5 great gambling books when you need to take a break

One of the most valuable skills any gambler, particularly any poker or other tables players, can have is the skill to read a room. It’s a well-known phrase and is used in situations far and wide where someone needs to interpret and understand the cues of a situation, particularly a social situation.

Read the room.

Well, as inveterate visitors to the salons of Lady Luck and the portals of games of chance, the CasinoPlay crew certainly have the skills to read a situation and adjust our play and behaviour accordingly.

And sometimes that means leaving the room and taking a break from our betting endeavours.

When these occasions arrive, and they do so frequently, we like to spend some time occupying our minds with activities that enlighten us and help our personal growth, activities like playing video games (there’s a great Texas Hold’em mini game you can play in Red Dead Redemption 2), listening to music (check out our list of gambling songs that aren’t about gambling here), watching movies (21 and Casino – classics), or just catching up on some good old fashioned reading.

Now that we look at our notes above it does seem as though we are absolutely consumed by all things gambling. Which really is not the case. Just because, coincidentally, a lot of favourite pastimes also seem to cross into the world of gambling is mere chance!

Anyway.

Getting back to reading the room.

Picking up a good book and taking some time to lose ourselves in a world of fiction is one of life’s greatest joys. And we have an encyclopaedic list of great books we could recommend, but we are after all here for the gambling fans so, our suggestions for the Top 5 books you can read when you take a break from betting are below.

No, they are NOT books about strategy and guides, we DO actually have lives outside the casinos. They are all about gambling but in a FICTIONAL setting, they are made-up stories.

And yes, we do realise that even our time off in the world of literature often has a gambling flavour to it.

Awkward.

The Music of Chance – Paul Aster

Paul Aster’s absurdist novel muddies the line between gambling and its consequences and becomes an allegory for things spiralling out of control.

It follows the story of Jim Nashe, a firefighter and absent father, who inherits – and squanders – a large amount of money. In desperation, he partners with a hot-headed young gambler named Jack Pozzi as they try to swindle a pair of wealthy bachelors in a poker game.

Things do not go well, and the two gamblers become indentured workers for the rich bachelors, and soon they realise that their plans have left them in a dangerous and seemingly inescapable situation.

It’s a great read, with colourful characters, twists and turns, and an ending that is unexpected and shocking.

Loser takes all – Graham Greene

This novella (short novel) by the acclaimed author of ‘The Quiet American’, ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘The Third Man’, and more, is a story of a nondescript man building a winning system to beat the roulette wheel.

Set in the swanky environs of Monte Carlo, the story is fascinating and funny. Bertram is about to marry his fiancée, Cary, in a remarkably forgetful ceremony. Bertram’s boss convinces him to travel to Monte Carlo and get married on his private yacht instead. However, his boss never shows.

The story of Bertram and Cary slowly running out of cash and resorting to borrowing money and gambling is made even more tense (and amusing) as Bertram tries to develop his ‘system’ to varying degrees of success.

Graham Greene was a prolific author who wrote an incredible number of books, many of which were turned into movies you would recognise even today. ‘Loser takes all’ is one of his best and most succinct examples of using characters to create amazing tales.

As a side note: Graham Greene was a pretty interesting fellow. He was nominated for an Academy Award for screenwriting. He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature twice (in 1966 and 1967). And he was a spy for MI6 during the Second World War.

5 Great gambling books
5 great gambling books

Casino Royale – Ian Fleming

Like Graham Greene above, Ian Fleming led a life so full of action and adventure it makes us mere mortals look truly useless by comparison. Also, a spy for British operative, a Naval Lieutenant-Commander, and a commando who led special forces behind enemy lines, to create his iconic character James Bond, Agent 007.

While there are a lot of James Bond Books (42 and counting) only 14 were written by Fleming before he died, and it’s his first one – ‘Casino Royale’ ­– that appeals to the gambler in all of us.

‘Casino Royale’ follows British secret service agent James Bond (codename 007) as he attempts to bankrupt Le Chiffre, the treasurer of a French and Russian secret agent. Bond is assisted in his attempts by Vesper Lynd, another British agent, Felix Leiter, an American CIA operative, and René Mathis of French Military Intelligence.

The gambling action takes place at a casino in the fictional French town of Royal-les-Eaux and the book was a major contributor to revival of the popularity of baccarat.

Fools Die – Mario Puzo

The author famous for bringing us ‘The Godfather’ turns his pen to the antics of high stakes gambling and organised crime.

Set in Hollywood, New York, and Las Vegas, ‘Fools Die’ follows the stories of a group of friends who first meet in a hotel in Las Vegas as they spend a few days gambling.

The protagonists go their separate ways but stay in touch through the years, and their lives intersect in various ways due to the work they do.

‘Fools Die’ casts a spotlight on the dealings (both legitimate and underhanded) of the worlds of gambling, publishing, and the film industry, and on how these sectors often overlap. Through it all is the constant presence of organised crime and the way it has inveigled itself into almost every industry in America – including the justice system.

5 Great gambling books
5 Great gambling books

Dice Angel – Brian Rouff

Dice Angel is a fast-paced and brilliant piece of writing by an author who is being called “the Carl Hiaasen of Las Vegas”. For those not familiar with Hiaasen, he is an author who sets all his most famous works in Florida and has become such a staple of that state’s fiction that he has his own genre.

‘Dice Angel’ follows Las Vegas pub owner and ex-gambling addict Jimmy Delaney as his life begins to unravel. His ex-wife is harassing him. His pub has been robbed – again. His accountant has stolen all his money. And the IRS are about to take away everything.

All he has left are his daughter and a grubby business card given to him by a homeless man with the contact details for the Dice Angel – an alternative healing, karma-obsessed, maybe con-woman who guarantees him luck at the craps table.

A fantastic work of fiction that brings Las Vegas to life outside of the glitzy casinos and shows the working people behind the scenes of Sin City.

It’s as exhilarating and pulse-pounding as Vegas itself.

Enjoy!

We hope you enjoy the suggestions. And if they do inspire you to hit your favourite casino, please gamble responsibly. And with a responsible and licensed partner like Jackpot.co.za, or PlayLive Casino, or Slots Heaven.