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By Howard Schwartz

The game of blackjack has changed since the l960s when Prof. Ed Thorp's Beat the Dealer was published. Clearly the days of unlimited one-deck games are gone. Dealers, management, surveillance personnel, heck maybe even the cocktail waitresses, are better trained to detect card counters or those players who are seen as posing a serious "threat" to casino profits.

Victor Royer's new book, Powerful Profits from Blackjack (350 pages, paperbound, $14.95), has a fresh approach to attacking the game, including what he calls his "MBS" or modified basic strategy. He takes aim at the new obstacles in a player's path. Royer looks at the game as it is today, including the impact of shuffling machines; changes in the insurance rule; "shallow penetration" and a variety of blackjack innovations introduced by the house.

The book contains 15 chapters including discussions of the single deck fallacy; the 10-count; the true count; how to calculate the true count; the importance of proper bankroll, patience and discipline; card clumping; trend-spotting.

Royer even has a section that casino owners and management might read—suggestions on how to make casinos more friendly or comfortable for players.

Overall, if you're a beginner or intermediate player and want a new perspective on the game—to take it beyond the recreational level, Royer has some interesting things to say and the book should help improve your present method of play.


By Howard Schwartz

Occasionally, a reviewer "stumbles across" (or discovers) an oddball title or two that just might fit in the interest area of those who gamble, seek an edge or want to make a fast buck off the ignorance of others. Thus we come to two books with unique titles—Scams From the Great Beyond by Peter Huston (200 pages, paperbound, $20) and More Scams From The Great Beyond, by Peter Huston (274 pages, paperbound, $24).

Americans seem fascinated with unexplained phenomena. They are mystified and sometimes outright hypnotized by the unusual, the bizarre. In Scams From the Great Beyond, Huston tells you how the scamsters operate—how they manipulate the gullible and take advantage of fears or hopes by separating the victim from his or her money—by mail, phone or any way they can.

Huston explains how telephone psychics operate; how "psychic readings" are conducted by gypsy fortune tellers and others; how spoons or keys are bent by magicians and charlatans; how phony UFO photos can be produced; how crop circles are produced; meditation tricks; astrology columnists techniques and how fire walkers survive.

In his More Scams From the Great Beyond, Huston continues to debunk the popular legends as he examines UFO "abductees"; anthropological hoaxes (like the Tasaday tribe discovery in the Philippines); the Bigfoot monster; Ponzi schemes; faith healing; Satanism; the search for Atlantis; exploiting the "angels" phenomenon.

For those who dream, hope, imagine, fantasize, these may not be books you wish to read because they are "debunking" approaches-analyzing, searching for logical solutions, revealing "tricks" manipulators use to make a profit off the fears of others.

But for the truly skeptical person who needs material by which to logically explain to the naive friend, relative or neighbor how thieves and scoundrels steal their hard-earned money and often get away with it or at the very least, earn little more than a legal slap on the wrist when caught, this book and its companion volume may save someone a large sum of money and much heartbreak. Knowing how scamsters operate is the best protection against being taken.


By Howard Schwartz

G. Ed Conly has a book with an unusual, but specific title: Profiling Poker Nitwits (158 pages, paperbound, $18.95).

We've all wanted to get into a game of poker knowing at least half the players are worse then yourself in their skills at the game. Some don't think, others play by instinct and little logic—and others, if you study them long enough, with "telegraph" their weaknesses or their quirky manner of play and you'll be able to wait for your spot or situation.

Conly teaches you how to "profile" certain players, based on how they dress; their haircut; via knowledge of their tattoos, jewelry and overall attitude.

Alan Schoonmaker, author of Psychology of Poker likes the book, calling it "brilliant and original." Conly seemingly leaves no stone unturned in his analysis guidelines.

He tells you what to look for from fingernails and eyeglasses to cologne, the type of smoker they are to identifying the addicted group. There are pokers with a "mean streak" and those who are angry, aggressive or passive. There are considerate and inconsiderate types and he outlines (depending on the specific game) the types of errors certain profiled players make regularly.

What Conley offers is valuable information. You must learn how to observe, note and apply your knowledge, but if you're motivated enough, the information will be retained over the long run and you should win more often while backing away from unplayable situations based on cards and player reactions.


By Howard Schwartz

Making the change from those friendly home poker games ("raise you fifty cents") to poker-room action ("Call your four dollars and raise you four") can be an expensive proposition for the inexperienced player. Not only is this person now facing more seasoned competition, but also, the experience will occur away from home for the first time. While it might not be as dramatic as moving across country to go to college, it can be, nonetheless, nerve wracking.

There's the noise, lighting, faster paced dealing—less time to make decisions, a smoker or two at the tables, a cocktail waitress interrupting your train of thought with a drink order—all factors which tend to distract the previously, well-relaxed individual.

Luckily, two new books are now available that can help beginners make that transition painless. The first title is Get The Edge at Low-Limit Texas Hold'emby Bill Burton (284 pages, paperbound, $14.95). Subtitled From The Kitchen to the Cardroom, the book anticipates and answers hundreds of questions the novice may have about how this new, exciting game of hold'em works.

Many casino goers don't even realize cardrooms offer free lessons for the Don Knotts-type player. (He was the twitchy, nervous deputy on the Andy Griffith television show placed in Mayberry, N.C.). Lessons build confidence. Free lessons may turn a reluctant player into a regular visitor. Burton explains where to look, how to ask about the lessons.

This illustrated work takes the beginner by the hand and explains antes (blinds); when to bet; check; call; bluff; re-raise; how to determine if your first two cards are worth staying with; what the do after the "flop" (the first three cards which go into the middle of the table and which become "community cards"); the importance of your position at the table.

Burton, who asked experts, players, theorists from throughout the country the who-what-why of the game from start to finish, now shares this information as well as anyone. Wondering about "pot odds" or what "connectors" are? What are good starting hands or what the term "gappers" means?

This is a well-done work in 62 mini sections. If you plan to play for the first time or need some help after some very expensive learning "lessons" this book should help guide you in the right direction.

Fred Renzey's new book titled 77 Ways to Get The Edge at Poker (Playing and Beating the Best) (218 pages, paperbound, $14.95) is a resource for those trying to decide which games to play and how to play them well. Sections discuss the games of 7-stud; hold'em; and high low eight or better Omaha and stud. These sections are in effective it's like having four mini-books in one.

Renzey explains why poker is truly a skill game and why the money usually goes to the aggressor; why many hands are a raise or fold situation and when one must find the courage to fold. He reviews bankroll requirement (how much money to take to the table); when the right time to quit might be; what the right time to raise, check or call is; and he compares bluffing to "semi-bluffing" a most important concept.

Illustrated, with key points in bold face and examples of the hands he discusses, this work devotes a good portion of the text to defining how to take advantage of your own strengths and an opponent's weaknesses. A six-page glossary of poker terms and another six pages of indexed topics makes it easy to isolate various aspects of the game a beginner must understand to survive.

(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, 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.)