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

It's hard to believe Blackbelt in Blackjack (320 pages, paperbound, $16.95), Arnold Snyder's respected work, was first published 22 years ago. It's been in and out of print in recent years, but it's back now, revised, updated and reflective of how the game has changed in the past decade.

Eliot Jacobson, who holds a doctorate in mathematics, is a chess and bridge expert who found out he was an excellent card counter nine years ago and has been winning ever since. His new book is titled The Blackjack Zone: Lessons in Winning at Blackjack and Life (188 pages, paperbound, $19.95) and it’s another title that will interest blackjack fans.

Snyder's book contains 21 chapters. The beginner gets full attention in the first three sections, which includes one on the basic strategy. Snyder's famous Red Seven Count, including a look at balanced versus unbalanced counting systems, is important here as is his discussions of the True Count, Zen Count and his review of what "phony systems" are. The book moves to table conditions, discussing the number of decks in play; penetration and game selection.

A vital area for all counters is money management. In a 30-page section, Snyder reviews what kind of bankroll you have to bring; bet-sizing for a weekend or a month; going against single-deck; two decks and four or more decks on a fixed bankroll. The book then moves to Special Rules (side bets, over-under, Royal Match, Super Sevens, Double Exposure, Super Fun 21 and Spanish 21 among other variations.

Snyder offers serious players tips on table hopping and playing multiple hands in his chapter titled Professional Betting Strategies; followed by material on disguising yourself and your style of play; surviving surveillance including cameras and computers.

One chapter outlines card counting and the law, including whether you're required to show identification; if fake ID is illegal; whether you can be "back-roomed" and if it's illegal to use a computer in a casino.

The book concludes with major discussions on team play; shuffle tracking and many secrets of the pros which include toking guidelines; hole card play; dealers who cheat; high-tech surveillance; cash transaction reports; comps; playing 21 on the Internet.

This is a top 10 all-time must-read book for anyone who aspires to play the game for a living or who believe he or she can play on a very serious level and win consistently.

Jacobson consulted and got positive feedback from some of the biggest name in the business of playing 21 for The Blackjack Zone. His book contains five major sections. He doesn't neglect the beginner, with the first 50 pages focusing on the Art of Basic Strategy, then moving to game choice, the casino, the dealer, your seat, your bet.

He debunks many blackjack myths, reviewing areas such as bad players, why progression systems are bad; playing third base. Jacobson gets to the Art of Advantage Play; how to convince the casino you're not a threat while suggesting 10 major works on the game for your homework assignment.

This is a writer isn't afraid to use his past experiences and errors to explain how you can avoid them and learn from them without making them yourself. Two interesting chapters focus on the new 6-to-5 payoffs and why he says it is "an unfair trade practice," and one written by "LVB" (Las Vegas Bear) who describes his own experiences playing in Las Vegas and elsewhere in Nevada.

This is an intelligent foray into the world of serious players who believe they can beat the game and have done it.

(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.)