Schlesinger's Blackjack Attack--Revised, Updated, and Watching Racehorses . August 2004

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Schlesinger's Blackjack Attack--Revised, Updated, and Watching Racehorses

Book reviews by Howard Schwartz (Manager of the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas)

Schlesinger's Blackjack Attack--Revised, Updated

If the game of blackjack is to survive, and at least help encourage beginners to mid-level experienced players to move up a notch in skill and confidence, then there will be more books like the newest edition (3rd) of Blackjack Attack (505 pages, hardbound, $39.95) by the respected player-author Don Schlesinger. The book offers everything a serious player needs to tackle the game as it has evolved.

With more than 100 new pages (the last edition was published in 2000), Schlesinger's work moves to the top of the "best-bet/must-read" list for serious players.

What's been added? New material on optimal betting ramps; unit sizes; SCORESA; four new risk of ruin equations; new computer simulations by Norm Wattenberger; new material on precise expectations tables; the most accurate basic strategy charts now available; and the effects of rules variations on basic strategy expectations.

There are 14 chapters in this marvelous work, including Back-Counting the Shoe Game; Betting Techniques and Win Rates; Evaluating the New Rules and Bonuses; Camouflage; Risk of Ruin; Team Play. In three appendices, the author has Complete Basic Strategy EVs for the 1-2-4-6-8; Basic Strategy Charts for the 1-2 and Multi-Deck Games and the Effects of Rules Variations on Basic Strategy Expectations.

Edited with skill, patience and precision by Viktor Nacht and Bettie Page of RGE, the book had input from John Auston, James Grosjean, Olaf Vancura and Stanford Wong among others. For those who enjoyed the now out-of-print super publication Blackjack Forum, founded by Arnold Snyder, there's a plethora of pertinent, still timely material excerpted from past issues.

Too, feedback from some of the greats in the business have given this book a great pat on the back--and that includes Ed Thorp, Ian Andersen and Bryce Carlson.
The hardbound editions at Gamblers Book Shop are all autographed. Later this year, for those frugal buyers who have the patience to wait, there will be a paperbound version. But for those, hardbound copies only exist.

Schlesinger, who over the years has advised, provided input, edited and analyzed some of the best material out there for advanced blackjack players, understands and comments on how the game has changed in the past five years, including the seemingly punitive 6-to-5 bonuses for naturals instead of the expected 3-to-2. He has great admiration for "those who continue to play their trade successfully in this never-ending cat-and-mouse game."

He hopes times will get better and that conditions become more favorable. Whether they do or not, this popular and respected author has supplied those disciplined enough to continue the battle, with an arsenal of new ideas and weaponry. This work is clearly designed for upper-echelon players.

Watching Racehorses

Anyone who enjoys post parade inspection handicapping (also known as the body language of horses) and wants to know more--in this case, what the Australian bettors focus on--will find plenty of food for thought in Geoffrey Hutson’s Watching Racehorses (A Guide to Betting on Behaviour) (234 pages, paperbound, $19.95), while more than a dozen organized crime bad boys are profiled in a new compilation edited by Lawrence Block titled Gangsters, Swindlers, Killers and Thieves (The Lives & Crimes of Fifty American Villains) (287 pages, hardbound, $26). 0195169522 These are among the many new arrivals at Gambler’s Book Shop this week.

Hutson’s book explains the methods he uses to isolate contenders and to eliminate those horses that openly show they’re just not in the racing mood or not fit to run any particular racing day. His work is based on observations of 10,000 thoroughbreds, a period covering more than decade of handicapping in Australia. His research is similar in some ways, but quite varied in his discoveries compared to the late Bonnie Ledbetter and the sharp, innovative observations of Trillis Parker and Joe Takach in the United States.

Hutson says he no longer uses the “form guide” (the Aussie equivalent to the Daily Racing Form). He says there are more than five dozen variables which can be observed--some of which lead to winners, others to clear indications the horse is either not fit or isn’t in the mood to run on a particular day, which includes the way they walk, sweat, equipment changes, the way they “signal” a positive or negative way with their head, tail or ears.

Other methods of “listening” to horses talk include being alert for the “sight” or the “the snort” or “the whine” or “squeal” along with observing the nostrils. The book is packed with illustrations, charts, tables and research results. Many may scoff at Hutson’s “all-or-nothing” approach to picking winners, while others are total believers that horses are able to tell us if they’re sharp or flat, upset or relaxed, bored or ready to give it their all. This book should make handicapping more fun, perhaps profitable, if you can learn to eliminate the losers based on observation, especially those particularly painful, but memorable false favorites.

Gangsters, Swindlers, Killers & Thieves by Block is a virtual rogues’ gallery of criminals, which includes illustrations and a detailed index. Perhaps the strength of the book is that it covers so much territory, especially in the area of organized crime--which also involves those who had a hand in legal and illegal gambling. Who are they? Al Capone, Frankie Carbo, Mickey Cohen, Joe Colombo, Frank Costello, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Owney Madden, Arnold Rothstein, Dutch Schultz, Bugsy Siegel and Joe Valachi.

Here you get four or five pages on each individuals with full-page photos for most. For those who have a yen for knowledge about villains of the Old West, the author includes Billy the Kid, Black Bart, Butch Cassidy, Bob Dalton, Bill Doolin, John Wesley Hardin, Tom Horn, Jesse James, William Quantrill, Belle Starr and Cole Younger. Bank robbers Willie Sutton, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger also earn space in the work

Look at Block’s book like a mini-encyclopedia, a quick reference guide to the notorious. It’s a quick and fast-moving read.

(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 by John and Edna Luckman, 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.)