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6 Essential Authors Found in Every Serious Gambler’s Library

By Randy Ray
Published on January 13, 2018
Gambling and Books

For centuries, great minds have studied the intricacies of gambling games, from mathematicians to professional players and even philosophers.

As a casino gambler in the modern age, you stand to benefit from this accumulated wisdom, but only if you have the right resources close at hand.

With a well-rounded library containing the most qualified gambling authors of the era, even the rawest rookie can develop their skills and take their game to the next level.

When gambling literature is concerned, the trick for discerning readers is finding a way to filter out all of the noise and nonsense floating around out there.

Plenty of down on their luck gamblers have turned to writing as a way of making ends meet, but rather than offer their readers legitimate advice, these con artists peddle nonsense strategies and systems that promise “surefire” success.

I’ve tackled those snake oil salesmen in another page, so I’d like to turn your attention to the writers who tell it like it is.

The best gambling books are based entirely in reality, and they aren’t afraid to let readers know about the odds against them, the role of randomization, and the unpleasant reality that most players lose more than they win.

As a wise man once said way back when, the truth hurts.

But if you’re prepared to accept the reality of casino gambling, the best authors in the industry have a way of building you up from there. They teach readers about the mathematical foundations of their favorite game, explain optimal strategy charts and other skill-based instruction, and show them the secrets of game selection and bankroll management.

Below you’ll find my list of six gambling authors who should be added to your library immediately. I’ll try to cover as much ground as possible, with each author representing a specific subsection within the field of gambling instruction.

David Sklansky

David Sklansky

Twenty years before Chris Moneymaker’s historic WSOP Main Event win inspired thousands of college kids to drop out and take up poker, David Sklansky had the same bright idea.

As an actuarial student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Sklansky was always fascinated with numbers more than the written word.

His mathematical prowess led Sklansky to leave school and take up tournament poker back in the 1980s, and between 1982-83, he claimed three gold bracelets at the WSOP.

Over a 30-year career on the felt, Sklansky has amassed 82 cashes for more than $1.38 million – but his most meaningful contributions to the poker world took place at the typewriter, not the tables.

Beginning in 1976 with the humbly titled “Hold’em Poker,” Sklansky has written over a dozen authoritative texts on casino gambling strategy. Most of his work focuses on poker of course, culminating with his masterpiece “Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How to Think Like One.”

Four years before the famed “poker boom” began, Sklansky was busy analyzing the game like never before. Using an analytical approach that was a decade ahead of his time, Sklansky taught an entire generation of aspiring poker pros how to calculate pot odds, track their hourly rate, and narrow opponent’s hand ranges using card removal logic.

Sklansky isn’t a one-trick pony, however, and his gambling literature has since expanded to include lessons on blackjack and other table games.

Not many gambling authors out there have stayed relevant for the last 40 years, but Sklansky has beaten those odds too. With his last book, “DUCY? Exploits, Advice, and Ideas of the Renowned Strategist,” Sklansky inspired an entirely new generation of readers to ask, “Do you see why?” when confronted with logical conundrums commonly encountered in the casino.

Key Quote

“In poker, if you’re better than anyone else, you make immediate money.

If there’s something I know about the game that the other person doesn’t, and if he’s not willing to learn or can’t understand, then I take his money.”

Publications

  • Hold’em Poker (1976)
  • Sklansky on Poker (1978)
  • Getting the Best of It (1982)
  • Sklansky on Razz (1983)
  • Sklansky on Poker: Including a Special Section on Tournament Play (1994)
  • How to Make $100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living (1997)
  • Poker, Gaming, & Life (1997)
  • Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players, 21st Century Edition (1999)
  • Seven Card Stud for Advanced Players(1999)
  • Sklansky Talks Blackjack (1999)
  • Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How to Think Like One (1999)
  • Tournament Poker for Advanced Players (2002)
  • Small Stakes Hold’em: Winning Big with Expert Play (2004)
  • No Limit Hold ’em: Theory and Practice (2006)
  • DUCY? Exploits, Advice, and Ideas of the Renowned Strategist (2010)
Stanford Wong

Stanford Wong

Quite possibly the most legendary blackjack player to ever live, Stanford Wong literally invented many of the most effective advantage play strategies known today.

