7 books to read before you go to Vegas


Gambling literature has come a long way since the public domain became interested in the workings of the gambling world in the 20th century. Here at off2vegas.com, we single out some books that could be worth a read before your upcoming trip to Vegas.

The Biggest Game in Town - Al Alvarez

Credited by some pundits as the book that brought poker to the masses, Alvarez's 'The Biggest Game in Town' uncovers the exciting underworld of high-stakes poker in Vegas. Packed-full of high-octane stories and analogies, Alvarez's sharp tongue and shrewd psycho-analysis of high-stakes players really helps uncover some previously unknown nuances of the City of Lights.

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions - Ben Mezrich

A book so popular it inspired a Hollywood film starring Kevin Spacey. Classed as a non-fiction book, Mezrich uncovers how a team of MIT University students supposedly took Vegas for millions on the Blackjack table. Whilst some media outlets have refuted just how much of Mezrich's story is real and how much is embellishment, the 2003 book makes for a fascinating read even if you don't take it at face value.

The Gambler - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Arguably one of Russia's most famous dissidents, Fyodor Dostoyevsky has been well revered for his fictional tale of a young German tutor and his ill-fated dalliance with the game of roulette. Set in the small town of Schlangenberg, our protagonist starts to spend more time than he'd perhaps anticipated in the hopes of impressing a love interest, who so far had shown nothing but indifference to him. Inspired by the author itself's addiction to roulette, The Gambler has gone down in history as one of the most famous novels from the 19th century.

The Theory of Poker - David Sklansky

Released in 1999, The Theory of Poker is a layman's guide on how to play the game in all its variations. Whilst Texas Hold 'Em now rules the roost where Vegas is concerned, the book provides an easy-to-follow overview of some of poker's other popular variations such as Omaha. For those who have yet to sample poker outside the confines of one's home, this book is definitely for you.

The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling - Adam Kucharski

For those who take a more methodical approach to gambling or indeed life, Kucharski's 'Perfect Bet' provides some fascinating insights. Touching upon some well-known theories in the science world (i.e. Chaos theory), the author explains how workings of the universe can be applied to betting and makes you realise just how deep the link between science and gambling runs.

The Man with the $100,000 Breasts: And Other Gambling Stories - Michael Konik

If the title alone isn't enough incentive to crack open this book, we don't know what is. Anchored by the incredible story of how a man underwent breast surgery in order to win a $100,000 bet, gambling expert Michael Konik takes you under his wing and regales you with some of Vegas' most insane gambling stories.

Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss - Frederick Barthelme and Steven Barthelme

For the last book in our list, we've chosen a more sombre tail of how two professors of English in Mississipi succumbed to the perils of gambling. After both men coincidentally inherited large sums of money following the deaths of their parents, the book frankly and openly (with a healthy dose of humour thrown in) retells the story of how they gambled away their fortunes. This cautionary tale is definitely a must-read and should serve as a lesson to remind people to gamble responsibly.

Honourable Mentions

For those still on the lookout for more scintillating gambling literature, below we have included a few more books that didn't quite make the cut in this article:

  • Roll The Bones: A History of Gambling - David G. Schwartz
  • The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers, and the Death of Their Las Vegas - Chad Millman

  • Turning the Tables on Las Vegas - Ian Andersen