Reading is important. Maria Konnikova does it and so does Daniel Negreanu. The mavericks behind M.I.T.’s infamous team all did it. It’s a way to not just nourish your soul but also crush the house. In the compilation below, we have taken a look at the top 20 gambling books about casinos, poker and sports betting.
The men and women of gambling have long turned to reading, whether they have sought out inspiration or anecdotal stories, or to somehow inveigle themselves in fortune’s good graces, this is beyond the point. We have put together the ultimate list that will not just reveal a few interesting stories, but also inspire you to your own success.
This list addresses whether betting on sports is the result of dumb luck and if casinos can be beaten at their own game, or indeed, the house always wins. You will find all of this and more in our list of the best 20 books about gambling.
- Bringing Down the House
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
Author: Ben Mezrich
Publisher: Free Press
“Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” is the true story of a professor and his students who decided to devise a count-carding strategy that would allow them to take the casino house to the cleaners, and they did.
The M.I.T. Blackjack Team has won some $10 million out of devising a clever “spotting” strategy that allowed them to predict when the decks were “ready” and cards could be counted. So far as gambling books go, this is one of our favorites as it provides scientific evidence mixed with anecdotes.
Author Ben Mezrich has stayed true to the authentic story, without embellishing it other than for the purposes of the occasional quip. If you want to get the inside-out of how math mavericks managed to beat the house and left it smarting for years, this is the book for you!
- The Biggest Bluff
The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
Author: Maria Konnikova
Publisher: Fourth Estate
“The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win” is a book that explores the psyche of a gambler, and specifically poker players. Author and psychologist Maria Konnikova is a keen insight into how she not only used psychology to describe human behavior but also to predict it.
Konnikova didn’t just write an account of what it is to be a poker player, the specific gambling game she focused on but also proved that achieving a deeper understanding is quite possible.
She went on to win over $311,000, but this number is increasing by the month, as she continues to sit at live poker tables and one-up opponents. At the same time, she continues to work as a psychologist, research, and writer. Poker is just one of those hobbies she keeps on the side.
For a deeply-compelling book of how one woman went from a complete poker-novice to one of the most feared women in the game, we recommend “The Biggest Bluff.”
- Fortune’s Formula
Fortune’s Formula by William Poundstone
Author: William Poundstone
Publisher: Non Basic Stock Lime
The Bell’s Telephone Company is known for many things. It successfully captured Einstein’s award-winning hypothesis that light can produce electricity, creating the first silicon solar panels all the way back in the 1950s. Today, its successor AT&T is mostly associated with slow bandwidth.
Nevertheless, in 1956, Bell Labs scientists Claude Shannon and John L. Kelly Jr. decided to get rich as fast as they could. They started digging into gambling, stock investing, information theory and created the “Kelly criterion,” or as you may know it, the “Fortune’s Formula.”
Shannon and Kelly tested the theories in everything they could lay their hands on, from Las Vegas blackjack and roulette to Wall Street. Every time, they would end up willing. The investment strategy would later be picked up by Warren Buffet himself.
Whether you bet on sports or gamble on casino games, the Fortune’s Formula is surely one of the best games about gambling you can read today.
Soccernomics by Simon Kuper
Topic: Sports Betting
Author: Simon Kuper
Publisher: Bold Type Books
Soccernomics is the compelling and perhaps little-known book by Simon Kuper, who took a look at the 2018 World Cup and sought to devise a pattern that would allow him to end up winning more than he would eventually lose on sports betting.
In the book, Kuper argued that each sports betting event is unique and as such, it must be studied individually and a model must be established for much. Kuper doesn’t offer easy solutions, but he successfully argues how observing specific events in a game, and in a specific season, could lead to a successful sports betting strategy.
The book successfully got some futures right, and even though Kuper argued that his wife ended up outscoring him without any scientific knowledge or a deeper understanding of soccer betting, he still delivered quite a few staying points.
- A Man for All Markets
A Man For All Markets by Edward O. Thorp
Author: Edward O. Thorp
Publisher: Random House
If you want to read one of the best all-around gambling books, “A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market” by Edward O. Thorp is the go-to choice here.
