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Self-help books for casino managers

Dec 2, 2008 5:07 PM

Book Reviews by Howard Schwartz |

One of the messages from the recent G2E gaming expo in Las Vegas was that casino managers, especially the smaller casinos, would need to fine tune their management skills to make it through the slumping economy relatively unscathed.

As if responding to that challenge, two new books seem tailored for the casino professional, "Casino-ology – The Art of Managing Casino Games" by Bill Zender, and "Gentleman Jack Newton – Confessions of a Crossroad Gambler" by Jack Newton.

Bill Zender is a dedicated jack-of-all-trades. He’s a former casino manager, and was a gaming enforcement agent. He’s also an expert on casino surveillance who has written a book that anyone worth his salt should read. It’s a text that will help improve the plight of the player or the house. Titled Casino-ology–The Art of Managing Casino Games, the 313-page paperbound work ($39.95) covers some of the most recent changes made by casino management for the player and answers many of the questions players have asked in the past year.

There are almost three dozen chapters divided into the four major sections – Blackjack, Casino Management, Game Protection and Live-Game Management.

Perhaps the most valuable or innovative areas include proper treatment of Asian players, including vital table etiquette by the house and an analysis of the most recent innovations by players involving dice control.

Zender, always active and aware of trends impacting bet makers and bet takers, examines the newer 6-to-5 (compared to the original 3-2) blackjack payoffs; a need for more protection of the baccarat and mini-baccarat games where major cheating scandals have increased in recent years and a close look at the effectiveness of continuous shuffling machines.

Pressures on the dealers to deliver more hands per hour are always there. Zender focuses on "live game pace" and the impact of speeding up decisions in roulette, craps and 21.

An expert on detecting cheats, the author offers tips on detection of moves like marking cards and "past-posting" (betting after the decision has been made in a game).

With a handy index and more than 30 tables showing the effect of changing deck penetration in a six-deck game and the increase in theoretic hold percentage and the like, it’s mandatory reading for veterans and newcomers to casino management and should be required reading for anyone planning a career in the gaming industry.

Jack Newton, one of the most respected "pioneers" in regard to scams and their detection, now in his 80s and living in Las Vegas, has penned a biography titled Gentleman Jack Newton – Confessions of a Crossroad Gambler (180 pages, paperbound, $14.95). It’s colorful, historical, illuminating and well-priced – a rare combination indeed. And it’s full of great stuff about the "good old days."

Newton’s story, which, reaches back into gambling history (from the 1930s to today) is one of gambling, hustling and taking advantage of every edge, even manufactured edges. With endorsements from Jack Binion, Doyle Brunson and Billy Walters among others, the book should be considered both a history and biography.

Newton learned how to control a coin flip at age 14. That was the start of his colorful days playing gin, poker and other games in Texas, from one end of the state to the other, meeting all sorts of characters along the way, and surviving in a time when gambling was, more or less, a vice.

The biography moves quickly and with detail on the moves and the people.

Overall, this is a fast-moving look at a man who’s seen it and done it all in more than 60 years at the tables with some colorful names, including Titanic Thompson.

These books are available from Gambler’s Book Shop (Gambler’s Book Club) in Las Vegas. The store’s website is www.gamblersbook.com; or you can call toll free at 1-800-522-1777.