The American MENSA Guide to Casino Gambling: Winning Ways

Most books written about gambling are just this side of worthless. It makes sense that most of the free gambling strategy advice you find on the Internet is junk (although there are exceptions, like Casino Gambling Strategy, for example), but you’d think books published by major publishing houses and ostensibly reviewed by editors would be well-written and informative. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t.

So when The American MENSA Guide to Casino Gambling: Winning Ways fell into my lap for the first time, I was  suspicious. Out of all the books I’ve read about gambling, I’d only come across two or three I’d recommend to anyone, and this slim volume (less than 300 pages long) didn’t seem to have the kind of heft a decent guide to casino gambling should have. I suspected this would be more of the same.

Andrew Brisman’s The American MENSA Guide to Casino Gambling: Winning Ways is the best book about casino gambling I’ve read. The book tackles a massive subject (pretty much every casino game is covered, from keno to video poker) in less than three hundred pages and presents the material in plain language that’s never boring or  technical. I think of Brisman’s book as a gambling encyclopedia, kept on my writing desk between my copies of The Shorter OED and whatever novel I’m reading at the moment. Winning Ways, as I’ve come to call it, is my go-to for gambling questions.

Book Breakdown

Winning Ways is broken up into sixteen chapters and includes four appendices and a special section on both MENSA and gambling addiction. Only three of the chapters are about gambling, casino etiquette, and casino games in general; rules and strategy for specific casino games are the meat and potatoes of the book.

Each chapter is further broken up into lots of sub-sections. This helped me stay focused on the topic at hand. Brisman gently guides you through each of the major games in the casino, one at a time, one piece at a time. Sprinkled throughout are strategy tables and hints that break down the longer sub-sections into easy to absorb nuggets of advice.

The appendices are particularly useful for casino gamblers. Appendix A is something I’ve never seen anywhere, online or in gambling books. Called “A Master Chart of All Casino Bets,” it is a breakdown of each type of bet covered in the book, ranked by that bet’s expectation (how much a gambler can expect to win or lose on average by placing a particular bet) and how much that bet will cost you per $100 bet. It’s an easy to read guide ranking the value in different casino bets, showing in plain English what bets are on the safe side (Deuces Wild Full Pay video poker actually has a +0.76% expectation) and which are complete sucker bets.

The other appendices (“Cost Per Hour Chart,” “Gambling Glossary, and “Recommended Reading & Resources”) are useful depending on how much experience you have as a gambler. Generally speaking, people new to casino gaming will find these additions to the book more helpful than old-school gamblers.

What’s Great About this Book

When I first started reading, I could tell Brisman was doing something unique in the world of gambling books. His writing style is informal–friendly, even; by the end of the book, Brisman felt like a good buddy at the bar, teaching me how to play craps and showing me gambling math on the back of a cocktail napkin. An informal approach is nothing new in the world of gambling advice, but by combining a familiar tone with detailed descriptions of the games and well-written and accurate information about the games’ history and rule variations, Brisman has created the ultimate go-to resource for casino gambling information.

What sets Brisman’s Winning Ways apart from the competition is the way he writes. Nothing is dumbed-down or simplified. Brisman is obviously a smart guy (as a MENSA member, his IQ must be among the top two percent in the world) and he knows a ton about gambling, but he doesn’t have to talk down to his readers or leave out details because he assumes his audience is smart enough to catch up. There were more than a few sections of the book where I found myself having to stop, go back, and re-read something Brisman said, particularly when he got into statistics and gambling math. I’d much rather read a well-written encyclopedia that takes a little work on my part than read a watered-down gambling guide that is “easy reading.”

Andrew Brisman’s The American MENSA Guide to Casino Gambling: Winning Ways uses plenty of charts, tables, appendices, and personal anecdotes to teach his readers about casino games and how to play them. The “winning ways” aspect of the book comes when Brisman shows (using statistics and middle-school math) what sorts of bets are more likely to make you a winner and which bets to avoid. No, Andrew Brisman won’t turn you into a card-counting professional casino gambler overnight, but his book can show you which casino games are friendly to the player, which games to avoid, and how to bet smart for each casino game covered in the book.

If you’re a casino gambler, an online poker fanatic, or a person interested in games at all, make a little room on your bookshelf for Winning Ways. Out of the dozens of books on gambling and casino strategy I’ve read over the past decade, it is by far the most useful and best-written of the bunch. If you want to understand casino games and how to place smart bets, you have to pick up The American MENSA Guide to Casino Gambling: Winning Ways by Andrew Brisman.

Other Internet resources you might find useful, if you’re looking for gambling information, is Pagat.com, which covers the rules for every card game you might be able to imagine. And the University of Las Vegas blog about gambling provides a constantly updated stream of news on the subject of casino gambling.

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