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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Crist's Betting on Myself Perfect for Horseplayers; Mustang Ranch Fascinating

17 September 2003

Steve Crist's biography, titled Betting On Myself: Adventures of a Horseplayer and Publisher (228 pages, hardbound, $24.95) and Mustang's Last Ride: The Closure of the Mustang Ranch Bordello (328 pages, paperbound, $21.95) by Bill Valentine are two fascinating new titles at Gambler's Book Shop.

Crist, one of the head honchos at the Daily Racing Form, recounts his early rebellious days at Harvard, his attraction to pari-mutuel betting and the colorful collection of characters, handicappers, geniuses and would-be winners he encountered in a 25-year journey. For a man who would fall in love with thoroughbreds, Crist was initially hooked on greyhound racing in Massachusetts. Later this fascination led him to writing articles about the sport and later to writing for newspapers. Crist loved sports -- baseball statistics and horse racing in particular -- and it would be in his blood forever. He'd write about it and bet on it, and his education into the subject of horses and handicapping them would take him into other worlds.

After meeting Andy Beyer (his first book, Picking Winners had great impact on Crist) and later reading Steve Davidowitz's Betting Thoroughbreds, he was off and running with dreams of becoming a professional gambler. For a while he was fascinated with blackjack, but even though game fascinated him, it bored him. His first love was the horses.

As his expertise writing about the sport grew, so did the challenge of developing a winning methodology. He was meeting the biggest names in the sport as writers, trainers, owners and his world as a writer and handicapper expanded accordingly. His observations about horses, their strengths, weaknesses, patterns and oft-times, unpredictability in performance led him to understand what the handicapper wanted more of -- accurate, important information.

He began to keep records and became obsessed with hitting the new betting phenomenon -- the Pick 6. Crist's observations and opinions about the IRS and what they take from the horseplayer makes you understand better why big bettors (or just occasionally lucky bettors) find themselves at the short end of the stick annually. His also show his concern about how competition from other forms of gambling began killing the sport. Crist could see it, but those in power failed to see the change.

Later Crist went on to help found Racing Times and he documents what went right and later very wrong with that innovative publication. Crist knows the players, the writers, earth-movers, the money men, the good guys and the jerks of the business. He sometimes trips over his own ego in regard to events good and bad, but if you're fascinated with the world of the Daily Racing Form, those who write for it, publish it or make it what it is, Crist's book, balanced with his memories and adventures, makes for some interesting reading.

When we talk about the Mustang Ranch, we're talking anything but racing. Here's you're going to meet hookers, politics, murder, taxes and a history of Northern Nevada. Much of the focus is on fugitive former brothel owner Joe Conforte, now assumed to be living in Brazil, a wanted man.

But this is more than just a book on one of the most famous cathouses in America. It covers parts of the brothel business never truly explored before. The author, a former Nevada state prison guard, explains what it's like to be an inmate, how order is maintained. Illustrated, his book includes photos of an amazing but true feature of the state prison which lasted until the 1960s‹a casino within the walls. There was a craps table, a poker table and a window where inmates could be on horses or sports. Apparently it was run quite well‹until public outrage after the publicity shut it down.

Operational details about the Mustang Ranch are scant‹so don't look for a "how-to" guide. The author packs the pages with names, places and dates, specifically in regard to how a mighty, once respected brothel owner ended up being hounded in court, by the federal government and who is still in hiding.

Those who remember heavyweight fighter Oscar Bonavena's death at the hands of Ross Brymer, Conforte's bodyguard, will get all the details, including the trial witnesses and motivation for the slaying.

This one is unique, interesting reading!

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com