Before he took on the pen name “Stanford Wong,” however, John Ferguson discovered the mathematical beauty of blackjack while studying for his Ph.D in Finance at Stanford University.

In one of his most profitable wagers, Wong accepted a salary of just $1 to continue teaching at the prestigious school, so long as he could take regular trips to Las Vegas.

A proficient card counter, Wong pioneered a strategy known the world over as “Wonging,” whereby he stood near the table and observed the action. By maintaining an accurate count of the current shoe, Wong waited until the deck construction tilted to the player’s favor with more high cards than low. At that point, he’d take a seat, place a few large bets, and pilfer the casino with a low-risk, high-reward approach.

You might be crying foul at the moment, asking how that style of play could even be possible, what with those “no mid-shoe entry” placards now attached to every table. Well, the casinos instituted that rule specifically to prevent the strategy perfected by Wong.

Having set up his own publishing house, Pi Yee Press, Wong set to work writing his first foray into the world of casino gambling instruction – “Professional Blackjack.”

But with rule changes turning card counters into a rare breed, Wong recognized early on that he’d need a more balanced approach to sustain his success. In 1980, he published “Winning Without Counting,” which contained a wealth of knowledge on alternative strategies.

Wong has proven to be a prolific writer over the last 40 years, applying his analytical prowess to everything from craps and PaiGow Poker to video poker and sports betting. And with each addition, the legend has stayed true to his original style, combining math-based reasoning with common sense advice on advantage play theory.

Key Quote

“I do think that advantage players will always have some things they can do to get an edge.

They have to be willing to play more games than just blackjack. They have to be willing to travel to more places than just Las Vegas.

There are always opportunities out there, if you are plugged into an information network, and are willing to travel and you have the money that you can afford to take the risk.”

Publications

  • Professional Blackjack (1975)
  • Winning Without Counting (1980)
  • Tournament Blackjack (1987)
  • Tournament Craps (1987)
  • Professional Video Poker (1988)
  • Optimal Strategy for PaiGow Poker (1990)
  • Casino Tournament Strategy (1992)
  • Basic Blackjack (1992)
  • Betting Cheap Claimers (1992)
  • Blackjack Secrets (1993)
  • Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gambling Like a Pro (1996)
  • Sharp Sports Betting (2001)
  • Wong on Dice (2005)
Bob Dancer

Bob Dancer

If the name Stanford Wong has become synonymous with blackjack advantage play, Bob Dancer wrote the bible of video poker.

In fact, Dancer only has two books to his credit, but both are invaluable additions to any casino gambling library. With the release of “Million Dollar Video Poker” in 2003, Dancer finished off one of the most impressive runs in recent gambling memory. Playing alongside his wife Shirley between September of 2000 and March of 2001, the Dancers took their shot at becoming professional video poker players.

By combining a sensible bankroll management approach, based on exploiting casino comps and credits, with sound advantage play strategy, the Dancers steadily worked their way up the ranks. After beginning at the $0.25 machines, the couple found themselves grinding $100 per hand 9/6 Jacks or Better just a few months later. Eventually, the perfect storm arrived in the form of multiple royal flushes within 15 minutes, paying out $500,000 in the process.

When it was all said and done, the Dancers had earned more than a million bucks grinding high-stakes video poker, and the title of Bob’s book was born.

The beauty of Dancer’s approach to beating the casinos is deceptively simple. While many players pass up the comp points and other rewards used to entice regulars, Dancer made sure to chase down every freebie he could get his hands on. According to his logic, he already paid for the buffet vouchers and free rooms through his video poker play anyhow, so he might as well enjoy the perks.

