There have been some amazing books – fiction and non-fiction – set in casinos over the last century or more. From the shady back street casinos of prohibition USA to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, some of these give a fascinating insight into the world of professional gambling or just provide great entertainment.
1. Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi
This non-fiction book tells the story of the loss of influence of the mob over the legal casinos in Las Vegas. It gave an unprecedented look into the shady world of mafia rule including money-laundering (skimming) and the efforts of the police to bring down the seedier side of Las Vegas. It was made into a film in the 1990s simply called “Casino”, it featured Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone.
2. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
James Bond loved casinos – it was the glitz and glamour that attracted 007 time after time. Martini (shaken, not stirred) in hand, we first see him enter a casino in this, the first Bond novel. In a bid to bring down his nemesis Le Chiffre, he enters an exclusive casino to play a high-stakes game of baccarat with a prize of 50 million French Francs. This was the book that started it all and has been converted to film twice.
3. The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
One of the earliest books on our list, the great Russian novelist wrote this book ironically to pay off his own debts. It features a young man who desperately wants to improve his status working in the household of a rich Russian general. He attempts this through gambling in the casinos but suffers loss after loss. He becomes obsessed with that big win and to many, so addicted that the rest of his life suffers.
4. Last Call by Tim Powers
This weird fantasy novel is very typical of Tim Powers who is famous for On Stranger Tides and The Anubis Gates. Scott Crane has hit rock bottom – his wife has died, he’s heading towards alcoholism and he has lost an eye. What’s worse, he thinks he may have gambled away his soul 20 years earlier. Now, he has to go back into the seedy life of the casino in an attempt to win it back because somebody is trying to kill him.
5. The Battle for Las Vegas by Dennis Griffin
Vegas was, during the 1970s and 1980s, a battleground between law and organised crime. This book focuses not just on the big names of the time like Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and “The Ant” Spilotro but also on the key law enforcement figures who helped to bring down the mob rule of the biggest casinos. It’s arguably a more rounded approach to the subject than Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas.
6. Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer
Four people who lost their fortune to just one man, come together to claim it all back. Though it focuses on many elements of high society in their attempts to con the con artist, one important part of the book takes the four men to Monte Carlo as part of their game to outwit the person who defrauded them. It gives an interesting insight into the glitz of Monaco and its lavish seafront casinos and nightlife.
7. The Biggest Game in Town by Al Alvarez
Considered by many to be the most important book ever written about poker, it examines the world of the poker tables in Las Vegas. An avid poker player, Alvarez travelled to Vegas to study the most famous tournament in the game – The World Series of Poker. There are biographies of some of the (then) most famous players and an unprecedented view of the modern game.
8. The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King by Michael Craig
The people who play in casinos are often just as interesting as the casinos themselves. This book is a biography of Andrew Beal and his challenge of high stakes games of poker in Vegas, specifically about the Beal’s years-long challenge to “The Corporation” – a group of celebrated players. It adds all the tension of a casino game while delving into the world of the nail-biting game of poker.
9. The Great Casino Heist by Richard Marcus
Known as the World’s Greatest Casino Cheat, Richard Marcus made millions from the casinos of Europe and North America over the course of 25 years. He’d been on the other side of the table before that, having been a card dealer for two years where he learnt the tricks of the trade that he put into good use to make money. Today, he is a writer and motivational speaker helping people make the best from their poker technique.
10. Breaking Vegas by Ben Mezrich
Imagine being the only person banned from visiting the Caribbean island of Aruba. Imagine being held at gunpoint somewhere in Monte Carlo and told never to return. Imagine all this was because you had made millions simply playing blackjack – and all at the age of 21. This fascinating book is about Semyon Dukatch and the systems he developed to get rich using simple techniques. It’s been called “The Book Vegas Doesn’t Want You To Read”. He was on the MIT Blackjack Team, once traded stocks and now owns several businesses.