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By Howard Schwartz--Gambler's Book Shop

While most of us might find it hard to believe, we know there are people who visit Las Vegas and other gambling destinations who play very little; but, they enjoy reading about the exploits—let’s say, the adventures--of others who have hit it big or could be labeled as the “characters.” Simply, they’ll say, “I just want to read about those winners or colorful players who don’t mind risking it all.”

Others enjoy “loading up” on history or offbeat incidents which they store away for a rainy day and share it with friends at the local pub in a sort of “Didyaknow…” presentation. And, of course, some folks are voracious readers so while “any book” will do in a pinch, when it includes information about some place or someone they’ve always heard about but never knew, the need to read becomes high.

Here are a handful of books which detail that special category of offbeat facts, people and events:

Sucker’s Progress: An Informal History of Gambling in America by Herbert Asbury (493 pages, paper bound, $7). Originally published in 1938, this is a colorful account of the origins of games like faro, poker, craps and the lottery and about those unusual, often devious table talents of individuals like John Morrissey and Richard Canfield. Illustrated and indexed, Asbury’s work contains lively details about how cheaters operated and how the games evolved or disappeared as players and times became more sophisticated.

The Last Good Time (Skinny D’Amato, The Notorious 500 Club, The Rat Pack & The Rise and Fall of Atlantic City) by Jonathan Van Meter (296 pages, hard bound, $12). Published in 2003, indexed and illustrated, this rather lengthy title is both a history and biography that goes into detail regarding how one special individual recognized talent and excelled in promotion, and how he helped make Atlantic City what it is today. It’s all about how the Mob operated in the early days, about show business, about how D’Amato got Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis together for the first time, about action in Florida and Lake Tahoe, but above all, it’s about a guy with “heart” who cared about people.

Pody Poe—From Tinhorn Gambler to Kingpin of Organized Crime as told to Catherine (Katy) Johnson (363 pages, hardbound, $7.50). Published in 2004, this book about Oklahoma’s most famous illegal gambler. Poe died a year ago, but his legend lives on. He knew the famous and infamous from sports figures like Mickey Mantle to gamblers like Benny Binion. His bio illustrates one man’s love of gambling—all kind--and his ability to bounce back from arrests and convictions, with class, humor and innovation. He was colorful and connected, and he met them all, and while offering colorful stories, he also presents guidelines for intelligent gambling and how to survive in a complicated, high-speed world.

Telling Lies and Getting Paid by Michael Konik (241 pages, paperbound, $8). Published in 2001 and written by an individual who knows the industry well (Konik also wrote The Man With the $l00,000 Breasts and Smart Money), this is a collection of off-beat people and their stories. Konik offers up tales about a world class woman poker player, a high roller, off shore sport betting operations and how they operate, a former Las Vegas line maker, a world class backgammon hustler and the Blackjack Ball where top of the line 21 players congregate . He includes own experiences at the high stakes poker tournament scene.

Amarillo Slim In a World of Fat People (The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived !) by Amarillo Slim Preston with Greg Dinkin. (270 pages, paperbound, $8.50). Published in 2003, the book (which will eventually become movie material with Nicolas Gage playing Slim), here are some lively stories about Slim’s early days and his biggest games over the years. Readers will learn that Slim’s world was a lot about hustling, finding a “mark” and being on the road, in and out of sawdust joints and meeting up with the ‘who’s who” of poker. Along the way, Slim details his “secrets” of winning at everything—but making sure he found the right numbers, the correct odds and “the edge” which served him so well over more than five decades.

Any item reviewed here is available from Gambler's Book Shop (Gambler's Book Club). The store's web site is You may order there using MasterCard, VISA or Discover (no CODs please) or by phoning the store any day except Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time at 1-800-522-1777. Orders usually shipped the next working day. You may view the store's complete array of books, videos and software via the Web site or request a hard copy of the catalog be mailed free and first class. The store has moved to a new location: 1550 E. Tropicana #4, Las Vegas NV 89119.