But as any successful gambler knows by now, that’s really the secret to sustained success. Every dollar the casino gives you back is akin to a dollar won at the machines. By subsidizing his high-rolling lifestyle, the casinos practically enabled Dancer to clean their clock when the royal flushes started rolling in.

Dancer added “Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner” in 2009, and, for my money anyway, this is his true masterpiece. It’s one thing to engage fellow geniuses in high-level theoretical discussions, but actually imparting that knowledge on rank rookies is a difficult task indeed. Dancer proves up to that task, however, and “Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner” has probably done more to bring new players into the fold than any other book.

Along with his books, Dancer has quite the online presence as well, with his BobDancer.com website containing hundreds of articles, blog posts, and interviews with the man himself.

Key Quote

“When I’m in a casino, I’m trying to bring home the bacon. It’s not my job to tell the casino what machines to put on the floor, or what slot club system to run.

The casino hires a lot of people to protect what it has and to concoct ways to get more. The casino sets out games on which it has the advantage and invites you to come in and try your luck.

If you win, you get to keep the money. If you don’t, which is usually the case, you leave your money behind.It will always be a cat and mouse game.

The best players will always be able to make money. There will always be at least 50 players who can make $50,000 or more a year playing video poker somewhere.”

Publications

  • Million Dollar Video Poker (2003)
  • Video Poker for the Intelligent Beginner (2009)
  • A Winner’s Guide to… ()
  • BobDancer.com (http://bobdancer.com/articles)
Michael Shackleford

Michael Shackleford

You may not recognize him by his given name, but thanks to his WizardOfOdds.com website, Michael Shackleford is one of the most reliable sources of casino gambling strategy on the planet.

The site contains a running database of practically every casino game ever invented, which makes sense as Shackleford has parlayed his own skills into a second career as a casino game designer.

A mathematician and actuary by trade, and a passionate advantage play specialist on the side, Shackleford took a shot at inventing with “Ties Win Blackjack.” Since that particular table game failed to take off, Shackleford works as a consultant for most of the major game designers, including SHFL Entertainment, Bally Technologies, and Playtech.

The secret to Shackleford’s success is simple really – brutal honesty. As the self-styled Wizard of Odds, he isn’t here to convince readers to play a game, or to pump them up with unsubstantiated strategic advice. No, for Shackleford, casino gambling is merely a puzzle to be solved one piece at a time.

To that end, Shackleford has compiled detailed pages analyzing every casino game under the sun, from the classics to the latest models, and even obsolete games you won’t find anywhere.

His goal is purely educational, and Shackleford takes care to keep his readers well informed. When a new side bet offers a worse house edge than a similar product, he’ll be sure to let you know.

In 2002 he published the first authoritative examination of return to player (RTP) rates offered by slot machines throughout the Las Vegas area. And in 2011, Shackleford earned the prestigious honor of “Best Gambler in the World,” which is issued annually at the invitation-only Max Rubin’s Blackjack ball.

Reading a Shackleford page for your favorite casino games is enlightening to say the least, because you’ll learn literally everything there is to know.

The rules and setup, the underlying odds and probabilities, house edge figures, basic strategy charts, and advice on advantage play – he covers everything an informed player needs to know. And unlike many other math whizzes out there, Shackleford always manages to keep the style and tone conversational.

I always tell folks who haven’t discovered Shackleford’s work to hop on the Wizard of Odds website and see for themselves. You can easily spend hours clicking through from page to page, learning the intricacies inherent to hundreds of casino games. I’m talking everything from slots and video poker to table games, side bets, keno, bingo, and more.

From there, head to Amazon and purchase Shackleford’s lone entry to the world of gambling literature – “Gambling 102: The Best Strategies for All Casino Games.” Published in 2005, this authoritative text takes the very best of the Wizard of Odds site and expands on each topic in detail.

Key Quote

“I feel strongly that the player should know the rules and/or the odds of any game in the casino. Since the casinos aren’t volunteering this information, I went in and got it myself.

