The Top Gambling Books of All Time

min read
BetMGM Mar 10, 2023, 12:12 PM

From stories about MIT graduates who test out their mathematical skills in Vegas, to a heartfelt biography of one of the greatest card players of all time, books about gambling cover a broad range of topics. Many reveal how much gambling isn’t just about honing your skills and playing games, but is also an intricate part of our human history. 

6 of the best gambling books available today

View of the Las Vegas Strip at nighttime.

Whether you’re someone who occasionally likes to play casino games or you’re a passionate gambler, you’re bound to find a great read on the subject in our list of the top gambling books of all time below.

1. Bringing Down The House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions – Ben Mezrich

Amazon rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads rating: 3.9/5

If you enjoy math, and have ever wondered about the numbers and statistics that go into a game of blackjack, you might like to read a bit more about the people who have delved deep into the intricacies of the game.

Bringing Down The House is one of those types of stories, and is told from the point of view of Kevin Lewis, an MIT graduate who’s invited to join a blackjack club, along with the institute’s greatest mathematical minds. The leader of the club believed that blackjack could be “solved,” so the students developed a card-counting system that would eventually allow them to become millionaires. 

Not long after they realize they were right, they take their card-counting system on the road, racking in hundreds of thousands of dollars all over Las Vegas. But it’s not long before the casino operators catch on, and these MIT students discover that this isn’t just a game, which brings to mind the reality of what happens when you try to buck the system!

Bringing Down The House is based on a true story, but claims have been made that so many liberties are taken to protect the identities of those in the book, that it crosses the line from truth into fiction. Regardless, it’s still a smashing tale that was turned into not one, but two hit films, and is enjoyed by readers around the world.

If you’re interested in watching the cinematic adaptations of this read, watch 21, which stars Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey, and The Last Casino – a French-Canadian adaptation (referred to in French as La Mise Finale), which stars Charles Martin Smith, Katharine Isabelle and Kris Lemche. 

2. Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything – Kevin Cook

Amazon rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads rating: 4/5

Titanic Thompson, as he was known, was given his nickname because he could “sink anyone.” This book details the story of his life, from where he grew up to how he taught himself how to count cards and shuffle, even though he was mostly illiterate. The ultimate hustler, he would bet on just about anything that he thought he could win. This included golf, cards and even throwing objects over high buildings!

What’s more, this book sheds light on a bygone era of American history: the 1920s and 1930s, when many other enigmatic characters made a name for themselves too, not least Harry Houdini and Al Capone. Thompson also features in other well-known popular culture productions of the time, as he is said to be the inspiration for the gambler-hero character of Sky Masterson in the short story, The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown by Damon Runyon, which later formed the basis of the plot of the hit 1950s Broadway show, Guys and Dolls

If you’re a fan of historical nonfiction and biographies, and are interested in betting history, you’ll appreciate this book.

3. Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling – John Scarne

Amazon rating: 4.3/5

Goodreads rating: 4.1/5

While many casino games are designed to be based on pure luck, others – including blackjack and poker – require a bit of strategic expertise to win when the stakes are high. This means that it’s important to thoroughly learn and understand the rules of the game before you play!

Thankfully, some people are so experienced that they’ve made it their life’s mission to share what they know with the world, and teach less experienced card players what they need to know when they sit around a casino table. One of these people is the legendary John Scarne.

As someone who knew the industry inside out, and even consulted governments on their gambling strategies, Scarne also played his fair share of games and met some interesting people along the way. With this kind of experience, you can imagine that this author has many relevant and interesting stories to share!

You can read about all of this and more in Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling, which includes all kinds of valuable information on rules, advice, instructions, and strategy. It also covers all sorts of games and sporting events, so no matter what kind of betting you’re into, you’re sure to learn something. 

4. Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling – David G Schwartz

Amazon rating: 4.7/5

Goodreads rating: 4/5

Placing bets to win money has a rich history, from ancient games to modern-day casinos. In Roll The Bones, David G Schwartz takes us on a journey from the origins of betting in the Stone Age, with knucklebones and divination rituals, to the bright lights of the Vegas Strip, and charts how gambling has more recently evolved from an illegal, back-door activity into a fully fledged entertainment industry.

For example, did you know that dice use dots because they predate the use of numbers? When you look at it like that, you realize how much playing games of chance is a part of our development as humans, quite literally from when we could first make use of our opposable thumbs!

In this latest edition, there’s more of a focus on the history of casinos, from the first modern-day establishments in Venice in the 1600s to the multibillion-dollar industry in Asian meccas such as Macau and Singapore. Apart from enlightening readers about ancient competitions that include cricket fighting, where two of these insects are tickled with a feather on their heads until they charge at one another, the book also highlights the history of placing bets in the US, including the Vegas Strip and Atlantic City.

Another interesting takeaway is that the term “jackpot” comes from having to hold at least two jacks in your hand before being able to bet in a game of poker, which was largely developed in the US. 

If you’re interested in these kinds of tidbits, which give all kinds of insights into the vocabulary we use today, and are ready to take a deep dive into the roots of betting across the world, this book’s for you.

5. The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book – Lance Humble

Amazon rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads rating: 4/5

As we’ve mentioned above, in our review of Bringing Down The House, blackjack is one of the most popular casino table games in the world, and requires a certain level of skill to win. The game might sound simple enough, but there are many different strategies that you can learn to help you improve your chances of beating the dealer. 

In The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book, you’ll learn all kinds of helpful tips, from how to choose where to play and how to pick a dealer, to how to know if other players are cheating. If you’re just starting out, this guide also includes all the rules you need to know to play, in both the US and abroad.

Once you’ve covered the essentials, it also gives some helpful advice on basic strategy, so you can always use the cards you’ve been dealt to your advantage. If you’re looking to improve your blackjack game, reading this book is a good place to start.

6. One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘The Kid’ Ungar, The World’s Greatest Poker Player – Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson

Dealer pointing to a spot on a blackjack casino games table.

Amazon rating: 4.7/5

Goodreads rating: 4/5

Famous poker players are like rock stars in their own right, including figures like the late Stuey Unger, who is considered by many to be the greatest card player of all time. In One of a Kind, authors Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson chart the journey of this enigmatic man who dropped out of high school to become an underground card-playing sensation.

In this first authorized biography, all kinds of details about Unger emerge, from the fact that he was backed by the Mob in New York City to his success in Vegas, where he won the World Series of Poker three times. It also includes intimate conversations and accounts from his life, which gives a heartfelt insight into not only the card player, but also the person behind the poker face.

If you’re a fan of the game and interested in finding out more about one of the world’s most well-known poker players, we recommend you pick up this book and learn more. 

When you’re done reading, play for real at BetMGM

Whether you’ve picked up a few online poker tips from reading One of a Kind, got a few insights into blackjack from The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book or you’re excited to do more than read about the history of gambling after completing Roll The Bones, you can get into the action for real with BetMGM.

At BetMGM, you can try your hand at all of the best online casino games available. Whether you like to play poker online, give the slots a spin, or prefer to play real-dealer games for that live casino experience (including blackjack, roulette and baccarat,) you’ll find a wide variety of games to enjoy.

All you have to do to start playing – and learning along the way – is register!

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.