PONIES, POKER AND PECULIAR PATRONS . January 2012 . Vol 13 . No. 1

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By T. Dana Smith (for Howard Schwartz) - Gambler's Book Shop Las Vegas

With a varied menu of action, the world of gaming offers a little something to satiate your appetite no matter what your passion. Unless, of course, you’re a huge pro basketball fan, in which case the buffet is closed for at least another few weeks while owners and players hungry for their just desserts bicker among themselves. 

For people with a passion for ponies, it’s a different story. With the Breeders Cup World Championships right around the corner, Crushing The Cup 2011 (122 pgs, $29.95) by Jim Mazur and Peter Mallett is a timely buy for horseracing fans and handicappers hoping to hit a payday at the races. This annual publication is second to none in its analysis and presentation of exhaustive stats, while still being readable and enjoyable. For example, in a piece titled “That Quirky CD Oval” that analyzes the track at Churchill Downs, the authors write, “This is not rocket science; these are simply some insights as to why what happens at Churchill Downs happens. This stuff works, so pay attention.”
Got my attention, that’s for sure!

Starting with The Marathon (1 ¾ miles) for 3-year-olds and up on the first race day, Mazur and Mallett take readers through each race in the event with stats, Beyer angles and recommendations. The newly added Juvenile Dirt Sprint is “a gift to the relatively small number of trainers who excel at getting young horses to show their speed,” they say. The Breeders Cup Classic with its $5 million purse is, of course, the crown jewel—as is this informative and incisive handicapping book.

How to Beat Three Card Poker (96 pgs, $12.95) is Avery Cardoza’s newest contribution to his extensive library of how-to-win books on almost every gambling game the casinos offer. Relatively new to the casino table games repertoire, three card poker is not your grandfather’s brand of poker: it bears little resemblance to standard hold’em (a game of skill combined with luck in which the house has no edge) except for its use of poker cards.

Similar to blackjack, the player’s goal in three card poker is to make a better hand than the dealer, except that you don’t get any additional cards. At the deal, you decide whether to play or fold (the author instructs you when to fold). From there, your fortune depends upon whether the dealer turns over a qualifying hand, whether your hand is better than the dealer’s, and how you have handled certain optional bets. In his signature plain-English style, Cardoza gives you the skinny on how to beat the house’s ever-present 2-percent-plus edge at this intriguing and fast moving table game.

And now for a piece of fluff, an entertaining book full of true stories about peculiar requests casino patrons have placed with their hosts. You Want What??? (237 pgs, $17.95) by Mariann Mohos is a collection of short-shorts that documents some of the strangest things casino patrons have asked their concierges to do for them. There’s the VIP whose girlfriend loses her nipple ring poolside and asks the host to replace it for her, and the rube who calls to say that he can’t find the exit door from his hotel room because the only door has a sign swinging from its knob that says “Do Not Disturb.” And then there’s the gal who can’t find her bra and asks if she can borrow her host’s, and the guy who needs a yellow dinosaur costume muy pronto. It’s a funny ride on the merry-go-round of the casino concierge.

Footnote: If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of Lost in Las Vegas, you’re missing one of the best Las Vegas-themed novels to come off the press in years. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how two dudes could get themselves into so much trouble in just 48 hours in Sin City

These books are available at Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas. You can order them at www.gamblersbookclub.com or phone the store at 1-800-522-1777 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific time. Opened in 1964, GBC is located at 5473 S. Eastern between Tropicana and Russell, just a short drive from the Strip. View the store's complete line of books, CDs, videos and software at the web site.