The benefit to the players is they can patronize the more liberal casinos and lose less when playing slots. Certainly the Palms benefited, as they quoted my survey for years.

If the stingy casinos at the bottom of the list lost some business, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”

Publications

  • Gambling 102: The Best Strategies for All Casino Games (2005)
  • WizardOfOdds.com (http://wizardofodds.com/)
James Grosjean

James Grosjean

Another recipient of the coveted Best Gambler in the World award, Jean Grosjean is best known for beating the house like nobody ever has before.

The youngest player ever inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame, Grosjean pioneered several modern advantage play techniques to combat the casino’s increased awareness of card counting.

Among those was a method known as “hole carding,” in which sharp players try to catch inexperienced dealers accidentally flashing their hole cards. Armed with this essential knowledge, along with a strong background in mathematics and game theory, Grosjean and his blackjack team have beaten casinos out of millions of dollars over the last few decades.

But the biggest win in Grosjean’s gambling career took place in a courtroom, after the Imperial Palace casino in Las Vegas (now the Linq) arrested and detained him based on alleged cheating.

Grosjean fought back, successfully convincing a jury of his peers that advantage play techniques should not be classified as cheating. When the jury awarded him with $599,999 in punitive damages, Grosjean’s legendary legacy was enshrined in legal precedent.

You can read all about the momentous case in 2009’s “Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting,” which recounts the key details while supplementing his original “Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker.”

Key Quote

“Hole-carding is difficult for casino personnel to police. For that reason, they tend to be reactive, rather than actively looking for people who may be doing it.

And there are plenty of times in which I am spotting the dealer’s cards and the casino has no clue as to what is going on. That’s allowed my team and I to win $225,000 in a single night, spending hours playing blackjack.

Some games out there have been worth $100,000 per hour to us.”

Publications

  • Beyond Counting: Exploiting Casino Games from Blackjack to Video Poker (2000)
  • Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting (2007)
Jean Scott

Jean Scott

Best known for her “Frugal Gambler” series, Jean Scott was one of the first sharp players to combine the power of comps with advantage play to turn a profit.

The secret to Scott’s success is no secret at all, as the “Queen of Comps” is more than happy to spread the gospel of frugal gambling.

Clipping coupons, joining the Player’s Club, cashing in points for credit, and gobbling up free play vouchers – it’s all fair game according to Scott.

Rather than promise readers a surefire way to win, Scott simply shows them several effective ways to offset their losses. She even expanded the “Frugal Gambler” series to include tax preparation advice for players in 2007’s “Tax Help for Gamblers.”

Personally, I particularly enjoy keeping up with Scott’s current tricks of the trade by reading her “Frugal Vegas” blog online. By blending her cost-conscious methods with the sensible strategies devised by the authors listed above, every gambler has a great shot to win, and at the very least, walk away with what they came with.

Key Quote

“To make money you have to have a lot of experience before you can become a winning player. Becoming a skilled player is a slow journey.

Are you prepared to study like mad and practice on the software at home? Are you prepared to start small? This is another problem issue, people always want to start big.

The bottom line is that becoming a winning gambler isn’t easy. You need to spend a lot of time practicing and a lot of time gaining experience in the casinos – you also have to have enough money aside to survive the losing streaks, because they will happen!”

Publications

  • The Frugal Gambler (1998)
  • More Frugal Gambling (2003)
  • Frugal Video Poker (2006)
  • Tax Help for Gamblers (2007)
  • The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide (2017)
  • Las Vegas Advisor: Frugal Vegas Blog ()

Conclusion

These 6 gambling authors who should be in your library won’t steer you wrong when it comes to strategy and tactics. I recommend everything they write if you want a complete gambling education.

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6 Authors Found in Every Serious Gambler's Library
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6 Authors Found in Every Serious Gambler's Library
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Not all gambling authors are worth reading. Some of them are essential, though, and this post lists the 6 most essential authors who should be found in your library.
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