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Whale Hunter Cyr Profiled; Poker Aces; Black Book Arrive

2 September 2004

One of the most awaited gaming books of the decade -- this one focusing on "whales" (super high rollers) -- has arrived at Gambler's Book Shop along with two solid titles, one aimed at poker players (Poker Aces by Ron Rose) and the other at football handicappers (Marc Lawrence's Black Book.)

Looking at each book, in order of mention, we start off with Whale Hunt in the Desert: The Secret Las Vegas of Superhost Steve Cyr (319 pages, hardbound, $24.95), written by Deke Castleman. Perhaps it's best to start off with isolated tidbits from one of the most fascinating books of recent years profiling a man who went from brash telemarketer with a hotel management degree from UNLV to help establish a new style of luring the highest of high rollers.

"Most whales are used to running everything and everyone in their lives. They generally get whatever they want whenever they want it," says Cyr.

"The high roller with the most ferocious reputation for trying to run the business of the casinos where he plays is Kerry Packer. In the casino world, Packer is the Prince of Whales." Cyr says, letting us know that Packer is worth somewhere between 4 and 8 billion dollars.

Indexed and illustrated, the book details how "whale hunters" operate and what "perks" or "freebies" whales are offered to entice them to a particular hotel or, in some cases, "steal" them away from another establishment.

It's about ego, sex, peculiarities, psychology too. How does one person develop and use specific manipulative skills to convince someone with massive discretionary income to "come play at our place?"

It's another world -- one the public has rarely been privy to.

For example, did you know there's a major difference between a "branch" and a "property" host? All a property guy has to do to bump into customers is hang around the casino cage. A branch guy is away from the casino, in San Francisco...Hong Kong, wherever.

Castleman is a master of absorbing information from men like Cyr and rearranging the material into clear, organized and understandable facts. He has compiled a virtual must-read textbook for everyone in the industry -- management, players and of course, aspiring hosts.

The book too, is a history of the changes in Las Vegas hotel management and ownership practices and policies. It details how approaches to create revenue were revised. This varied from trying to attract locals, via tour and travel visitors, to welcoming international players, to openly courting the high rollers and how the city itself responded to "evolving market conditions."

Castleman has a way with words few gambling authors can match: "Whales are coveted and feared, loved and hated, all at the same time by the Las Vegas casinos that cater to them. A half-dozen do; more than five dozen, like the Stardust, don't. Few casinos have the fortitude and fortune to fade the gut-wrenching sphincter-squeezing high-wire action of the world's heaviest hitters. ...On the one hand, the top casinos will do anything to get them. ...On the other hand, with a single hot streak a single whale can decimate a huge publicly traded corporation's entire quarterly earnings."

Castleman's style stands head and shoulders above most writers I've seen in 25 years at Gambler's Book Shop. He uses it to pack this book with material about the city, the industry and the "secret army of people" -- those who have the rare components of big bucks, plenty of chutzpah (nerve and guts) to play very big and those who have harnessed the even rarer talent of guiding these high-bred thoroughbreds to the tables, keeping them there and getting them back in action regularly.

Poker is perhaps the hottest form of gambling in America right now, thanks to the television covers of the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker.

Just off the presses, in timely fashion is Poker Aces (180 pages, 9x11, $29.95) compiled and written by Ron Rose, winner of the first World Poker Tour of Champions. Rose has put together a wonderful picture-biography collection in coffee-table format.

With stories and photos about more than 80 world class players it serves as informational material as well as fan material for those who want to collect poker autographs as it's a nice place to have your favorites sign.

Looking at the pages focusing on poker great Doyle Brunson, we get some insight into his approach to the game; a look at some poker history Brunson-style; background of this great player; and some of his major accomplishments.

T.J. Cloutier explains how he made the transition from pro football to a world class player and emphasizes how important it is to remember with almost a "photographic memory" who you are if he faced you in the past, and how you played your hands.

Chris Ferguson tries to get into an opponent's head, while repairing holes in his own style of play; Johnny Chan's style is to attack..."not too many players try to bluff me." Chan won back-to-back World Series of Poker titles in 1987 and 1988.

Among the known, high profile players featured in the book are Phil Ivey, Freddy Deeb, Annie Duke, Layne Flack, Gus Hansen, Phil Hellmuth, Dewey Tomko, Erik Seidel, Chip Reese, Amarillo Slim Preston,Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Tom McEvoy, Howard Lederer and 2004 World Series of Poker winner Greg Raymer.

Overall, a fine tribute to the game and some of its greatest players today.

Marc Lawrence's 2004 edition of the Black Book (A Guide to Picking College and Pro Football Winners) (107 pages, paperbound $29.95) has always had an appeal to those who truly believe history repeats.

Looking at Fresno State for example, we're offered the fact that the team is 7-0 against the spread vs. PAC 10 opponents and there are nine other angles in the "100%" category for the team. When Lawrence says 100% it may also mean the team has NEVER covered, meaning they may be 0-5 or worse versus certain opponents.

There's a complete schedule for each college and pro team with angles for almost every game. This is a simple book to use -- perfect for entering an office pool or weekly contest. No need to do a lot of handicapping. If someone were to ask you how you happened to pick a winner, all you've got to do is say "the Black Book had it."

Included in the book are 10 new handicapping theories and angles.

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: