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The Perfect BetThe Perfect Bet: How Science and Maths are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling
by Adam Kucharski

A wild ride through the history, psychology, mathematics, and technology of gaming - a remarkable look behind the curtain of what most people think is intuitive, but isn't

With an entertaining writing style, Adam Kucharski guides us through the history and state of the art of The Perfect Bet showing us how mathematics and computers are used to come up with optimal ways to gamble, play games, bluff, and invest our money. Extremely well-written and carefully researched.

Those who are mathematically educated (or indeed simply a fan of pop-science books) will delight at historical mentions of the likes of Poincare, Fermat and others, whose probabilistic ponderings resulted in the evolution of game theory. There is a sprinkling of modern Michael Lewis type characters - mathematical PhDs with a love of loot. Anecdotal stories are in abundance of those who have tried to win at roulette, poker, draughts, scratch cards, chess and landing on the world of modern day online betting. We are exposed to the origins of the Monte Carlo method and Markov chain and even high frequency trading gets a mention.

Paperback - Profile Books; Main edition (5 May 2016) 288 pages   £3.29
Kindle Profile Books; Main edition (5 May 2016) 288 pages £3.79


Cutting the Wire: Gaming Prohibition and the Internet
by David G. Schwartz

The story of the Wire Act and how Robert Kennedy's crusade against the Mob is creating a new generation of Internet gaming outlaws. Gambling has been part of American life since long before the existence of the nation, but Americans have always been ambivalent about it. What David Schwartz calls the "pell-mell history of legal gaming in the United States" is a testament to our paradoxical desire both to gamble and to control gambling. It is in this context that Schwartz examines the history of the Wire Act, passed in 1961 as part of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's crusade against organized crime and given new life in recent efforts to control Internet gambling.

"Cutting the Wire" presents the story of how this law first developed, how it helped fight a war against organized crime, and how it is being used today. The Wire Act achieved new significance with the development of the Internet in the early 1990s and the growing popularity of online wagering through offshore facilities. The United States government has invoked the Wire Act in a vain effort to control gambling within its borders, at a time when online sports betting is soaring in popularity. By placing the Wire Act into the larger context of Americans' continuing ambivalence about gambling, Schwartz has produced a provocative, deeply informed analysis of a national habit and the vexing predicaments that derive from it. In America today, 48 of 50 states currently permit some kind of legal gambling. Schwartz's historical unraveling of the Wire Act exposes the illogic of an outdated law intended to stifle organized crime being used to set national policy on Internet gaming. "Cutting the Wire" carefully dissects two centuries of American attempts to balance public interest with the technology of gambling.

Paperback - University of Nevada Press (1 Sept. 2005) 296 pages £9.89   
Kindle - University of Nevada Press (1 Sept. 2005) 296 pages £21.80


Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street
by William Poundstone

This is an excellent book about the discovery of the Kelly formula that is unknown outside gambling. This story has three protagonists. Two of them were scientists working at Bell Labs: Claude Shannon, a genius polymath who developed information theory; and John Kelly, a maverick genius, who is directly responsible for the development of Kelly's formula. The third one is a brilliant MIT mathematician, Ed Thorp.

As the author states, Ed Thorp's genius consists in "...his continuous ability to discover new market inefficiencies ... as old ones played out." Ed Thorp closed this second fund in 2002. He is now independently exploring inefficiencies in gambling.

Claude Shannon amassed large wealth by recording one of the best investment records. His performance had little to do with Kelly's formula. Between 1966 and 1986, his record beat even Warren Buffet (28% to 27% respectively). Shannon strategy was similar to Buffet. Both their stock portfolios were concentrated, and held for the long term. Shannon achieved his record by holding mainly three stocks (Teledyne, Motorola, and HP). The difference between the two was that Shannon invested in technology because he understood it well, while Buffet did not.

John Kelly was a chain smoking, gun collecting brilliant physicist. He died young at 41 of an aneurysm. He worked closely with Shannon at Bell Labs. Besides being a charismatic character the author does not write much about his life compared to the other two.

Paperback - 386 pages Non Basic Stock Line (19 Sept. 2006)  £13.96
Hardback - 400 pages Hill & Wang (14 Sept. 2005)  £19.88


Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
by Peter L. Bernstein

Bernstein has managed to take a subject which at first sight seems intensely boring, and has made it fascinating. Whether or not you have any interest in Risk, Statistics or Econimics, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It is quite simply a "Ripping Yarn". Its greatness lies in Bernstein's ability to tell the story in an accessible manner, without dumbing down the essential facts. Let me say it again: Read this book because it is a fascinating and well written story. The fact you will know a lot more about Risk at the end of it is an incidental, but very welcome, extra.

Paperback - 400 pages (9 October, 1998)   £11.33
Kindle - 383 pages Wiley; 1 edition (21 April 2008)  £10.76


High StakesHigh Stakes: How I Blew 14 Million Pounds
by Nigel Goldman

High Stakes was written while author Nigel Goldman was in prison. It is a book about greed, the chances and opportunities afforded to him in life, and about how seeking the ultimate win led him to experience extremes of lifestyle.The book takes us on a roller coaster ride, beginning with his wheeling and dealing at public school and the formation of his first business, which subsequently folded due to his compulsive gambling. After escaping the UK for America in an attempt to evade creditors, there followed three years of hectic trading on the New York Commodity Exchange, which culminated in a windfall profit.

