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November 14th, 2011 at 5:06:32 PM permalink
1) OK, I'll nominate any book by Michael Konik.

2) Also, I liked the story of the owner of the Stratosphere, Bob Stupak,
in the book NO LIMIT.

3) I'm surprised there wasn't more about Bringing Down
the House, the book about the MIT counting team, in this

4) Positively 5th Street, by James McManus. A mix of a first hand
view of the WSOP mixed with the trial of the couple accused of
killing Ted Binion.
Like the castle in its corner In a medieval game; I foresee terrible trouble And I stay here just the same
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Thanks for this post from:
November 15th, 2011 at 5:12:54 PM permalink
I just thumbed through a copy of "24/7: Living It Up and Doubling Down" by Andres Martinez. It chronicles a month he spent in 1998 Las Vegas living the high roller life on his publisher's $50k advance. From the Luxor to the Golden Gate, winners and losers, he drinks it all in, and keeps a log of his gaming win/loss totals.
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July 3rd, 2021 at 7:51:48 AM permalink
Hi All -

Am a newbie here but longtime casino gambler with most of my action taking place in Asia, where I lived for several decades for my work. Lots of time at the tables at Genting, Macau, Walker Hill and Manila.

I love this old thread and wanted to revive it and see if we could update it. I feel I've probably read or seen every work of fiction that touches on the casino experience. So here is my list of all-time favorites, plus a new one I just stumbled upon.

"Double Down - Reflections on Gambling and Loss" by Frederick & Steven Barthelme
A harrowing, amazing memoir written by two guys who should have known better. They are both college professors and well known in the literary world. The writing is tight and compelling and it just drags you along. Hard to put down. The book details how they blew their inheritance over the course of two years, as they made trips to the Gulfport casinos. They start small and eventually lose really big. The entire time, as you are asking yourself how can they keep doing this to themselves, they are asking that same question also. They describe the vibe and experience in the casino so true to real life you can feel the chips in your hand. Fantastic book.

"Fools Die" by Mario Puzo
Before Puzo wrote "The Godfather" and changed his life, he was a degenerate gambler in Las Vegas. And after he wrote "The Godfather", he followed this up with one of the best novels about gambling and Vegas every written. Fun book and the first two chapters, about 34 pages in the paperback edition, describe how it feels to go on a hot streak better than anything else that I've ever read. You are along for the ride as Jordan just can't miss and his partners, who just hooked up in the casinos the past couple weeks, go along for the ride. Your heart will pound, it is so real. For those of you who remember the greatest gambling movie of all time, "California Split", it's like when George Segal goes on his run at the end of the film, but better.

"Winning at Casino Gambling" by Lyle Stuart
One of the great characters of gambling literature, this book by Lyle Stuart features him at his best. He has anecdotes and advice for everything about beating casinos. Lots of good practical advice in there, too. Don't read this looking for algorithms -- rather, he talks about keeping emotional control, how to manage your money, some practical ways to track what's going on, etc. Many books like this, but Lyle's is very readable and enjoyable. A close runner-up is his work dedicated to a single game, his favorite, "On Bacarrat".

"Positively Fifth Street" by James McManus
Nicely written memoir by a magazine writer who is sent to cover the World Series of Poker before it became the big deal it is now. This is before Texas Hold'em tournaments became something to be televised. So, he took his magazine advance and played in a satellite tourney and got into the WSOP and went a long way. Thrills and chills abound. Lots of fun and a classy work of writing.

"Bob the Gambler" by Frederick Barthelme
A brilliant work of fiction by one of the brothers cited in the first book, above, and clearly he put his experiences to good use. Some of the scenes recall scenes from reality, in the nonfiction work. A short, fun-to-read book. One-nighter.

"Owning Mahoney"
This 2003 film is called "Owning Mahowny" and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a young assistant bank manager in Toronto who gets the gambling itch and starts embezzling funds from Canadian Int. Banking Corp to finance his trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Starts slow but gets extraordinarily big. Well woven story which shows the development of this man's gambling disease from his point of view, but also from the POV of the casino management, who notice this guy who starts showing up with pockets full of hundreds of thousands of dollars, cash, to gamble. By the end, they are flying him in, enabling his fraud, etc., while the authorities are also trying to nail him. Great acting and story. Should be available on Netflix or at your library or eBay.

Next, here's my contribution to the list. A promising newcomer:

"Pacific Dash (From Asia Vagabond to Casino King)" by Chet Nairene
This last novel has just popped up on Amazon and tells the fictional life story of Dash Bonaventure, a young American who for decades wanders the vice dens and jungles and beaches of Asia. He winds up working on an illegal casino boat on the high seas, offshore from Singapore, and later goes one to 'invent' the VIP junket business in Macau. The book has a lot of the casino gambling experience (esp the Asian version, mainly baccarat) and also history of Macau gambling's development. Book also has Taiwanese mob princesses and crime bosses, vagabond experiences at Asian backwaters, even some 1970s Hippie Trail stuff. I just finished this and it's a good read. Breezy and fun.

