Issue 32
April 18 - 24, 2001
Volume 1
page 3

Poker, Craps and "Five-Finger Discount"
New Titles to Ponder

By Howard Schwartz

Three diverse new books arrived at Gambler's Book Shop recently and each has its special audience. Let's look at each and what they offer the recreational gambler or the person who just likes a good read:

George Epstein really likes the game of poker. His choice of titles, The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners (296 pages, paperbound, $24.95) covers a lot of territory, and indeed he does it well and in an entertaining fashion. An engineer (He also teaches a course on the subject at UCLA.), he has a mind for the various facets that comprise a winning player-and it's simply often a matter of trying "to maintain order out of chaos," as he says. This book is for beginners and players who already know the basics and want to improve their game-and much of it is not so much mathematical, but in understanding yourself as a player and getting into the minds of your opponents. Epstein covers seven stud and hold'em primarily, but much of what he discusses is applicable to all forms of poker. The casual home player will gain confidence and the potential casino player will be better prepared as well after Epstein's material is absorbed and analyzed. Among the subjects he includes are selecting playable hands; playing aggressively; bluffing; tracking cards; developing a sense of observation (on "tells"); assessing your opponents. Although he doesn't include tables and charts along with sample hands, his relaxing, knowledgeable tone will help you enjoy your first experience at the table and the occasional forays into more serious play later on. Like a friend with his hand on your shoulder and pep talk, combined with common sense, this book should find its rightful place on your bookshelf.

R.D. Ellison's new book is part of another work, which was in and out of print too quickly. Initially it was titled Gamble to Win, with sections on craps and several other casino games. Somewhere along the line the publishers decided to "reposition" (remarket) the book under three separate titles. The first is Ellison's Gamble to Win: Craps (245 pages, paperbound, $l4.95).

This book contains 16 chapters and should appeal to the rank beginner, to those searching for systems and progressions (which they hope will provide a hot streak and profits if all goes well) and every player in between. The first 90 pages are for beginners-odds, bet explanations; the table layout; role of table personnel in controlling the game, and although it covers old territory, it does so in a manner that is different from most books since it contains stories, incidents, episodes which the author (who hails from Cincinnati) remembers. These help illuminate key points about the game.

Ellison doesn't waste any time getting to what all crapshooters crave: systems, and they include the usual suspects: Martingale; Antimartingale; D'Alembert, the fascinating Oscar's Grind (this conservative system is explained in a page and a half-but it's there for those who search everywhere for an explanation). One fascinating section is called The Application of Racetrack Wagering Techniques to Casino Games; and later he gets what establishes a table as "hot" or "cold" for those seeking one or the other.

Ellison sounds both cocky and confident in his style. He is convincing in the way he presents his material and his audience should enjoy this presentation. I've talked to him on the phone (I never met him.) and he "sounds the way he writes."

Overall, I think you'll like his book and should pick up a few new ideas if you're open-minded enough.

Helen Stapinski may never win the Nobel Prize for Literature--but has she got a memory and an eye for detail when it comes to growing up among swindlers, bookies and crooks in New Jersey (especially Jersey City)! Her memoir of growing up in a somewhat offbeat family environment, shall we say, is titled Five-Finger Discount (A Crooked Family History) (255 pages, hardbound, $23.95), and it's the type of book that, as the clich� goes, "grows on you."

"The day I was born, my whole family hit the number," she recalls in the opening line of one chapter. Then she jumps in to describe how the numbers racket operated, how they avoided arrest and what happened when you hit. A train wreck in the area created one of the biggest disasters of all time for bookies when number 932 hit. (That was the number of a passenger car shown in a newspaper picture one day.) She estimates that in Jersey City the number was played and hit so often the bookies lost $5 million there alone and in the whole New York-New Jersey area, the total was more like $50 million. If you grew up or knew the area of Jersey City, North Bergen, Hudson County, or knew the infamous "Newsboy Moriarty" (who had a photographic mind, never wrote a bet down and yet was known to carry $7,000 or more in cash with him at any time), you will find warm memories of a time gone by and will find your mind wandering to it.

Any book reviewed here is available at Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call 1-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Pacific Time to order, using MasterCard, VISA or Discover cards. Orders usually shipped the next working day. You may order via the store's website at or send a check or money order for the price of the book plus $6.50 for postage for the first book, $1 more for postage on a second book. Ask for a free catalog or view the store catalog on the website, where 1,000 titles, computer software and videos are listed. The store is two miles from Downtown Las Vegas and about the same distance from where The Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.

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