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CLUSTER (VIDEO) KENO and FOUR BASEBALL REFERENCES, book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)


By Howard Schwartz

I can't remember the last time a video keno book captured the imagination of gamblers in Las Vegas and elsewhere, but it's happened now and it's just in time for the explosion of the new generation of machines being offered by today's casino.. A new title by L. J. Zahm of Las Vegas, titled Cluster Keno (40 pages, 8x11 spiralbound, $16.95), designed for beginners and experienced players, arrived at Gambler's Book Shop. It's been promoted in a Las Vegas weekly gaming publication, and video keno enthusiasts everywhere have been buying it.

Also at Gambler's Book Shop, with baseball's 2003 season nearing, four new baseball statistics book, Baseball Prospectus (549 pages, 8x11 paperbound, $21.95); The Sporting News Baseball Register (653 pages, paperbound, $17.95); Who's Who in Baseball (352 pages, paperbound, $8.95) and The Complete Sporting News Record Book (556 pages, paperbound, $18.95) have hit the shelves.

Let's look at each title in order mentioned:

Cluster Keno does a nice job of comparing and contrasting video keno and video poker as well as explaining the critical differences between live keno and video keno. There's even a disparity between the "Golden Oldies" type of video machines and the more modern types and those too find coverage here.

For those of you who have yet to play a machine, the author takes you through the process step by step—more than any casino has yet to do. Zahm claims to have won $64,000 and lists the dates and amounts won on those dates then takes you through each win, in a step-by-step format. Sample: "Oct. 21, $6416.45: This was my first big jackpot, and it occurred on a 5-cent progressive keno machine at the El Cortez Casino (in Las Vegas). The payoff was for hitting a solid 8-spot..." and there are the details of how the playing strategy (or lesson) was arrived at.

Remember the key word in the title is "cluster" and the author focuses on one particular aspect or "quirk" of video keno machines—that "jackpots are most frequently won soon after the machine is reset."

Packed with advice, examples, theory (the author is not a technician or mathematician—just a dedicated winning player), the book should make video keno more popular than ever—written in a friendly, non-technical manner and anyone buying it is even invited to write to share his or her own experiences.

Baseball bettors who think of themselves as "thinking-man bettors" and who enjoy the Bill James "school of numbers and analysis" methodology of evaluating players will find the Baseball Prospectus a handy tool. This is a dynamite book for fantasy leaguers who want to get a feel for whose careers are on the upswing, downturn or who might have (sleeper types) untapped potential in 2003. Packed with statistics and analysis for the last five years of play, individuals are profiled. Teams are examined for strengths and weaknesses, along with ballpark effects on pitching. There are also two interesting sections for those who truly care about these areas—what specific injuries baseball players suffer during the year and what it all means in levels of seriousness and what the "combined bargaining agreement" means in regard to baseball salaries and claimed "team poverty" situations.

The Baseball Register carries you from Paul Abbott to Barry Zito—in statistical and biographical depth. Want to know how to spell or pronounce a player's name? Or what is real name is? What about trades and injuries? Is he related to another major leaguer? Son, brother, etc? What other positions did he play? Need his birth date, high school or junior college he attended? It's all here. It lists his division series, championship series, World Series statistics and of course team managers are included. An interesting facet of managers is that they have "tendencies" whether offensively or defensively. Some managers pitchout more; others like to sacrifice or hit and run more or put in defensive substitutes. It's all listed in this book, along with who might be a "quick hook" on pitchers, who yanks a starter after 120 pitches or more and who'll go with pitchers on three days rest.

Who's Who in Baseball is a pocket-sized mini-version of the Baseball Register in some ways. Obviously it's cheaper, but it does list lifetime records of more than 750 players, and unlike the Register, it has a photo of each player. The first 188 pages focus on batters, then come the pitchers, in alphabetical order. Again, trades, injuries, post-season play are listed, along with birthdays, but no pronunciation guide or deep background on players are included except where they were born.

For those who love to create trivia questions or be a one-man encyclopedia of "I didn't know that" type knowledge, the Complete Baseball Record Book is the resource to have. Player records, team records, league records, post-season, World Series records—they're all here. Most homers in a season by team or least; most games lost or won in a career; who walked the most in a career or a season; who allowed the most homers as a pitcher? You'll find it here, along with team records; who managed each team since the franchise began; what the attendance was, year by year; what players are approaching all-time records in 2003 and All-Star Game records.

A nice gift for one who loves to stump know-it-alls or for a friend who has to settle arguments frequently.

(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, 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.)