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Some Great Gambling Books

3 January 2013

By John Grochowski

Over the years, I’ve read and reviewed many a blackjack book. Rarely have I recommended one simply because it’s so much fun to read.

I’d doing it now with Glen Wiggy’s “1536 Free Waters and Other Blackjack Endeavors ($18.95, iUniverse). Subtitled “Finding Profit and Humor in Card-Counting,” Wiggy’s work includes how to play, blackjack terminology, basic strategy and an explanation of how to count cards. The card-counting section includes some graphics that will be helpful to beginners, depicting full tables of cards along with the plus-1, minus-one and zero designations for keeping a running count.

If that was the main thrust of the book, you wouldn’t be reading about it now. There are many more detailed card-counting primers on the market. But while the route toward gaining an edge on the house is important to “1536 Free Waters,” the heart and soul are the stories of Wiggy’s more than 800 casino visits from 2001-2008.

I chuckled when Wiggy told of handing his dad a stack of $25 chips, telling him it was a small down payment on all he’d learned from him. It felt all warm and fuzzy --- until his dad misplayed a hand.

An all-too familiar feeling came over me when a couple asked him for advice --- then refused to believe what they were hearing. And yes, there are 1,536 free bottles of water mixed in with the tales of angry pit bosses, difficult customers and the odd seagull.

There are lessons embedded in many of the tales, making this a laugh while you learn experience.

  • Speaking of gambling books that are fun to read, Casino Conquest ($16.95, Triumph Books) is the latest Frank Scoblete book to fill that bill. Scoblete has a real knack for combining stories with explanations to make his points, and his books never fail to inform and entertain.

Most of Scoblete’s books deal with one game at a time. This is a multi-game book, with an explanation of the Speed Count at blackjack --- an easy system I highly recommend to beginning counters --- the 5-Count at craps, and advice at baccarat, roulette, Spanish 21 and the slot machines.

There’s even a horse racing presence, though no real tips. Without giving too much away, let’s just say a knack for betting on horses that don’t finish the race is no sound basis for an optimal strategy.

  • One other new book has crossed my desk in recent weeks, an annual pleasure. The 2013 edition of Steve Bourie’s American Casino Guide ($18.95, Casino Vacations Press) includes listings for every casino in the United States, complete with phone numbers and websites, casino size, amenities and games offered.

It also serves as a basic how-to-play guide, with Bourie, Jean Scott and Henry Tamburin chiming in on video poker, blackjack, craps, getting the most out of comps and other casino basics. And in interest of full disclosure, I write an annual look at slot machine trends for the book.

When I travel, I make good use of the coupons in the back of the book. There are more than 100 offers for discounts on rooms, rental cars, meals, show and drinks, along with some for free play or match play. The largest share of coupons are from Las Vegas resorts, but New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi and other gaming states are represented.

I’ll admit to a bias, but I like and use the Guide every year.

GUIDE APP: Along with the updated book, the American Casino Guide has announced the release of a free app for iPhones and iPads. Bourie demonstrated a working version for me in October at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, and it was impressive.

One you can search for casinos by name or location, or you can use a “casinos nearby” feature to find all casinos with 100 miles of your location, complete with turn-by-turn directions.

Mirroring the how-to-play features of the book, the app can take you to any of 35 How to Gamble videos, which have generated more than 1.7 million hits on YouTube. There are casino reviews by casino cusomers, and for bargain hunters, there are more than 200 offers of comps or discounts.

For more information or to download the app, visit https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/american-casino-guide/id574179564?mt=8

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.
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, with podcasts at www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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