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Forte Surveillance Guide; Brunson Super System 2 -- Newest Must-Reads

27 January 2005

It's rare that two vital "breakthrough" books arrive at Gambler's Book Shop within days of each other, but it's happened. The books, with two massive audiences awaiting their publication for more than six months, arrived in mid-January at the store.

Casino Game Protection -- A Comprehensive Guide (627 pages, hardbound, $200) by Steve Forte and Super System 2 -- A Course in Power Poker (667 pages, paperbound, $34.95), authored by Doyle Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, Mike Caro, Crandall Addington,Todd Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, Lyle Berman and Steve Zolotow, immediately became hot-sellers, not only in the United States, but also internationally, hours after their arrival.

Forte, a casino veteran and one of, if not the most respected casino surveillance experts in the world (he also produced the highly-rated Gaming Protection series of video tapes), explains how hundreds of cheating scams are perpetrated, scams which cost casinos everywhere millions in lost revenue annually. He shows how cheaters operate (many color photos) from the outside and from the inside (dealers or dealers working with agents); he outlines how they operated throughout history and the evolution of moves. Many of the classic scams are explained (like mucking -- switching cards; painting -- playing daub; bending, coolers, switching dice.)

Every casino worth its salt should have a copy of this book not just to help train inexperienced personnel, but additionally to remind and update veteran personnel about moves they may have missed or forgotten.

Identifying "specialists" and understanding why money may not be the only motivation for them is vital. A dislike for the industry or a dealer's supervisors, or revenge can be triggering factors, as well as, unbelievably, ignorance of the law.

Forte discusses "advantage players" who began to appear in the 1970s (hole card teams, warp players, computer users); what the elements and psychological elements of a scam are; how misdirection comes into play; the variety of signals used (including verbal and physical); inside collusion; electronic assistance; the development and evolution of computers and cameras.

There are 11 major chapters to the book, with heavy focus on blackjack and card counting; advantage play; craps; baccarat; Asian games; poker; roulette. One chapter titled Universal Scams concentrates on subs; the chip cup; administrative scams; marked cards; scams where cards are marked from the inside or after they are introduced into the game, plus detection tests including the manufacturer's code; ribbon spread (color discrepancy); the riffle test; angled light; bevel and shade tests and use of black (ultraviolet) to detect shades and daubs.

Forte has a major section to guide casino management to proper detection techniques, calling the dealer "the first line of defense" and explaining how next floor personnel, casino managers and of course casino surveillance specialists can best do their jobs.

Included is a section on game protection mathematics (what percentage of hands should the player win in casino games) and how ratings systems; player profiles and frequency of error come into play.

Forte is both instructor and historian, making reference to the great works of past years which describe cheating techniques, how teams operated and those who have contributed so much to the detection of cheats in the past and present. The book includes profiles of 25 of the biggest name in surveillance and detection of cheating, 19 pages of terms used by cheats or surveillance personnel, and nine pages of helpful resources for future researchers.

This landmark work, by one of the most respected names in the industry, should be read by casino personnel everywhere, used as a tutorial or textbook by schools which offer courses in casino management and be on the shelves of every top management individual who understands how quietly they may lose millions through internal or external fraud. In addition, those who regulate the industry should have copies in their possession, to educate those already in the industry and those in the process of training.

Doyle Brunson, two-time winner of the World Series of Poker (1976 and 1977), needs no introduction to knowledgeable poker players. His original Super System (1978) sold for $100 and no one even blinked after learning the price. Several years ago there were rumors his book would be updated or revised. Based just on the rumors Gambler's Book Shop received dozens of phone calls and inquiries about when it would be available.

Certainly much of the game has changed, as has the new generation of players. The seven stud high-low split game now requires an eight or better for low (previously that qualifier did not exist). Omaha and Omaha high-low split barely existed as a popular game in the 1970s. The double blind for hold'em did not exist then, nor did the game of triple draw in its present form.

Brunson's Super System 2 has arrived in time for the new generation to enjoy and employ at the tables.

The book begins appropriately with background information about Brunson--his early days, his personal life and what led him to the land of poker and eventually, Las Vegas. Crandall Addington, a world class player offers a history of no-limit hold'em and Brunson follows with the good side and bad side of online poker. Mike Caro, author of several books including the monumental study on poker tells, presents 43 tips for playing hold'em, most keyed to subconscious things players do to bluff or disguise how good or bad their hands are.

Steve Zolotow, also a world class player, offers a section titled Specialize or Learn Them All. Jennifer Harman, one of the better world class women players, who has made many television appearances, presents an 80-page section on limit hold'em, followed by Bobby Baldwin's key 77-page chapter on Omaha eight-or-better.

Brunson's son Todd follows with a 55-page chapter on seven-card stud high-low eight-or-better, with Lyle Berman focusing in on pot-limit Omaha high (48-page chapter).

In the past year, there have been more questions about triple draw (lowball) than any other new form of poker. Thankfully, Daniel Negreanu now answers many of the questions with a 53-page chapter, including a rank comparison chart for ace-to-five and deuce-to-seven.

Brunson has written a nice compact section titled Tournament Overview, to prepare players for the decision-making they'll face from opening day to final table, should one be so fortunate.

Perhaps the frosting on the cake comes from Doyle himself in a magnificent chapter on no-limit hold'em (91 pages) with sections on how to play particular hands such as A-A, K-K, A-K, Q-Q, pairs other than aces, kings or queens, small connecting hands, borderline or trouble hands and trash hands.

Despite some minor editing flaws, (Crandall Addington's first name is incorrectly spelled Crandell for example), and the fact I'd love to see many more of the hands illustrated with actual miniature playing cards, the book is a solid 9.9 on a scale of 10 being perfect. It's as important a book for the price as you'll add to your poker gaming library this year--snap one up now.
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites: