Ligaz11 Review of Poker, Gaming and Life


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This book is a collection of noted gambling authority David Sklansky’s recent articles that have appeared in leading gambling periodicals and appear here for the first time. Sklansky’s insights on poker especially are as keen as anyone in the field, and this book is no exception.

 

Poker, Gaming and Life is divided into two parts. The first, Poker and Gaming, is a collection of essays that we would expect from Sklansky. They’re similar in format and scope to those that we see in his book Sklansky on Poker or in his often-times colleague Mason Malmuth’s Poker Essays. These are brief works that explain, usually briefly, clearly and correctly, as is Sklansky’s style, some aspect of gambling, usually poker, that the author considers important. His judgment on these matters is quite good.

 

The quality of the essays does vary from the excellent An Essential Hold’em Concept and Questions and Answers to the relatively unimpressive Highest on the Flop. However, the overall quality is very high.

 

The second part, appropriately enough called Life, will seem a radical departure for Sklansky if you hadn’t read any of his more recent articles from the, now defunct, Poker World magazine. He really branches out here, dealing with issues of politics, ethics, everyday logic, and others. Even though this section is much weaker than the rest of the book (fortunately, it’s also much shorter), he still does have enough interesting ideas to keep me from thinking that I’ve wasted my time reading it. It’s my opinion, however, that he is not nearly as expert on these topics as he is on poker and gaming, although that he could be so would be truly astounding. In this section, I think he occasionally succumbs to logical fallacies or inconsistencies that cast a shadow over some of his conclusions. Nonetheless, his though processes are still far more accurate and disciplined than most other people I’ve encountered.

 

Overall, I really liked his essays. I think that David Sklansky is the single most important ligaz11 poker author of all time. This isn’t his best work, but it is worthwhile, although I wouldn’t blame anyone from skipping over his Life essays altogether. If you want to read a philosophical text, it’s my opinion that you’d be better served by Thoreau’s Walden, Whitehead’s Adventures of Ideas, or Plato’s Republic instead, and it’s quite possible that Sklansky would agree. Mason Malmuth believes that gambling books which contain 90% correct information and 10% incorrect information are very dangerous and should be avoided. I don’t believe this is true for philosophical texts. If I did, I couldn’t give this book the strong recommendation that I do.

 

Capsule:

This is the latest collection of essays by poker expert extraordinaire David Sklansky. It’s similar to his well worthwhile work Sklansky on Poker. His insights on games of poker are generally very accurate and inciteful and are well worth study by the poker student. His articles on Life, while interesting, are not outstanding. Even if you strongly dislike this section, there is easily sufficient material here to make the purchase of this book a good value.

 

Review of The Players: The Men Who Made Las Vegas

 

The Players is a compendium of several mini-biographies of people who have greatly influenced the landscape of gambling in Las Vegas. Several writers contributed sections to this work, including John L. Smith, well-known columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Jack Sheehan, the editor of the book.

 

While many of the figures chronicled in this book have been profiled elsewhere, some, like Howard Hughes or Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegal, very extensively, others are less well known outside of the casino community. A standout in this manner is the essay on billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, majority shareholder of the MGM Mirage corporation. Kerkorian has protected his privacy almost to the point of reclusivity, but agreed to an almost unprecedented hour-long interview for this book. Even though it would seem that he still didn’t elect to disclose very much about himself or his life, this is still probably the most complete profile I’ve seen of this man.

 

Other Las Vegas casino luminaries who are profiled in The Players include Jackie Gaughan and Sam Boyd, two moguls who have not received the widespread attention that other casino owners, such as Steve Wynn or Jay Sarno, have. Of course, Wynn and Sarno are also profiled, although necessarily not to the extent that they are in the books Running Scared by John L. Smith and Super Casino by Pete Earley, respectively.

 

While the authors of these essays do mention some of their subject’s faults, whether they might have a quick temper or a blind spot for certain business decisions, the overall profile of many of the subjects of The Players could fairly be described as glowing. Since the profiles of the better known personalities, such as Siegal and Hughes, seems to be fairly balanced, we probably ought to conclude that the praise lavished on other subjects, such as Jackie Gaughan, may very well be deserved. Of course, since these pieces were not always written by the same author, one can’t be certain that everything in this book was written with the same slant, but that these petty concerns don’t detract from the entertainment value of the book.

 

The essays are well written, well researched, and informative. While the descriptions of the book’s more well-known subjects don’t add a a great deal of information to the repository of collective public information, the sketches in this book will begin to give the reader a clear enough picture to be able to understand what motivates the people they depict. In my opinion, the essays on the lesser known personalities are the most interesting ones, but any student of Las Vegas history will almost certainly find them all worth reading.

 

Capsule:

The Players is a collection of mini-biographies of several of the people who have most influenced the history of the casino business in Las Vegas. While several of the book’s most famous subjects, Howard Hughes for example, are chronicled more thoroughly in other books, The Players provides an interesting portrait of each of its subjects. While I enjoyed most the essays on some of the less popularly known characters, such as Sam Boyd and Kirk Kerkorian, they’re all worth reading by anyone who has an interest in the history of the casino business in Las Vegas.

 

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