Okay, that's it for me.

Anybody else have new ones to offer?
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July 3rd, 2021 at 9:16:52 AM permalink
The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova, 2020

A very relevant recent book. Maria Konnikova is a behavorial psychology researcher who had never played poker. She convinced poker pro Eric Seidel to first teach her and then coach her on poker. She eventually plays against top-level professionals and, after some failures, starts winning some major tournaments. Her outsider's view of the poker world is fascinating as is her discussion of the psychological aspects of poker. And the description of Seidel, an unconventionally intellectual poker pro, is also must-read stuff. By far, the best written and most interesting book on poker in decades,
So many better men, a few of them friends, are dead. And a thousand thousand slimy things live on, and so do I.
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July 3rd, 2021 at 9:57:27 AM permalink
Thanks for that tip, Gordon. I'll check out Konnikova. As you point out, the real challenge here is in unearthing the newer, more recent books. Another one that I really liked, from 2017, was "Queen of Spades" by Michael Shou-Yung Shum. This is a very good psychological thriller novel about a casino dealer and his personal life. Pretty dark but I really enjoyed it.

Oh and I should add ... about that other really enjoyable new novel I earlier recommended, "Pacific Dash, From Asia Vagabond to Casino King", here's the link. It's got a really cool cover, too, which you can see here. Pacific Dash link via Amazon
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July 3rd, 2021 at 9:57:33 AM permalink
By far the best literary work describing overall high stakes winning play and strategy , resort comps, entertaining personal experiences with verified winning session tickets ( verified by the highly esteemed and respected WIZARD OF ODDS ) is THE ADVENTURES OF MDAWG !!
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July 3rd, 2021 at 10:35:27 AM permalink
"Positively Fifth Street" is a great book, and "Owning Mahoney" is one of my favorite movies. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is spectacular; should have gotten some award for that.

Okay, I'm a sports bettor and handicapper, so I am going to give two off-the-wall recommendations. The first is ancient but still relevant today.

1) "The National Football Lottery" by Larry Merchant -- former NYPost and Sports Illustrated writer is given a 10K advance (if I remember correctly) to write the book back in 1973. The only trick -- he decides he has to gamble his entire advance to make it real. If you read it cover to cover, you'll discover that things like "Wong teasers" were a thing long, long before people claim Wong "discovered" them. Part of the fun of this book is that the author bets with the legal books in LV, but also bets with the illegal bookmakers in LV (yes, there were many) and around the country. So you get a taste of all that.

(Four bucks on Amazon; can't beat that)

2) "Addiction by Design" by anthropologist Natasha Dow Schull. This is hands down the best book I've ever read about the science and psychology and anthropology of machine gambling. It brings you up to date on every aspect of research up to its 2014 publishing. Spectacular and frightening book. The author spent much time in LV. Has Las Vegas history; machine gambling history; lots of research from many fields. Necessary reading, in my opinion, for anybody playing machines.
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July 3rd, 2021 at 10:52:58 AM permalink
I well remember "The National Football Lottery" ... at least I remember the book, physically, even the cover.
The rest is gone from the memory banks.
So maybe it will be like reading it anew! I'll get right onto that ...

The other one is new to me. Sounds chilling but a must-read. Will do. Thanks!
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July 3rd, 2021 at 4:51:41 PM permalink
Quote: Xpatri8

Oh and I should add ... about that other really enjoyable new novel I earlier recommended, "Pacific Dash, From Asia Vagabond to Casino King", here's the link. It's got a really cool cover, too, which you can see here. Pacific.

Might you be, by any chance, the author of said new and enjoyable book?
The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that is the way to bet.
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July 4th, 2021 at 4:18:36 AM permalink
Haha, pretty funny, unJon ... but no.
I also didn't write any of all those other books I recommended, nor that movie screenplay.
I'm a reader, not a writer. :)

So back to our regularly scheduled programming: anybody else have any fresh recommendations of new/recent gambling fiction or memoir?

I've got nothing else new, but can toss in another oldie-but-goodie.

You've all seen the movie but have you ever read "The Cincinnati Kid" by Richard Jessup?
Pithy and a quick read and you can easily visualize Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson in their iconic roles.
Jessup does a great job of drawing a picture of a gambler on a rush and the psychological motivations driving one.
You can find this on Amazon for $1.99 on Kindle. But physical books, which I prefer, are harder to find for a reasonable price.
But there are some on eBay and used on Amazon, too.

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