Following this fortuitous upturn in finances, Goldman then returned to the UK and founded a new company but soon became involved in a highly publicised multi-million pound VAT fraud trial. Although he was dramatically cleared of this crime, he was soon to spend a short spell in prison for an unrelated fraud misdemeanour. Upon his release, Goldman set up yet another business venture that brought with it the luxuries of expensive cars, exotic travel, flamboyancy and lucrative racehorse ownership. After drilling oil wells dry on and off for over 15 years, the sum of Goldman's wealth stood at around 14 million.

Goldman then goes on to detail how he managed to offload this vast sum in a very short period of time only to land back in prison, this time for a more substantial period, before finally deciding to go straight and start a new life as a bookmaker on the Costa Del Sol.

Paperback - 272 pages Mainstream Publishing (30 Sept. 2004) £3.75
Kindle - 272 pages Mainstream Publishing (21 Dec. 2012) £3.99


Easy MoneyEasy Money: Inside the Gambler's Mind
by David Spanier

David Spanier studies the psychological motivation of gamblers, those who beat the system and those beaten by it, portraying the personalities and legends of the gambling world of the time. Spanier ranges widely over his subject, considering the motivations of gamesters, stressing the physical sensations they experience, the percentages and chances, heuristic principles, the differences in European and American gambling, and the criminal element in U.S. gaming, but concentrates primarily on the human side of gambling rather than the mathematical or theoretical.

While he is comfortable discussing Freud's analysis of the compulsive gambler, his real emphasis is on the individuals: the mathematician who devised a way to beat the house advantage at blackjack; the London man-about-town who ran games for the upper class; the cleric who founded the British Gamblers Anonymous; the physician who established a "gamblers' hospital" in Brecksville, Ohio. This is an insider's analysis of the thrills, action, and intense emotional involvement that makes up the world of gambling.

Hardcover - 240 pages High Stakes Publishing; New edition (4 May 2006)   £9.99
No Kindle -   


Bad Bet by Timothy L. O'Brien
Subtitled - The Inside Story of the Glamour, Glitz, and Danger of America's Gambling Industry

There is tons of research here by a journalist clearly in command of his craft. There is a clear anti-gambling view when looking at the big corporations that run this business, but O'Brien truly appreciates the legends and culture of the gambling world and gives them their due. After all, big corporations have their own wallets in mind in all of this. Anyway, this is a fun, breezy, informative book and anyone betting on sports or into casinos should read it.

Hardcover - 339 pages Times Books; First Edition edition (1 Aug. 1998)   £3.98
No Kindle -


The Gambler's Guide to the World
by Jesse May

Subtitled - The Insider Scoop from a Professional Player on Finding the Action, Beating the Odds, and Living It Up Around the Globe.

Jesse May, an intrepid gambler, experienced poker analyst, and critically acclaimed writer, has traveled across the country and around the world in search of the hottest gambling action. From sports betting in Costa Rica to high-stakes Vegas poker, from caviar and vodka in Moscow to funnel cakes and submarine sandwiches in Atlantic City, May has tried his hand and his luck at gambling and indulged in the good life across the globe. In The Gambler's Guide to the World, he blends an insightful travel guide with a lively travel narrative to create a totally unique guidebook to the choicest sites in the world.

Paperback - 320 pages Broadway Books (1 Dec. 2000)  £1.03
Kindle - 320 pages Broadway Books (17 April 2013) £3.49


The Man With the $100,000 Breasts : And Other Gambling Stories by Michael Konik
Michael Konik takes a topic that is usually covered in a bland, how-to kind of way and delivers thoughtful, entertaining stories that seem like they're right out of the movies. And they're all true! My personal favourites are Chapter Nine, "Go Greyhound!" which may be the funniest story ever written about gambling, and the book's final chapter, "The Hand You're Dealt," which may be the single finest essay on what it really means to "get lucky" in a casino and in life.

Paperback - 256 pages (January 2000)    £6.69  

by Paul Lamford
A good all round look at Gambling from horse racing to poker and bingo. Advice on how to calculate odds and increase your skill. Full of background information and tips about the world of gambling.

Hardback - 192 pages ( 3 April, 2000)       £0.49


The Quotable Gambler by Paul Lyons (Editor)

This book is a Compendium of quotes
"It is not as destructive as war or as boring as pornography. It is not as immoral as business or as suicidal as watching television. And the percentages are better than religion"--Mario Puzo
"Horse sense is a good judgment that keeps horses from betting on people. "God not only plays dice. He also sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen." -Stephen Hawking

Hardcover - 326 pages (October 1999)       £2.69  


The Big Con by David Maurer
"A term such as cackle-bladder or shut-out cannot be properly described without giving a full account of its use, and such an account cannot be illustrated by stick figures". Thus The Big Con is filled with richly detailed anecdotes populated by characters with names like Devil's Island Eddie, the Honey Grove Kid, the Hashhouse Kid, and Limehouse Chappie ("distinguished British con man working both sides of the Atlantic and the steamship lines between, all with equal ease"). David Maurer spent years talking to con men about their profession, learning about each and every step of the three big cons (the wire, the rag, and the payoff). From putting the mark up to putting in the fix, Maurer guides readers through the fleecing--pretty soon you'll be forgetting the book's scientific value and reading for sheer entertainment. (A cackle-bladder, by the way, is a fake murder used to scare the victim off after his money's been taken. As for the shut-out, well, that you'll have to learn on your own.).

Paperback - 291 pages ( 1 June, 2000)       £5.59  

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