Back to Reviews | Serious Poker Home
The New Gambler's Bible
Arthur S. Reber
Publisher: Crown Trade Paperbacks (1996)
ISBN: 0-517-88669-3
Pages: 385
Reviewed: 1/97

The New Gambler's Bible provides an introduction to and in-depth look at the most popular casino games and other forms of gambling. Reber's program is to divide the games into those you can win at ("Type W") and those you can't ("Type L"), and to provide background, basic, and detailed information about both.

For the Type L games, he details the mechanics of the game, how the house's edge works, and provides the information you'll need to have a good time if you have to play. For example, he doesn't tell you not to play craps or slots, but he does explain how to get the kind of enjoyment you want for your money. He doesn't promote ridiculous money management systems, or try to claim there's a way to beat these games, but he does explain the actual effects of various popular schemes. In other words, he provides the information you'll need to understand what's really happening when you play these games, and if you decide to play anyway, how to get the type of enjoyment you're hoping to buy with your money. I thought this was an appropriate and informative approach to take, given that the section is devoted to games you can't win. I also thought he brought some interesting background to bear on the games, including both historical notes and other tidbits of interest (e.g., how slot machines work).

For the Type W games, including poker, blackjack, horses, and sports betting, he provides at least the beginnings of a winning strategy. Obviously he can't make anyone a winning poker player or sports bettor in a single chapter, but he devotes 60+ and 50+ pages respectively to a laudable effort to keep the newcomer out of trouble. Knowing a bit about poker, I only gave that chapter a quick read (it does have Mason Malmuth's blessing), but I was intrigued by the sections on subjects I knew little about - basically all the rest. In particular, I thought the section on sports betting was good reading, and very helpful to me personally, since I could imagine making the occasional sports bet just for fun. I also later found the blackjack chapter useful on a trip to Las Vegas - even though I had no plans to play, I gave it a quick re-read and then passed it off to my wife, who decided she wasn't ready to risk real money.

From my point of view as a cognitive psychologist (also Reber's point of view in part), the most interesting observation in the book was the connection he drew between insight and implicit learning. We know from cognitive psychology (in particular from Reber's own work on artificial grammar learning) that people can acquire plenty of information in non-verbalizable form, often without much awareness. Insight, and possibly insight in games like poker, seems potentially like a perfect example of this phenomenon.

I probably wouldn't have read this book if I weren't a friend of the author (via his son). But it turns out to have a lot of interesting material that's interesting to me not so much as a poker player, but as someone who frequents casinos. It also has a lot of basic information that newcomers to the casino scene will find informative, including an introductory chapter on probability and basic information on the most popular casino games. All in all, it's an entertaining book that also manages to be a useful reference, and as such it should be on the shelf of anyone who plans to play more than one game at the casino (or who has a spouse that might).

Back to Reviews | Serious Poker Home