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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Vegas' Newton bio colorful; great old 21 classic republished

27 November 2008

Jack Newton, one of the most respected "pioneers" in regard to scams and their detection, now in his 80s and living in Las Vegas, has penned a biography titled Gentleman Jack Newton -- Confessions of a Crossroad Gambler (180 pages, paperbound, $14.95). It's colorful, historical, illuminating and well-priced -- a rare combination indeed. And it's full of great stuff about the "good old days." Interestingly, one of the most sought-after, pioneering classics of the past few generations, Playing Blackjack to Win, which in 1957 came along years before Prof. Ed Thorp's Beat the Dealer, has been re-issued. The 136-page paperbound volume, now priced at a reasonable $14.95, has been selling on Internet auction sites for more than $100 over the past few years. (In the 1950s, it sold for less than $2.) This one is a classic; Newton's biography will likely become one.

Jack Newton's story, which reaches back into gambling history (from the 1930s to today), is one of gambling, hustling and taking advantage of every edge, even manufactured edges. With endorsements from Jack Binion, Doyle Brunson and Billy Walters among others, the book should be considered both a history and biography.

Newton learned how to control a coin flip at age 14. That was the start of his colorful days playing gin, poker and other games in Texas, from one end of the state to the other, meeting all sorts of characters along the way, and surviving in a time when gambling was, more or less, a vice.

The biography moves quickly and with detail on the moves and the people.

You'll meet Shoeshine Nick Simpson, outfoxed by Newton, who utilized a convex mirror in some memorable poker games; Manny Kimmel, who had many a system and is said to have originally financed Ed Thorp's earliest battles at the 21 tables; and Archie Karas, who won, then lost nearly $20 million with his unique dice throws. The book is about moves and countermoves against others (such as the slick 21 dealer in Europe who met his match with some Vaseline).

You might note some spelling errors in the book, but they're minor, like Jack Straus spelled Strause or Thorp as Thorpe or Lawrence Revere as Riviera, but that's an editor's fault, not Newton's.

Overall, this is a fast-moving look at a man who's seen it and done it all in more than 60 years at the tables with some colorful names, including Titanic Thompson.

Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott are not household names for present-day 21 players. However, they changed the way blackjack was played forever, with a landmark book on how to beat the game. It's a look back at history, before the rules were modified. It scared casino owners, who took measures and countermeasures, educated surveillance personnel, but also developed counting teams and educated surveillance personnel and attracted new players.

How the book came to be, from the quartet known as The Four Horsemen of Aberdeen, is part of the game's history. It's a fascinating read for the newest generation of players and hopeful professionals.

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