The book tells the story of a mathematician who taught himself to count cards in blackjack, predict stock patterns and turn his understanding of the way the world spins into his fortune.
Personal wealth is not always predicated on chance, argues Thorp in his book, citing numerous real-life examples to prove his point. He amassed $800 million betting, gambling, and trading.
And, what it all boils down to? Education, says Thorp who has spent considerable time studying mathematical constants, patterns, and accumulating non-specialist knowledge that helped him make the right calls in the long-term.
“A Man of All Markets” is an inspiration to anyone who wishes to try their hand at gambling.
- The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told
The Greatest Gambling Story by Mark Paul
Topic: Horse Racing
Author: Mark Paul
Publisher: Authority Publishing
“The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told: A True Tale of Three Gamblers, The Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel” by Mark Paul will recount the story of a three-year-old female racehorse and the implications it had for all gamblers who chose to stake against her during the Kentucky Derby in what would prove a pivotal year.
The story has been called “crazier-than-fiction” and it immodestly lays claim to be the best gambling book ever written. How Winning Colors’ win changed the story of three young men who then had to tussle with a Mexican cartel and try to stay alive is all sealed in Paul’s masterful story-telling, and a worthwhile read to enjoy yourself.
- Thinking in Bets
Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Topic: Sports Betting
Author: Annie Duke
“Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts” is the highly-acclaimed masterpiece by Annie Duke who sets out to study the institution of betting and how you can try and produce reliable outcomes with imperfect information.
Yet, the lessons Duke teaches are applicable across the board and The New York Times described Thinking in Bets as a blueprint of modern investing. They are all problematic domains, says one review, but Duke finds a way to offer solutions when “facing multiple possible outcomes,” chimes in another.
Like any of the great books about gambling, Thinking in Bets approaches gambling from numerous angles, including behavioral, strategy, and business books. The book can be a blueprint on how to succeed as a gambler, investor, or both.
Duke offers a holistic approach that should be viewed as the sum total and not individual stabs in the dark. “Thinking in Bets” makes for a brilliant read regardless of your propensity for the occasional flutter.
- The Confidence Game
The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova
Author: Maria Konnikova
Before Konnikova published “The Biggest Bluff,” she delivered another great read, “The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time.” You can argue that this is about poker, but it goes much deeper. Konnikova understands behavioral science and knows how easily our brains are tricked.
When a friend offers you “the opportunity of a lifetime,” you ought to self-check and make sure that what you are getting into is actually worth your while. This careful approach to the world sets you up as a successful individual, regardless of your aptitude for poker, Konnikova argues.
There is nothing dogmatic about the book, it tells it in a manner that is light, unobtrusive, and immensely beneficial to the attentive reader. Is this a gambling book per se, you can argue as much, but keep in mind that it focuses on how our brains work and why we are inclined to opt for the easy way out.
Gambling often presents choices that seem easy and opportunities that hold the potential for immense enrichment. Yet, beyond the smoke and mirrors, things look differently. “The Confidence Game” looks at the naked soul of the naivety we are all guilty of.
- Molly’s Game
Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom
Author: Molly Bloom
Publisher: It Books
Written by Molly Bloom, the eponymous main character of “Molly’s Game,” this gambling book tells you the true story of its author. Bloom recounts her success at running one of the biggest and richest underworld poker tables.
She went face-to-face against the Russian mafia, criminals, and various characters with no moral compass, and yet came on top. Her story is unique as it shows how Molly never had to use violence, threats, rumors, or destroy livelihoods to collect debts and keep interest in her business.
In fact, she chose a softer approach, which you could call a “soft touch,” but there is nothing “soft” or” feminine” in what Molly did. She chose common sense over trying the seedy and outdated tactics of an establishment of thugs, biting into their territory and walking away.
- Trading Bases
Trading Bases by Joe Peta
Topic: Trading/Sports Betting
Author: Joe Peta
Joe Peta set out of Wall Street to conquer the world of fantasy baseball, and he did. In “Trading Bases: How a Wall Street Trader Made a Fortune Betting on Baseball,” Peta tells you just that while keeping some of the finer aspects of the activity to himself.
