Banking on Lem Banker

Oct 10, 2005 3:25 AM

Sports betting and poker seem to go hand in hand, and two new books provide insight into each of the popular pastimes.

Lem Banker’s Book of Sports Betting (182 pages, plastic spiralbound, $29.95) has been out of print for more than 15 years but it’s so legendary that people have been willing to pay $50 or more for a copy of it on e-bay. Now, it is available in reprint form from Gambler’s Book Club (Gambler’s Book Shop) for $29.95.

Banker’s 1986 classic, along with a marvelous book on poker titled Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book (Lessons and Teachings in No-Limit Texas Hold’em) (286 pages, hardbound, $2l) both have value for the price.

Banker, a veteran of more than 40 years in sports betting, co-wrote the book with Fred Klein. They broke the topic into eight major sections and focused on betting football, basketball, baseball and boxing.

Banker discusses what it was like to be betting in the pre-computer days and how information was gathered, evaluated and bet on. He explains why a professional gambler cannot afford to be a fan. His insights on why it’s important to know how to watch a game or event on television is crucial, as are his views on handicapping services, his reasoning for when to be early or late and his insight into fixed games.

A virtual encyclopedia of knowledge on sports betting, Banker has known good guys, bad guys and geniuses and their "art of getting a good number."

Certainly the art of handicapping and where to get a big bet down has changed in the past two decades, but reading Banker’s book is both a how-to bet and a history lesson, a lot of it covering how to survive; how to manage your money; and understanding how tough it is to sustain a winning percentage and make a living over the long run.

A whole generation has missed this wonderful book. It’s now available for the first time in years. You’ll like it, because it imparts knowledge and it makes good sense, to learn from a very classy guy.

Gordon’s poker book gets right to the marrow of the game of hold’em. He’s a player, analyst, narrator and spokesman for the poker industry. In many ways, he’s helped make the game more understandable for millions of newcomers, especially those who watch tournament play on television.

His book is both a tutorial and an informational gap-filler. By that I mean the book has structure as it takes the novice through the basics with an understanding that there is need to rationalize and emphasize key points to make both the beginner and somewhat experienced players better by making them prepare and focus for the situations they will eventually encounter at the tables.

A small but vital section focuses on "the call," for example. "Good players rarely call (in no-limit hold’em). Good players raise or fold. Good players who call a bet after the flop are very often slow-playing a monster hand."

His short but drive-the-point-home sections on laydowns; what to do after a bad beat; handling "rushes" (streaks where everything seems to be going right); the importance of observing betting patterns; when to change gears; timing the bets — are all things successful players including the world class pros have learned to develop and continue to modify, depending on opponents and situations.

Gordon knows the game as well as anyone. He has the ability to teach and suggest, and his examples are some of the best you’ll ever read.

Both books are available at Gambler’s Book Shop at 630 S. 11th St., Las Vegas, NV 89101. The store’s web site is