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By Howard Schwartz--Gambler's Book Shop           

Norm Clarke, gossip columnist extraordinaire, whose work appears daily in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has written his best book yet—Vegas Confidential: Sinsational Celebrity Tales (232 pages, paper bound, $15.95). Colorful, packed with photos of celebrities, wannabe stars and those who don’t shy away from cameras, Clarke’s tome combines stories, gossip, goofy episodes and backstage antics. Along the way he reveals how his network of contacts works.

Originally from Terry, Montana (population less than 500), near the North Dakota border, Clarke has been a traveler, from Cincinnati to California to Denver (where he won $50,000 in the Colorado lottery). He landed in Las Vegas nine years ago and quickly established a network of tipsters among hotel personnel including waitresses and bellhops. His trademark right eye patch came about as result of a childhood injury.

Clarke admired the late great San Francisco columnist Herb Caen, who popularized “three-dot” .journalism, which consists of snippets of information in quick, usually witty style. He uses that style in his acknowledgements but doesn’t carry the dots through the remainder of the book.

Rock stars, athletes, TV personalities, celebrity egomaniacs all get Clarke attention daily in the newspaper, and now forever in book form. The book is full of nice guys, chesty ladies, classy moves and down and dirty tricks the rich and famous sometimes try to pull. The photos, sometimes candid, sometimes posed, are a fan’s dream, as the book is printed on heavy, glossy stock.

Overall, it’s a fine compendium of fascinating people, who too often let their hair down and get a little crazy in Las Vegas, where normality isn’t expected.

Roy Cooke and John Bond have a new poker book titled How to Play Like a Pro (166 pages, paper bound, $19.95) covering much important territory for both beginners and solid pros.

There are four major sections to the book: Price, Reading Hands, Playmaking and Miscellaneous Topics.

Under Price, the author discuss estimating value of a small pair, positive expectation, negative result, laying down a big pot, playing hands like Queen-Jack or Ace-Jack.

Under Reading Hands, the authors analyze marginal starting hands and tell you how they played it in detail. Under Playmaking, the areas of position, extra value bets, limping middle pair versus overcards are among the areas covered.

The final section includes a look at playing confident, taking a free one, increasing edge by observation. Overall, the book should help guide the player who has many a question about what to do in specific playing situations.

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.