John Solitude’s Gambling Books and Literature Reviews

There are tons of gambling books, the bad news is: there is an enormous amount of crap around you should not waste your money on. Read John Solitude’s reviews first before purchasing a bad book on gambling.

Each review is based on the joined opinions of a statistician, an ex-dealer and a couple of experienced roulette players. We guarantee you fair and balanced reviews.

Beginners Level

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Gambling Like A Pro

Authors: Stanford Wong and Susan Spector

John Solitude’s Verdict: 9/10

The title of the series ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide To …’ might seam a bit disrespectful to ‘newbie’ players, but the very fact you would choose to first read a decent book before splashing out on gambling makes you intelligent instead of an idiot.

This book is aimed towards the player who has an interest in gambling in general. The authors cover the rules and tips for a very wide range of games including all the major casino games (Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, Poker and the many new variants, Baccarat, Keno, Wheel Of Fortune, Jackpots, … ), sports betting in general and horse racing.

The main author, Stanford Wong, is one of the best Blackjack players in the world.

Of the many introduction books, we consider this one the very best. It’s now into the 3th edition, so a lot of readers valued this book highly.

The writing style is very accessible, humorous and the advice will save you tons of money. Instead of promising the readers fortunes to be made in gambling, the authors do a good job of warning the players for the risk which is involved. The tips range from knowing the mathematical odds of the games and the different types of bets, to a basic introduction in probability theory and statistics in general. You will develop a better understanding of which games you have a better chance of winning or loosing.

The only downpoint is: if you are only interested in roulette, you might find this book expands to much on Blackjack and without a doubt Stanford Wong is not a fan of double zero roulette (nor are we).

If you are wondering about some rules of gambling games, trying to figure out which bet is better than others, or you simply want to avoid making an idiot of yourself in a casino environment, look no further: this is a great stepping stone into to the fascinating but dangerous world of gambling. Mathphobics should not fear: the explications are straightforward and you might impress your friends with the invaluable knowledge packed in this neat book.

Beat the casino

Author: Frank Barstow

John Solitude’s Verdict: 6/10

Frank Barstow is a retired Wall Street investment banker, who tries to give the impression gambling on casino games would be comparable to buying stock. This is incorrect because although both disciplines (speculating on the stock market and playing casino games) do have a risk element; world economy can by far not be compared to a casino game. The casino player knows from the very beginning his risk (investing in a casino game) will not be rewarded fairly. The stock broker on the other hand, when investing in a company that delivers decent products and services has a fairly good chance the stock will raise over time.

‘Beat The Casino’ is however a classic and it’s also the only reason why we’ve included it in our review section. The title is as misleading as it gets, because there are no long term winning systems in this book, hence you could not ‘Beat The Casino’ with the content of this book, but you could have a good -and expensive- time trying.

Barstow reviews a multitude of classic and his own roulette, craps and blackjack systems, and it’s fair to say, despite the misleading title, Barstow points out there IS risk involved. On the other hand, the demonstration session (in which Barstow of course wins) is misleading, since the sample size (the amount of spins played) is far too low to analyze if this is a winning system. Had Barstow however played for thousands of spins – comparable to a couple of months playing for the regular casino visitor, Barstow would have found out himself he had no chance to ‘Beat The Casino’.

We do have a problem with books like these because for the less critical reader who is attracted to the suggestive title, the content simply does not deliver to the statement on the front cover.

For entertainment value this is a great book: system players will find an enormous collection of old and new systems and might find inspiration to spice up their own playing style.

If you choose to gamble, playing a system can still be preferred to playing random, because the system player in general remains more aware of the money management and objectives, and hopefully when the system busts to call it a day.

Chance; a guide to gambling, love, the stock market & just about everything else

Author: Amir D. Aczel

John Solitude’s Verdict: 7/10

The full title ‘Chance, a guide to gambling, love, the stock market & just about everything else’ is as ambitious as it gets.

Can we expect a decent introduction to all these fields within the scope of a 161 pg book? Of course not, but author Amir D. Aczel, phd in mathematics and master of science degree gives it an entertaining and well worth reading shot.

This book is mainly oriented towards a public who has no understanding of probability theory and statistics and wishes to get a quick skim of the surface. Classic probability theory questions are explored: what is randomness, the law of unions, the independence of events, the random walk and probably the most important for gamblers: ‘the gamblers ruin’.

Besides the obvious use of the content for gambling related issues, the author also tries pointing out common pitfalls: subjective probability and the gamblers fallacy, how to interpret coincidences and how to use probability theory to distinguish between ‘superstition’ and ‘fact’.

‘Chance, a guide to gambling’ is an enjoyable broad scope read at a decent prize; readers mainly interested in only gambling related issues, might prefer ‘Taking Chances‘ of John Haigh instead.

Beginners > Intermediate Level

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Statistics

Author: Robert A. Donnelly Jr

John Solitude’s Verdict: 10/10

The word ‘statistics’ might frighten you, especially if you did not enjoy a basic arithmetic or mathematical training.

It is no secret the best gamblers of all times were also excellent statisticians: this might give you some encouragement to commence self study on the subject.

This book is exactly aimed towards people who consider themselves ‘math phobic’. Yes, mathematics can be very complicated and frightening, but the author succeeds where most high school teachers did not: to make the complex easy to understand without simplifying it, to put the fun back into learning math.

Our statistician considered this book the very best for readers who want to learn stats but experience a stroke when they hear the word ‘mathematics’. The author Robert A. Donnelly has received the prestigious award of being one of best teachers around.

The only knowledge needed is basic arithmetic: if you know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, you will be able to follow the step-by-step guidance of this excellent tutor. Everything you need to know about roulette statistics can be found in this book: an introduction to probability theory, the difference between random dependent and random independent events, how to set up a frequency distribution table, how to read and construct charts, how to calculate standard deviation and the chi square test.

These are exactly the same tools the casino uses to monitor the tables. Having a basic understanding about probability theory and statistics is the first condition if you want to develop yourself into a more sophisticated player who knows the difference between a good or a bad bet. This is an essential purchase for every aspiring gambler.

Taking Chances: Winning with probability

Author: John Haigh

John Solitude’s Verdict: 9/10

This book is aimed towards the same audience as ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Gambling Like A Pro’, but the writing style is more suited for readers who do not fear arithmetic.

The publisher is the prestigious Oxford University Press (which for American readers can be compared to Harvard, Berkeley or M.I.T.). The covered gambling games are in essence the same as mentioned for ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Gambling Like A Pro’, but the author elaborates deeper into the field, which might frighten readers who are looking for only a ‘hands-on’ approach. Apart from the major casino games, there is also information on lotteries, tv-games, premium bonds and, what might be interesting for the bias roulette player: a how to set up a ‘goodness of fit’ test. We would not say this book is ‘better’ than ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Gambling Like A Pro’, it is simply more detailed, coming in at 400 pages in small print. We consider this one, of the many introduction books on gambling that are out there, one of the best books you can buy.

Get the edge at roulette; how to predict where the ball will land

Author: Chris Pawlicki

John Solitude’s Verdict: 7/10

Despite the raving reviews on Amazon, our statistician was actually not thrilled by the content. Although the author, Chris Pawlicki is an engineer and a volunteer dealer on charity events, some of the content is highly suggestive and there is little or no statistical proof provided on many of the topics Pawlicki covers.

The first chapters are logically thought out, dissecting the classic roulette systems (Martingale, Fibonacci, Labouchère), warning readers that these systems can not be profitable in the long term. However the following chapters on roulette bias and visual prediction systems can be very misleading. Pawlicki makes a lot of statements and references to roulette gambling sessions he witnessed, but statistical proof is lacking in many departments (which is kind of negligent because the first chapters are so elaborate). Especially when it comes to ‘visual prediction’ this book is rather adding to ‘mythical beliefs’ about roulette, instead of aiming towards conducting a decent empirical (practical) test to examine the claims.

Pawlicki provides the formulas and calculations needed to determine wheel bias, but lacking to mention the chi-square test (which casinos actually use in combination with standard deviation calculation to monitor the tables). When it finally comes to visual prediction or dealer influence Pawlicki doesn’t even bother to set up a test to examine if the claims of test subjects are correct or not, although the author tries to convince the readers the statements are valid. Sure, but there is not one test to provide the evidence? We should mention that the few candidates we were able to test on visual prediction failed, and when it came to dealers, despite an award of 1.000 € for any dealer who would be willing to take a serious statistical test to prove he could influence the outcomes on a low profile scalloped wheel, we did not find one candidate dealer.

‘Get The Edge At Roulette’ is interesting for people who want to learn more about wheel bias (and Pawlicki is fair to warn that bias is very unlikely to be found on modern wheels) or skim the surface of visual prediction. Be however warned that especially the last department may prove only a matter of belief rather than fact.

