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Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

More and more women have been attracted to poker--in particular, tournament play in recent years so the new arrival at Gambler’s Book Shop titled Annie Duke: How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed and Won Millions) (with Duke and David Diamond) ($24.95, hardbound, 260 pages) should inspire many more to play. The biography arrived this week, along with Ken Einiger's Play to Win -- A World Champion's Guide to Winning Blackjack Tournaments (160 pages, paperbound, $12.95).

Duke's book is a mixed bag of goods, although a good one. Part biography, part advice and somewhat a dairy, the work shows that she and her co-author have a good grasp of what players want -- little bit of how she became a world class, winning, successful player and guidance on how to get the money. The sister of another world class player (Howard Lederer), she's acquainted with poker in a way few ladies of this generation ever have been.

This is a smooth read. In some ways an important one, because Duke dissects her own life on a personal level, while rebuilding her own skills and mental attitude toward the game of poker. She knows the game has changed because of the Internet and online poker and because television has attracted millions of new players.

"In the old days, you played against the sixty or so other best players in the world, and hyper-aggression didn't work well against them. Great players are better readers, and they're going to play against you," she writes.

"These days you're playing against fields of six hundred relatively inexperienced players, who might buckle under pressure--or who might just be overly aggressive to prove their acumen. You're playing against six hundred completely unknown quantities... you put a lot of chips at risk. You assume control and take over the table. But sometimes sitting back and trapping the hyper-aggressor is the way to go. You have to retool your game for all sorts of new players. I succeeded in retooling my game, only to get hit with a sledgehammer; my marriage imploded."

Overall, I like this book. It has a tone of honesty and humility to it--something many of the other poker books, supposedly written by world class players or "ghost-written" with professional writers, too often lack.


Ken Einiger has filled an important information gap. I know, because hundreds of people have asked me about tournament blackjack books. There were fewer than a handful available until now.  His well-titled Play to Win is sure to attract a new wave of tournament players.

The book contains three major sections. The first explains the basic of tournament blackjack and how to find one to enter. There are different types of tourneys--entry fee types dominate (anyone can enter if they pay the fee, which can be anywhere from $10 to $5,000); the re-entry type (where you can buy in again to stay in contention); the wild-card format (where those who are knocked out of a tournament get a shot during the tournament because their names are drawn from a bin for a second-chance free seat if their name is drawn); the mini-tournament (entry fees of $20 to $l00).

This book is a true survival guide. It explains table manners (it's important to know you can't hide your chips; that bathroom breaks may not occur; that helping an opponent with a question may be hazardous to your bankroll, among other areas).

Position or order can be vital. The person who bets last on the last hand has a significant advantage, and Einiger explains why.

Parts Two and Three of the book focuses on the author's experiences at the table in tournament play--his wins, losses, mistakes, what the learned the hard way. He discusses the mathematical approach; money management; unorthodox play; the use of the surrender option should you be able to use it; and a very important factor--equity--meaning the percent of entry fees which will be returned to players in prize money.

One key section lists tournament rules worth remembering.

Knowing the game of blackjack is one thing. Knowing how to survive early rounds and prosper, later qualifying for final tournament table play is another. For the price, this book has value. It's a must-read for anyone even thinking of entering a blackjack tournament.

Note: The books mentioned here are available from Gambler's Book Shop, 630 South 11th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Call l-800-522-1777 from 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday Pacific time to order, using only MasterCard, VISA or Discover card (no Amex accepted). You may order through the store web site at and view the store's 1,000 books, videos and computer software. You may also call or write and ask for the free 80-page catalog to be sent to you. The store, founded in 1964 by John and Edna Luckman, is located about two miles from Downtown Las Vegas, and the same distance from where the Strip begins, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard.