Gambling for Dummies

  • List Price: $21.99
  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Date: May, 2003
  • Publisher: John Wiley
  • ISBN: 0764553607
  • Order from Amazon.com

If you’ve never played poker seriously before, you might wonder why you need a book about it. Why can’t you just sit down at the table with a few friends, or visit that friendly casino nearby and learn as you go?

To say that gambling is growing like crazy and has achieved a level of social acceptability unheard of even as few as twenty years ago doesn’t begin to do it justice. And the statistics defy comprehension. Gambling – once confined solely to Nevada – is legal almost everywhere in the United States, with only Utah and Hawaii missing out on the party. More than $500 billion is wagered annually in casinos and this economic engine generates annual revenues of approximately $40 billion. And that’s just in the United States, and only the legally sanctioned wagering, to boot. If you want to count the casinos in Europe, South America, and Asia, never mind all the home poker games, friendly wagers placed on everything from golf matches between buddies to a few bucks bet on which team will win this Sunday’s game, the numbers grow exponentially.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a renaissance going on in gambling today. It wasn’t all that long ago that gamblers were pictured as shady characters, and the personification ran along a spectrum with Mafia dons, out-and-out crooks, card-sharks, and cheats at one end to lovable scoundrels, like Nathan Detroit, Sky Masterson and the cast of Guys and Dolls, at the other.

When you consider the generally inexpensive room rates, and occasionally free meals provided by the casino as a reward for your business, you can have a lot of fun and it won’t cost you all that much. Whether you’re going to wager a dollar or two, or hundreds of thousands of them – it’s your money, so we’ll let you be the judge of how much you can afford after admonishing you just this once to never risk the rent money and only gamble within your means – we think you’ll have a terrific time at a casino. And if you do walk away with more than you walked in with, remember the words of Paul Newman’s character in the film, The Color of Money, as he’s offering a bit of hard-earned advice to the young pool hustler played by Tom Cruise: "Money won," he whispered, "is twice as sweet as money earned."
If you’ve never gambled seriously before, you might wonder why you need a book about it. Why can’t you just find a casino, sit down at a table with a few friends and learn as you go?

I suppose you can, but it’s the costly way to go about it. You might not know unless you read this book that some of the best bets in a casino can be found at the craps table as well as some of the worst ones. And while you can never beat craps, at least not in the long run – after all if the casino didn’t have the odds in their favor how do you think they’d stay in business, never mind providing inexpensive rooms, free meals, souvenirs, and all the other goodies they hand out from time to time – you can make dam sure that your money lasts as long as it possibly can.

It may come as a surprise to you, but there are casino games you can beat. We’ll explain all that to you in this book. And while the skill required to win at certain games is not easily come by, some folks do earn all or part of their living at some of these games, so it’s proof positive that it can be done.

This book explains all the basic rules of all the popular casino games, provides all the odds you need to know to make informed decisions about the kinds of wagers to make, and offers a sound strategic approach so you can learn quite a bit about gambling in a short amount of time. This will allow you to make up for failing to misspend your entire youth gambling away your allowance and lunch money. After you read this book, you’ll look at those oh-so-cool looking craps shooters who toss a chip to the dealer as they shout, "Yo-leven." But now you’ll know just how uncool they really are, because wagering on the "yo" is a really dumb bet; in fact it’s one of the worst bets a player can make at the craps table.

While this book packs a lot of information into 300 some-odd pages, it won’t turn you into an expert overnight. You’ll need to put these concepts into motion. While we can teach you all about card-counting you won’t be able to beat a blackjack game just by reading this book. You have to practice. Although you’ll learn how to get the best of it against certain forms of video poker, you won’t become proficient enough to apply perfect strategy while dealing yourself 600 hands per hour without a lot of practice.

While you can make money gambling, it’s not easy money. Anyone telling you otherwise is not to be believed. Gambling for a living is difficult to accomplish. But we’ll point you in the right direction. If you decide to take up blackjack counting, we’ll show you how to obtain more information to help you along your way. If you want the straight skinny about each video poker machine that you might possibly come across in a casino, we’ll show you where to find that too. And if you want to become a professional poker player, there’s a lot more to read, study, and learn before you reach that plateau.

I guess this is our way of saying that gambling can be a hard way to make an easy living. But even if you’re like most of us – an unabashedly recreational gambler, just out there to have some fun – you might as well apply some wisdom to your enjoyment, while you stretch your bankroll, minimize your losses and maximize whatever winning might come your way.

There’s enough information in this book to help you walk away form the poker table with more money than lint in your pocket, and you’ll learn enough about sports betting, thoroughbred handicapping, and certain video poker games that can be beaten so that you ought to be able to hold your own. When you combine games where the casino’s advantage is scant to negligible with available comps – gambler parlance for complimentary gifts and other freebies the casino gives to attract and retain your business – you really can have what gamblers call "…the best of it."

Even if you’re a casino habitué there’s plenty of information in this book you can use. We identify the best bets available in a casino along with the worst of them. And for each game we describe, we include tables of odds so you’ll always know where you stand, what your chances are of winning, and how long your money figures to last if you’re playing a game where the house has the edge. We even think you’ll pick up a little knowledge and some gambling lore from the anecdotes peppered throughout this book.

This book is a reference, not a tutorial. You can read it any way you’d like. Start at the beginning if it pleases you, and read it cover to cover as you would a novel. That would certainly please us. But you can also focus on any of the game-specific information by reading the appropriate chapter.

If you want to learn how to play baccarat, you don’t have to read the chapter on roulette. We understand. Each chapter is a self-contained unit, with all the information you’ll need to know on that particular subject. If you’re planning a vacation in Las Vegas, or Foxwoods, Atlantic City, or some other gaming Mecca, we’ll tell you all about slot clubs, getting comped, establishing a relationship with a casino host, and other things you can do in advance of your trip to get the most out of your gaming vacation dollar.

And don’t let this stuff about comps and casino hosts put you off. They’re not just for high rollers anymore. They used to be, but today’s casino marketing efforts are an outreach to Mr. and Mrs. Middle America – folks like you and me – and casinos are willing to put their money where there mouth is in an attempt to get you to risk a few shekels too.

So use this book as a reference: a place to begin digging deeply to find out all you can about the games you want to play, the casino culture, and how to get the biggest bang for your gambling vacation buck. It’s all here.
Each chapter is self-contained, and we’ve grouped our chapters into five major areas.

Basic gambling principles

This is information that’s needed for any game you choose to play. And you can’t gamble intelligently without understanding at least a little something about odds, and knowing what the house edge is all about. This will help you realize when the stakes are too high, as well as how you might find some situations when you really have the best of it.

Games you can win

None of them are easy – believe me, if they were, that’s all people would play and the casinos would soon be belly-up and out of business – but there are some games that a player can beat. They include poker, blackjack, video poker (at least some forms of it) sports betting, and horse racing. That’s not much, and just reading this book will not make you a professional poker player or a winning thoroughbred handicapper overnight. That takes real effort, dedication, and a lot of time. But it can be done. And if we can start you out along this road to a successful career or even a second career, we’re happy to give you a little push in the right direction.

Games you can’t win

This list, unfortunately, includes most of the table games you’ll find in casinos today. And as enjoyable as they are, we’d be less that forthright if we leave you with the impression that you can become a long-term winner at slots, craps, roulette, baccarat, keno, the big-six wheel, and the myriad other new offerings casinos run out with regularity to attract our gambling dollar.

But that’s no reason not to play some of these games. After all, they are fun and if you get lucky you might even win some money in the short run. Moreover, when you consider that the house edge in some of these games can be less than one percent of the money you wager, a gaming vacation with attendant shows, romantic dinners, a round of golf or a little tennis, working on your tan by the pool or luxuriating in the hotel’s health spa, and stuff to entertain the kids as well, can be much more affordable than most of these things would cost if pursued separately.

A gambler’s guide to gaming

So you had a taste of the casino and now you like it? OK, there’s more. You can fire up your trusty computer and gamble in cyberspace. We’ll show you how. You wanna place a bet on the Superbowl and you won’t be anywhere near Vegas. No problem. In the brave new world of cyber casinos you can place a bet online through a server located in Costa Rica or some other exotic tropical paradise.

And if you want to play a little poker, well brother you’re in luck. Even if there’s no poker game within 100 miles of your front door, you can play online at a variety of sites. You can play for fun, or play for real money against real opponents – people like you – who may be located in Paris, France or Paris, Texas. It doesn’t much matter; in cyberspace you’re an icon with a screen name at an ersatz poker table somewhere within the worldwide web. When you’re online you can play in your PJs. Nobody knows. No one cares. You’re in cyberspace, dude, where only the money and your opponents are real. And you can play online poker 24/7/365. We’ll show you how.

You can also learn how to use your computer to master a variety of casino games. Simulators are available for many of them, and it’s a lot less expensive and certainly less stressful to learn to count cards at the blackjack table from the privacy of your own home than it is under the baleful eye of a pit boss who is dedicated to identifying card counters and 86ing them when he does.

This is the part of the book where we’ll explain how to become a real comp maven, so you can score every penny and every available freebie – from a free lunch and a free night’s stay, a limo ride to the airport, or even chauffeur service in a private jet if you’re a high enough roller – the casino is willing to invest in your well being to ensure you remain faithful and loyal customer.

We’ll show you how to manage your bankroll so that it lasts your entire gaming vacation. There’s nothing more frustrating than blowing a week’s worth of your gambling budget the very first night in town. Believe us, we know.

And while we’re at it, we’ll provide you with some first-rate advice on tax implications for any money you might win while you’re gambling. You’ll also find out all you need to know about gambling and the law.

The parts of ten

Every For Dummies book ends with top-ten lists, and this one is no exception. You’ll learn the ten best bets you can make in a casino as well as the ten worst, and to show you that we’re really well-rounded people who actually exit the casino every so often, we’ve included a list of the top ten things – actually it’s eleven; we couldn’t contain ourselves – you can do besides gamble in gambling Meccas. If your spouse or significant other is not as keen on gambling as you are but cared enough to come along anyway, even if he or she would rather be somewhere else, breaking away from the tables to visit one of these attractions might earn you a few well-needed brownie points.

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