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Best of John Grochowski

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Grochowski reviews 'The Virgin Kiss and Other Adventures'

29 April 2008

I'd like to tell you that I've always said I'd read anything Frank Scoblete wrote, even if it was about having dinner with his in-laws.

I'd like to tell you that, but it wouldn't strictly be true. I've never thought about Scoblete's in-laws, at least until I read his latest book, The Virgin Kiss and Other Adventures ($17.95, Research Services Unlimited, 303 pages, softcover).

What I have always said is that Scoblete is the best WRITER among gambling writers. That's something he's shown time and again, whether the subject is craps (Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos; Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution), blackjack (Best Blackjack; Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution), video poker (Victory at Video Poker), and even roulette (Spin Roulette Gold).

Scoblete is always a joy to read, with a knack for making his prose entertaining — funny and informative at the same time. Gambling at its heart is mathematics, and the most informative books can be dry as dust in the hands of a lesser writer. Scoblete is able to meld information, strategies and stories, all while making the reader want to continue page after page.

The Virgin Kiss ventures into new territory for Scoblete — "Scobe" to friends, and "King Scobe" to his former high school students — with its series of autobiographical vignettes. It's not a book of gambling advice and strategies, although it does venture into casino territory with tales of a big roll — perhaps THE big roll — by the Captain of craps, and a lament over the degeneration of a once great casino market in Tunica, Mississippi.

The Captain, who has figured in several of Scoblete's craps books over the years, is one of a collection of larger-than-life characters sprinkled through Scoblete's life as a teacher, actor, director, producer, playwright, author and gambling advantage player. One of those larger-than-life characters is Scoblete himself, who takes us on a trip not only through the casino world, but also through life as an English teacher, where decking his first principal didn't turn out to be as bad a career move as one might think; a patronage job at a housing project during his youth in New York; and his astral travels.

Yes, you read that right. Astral travels. From 1973 through '84, Scoblete says, he sometimes found himself floating outside his sleeping body. Mere dreams that just seemed too real? On his second astral trip, Scoblete encountered Madeleine, the librarian at the high school where he was teaching English. He told her to remember the words, "I am a whole soul." Back at school, in the presence of another teacher, Madeleine said, "I … oh my God, you, you … But that was a dream. That wasn't real, that was a dream."

Regardless of where you stand on traveling without your body, it's eerie, fascinating reading. Off the eerie beat, and onto the teenage awkwardness, there's the title essay. "The Virgin Kiss" is the tale of a chaste first kiss with a good girl, and the second kiss, a lip locker that left flesh in the braces of a good-time girl. Neither ended well, except for the readers who can laugh along with Scobe all these years later.

The in-laws? Yes, they're here, in an essay that had me laughing out loud as Scoblete tried valiantly but fruitlessly to match his slow-eating father-in-law bite-for-bite.

Those who have enjoyed Scoblete's work are bound to get caught up in a blow-by-blow account of the Captain's hand of 147 numbers before sevening out — at age 83. And the account of just how badly wrong the Tunica market has gone is solid Scoblete work on the gambling front.

But at age 60, with a seizure behind him that had a priest administering last rites, Scoblete has decided to let his loyal readers in on a remarkable life away from the tables.

Entertaining? I couldn't put it down. Finished it in two sessions. My wife Marcy, who doesn't gamble much but knows good writing when she sees it, asked if I was just going to tear right through it. When I said, "Yep," she replied, "Good. I get it next."

Good writing will create that eager anticipation, and Frank Scoblete is a very good writer indeed.

** ** **

One of the publications for which Frank Scoblete writes on a regular basis is Henry Tamburin's monthly e-newsletter, Blackjack Insider. Tamburin sends word that in May, the Insider will be celebrating its 100th issue with a special package.

"The 100th issue will be devoted to a special retrospective on advantage gambling, including exclusive articles on blackjack, craps, tournaments, video poker, comps, card counting, casino news, and poker, by our most popular authors," Tamburin said.

Among the regular contributors to Blackjack Insider are mathematician and software developer Dan Pronovost, who along with Tamburin developed the Speed Count card counting system; Queen of Comps Jean Scott; blackjack tournament expert Ken Smith; poker expert Bill Burton; blackjack advantage players Joe Pane and Barfarkel, and LVBear, who tracks some of the worst - and best - casino practices in their treatment of customers.

Basic subscriptions are free, but half the articles are reserved for paying customers at $19.95 a year. For a free three-month trial, visit www.bjinsider.com/FreeTrial.php3?ref=bji.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski