Gambling: It's in the Book . December 2001

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Gambling: It's in the Book

by Howard Schwartz

Five super resources for understanding the history, tradition of gambling in the U.S., Europe

Let's assume you're a researcher, a historian, or you work in some capacity within a casino or regulatory agency where you'd be expected to be knowledgeable. Your supervisor or peers might look to you to be able to answer questions about the history, evolution or traditions of gambling which have evolved in the past 200 years.

So what should you have read to establish this specialized, intellectual expertise? Indeed what is out there? Most books are the "how-to" variety. They contain little background on the games and virtually no substantial information on their origins and growth.

Try these for your gaming library to build your confidence as an authority to be reckoned with:

GAMBLING AND SPECULATION by Reuven and Gabrielle Brenner (286 pages, hardbound, $52.95). Published in 1990, it is both a history and sociological analysis of gambling through the ages. Sections look at the history of lotteries; why gambling has always been condemned through the ages; the differences between gambling, "speculation" and insurance; government, taxation and the impact of prohibitions (going back as far as the 16th Century in Europe).

CARD SHARPS, DREAM BOOKS AND BUCKET SHOPS by Ann Fabian (250 pages, hardbound, $29.95). Published in 1990, it examines gambling in 19th Century America and explores the games which entranced players and vexed moralists. Describes riverboat card sharping operations; "dream books" designed to lead bettors to "winning" numbers' and illegal brokerage houses ("bucket shops") which allowed speculation in prices on grain and stock markets.

KNIGHTS OF THE GREEN CLOTH (The saga of the Frontier Gamblers) by Robert DeArment (423 pages, paperbound, $15.95). Published in 1982, it is one of the most detailed, colorfully-written books ever focused on the poker players, faro players, monte players (even some blackjack and roulette) who risked all, cheated, or, by will or skill, made their living gambling from 1850 to 1910. All the characters, legends, hustlers and Western heroes are chronicled here, including Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hicock, Bat Masterson, Poker Alice and Doc Holliday. Must reading for those who love the Old West and gambling history.

GAMBLING AND GAMBLING DEVICES by John Phillip Quinn (308 pages, paperbound, $8.95). Originally published in 1912, it is authored by a former hustler, conman and cheat, now reformed. (He also wrote the classic Fools of Fortune, now out of print). It described how sharpies took advantage of innocents through a variety of plays including marked cards and gaffed (fixed) gambling devices. He delves into the psychology of "cheating" and looks at the "mark" falls for the easy-money gimmicks. Illustrated, it shows what the old-time gambling devices looked like a century ago and how they were "adapted" for use by the cheater.

GAMBLERS OF YESTERYEAR by Russell T. Barnhart (239 pages, paperbound $9.95). Published in 1983, Barnhart's work is indexed and illustrated and looks at the humble origins of the now-famous gambling spas of Europe. Included are histories of Bath, Spa, Baden Baden, Bad Homburg and Monte Carlo. In addition to chronicaling the early days of those magical places, Barhhart describes early gambling systems (and lost fortunes) and the earliest games offered, including some major information about roulette and trente-et-quarante. Includes references to big name players like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Darnborough, Zannovitch and Prince Bonaparte.

Howard Schwartz is the manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas.  For a free catalog call 1-800-522-1777, or visit their Website at