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Best of Howard Schwartz

Nover's Sportsgaming Beat; Four Poker Books Solid GBC Arrivals

10 September 2003

For those who bet on sports, there are never enough new stories about characters, bad beats, wild and crazy methods of betting; handicapping methodology. For that reason, Stephen Nover's SportsGaming Beat (104 pages, 8x11 plastic spiralbound, $29.95) comes along at the right time, as a sequel to his Las Vegas Sports Beat, published in 1997.

Nover understands the world of sports handicapping and the people who make up that special world of bet-makers and bet-takers. Here he writes about wise-guys, scammers, whales (biggest of the big bettors), touts, profiles pioneers and the well-respected sports book operators, upsets and longshots, the very lucky and the impact of offshore wagering, during the period 1997-2003.

If you've ever wondered what goes on in people's minds regarding why they bet or focus on a specific game or sport and their thought processes -- sometimes imaginative or brilliant, other times illogical and bizarre -- Nover has managed to capture it all, often in their own language, sometimes in a Damon Runyoneque tone. These are a collection of his best columns. Through them, you'll enter world the public rarely sees or experiences. It's educational, entertaining and sure to make you a smarter, more knowledgeable sports bettor.

In recent weeks, four poker books of importance have arrived at Gambler's Book Club.

They are: Poker Face (A Girlhood Among Gamblers) by Katy Lederer (209 pages, hardbound, $23.95); Internet Texas HoldŒem (Winning Strategies from an Internet Pro) by Matthew Hilger (298 pages, paperbound, $29.95); Poker on the Internet by Andrew Kinsman (159 pages, paperbound, $17.95); and in its own way, the most important book ever published for the player who must deal with the tax man, Poker Records (64 pages, 8x5 plastic spiralbound, $7.95).

Poker Face (not to be confused with two previous books now out of print with titles similar) is about growing up in a card-playing family (Katy's brother Howard is a world-class poker player, as is sister Annie Duke) and her mother loved solitaire. It is Lederer's observations, comments, reactions and memories which impact her work. She's a writer and a poker player all mixed up in one, but the balance is there. Her keen memory for details‹from people's faces, their way of expressing themselves and her way of rationalizing life, poker and why people do the things they do make this both a rare glimpse into the world of professional poker players and a portrait of a woman trying to find her own identity.

Lederer seems to be honestly awed by strange new worlds and experiences and willing to experiment. She looks at poker players and the world they've made for themselves in a rare, times funny, sometimes poignant manner. It's a world they've created for themselves and she understands them all too well.

There's a lot of name and place-dropping in this world. I wish it were indexed or illustrated. Overall, I liked this book. You won't learn how to win at holdŒem, but you may better understand what makes the players tick a bit better and how people's lives evolve around the game.

Internet Texas HoldŒem is for any level player who wants to play online. Hilger doesn't assume you know it all and jump right in. He takes the reader slowly through all-important concepts including probability and odds; bluffing, raising, check-raising, slow playing, free cards and starting hands.

His advice is geared first for beginners and intermediate players, but he does move quickly to advanced concepts. A major section on the flop examines nut hands; set/trips; two pair/overpair; middle/bottom pair; flush and straight draws; overcards and trash hands. He discusses the turn and the river card in great depth, which is important, then moves to bankroll management; site and game selection; online "tells" and multiple games; keeping records; playing in tournaments and offers three pages discussing collusion and cheating.

The book offers a multitude of tips; practice hands and quizzes to keep you sharp, on your toes and Hilger's summaries are timely and just the right length to reinforce key concepts worth remembering. This is much like a textbook‹a course offering, for those about to embark on a titillating, hard-pounding journey into a new world of gambling.

Andrew Kinsman's Poker On The Internet was published in England. He takes the beginner through the basics, including a pertinent examination of the advantages and disadvantages of online play; while asking the question about online gambling possibly helping or hindering your play.

What to do first -- selecting the game; managing your bankroll; taking notes; playing two or more tables at once; the question about shuffling; of cheating. It's all here and more, including playing site reviews (almost a dozen profiled). This book tells you where to play what game. For example: the best place to play limit lowball or crazy pineapple. His examination of each site seems to be the strength of this well-written work. He enjoys comparing one site to another, offering sample graphics for the curious beginner who may also be cautious.

Kinsman's listing of poker websites makes this a valuable reference guide and time-saver for every level player.

Poker Records (published by Gambler's Book Shop) is such a simple book to produce, one wonders why there haven't been more. Poker players of intelligence keep records -- for themselves, for the IRS. Here, the book allows one to have a page a week, with room to record the date, starting bankroll, ending bankroll, whether a winning or losing session occurred, how long the session lasted, the location of the card room casino or private game, any miscellaneous expenses incurred, the running total for weekly winnings or losses and a little room for notes or comments to keep the memory of the session even clearer.

There are 12 pages for Tournament Records, should one be active in that area on a consistent basic. It's handy, reasonably priced and easy to use in its spiralbound format.

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: