Best Sports Gambling Books for Summer

Gone are the residual crumbs from the NHL and NBA playoffs with the start of football just a little too far away (my beloved CFL does not count).  However, it’s not a time to completely abandon your passion for the sports betting industry if you’re looking to avoid college football annuals for just a few more days.  Here are a few Bet The Board approved gambling books for summer that are good reads during upcoming vacations.

Smart Money – By Michael Konik (description courtesy of Amazon)

So began Michael Konik’s wild ride as an operative of the elite Brain Trust.  In The Smart Money, Konik takes readers behind the veil of secrecy shrouding the most successful sports betting operation in America, bypassing the myths and the rumors, going all the way to its innermost sanctum.  He reveals how they — and he — got rich by beating the Vegas lines and, ultimately, the multimillion-dollar offshore betting circuit.  He details the excesses and the betrayals, the horse-trading and the paranoia, that are the perks and perils of a lifestyle in which staking inordinate sums of money on the outcome of a single event — sometimes as much as $1 million on a football game — is a normal part of doing business.

My Take: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who Michael Konik is moving money for in Las Vegas.  Some of the most prominent figures in sports gambling lore are included in this story although they’re protected with aliases for obvious reasons.  Smart Money is one of the only books I’ve ever read that explains how things work in a large-scale syndicate with remarkable accuracy providing a bird’s eye view of what it takes to bet millions at establishments that don’t openly embrace sharp action.

Dangerous Odds – by Marissa Lankester (description courtesy of Amazon)

The explosive, never been told, behind the scenes look into the world of illegal sports betting, revealed by an insider, who happens to be a woman.  Marisa Lankester, a young beauty with a privileged New York upbringing, stumbles into the backdoor of the largest illegal sports betting organization in the U.S., run by Ron The Cigar Sacco.  Marisa, a thrill seeker, maneuvers herself into this mob run men only bookmaking operation and with her looks and brains, becomes a trusted insider.   Along the way, Marisa falls in love with Sacco’s business partner, charismatic Tony.  In an attempt to evade the wrath of the FBI, Marisa and Tony relocate Sacco’s operation from Los Angeles first to Las Vegas and then to the Dominican Republic where gambling is legal.  What begins as a fun and exciting ride on the Caribbean island, where the tall, blond beauty also becomes a top model, morphs into a twisted nightmare. It is also the romantic tale of a beautiful, smart young woman whose love for a charismatic and handsome Italian-American leads her down the road into crime, incarceration and rape. Bonus Codes: 75BTB first time deposit (75% Bonus); 35BTB for reloads (35% Bonus)

My Take: Great read that keeps you on the edge of your seat right from the first chapter.  The book chronicles the growth and development of an offshore sportsbook giant (still in business today) through the eyes of Marissa.  From its rough beginnings her first hand accounts of corruption, violence, and relationship building paints a not so pretty picture of what it took to turn a back room operation into a billion dollar offshore behemoth with plenty of bloodshed along the way.

Lay the Favorite – By Beth Raymer (description courtesy of Amazon)

Lay the Favorite is the story of Beth Raymer’s years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting—a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the rise of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture.  As the business explodes, Beth rises—from assistant to expert, trusted and seasoned enough to open an offshore booking office in the Caribbean with a few associates, men who leave their families up north to make a quick killing, while donning new tropical personas fueled by abundant drugs and local girlfriends, and who one by one succumb to their vices.  They lie, cheat, steal, and run, until Beth is the last man standing.

My Take: This memoir from Beth Raymer delves into the offshore bookmaking industry and the corner shop in the Carribean rather than Las Vegas.  Unlike other gambling memoirs, the human element is essential for weaving a heartfelt story about the sacrifices and lifestyle choices people make to pursue their dreams.  I found it fascinating to get the story from a female perspective knowing each win and loss for gamblers isn’t even half the struggle they endure every day in a quest to be successful.

Confessions of an Ivy League Bookie – Peter Alson (description courtesy of Amazon)

Juxtaposing the thuggish worlds of bookies and privileged ivy leaguers, this hilarious study of unfettered machismo takes a perceptive look into a young, down-on-his-luck Harvard graduate who joins a bookmaking operation while trying to pull his life together.

My Take: While a bit antiquated and old-fashioned in the modern PPH era, it’s an entertaining read about a New York bookmaking outfit.  The story’s main character goes through a process of justifying his new job as an illegal bookmaker trying to balance his true passion for writing with the much stigmatized (but financially rewarding life) as a bookie.  For me the ending left a lot to be desired but those familiar with old school locals will find this short read rather enjoyable. (Book is older, can be a bit harder to get than the others).

The Odds – By Chad Millman (description courtesy of Amazon)

One gambler is a manic former cokehead with an Ivy League degree (Alan Boston).  The second is a college dropout trying to make a living at the only thing he enjoyed at school—gambling. The third, one of Vegas’s most respected bookmakers, is perilously close to burning out.  The Odds follows the lives of these three professional gamblers through a college basketball season in a one-of-a-kind city struggling to reconcile its lawless past with its family-friendly makeover.

My Take: Having met the primary characters in the book and worked with the author on multiple occasions, this book holds a special place for the influence it had on me moving to Vegas.  Millman does a sumptuous job of re-creating the scene in Las Vegas sportsbooks; chronicling the trials and tribulations of both gamblers and bookmakers.  Unlike the sensationalized Hollywood versions of our business this is an honest representation of how Las Vegas can chew you up and spit you out.

We Were Wiseguys and Didn’t Know It – By Scott Schettler (description courtesy of Amazon)

We Were Wiseguys and Didn’t Know It by Scott Schettler presents a rare and unprecedented history of the early days of “old Las Vegas” and the sports betting luminaries who set the standards and culture in the evolution of sports betting in Las Vegas. This is not a dry history lesson, but rather author Schettler has drawn multiple portraits of key players who shaped the framework and foundation of one of Las Vegas’s biggest draws. Schettler has set the record straight about what really happened in the glory days of Las Vegas sports betting, and he has done so not as an academic, but as an insider. Personal experience and hands on accounts tell the stories about a time that will never come again, and of a place even Hollywood could not reproduce. Written in easy and accessible prose, We Were Wiseguys and Didn’t Know It will educate and entertain, while it serves as witness to little known (if shadowy) characters of Las Vegas gambling history.

My Take:  To understand where the industry is now, you have to understand how the foundation was built.  This book provides a historical account about the founding fathers of Las Vegas wiseguys and gives an accurate depiction of what life was like way back then (or so I’ve been told from the guys who lived it themselves).

Gaming the Game – (description courtesy of Amazon)

Gaming the Game delves inside the FBI investigation of illegal gambling involving former basketball NBA referee, Tim Donaghy.  The story examines Donaghy’s relationships with professional gambler Jimmy Battista and Tommy Martino (the intermediary between Donaghy and Battista), the involvement of Italian-American crime families in the scheme, and the FBI’s failed efforts to “flip” Battista into a cooperating witness.

My Take:  The story the NBA never wanted told about the point shaving scandal that almost brought the game to its knees.  Gaming the Game chronicles the major events, the actual players, and timelines that created the biggest mess to face a major sports league in this country over the last 30 years.   There are points the book reads very slow but the level of detail is fascinating, especially for those unfamiliar with the story.


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