Gambling Author Edwin Silberstang will be missed

May 1, 2012 3:00 AM

One of gambling’s most respected authors passed away recently, leaving a valuable legacy of instructional books and engaging novels.

Henderson resident Edwin Silberstang wrote 52 books, including “Playboy’s Book of Games” in 1974, which established him as one of the world’s most widely read authorities on games of skill and chance.

Using the penname J. Edward Allen, he wrote a “basics” series of books designed especially for beginning players, including “Basics of Winning Craps,” “Basics of Winning Blackjack” and “Basics of Winning Baccarat” (56 pgs, $4.95 each).

Silberstang also wrote a follow-up book for each of his basic titles. “Winning Craps for the Serious Player” (2007 revision, 288 pgs, $16.95), featuring 25 winning strategies, became a major resource for players wanting to advance their skills, as did his “Winning Poker for the Serious Player” (312 pgs, $16.95).

Eventually supplanting Scarne as “the” authority on gambling, Silberstang did not limit his range to casino games alone. His “Handbook of Winning Bridge” (2003 revision, 175 pgs, $14.95) covers duplicate, contract and tournament bridge. With copious examples and anecdotes, the book teaches readers how to use various conventions and bids, including defensive and preemptive bids.

“He brought readability and a literate touch to gambling how-to books,” said his son Allan, who writes under the penname Avery Cardoza and owns the Gamblers Book Club in Las Vegas. “But “Nightmare in the Dark,” a novel about life in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, was his landmark book. It merited a full spread in the New York Times book section.”

A native of New York City, Silberstang served as a counterespionage agent during the Korean War. “I signed up for the Army and made 100 percent on an intelligence test,” he said in a 2008 newspaper interview. “They asked, ‘Do you want to be in counterintelligence?’ I said, ‘Where do I sign?’”

But things weren’t quite that easy. He first had to pass a test of survival, which included being grilled by a colonel and detained by military police. “Guys would jump out the window. They would panic,” he said of this process.

After briefly practicing law, Silberstang used his experience as an attorney to pen his first novel, a crime story titled “Rapt in Glory.” He later wrote “Snake Eyes,” a novel set in Las Vegas. In 1987 he was called in as a consultant for “Big Town,” starring Matt Dillon as a professional craps player.

Explaining even the most advanced gambling concepts with an unparalleled degree of clarity was Silberstang’s trademark, a unique talent that has inscribed his name in indelible ink in gambling literature.