Continuing to clear off my gambling book shelf -- a task I started awhile back -- let's browse through another couple of worthy new titles:
Frugal Video Poker by Jean Scott and Viktor NachtJohn Grochowski is the author of six gaming books including the "Answer Book" series -- The Casino Answer Book, The Video Poker Answer Book, The Craps Answer Book and a revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. His articles cover blackjack, slots and video poker strategy as well as casino etiquette and getting the most bang for your buck in Vegas. John's website is www.casinoanswerman.com ($19.95, Huntington Press): I remember the first time I met Jean Scott. We were both appearing at the first Midwest Gaming Expo in Rosemont, and she was giving seminars on how to get the most out of casino comps. Tiara and all, she played the role of Queen of Comps to the hilt, looking every inch the sweet little lady, but sharp as a tack at the same time. Her first book, The Frugal Gambler, hadn't yet been published, but she had a collection of pamphlets in which she let players in on some of the ins and outs of players clubs.
At the time, Jean and husband Brad were mostly playing 25-cent video poker, with some dollars mixed in. As their bankrolls have grown, so has their play --- when they recently won $500,000 in a slot tournament at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, they earned their entry with $5 video poker play. That they won $40,000 while earning the points necessary to have their $10,000 entry fee waived just made everything that much better.
Whether you're after a free buffet or a complimentary $10,000 tournament entry, video poker is a natural choice for playing the comp game. Payback percentages are higher than on slots --- some game even return in excess of 100 percent with expert play. For a game such as 9-6 Jacks or Better, with a 99.5 percent return to experts, a combination of same-day cash back, bounce-back cash via direct meal, meals and room comps can bring the overall return tantalizingly close to profit levels --- though losses are inevitable and it's certainly not risk-free.
With Frugal Video Poker, Scott ties it all together. This is not a strategy book, and you're not going to find page after page of strategy tables here. There is a strategy table and some sample hands for 9-6 Jacks or Better, but it serves mostly as an example of how to develop skill. Frugal Video Poker attempts to putting together all the pieces to be a successful player. How do you recognize a good game? How much bankroll do you need for a video poker session? How do you evaluate a slot club? How do you take advantage of promotions?
Co-author Nacht chips in chapters on developing your skill with practice on the computer, with an eye to the Frugal Video Poker software that was released a couple of years ago.
Frugal Video Poker is not the only video poker resource you'll ever need. If you're going to play the game seriously, strategy cards, strategy books and video poker software all are important parts of developing your skill. What Frugal Video Poker gives you is an overall plan of attack, taking into account not only the games but the casinos' comp systems. I can't think of anyone better than Jean Scott to give you that plan.
Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book, by Phil Gordon ($21, Simon Spotlight Entertainment). Phil Gordon, as Texas Hold'em fans know, is both a poker champion and analyst on Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown." This is his third book on the game, following Poker: The Real Deal and Phil Gordon's Little Green Book.
Gordon is entertaining and insightful, a presence every bit as big as the celebrities on the Bravo series. Those qualities serve him well in his series of books. What I really like about his books is that they are broken into short lessons and sample hands, easy to digest. Each sample had is fun to read, and you can't help but learn as you go along.
The Little Blue Book sets its sample hands in specific tournament situations.
For example, in consecutive hands labeled "Short Stacked," and "Short Stacked Again,"
Gordon sets the situation as the middle rounds of a tournament, with about 500 players remaining, average stack being $30,000. You're the $500 small blind, with Jack-4 unsuited. Already in at $1,000 is an opponent with $76,000 with normal play, and one with a $16,000 stack playing somewhat tight. Big blind has yet to play. What do you do?
It's a hand that makes sense to play in a cash game or with a tournament larger stack, but maybe not in this situation. Gordon explains why, and sums up with the "Key Analysis" that follows each hand.
I'm not a Texas Hold'em expert --- I've spent far more of my misspent adulthood at blackjack tables and video poker games. But I find myself learning from Gordon every time I browse through his books. And I do mean browse --- they are made for picking up and turning to any point, having fun and learning from the samples on hand.
Whether you're an expert or a novice at the poker table, you'll find Phil Gordon's Little Blue Book will teach you a thing or two, and raise a smile, too.
Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.
ReadyBetGo! is an independent gambling news and information service. If you plan to play in casinos, ensure
that you are not breaking any local laws. It's up to you to know the legality of your actions when you gamble.