Beating The Wheel

Author: Russell T. Barnhart

John Solitude’s Verdict: 8/10

This one is considered to be a classic in the roulette community when it comes to learning how to detect ‘bias’. A bias on a roulette wheel simply means some numbers or sectors will appear at a higher rate than expected due to bad maintenance or a flaw in the wheel construction. We must add literature like this increased the awareness of casino executives on the subject.

The content of ‘Beating the wheel’ is well researched, covering the all-time-historic bias victories and the statistical calculations you need to pinpoint bias in a statistically correct manner. The author is fair enough to warn that bias research involves time consuming energy to track the tables for a sufficient amount of time BEFORE laying down any bets (or finding there is no bias). Basically everything you need to become ‘a bias hunter’ is provided, but as many ‘bias’ authors who need to sell books, the underlying suggestion it would still be easy (or worth the time you need) to find a biased wheel in today’s casino environment is somewhat over optimistic. The fact is today’s professional wheels are constructed with space age technology, and the tables are being statistically monitored while in operation. It is unlikely you will detect a bias before the casino does.

Never the less, this is a classic read if you want to further explore the ‘bias’ strategy of playing. If you ever find a wheel which is sufficiently ‘off track’, we do not wish you ‘good luck’ because you’ll have a certain winner on your hands if the preliminary stats groundwork was performed correctly.

Chance, luck and statistics

Author: Horace C. Levinson

John Solitude’s Verdict: 9/10

It’s a real shame this book doesn’t pop up quite so often in the essential read list of gamblers.

Why not, one might wonder. Well, because the content does cover the essential principles any gambler should master in probability theory and statistics before thinking one is a ‘consistent winner’. Why should any gambler have this book in his library: because probability theory and statistics are the very same ‘weapons’ the casino uses against the player.

Horace C. Levinson does a marvelous job covering the essentials in the ‘science of chance’ in a straight forward and accessible manner, transforming the gained knowledge to popular casino games as well as to lotteries, poker, bridge, sports betting and the most basic coin flipping.

Understanding the ‘science of chance’ will shatter the illusion it would be possible to beat a negative expectancy game such as roulette in the long run. Casino owners did discover this timeless fact more than a century ago. It also explains why casino owners are still so successful till this day, and many players lost great fortune while stubbornly trying to prove the opposite.

Reading this book is indeed a bleak prospect for ‘the believers’ who would rather not be confronted with reality that gambling games like roulette, slots and baccarat are simply a bad investment, always were and always will be. They can be a great source of entertainment for the usual escape from a less exciting reality, but if you expect to win money in the long run you would rather read this book first.

Apart from gambling, the implications of probability theory and statistics are also discussed from a business point of view; common pitfalls and misuse of statistics are pointed out.

In stead of spending your money on the latest -become a millionaire- gambling system, an investment in an excellent book as this would be a very wise decision.

The Mathematics Of Games and Gambling

Author: Edward Packel

John Solitude’s Verdict: 9/10

This is a classic of the math – gambling community.

When it comes to knowing the probability formulas and stats you need to analyze different games (which include Blackjack, Bridge, Poker, Roulette, Sports Betting and even Backgammon) this is a comprehensive, yet very educating and precise book for any regular gambler.

It is not suited for the math phobics: the author expects you have an understanding of the basic math symbols and arithmetic calculations.

Readers who do not have any education in math may find this book inaccessible, for the others this is simply one of the best math books on the subject of gambling.

Expert Level

Introduction To Probability

Authors: Dimitri P. Bertsekas, John N. Tsitsiklis

John Solitude’s Verdict: 10/10

The best gamblers of all time were M.I.T.-students. They only played Blackjack and managed to steal millions from the casinos over several years. Finally they were detected and banned from entrance to several casinos.

How did they do it: they did not cheat but used advanced knowledge of probability theory and trained themselves relentlessly to calculate the odds in real time with every single flip of the cards.

Which book did they use? Well, this is it: this book is the full formal course on probability theory which is used in M.I.T., Stanford and Berkeley, considered to be amongst the best universities of the U.S.A. The title is slightly misleading because what is called an ‘introduction’ is actually what other authors would call ‘everything you need to know to assess your chances’.

This book is the pride of our statistician, he would murder us if it got stained and he considers it to be the very best choice there is on probability theory. It doesn’t come cheap, but the good part is, with this in your library, you would find it hard to ever consult any other book on gambling. Please be advised this book is certainly not for beginners: you need a decent understanding of high school math to not be intimidated by the sheer content and scope of this magnificent piece of gambling education.