The casino world can be glamorous and luxurious, full of high rollers in private jets, sharp suits, and gambling for millions. It can also be murky, crime-ridden, and cause addiction and destitution. Combine the two and it can make for some compelling stories.
Here are five fascinating nonfiction books centered on the casino world that you should add to your Wishlist.
1. Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom (2014)
The incredible true story of Molly Bloom – an Olympic-level skier who became the creator and host of one of the most exclusive and high-end underground poker games in the world.
After getting injured in the Olympic trials, Bloom relocated to Los Angeles in 2004 and found work as a barmaid.
From there, she began to assist underground poker games, before branching out on her own, eventually rising to become “Hollywood’s poker princess”, hosting games involving movie stars, business titans, millionaire athletes, and, unknowingly, the Russian mob.
This 2014 memoir is the Bloom’s inside story of her rise and dramatic fall after one of her games was hit in an FBI raid. A movie, with Jessica Chastain portraying Bloom, was released in 2017, but for a more detailed insight into this story and the figures involved (including Spiderman star Tobey Maguire), then get your hands on a copy of the book.
2. Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi (1995)
Not only one of the most famous casino-related books, but also one of the most famous mafia books ever written.
Casino, by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, focuses on Mafia mobsters Lefty Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro and their heavy involvement in Mafia-controlled casinos in Las Vegas during the 1970s.
Pileggi compiles extensive research, crime reports, and in-depth first-person interviews to tell this fascinating story – one that was destined to become a Hollywood movie.
Martin Scorsese directed the award-winning film, with Robert De Niro portraying Rosenthal as Ace Rothstein and Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro (Spilotro). The movie is gripping, but the book is even more so.
3. A Man For All Markets by Edward O. Thorp (2017)
Card counting in blackjack has become the source of great fascination and has featured in many Hollywood movies, including Rain Man, 21, and The Hangover. A Man For All Markets is the autobiography of the mathematics professor who invented card counting. Edward O. Thorp first shook up the casino world when he published Beat the Dealer in 1962, proving how the house’s edge in blackjack could be overturned with card counting.
A Man For All Markets is Thorp’s complete autobiography about a life consumed by a determination to devise game-changing solutions and overcoming seemingly impossible problems.
While it may sound like a book full of mathematics and technical jargon, A Man For All Markets is actually an interesting look into the Thorp’s world, his encounters with the likes of Warren Buffet and Rudy Giuliani, and his views on an ever-changing society.
4. Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow Schüll (2012)
A person sat in front of a slot machine, pumping in coins, and hitting the roll button for hours on end in a trancelike state is an all too common image on casino floors across the world.
But what makes online casino betting slots so addictive? How does this simple game keep people engrossed for so long, staking thousands for little return?
In Addiction by Design, anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll calls on her 15 years of field research in Las Vegas to take a deep dive into the world of machine gambling and the tactics employed by machine makers and casinos to keep people in front of games for as long as possible.
Schüll also sheds light on the damaging consequences of machine gambling addiction, visiting Gambling Anonymous meetings and speaking to those who have been heavily affected by these games.
Addiction by Design covers all corners of these gambling practices, the relationship between humans and machines, and the blurred lines between compulsion and control.
5. The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob by Dennis N. Griffin (2006)
Focusing on the same era of Mafia involvement in Las Vegas casinos as Pileggi’s Casino, Dennis N. Griffin’s The Battle for Las Vegas also looks at the 1970s and 80s and the Chicago Outfit of Rosenthal, Spilotro, and front man Allen R. Glick.
What makes The Battle for Las Vegas different from Casino is that it positions itself more from the perspective of law enforcement as federal and state agents and detectives sought to bring down the organized crime rackets.
Filled with stories and anecdotes by the agents involved in taking on the mob in a war they could not afford to lose, The Battle for Las Vegas offers a riveting insight into the win-at-all-costs approach taken to topple the Mafia.2 comments