We have compiled a list of some the best books around. They are all widely available and are sure to keep one entertained throughout the winter and beyond. Check them out!
Balling the Jack: A Novel – by Frank Baldwin
Paperback / Published 1997 – Touchstone
The speed and energy with which Baldwin tells this story is impressive. The protagonist is Tom Reasons, a young Wall Street paralegal who habitually wagers all of his salary on questionable bets, or balls the jack as its known. A warning to readers: If dont like reading about compulsives, you will most likely despise the protagonist. Hes a perpetual loser yet for many of us who can relate to the urge to play with our money, you still cant help but admire the guy. The author attempts to reveal the true inner motives that cause this type of behaviour, but he also never takes it too seriously and for this reason the novel is highly enjoyable. On top of that, its one of the only books about gambling on darts you are ever likely to find.
Memorable quote: “I guess I should have been around twenty thousand years ago. Back then, nobody had to go out chasing thrills. They had all the excitement they could handle just staying alive.”
King of a Small World – by Rick Bennet
Paperback / Published 1995 – Arcade Publishing
This novel on poker is considered by many pros to be one of the most accurate and realistic portrayals of private high-stakes gaming ever written. The narrator Pinocchio Joe Moore embarks on some life changes and attempts to keep himself true and grounded in a world which seldom makes sense to him. He accepts a job as dealer, and juggles his obligations while running into a series of obstacles at every turn. The first chapter centres on a poker game, and is written with such intimate knowledge of the game that it nearly comes across as instructional non-fiction.
The Hustler – by Walter Tevis
Paperback / written 1959 – Thunders Mouth Press (re-issued)
First published in 1959, The Hustler is a book about pro pool player Eddie Felsons wins and losses, triumphs and defeats, jubilation and despair. A thorough examination of the psychology of competition, this novel is exhilarating from start to finish. Although slightly dated now, the subject of making decisions and seeing them through transcends all notions of time. The book is not wholly concerned with gambling, especially compared to the other books I mention in this section, but its perceptive study on winning and losing make it a must-read for any gambler.
Tropical Depression Vol 1. – by Laurence Shames
Paperback / Published 1996 – Hyperion Books
Lingerie kingpin Murray Zemmelman, the Bra King has had enough and decides to pack it all in and head to sunny Key West armed with a suitcase full of Prozac. The workaholic eventually meets up with an equally-depressive Native American Indian and the two agree to launch the first Indian casino in Florida. They run into all kinds of trouble with the law, the mafia, and each other. The pace is quick and fluid, the characters quirky and humorous, and the plot original, if not somewhat predictable. This novels a good, light read and seeing as I bought my copy for under a dollar on Amazon, I cant really complain.
The Counter – by Kevin Blackwood
Paperback / Published 2002 – Wooden Pagoda Press
Based on the life of a professional card-counter, Blackwoods novel is an enjoyable exploration into the world of Blackjack. The main character, Raven Townsend, is all set embark on a career in religious archaeology when he is introduced to the game and discovers he has the ability to count cards. He makes a lot of money in one night, thus confirming his desire to seek an alternative life. The story is hardly original and the writing somewhat stilted, but the Blackjack angle is engrossing and makes the book well worth a read.
Bringing Down the House – by Ben Mezrich
Paperback / Published (1999) – Free Press
A true story about six MIT students who took Vegas casinos for millions of dollars. Expanding on the “hi-lo” card-counting techniques popularized by Edward Thorp in his 1962 book, Beat the Dealer, the group sets out to exploit the weaknesses of Blackjack dealers at a number of casinos around Vegas. Using a complex system of signals and signs, and checking into hotels under a variety of names with the help of a few key investors, the group almost manage to get away with the impossible. The first quarter of the book is essentially an advertisement for Las Vegas, but makes an interesting turn when the group starts to make their move in the casinos. A highly entertaining read.