 50 years old, Scarne’s Complete Guide to Gambling is every bit as relevant today as it was when it first hit the shelves in the swinging sixties.
Every single aspect of gambling is covered here, including card counting techniques (effective up to four decks), tips for spotting dodgy casinos and sport betting systems.
Each topic is explained and analysed in an accessible fashion, while Scarne peppers his book with witty anecdotes about his experiences as a high-flying gambling don in the 1960s.
For any discerning gambler keen on dabbling in advantage play, Scarne’s masterpiece should be your Bible.
by Patrick Veitch (2010)
There are a shedload of pro-tipster publications on the market, but Partrick Veitch’s memoir/ betting guide is one of the best. In Enemy Number One, Veitch shares the inside story of how he constructed a multi-million pound fortune by pummelling the bookies over a period of eight years.
While the biographical stuff is entertaining, it’s the expert guidance that justifies the price-tag. If you’re after a magical super-system that will have your local bookmaker quaking, you’ll be disappointed.
However, any tipster who claims to offer such a ‘perfect’ system is probably full of hot air. Instead, Veitch recommends hard graft, explaining how he spent hours studying stats and watching race videos to develop an edge, in addition to forging useful contacts within the stables.
As a Cambridge-educated mathematician, Veitch has a tendency to become bogged down in numbers. Still, it can’t be denied that Veitch has an eye for unlikely winners, as demonstrated most famously when he won a 100-1 outside bet on Exponential at Nottingham in 2004.
If you can plough through the stats, that betting X-Factor might just rub off on you.
by Michael Shackleford (2005)
Does exactly what it says on the dust-jacket. Michael Shackleford (AKA ‘The Wizard of Odds’) is a risk-assessment professional with a longstanding interest in the mathematics of gambling. As well as serving as Adjunct Professor of Casino Math at the University of Nevada, Shackleford operates a successful website (TheWizardofOdds.com) through which he offers optimisation strategies for a variety of casino games. In this extensive guide, Shackleford consolidates his research and presents optimal systems for many popular casino games, including baccarat, video poker, sic bo and blackjack. The language used in this book can get a little dry, but for novice to intermediate-level gamblers, this is probably the most useful resource on the market, introducing the principles of optimisation in a highly digestible format. For more detailed information, you may wish to visit Shackleford’s website, where he elaborates on his various gaming systems at greater length.
Olaf Vancura, Ph.D and Ken Fuchs (1998)
For aspiring card counters, this could be your key to casino conquest. In Knock-Out BlackJack, Dr Vancura and Ken Fuch detail a strategy (known as the ‘Knock-Out’ system) that has been lauded by numerous gambling experts for its reliability and ease-of-use. Noting its simplicity, the knock-out system’s success rate has been described as “miraculous” by the editor of Blackjack Review, Michael Dalton. Knock-Out Blackjack greatest strength is its balance between accessibility and depth. The authors provide the goods in simple but authoritative language, introducing newcomers and experienced advantage players alike to the rudiments of this single-level count. That’s not to say Knock-Out BlackJack is a mere strategy guide. In fact, Ventura and Fuch’s provide a scintillating read, with a detailed history of card counting, witty anecdotes and side commentaries peppering the more functional, explanatory content. Whether you’re set on mastering this killer blackjack system or indulging a general interest in card counting, this book comes highly recommended.
Greg Elder (2013)
In this popular series of pro gambling textbooks, Greg Elder provides killer tips for three different games: video poker, blackjack and slot machines. While we’re a little dubious about the latter (you can’t really strategize against a random number generator), the first two volumes are excellent guides to making your play more profitable. This series is for advanced players and assumes a fair bit of prior knowledge: you won’t find any breakdowns of rules or basic systems here. Instead, Elder offers mathematically sound methods for developing an edge against the house. Happily, these techniques don’t require you to become a human calculator; a reasonable memory should suffice. Wouldn’t recommend quitting your day job after buying these books, but if you’re interested in enhancing your recreational casino gaming with more consistent wins, you’re sure to find them helpful.
6) Optimal Play: Mathematical Studies of Games and Gambling
edited by Stewart N. Ethier and William R. Eadington (2007)
A word of warning: beginners need not apply. This 500-page tome is a collection of peer-reviewed, mathematical studies of casino games. You’ll need a fair grasp of maths and a familiarity with academic language to get the most out of this edited collection. However, it’s worth persisting, because Optimal Play is the single most comprehensive source of gambling guidance available, period. These essays are miniature treasure troves, brimming with gleaming nuggets of gambling wisdom. For instance, “The Endgame in Poker” by World Series of Poker champion Chris Ferguson contains sophisticated models for profitable play, while James Grosjen’s “Much Ado About Baccarat” goes beyond card counting to outline consistent methods for exploiting a variety of casino games. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg; every conceivable gambling practice is covered in the course of this collection, from blackjack to craps, poker to lotteries, backgammon to arbitrage. Using mathematical tools such as game theory, stochastic analysis, Markov chains and multivariate statistics, the multiple authors in Optimal Play share winning strategies and explain how they are developed, proving their effectiveness with hard evidence. For the intellectually-inclined player, there’s simply no more valuable resource. Get yourself a maths degree and grab a copy – it’ll be worth it when you’re jetting off to that new beach house in the Bahamas.
Michael Konik (1999, 2001)
Gambling is thrilling, but sometimes it’s just as exciting to take a break for an hour or so and look at the lighter side of gambling life. Here Michael Konik presents two volumes of the most entertaining gambling-related stories you’re ever likely to come across. First up in The Man with the $100,000 Breasts in which you can read about the eponymous hero who spent a great deal of cash on breast implants just so that he could win a $100,000 bet, plus the craps sharp-shooter who borrowed $10,000 and swifty magicked it into $17 million. In the follow-up Telling Lies and Getting Paid you can learn about a nun in Chicago whom is the queen of sport betting, even smashiing the experts with her pro football tips, as well as reading all about the world’s greatest backgammon hustler as he travels the world in search of mint suckers ready to fleece. If you can bear to leave the poker tables or stop slamming your virutal coins into Gonzo’s Quest you’ll be thoroughly entertained by this tome, with all the tales presented in Konik’s amiable, easy-to-digest style.
Ben Mezrich (2003)
There can’t be that many true-life gambling tales that have been turned into hit movies, but that’s precisely what has happened here. Bringing Down the House tells the true (if embellished) story of a group of MIT students who studied card-counting at their blackjack club and then developed the most accurate card-counting scheme ever devised. After two years of training the uber-geeks unleashed themselves carefully into the world of Las Vegas and began to take down casino after casino with their savant-like abilities. Naturally, all did not run smoothly for the casino cats, but by carefully considering their every move, the students eventually earned themselves three millions dollars in ten years. This book is not without its controversies – many sources have claimed that what is reported as ‘fact’ in the MIT Blackjack Team story is in fact as real as Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from turning Bringing Down The House into the movie 21, starring Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess. Laurence Fishburne and Kate Bosworth. How much you believe of what is written here is up to you, but this book is still a very entertaining read.
Originally published on 02/08/14. Updated 06/07/17.