Some may argue that he’s a bit guarded with the information he provides, and this is true, but there are no easy solutions, and this is precisely what the author argues in his book. It took him an MBA degree from Stanford and years on Wall Street to finally give in to his passion for fantasy baseball.
The book is heartening, as well, though. It doesn’t tell you that unless you are a sports or maths wiz you would never make it, but it reminds you to always seek and deepen your understanding of a hobby you clearly love.
It’s one of the best gambling books we know and definitely recommend to our own readers.
- Blood Aces
Blood Aces by Doug J. Swanson
Author: Doug J. Swanson
Publisher: Penguin Books
“Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker” by Doug J. Swanson is one of those books that will not tell you how to win at any particular game. Rather, it will recount the story of Benny Binion, a gangster who helped create Las Vegas and specifically pioneered the World Series of Poker, the world’s best-known competitive format.
A true masterpiece in terms of narrative, Blood Aces details everything you need to know about Binion and how the American criminal justice system failed to catch up to a man who was aptly described as a merciless thug. His love for poker, though, did give rise to one of the most entertaining events in the world, and for this, a modest thanks is due.
- The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death
The Noble Hustle by Colson Whitehead
Author: Colson Whitehead
What if you won the $10,000 buy-in for the World Series of Poker Main Event? For many players, this is a great way to enter one of the most difficult events out there so far as the game of poker is concerned. Yet, for Colson Whitehead, the author of “The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death,” it came as a bit of a shock because he never actually played in a casino tournament before.
With just six weeks leading up to the 2011 event, he had to think quick on his feet and learn as much as he could about the game, decorum, and what was expected from him. It’s an anecdotal book that doesn’t make big promises – or delivers on them for that matter.
Whitehead had another problem, he was a chronically depressed individual at the time, and his account of the experience is definitely not cheerful. But even then, it’s a reminder that when you sit at the table in Las Vegas, there is a real person across from you.
- One of a Kind: The World’s Greatest Player
One of a Kind by Nolan Dalla
Author: Nolan Dalla
Publisher: Atria Books
“One of a Kind: The World’s Greatest Player” is the poignant story of Stuey Ungar, a legendary poker player who overcame incredible odds to become the best poker player in the world. Whether he was aware of the fact is not certain.
Ungar suffered from heavy alcohol and drug addiction, rendering him unconscious in many of the games he played. He went on to win the World Series of Poker after he lost it all once but had a friend buy him in.
His status in the poker community is legendary, but Ungar was seldom interested in money or even appeared to understand their value. He just played cards and succeeded, repeatedly and to the point where his name was etched in poker cannon.
Nolan Dalla has done justice to the man and player, capturing both his genius and tragic and unfortunate end. If you are curious about poker, Stuey Ungar is someone you should know about.
- Gambling for Life: Harry Findlay
Gambling for Life by Harry Findlay
Topic: Gambling/Sports Betting
Author: Harry Findlay
The gambling book telling the story of Harry Findlay, a legendary modern-day gambler, begins with a few seductive promises. Yet, Findlay is a special individual whose luck, knowledge, and understanding of sports betting and gambling has given him a venerated status.
He has won over $22 million on various contests that are based on chance more so than any sound reasoning. The book will give you am insight into the man, but it won’t break the enigma that Findlay is.
For all intents and purposes, he remains a bit elusive, and when trying to replicate his unlikely success, many have failed. Ask Findlay, and he tells you that he has a special talent to read sports events in a way that nobody else does.
- The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King
The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King by Michael Craig
Author: Michael Craig
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
“The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time” is a book that follows the ultimate poker showdown between Andy Beal, a self-made billionaire, who decided to take on some of the biggest names in poker.
A successful businessman, and with the games dragging out over months, Beal knew how to get under poker players’ skin, and surprisingly, it was he who dictated most of The Big Game, which has a very special place in the history of the game.
For Beal, it wasn’t a matter of winning. It was about proving to himself that he can take on a new set of challenges and take it. But the book has other value, too, not just an anecdotal recount of a legendary game.
Readers will get to take a peek behind what makes poker players tick and why many live the ways they do.
