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By Howard Schwartz

Bringing Down The House (257 pages, hardbound, $24), a new arrival at Gambler's Book Shop, may be the most fascinating book written on the subject of blackjack counting teams since the days of Ken Uston (who died in 1987).  Written by Ben Mezrich, who gained the trust of a half-dozen MIT students (occupation: blackjack counters), this work covers a four-year period when the "team" was in its heyday (1994 to 1998), when it was winning big and escaping the clutches of casino management with minimum damage to self and bankrolls. It's a very interesting account of a subject that fascinates many people, including those who might never play the game of blackjack.

I kept waiting for a known name to show up in Mezrich's book. It didn't happen.  But I knew he'd have to change the names for the book to get the green light. However, those out there who travel among the "inner circle" of counters might recognize (via language patterns or moves) some of the people who honed their skills and as the book title says "took Vegas for millions."

Mezrich must have truly blended in with this group of geniuses, near-geniuses and sharpies who often communicated in code right at the tables, signaling verbally and non-verbally. But the strength of the book is in his astute observations of how Las Vegas compares to Atlantic City; what the casino mentality is with regard to attracting players and high rollers, including the all-powerful  "whales" (the highest of high rollers), in  how surveillance systems are designed to operate, how counters can be threatened, roughed up and warned never to return again.

Anyone with hopes of becoming a counter or have sought to know more about how teams are formed should read this book.  It will explain in no uncertain terms why it takes a certain "breed of individual" to become a team member and will present  plenty of eye-opening material to anyone interested in the game of blackjack.

It's an entertaining, educational effort and if anyone in Hollywood has any brains, they'll snap this one up for a movie.


By Howard Schwartz

Get The Edge at Craps (How to Control the Dice) by Sharpshooter (314 pages, paperbound, $14.95) concentrates on "rhythmic rolling," a concept which has attracted a lot of attention in recent years, triggered perhaps by Zeke Feinberg's well-received Pre-Setting Dice (published in 1992) and the more recent Dice Control for Casino Craps by "Yuri," who gives no last name (1998).

In the foreword of this new book, Frank Scoblete, who has written many books on gambling himself including Beat the Craps Out Of The Casinos and Forever Craps, says "a new and potent weapon has been introduced into the player's arsenal."

This author, nicknamed The Sharpshooter, (Is there a pattern of identity hiding here?) has a background in math and physics and applies several of those principles in regard to how to hold the dice and how to launch them in a casino. There are sections of his work devoted to "the grip" and the delivery; how to practice—how to form a "team" of people who single-handedly can create a hot table.

Only the most dedicated of players will be able to apply the principles presented here—you must find time to practice 40 to 60 minutes a day minimum; you'll also have to be a little more benevolent toward dealers in the way of tokes (tips), so the phrase "Shooter, stop fixing the dice" doesn't dance too often from their lips. (But it surely might be worth a try.)  Shorter shooters (those under 5' 6')  are taught techniques like keeping only one foot on the floor and how to gain some elevation by pulling themselves up on the arm rail.

The book contains a section on "muscle memory" and explains how to select, master and apply a new delivery technique in under a month.

Yes—the book does explain the game and the various bets and odds; it takes you from the basics to more advanced concepts and includes a history of the evolution of the game; how the table is designed. There's advice on how to get personal lessons after you've read the book as well.

If dice control gets very popular and if it works for thousands of players rather than just a select group nationally as it seems to right now, we may see new rules in regard what players can or cannot do once they become shooters. Could we see players escorted from tables and casinos—barred forever, like counters in blackjack? Maybe. It'll all depend on the bottom line—if the profit margin is clearly affected by people using the new techniques.

We'll see. If people believe they can win with dice control so be it. If it creates new players or a new element of fun for the game, enjoy. Only time will tell. For the person fascinated with the possibility of finding a unique edge at the crap tables—Sharpshooter's book is just the ticket.

(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.)