- The Theory of Poker
The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky
Author: David Sklansky
Publisher: Two Plus Two
If you want an honest, down to business approach to poker, “The Theory of Poker: A Professional Poker Player Teaches You How To Think Like One” by David Sklansky is just that. The book is just what you would expect from the name, a quick dive into the finer side of the game.
Sklansky approaches the subject with academic precision while making sure that the language is accessible and written content practical. You will learn all about the different concepts of each game, and how the odds change depending on what you are playing now.
If you are not too sure if Sklansky is the right teacher for you, just remind yourself that nearly every poker millionaire has read his book because they have all started from this book. If you want a cornerstone introduction into poker, this is your way in.
- The Logic of Sports Betting
The Logic of Sports Betting by Ed Miller
Topic: Sports Betting
Author: Ed Miller
Publisher: Independently Published
Ed Miller’s “The Logic of Sports Betting” sets to solve a simple problem – sports betting, and evidently what makes it tick. Miller goes into some depth to explain why rushed bets are usually a bad idea and talks about teaching you how to know when sports betting is just a hobby and when you are trying to make an actual monetary return from it.
There is a lot that goes into mastering sports betting, and some game theory definitely applies. Miller probes common myths about betting and delivers unapologetic answers that will dishearten you if you are in for a quick buck.
Speaking with authority the way he does means telling hard truths. Yet, despite his propensity to debunk gambling and sports betting myths, Miller makes sure he takes care of the reader by showing him a path to success.
The book will give you no easy solutions, but it will complement and reinforce your understanding of how sports betting works.
- Titanic Thompson
Titanic Thompson by Kevin Cook
Author: Kevin Cook
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
“Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything” by Kevin Cook takes a look at an unlikely individual who has been romanticized and talked about time and over again. His story begins in the early 1920s when he took on the New York underground establishment, betting and gambling away millions to win just as much back.
Titanic Thompson has been many things, and his remarkable life is a reminder to us all to not take gambling too seriously. Yet, the man’s successes are undeniable. He has consistently won money out of sports betting, notwithstanding the fact that he orchestrated many of the events he actually got his money back out from.
For Thompson, winning honestly at any sports betting contest wasn’t the point. Making sure the games were rigged so he can benefit was what drove him forward. He’s a strange character, but Cook’s account is one of the most compelling accounts of the man and a worthwhile gambling book by all measures.
- Every Hand Revealed
Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen
Author: Gus Hansen
Publisher: Lyle Stuart
What if one of the best professional poker players sat you down and told you the logic behind playing every hand? Wouldn’t that be the opportunity of a lifetime, at least if you were serious about the game of poker? It certainly would be and today it is, as Gus Hansen’s “Every Hand Revealed,” is a delightful account of what you can expect from the deck.
The book is a perfect read for anyone who wants to get down to the nitty-gritty of poker and derive real, informational value out of it. Gus looks at real-life examples and talks about the game, probabilities, and psychology of each play.
There is no “after-the-fact” vibe from the book, and you can see how the author and player himself tell you with confidence why a certain play transpired and why another one would have been much better all things considered.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced player, an aspiring professional yourself or just someone with spare time to spend reading about poker, Gus Hansen’s gambling book is definitely worthwhile.
- Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks
The Science, Psychology & Philosophy of Gambling – Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks by Joseph Buchdahl
Author: Joseph Buchdahl
Publisher: High Stakes Publishing
Some are suckers, others are sharks. The fates of gambling are treacherous and this is precisely what Joseph Buchdahl’s book stipulates. In “ Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks: The Science, Psychology & Philosophy of Gambling,” the author explores the psychology of gambling and why some of us tend to be a little better at it.
While chance plays a huge role in the outcome of anything we do, and especially gambling, Buchdahl focuses on behavioral norms that pre-determine certain habits and make us susceptible to act one way or another.
The book takes gambling as a compelling argument that easily influences the human psyche and explains how some tripwires can easily be avoided. Squares & Sharps, Suckers & Sharks is a nice little reminder of how we should approach gambling, without being overly dogmatic and while still delivering insightful scientific knowledge.