Since he began writing gambling books, Mason Malmuth has always been one of the most thought provoking writers on gambling related topics. This book, Gambling Theory and Other Topics contains many of his most wide ranging and provocative essays. Insightful and controversial, it would be difficult for someone to read this book with an engaged mind and not both learn something and find some topic worthy of debate.
The book is divided into six sections, each of which contains from six to more than twenty essays. The topic of the first part is Gambling Theory, where Mason introduces us to self-weighting strategies. Right off the bat, Malmuth is controversial, essentially telling us that investment diversification is a bad bet. I believe his analysis to be correct, but he omits some important information that makes it apparent why this is so, and why someone would still want to diversify their investment portfolio. If I have one criticism of Malmuth’s writing, it’s that he occasionally states a quality opinion in more controversial language than it needs to be. I believe fewer people would disagree with him, and some disagree most strongly, if he selected different words with which to express some of his most difficult ideas.
Part two discusses examples of the theories mentioned in part one. This includes Malmuth’s view on Money Management, the extremely important topic of fluctuations, game theory, and other interesting issues. This book was one of the very first to discuss these topics in any depth, and the coverage here is still very good.
Part three covers fallacies in various betting schemes. Part four covers strategies for poker tournaments. This is one of the better sections in the book, in my opinion. Some very important ideas are discussed here, and this chapter by itself is better than most books on tournament poker.
Part five covers new games, including Pai Gow Poker and Super Pan Nine. The information on Super Pan Nine is probably sufficient, but if one really wants to learn how to play Pai Gow Poker, they’re going to want to read Stanford Wong’s Optimal ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล Strategy for Pai Gow Poker, although the section in this book is a good introduction. Part six contains some of Malmuth’s less serious, although still interesting, essays, including his views of some important historical events through the eyes of a poker player and even an essay about bad beat stories that I actually found to be worth reading. The book ends with some concluding remarks and some very brief reviews of various other gambling books, a topic near and dear to my heart.
Overall, I think this is a very strong book. Most of the information here is still very timely, and very well considered. At times, I wish Malmuth would spend more time elaborating on some of his more controversial stances, explaining in more detail why he says what he does, but this is a fairly minor criticism, and in some cases the reader may be better served by having these ideas annoy them and, therefore, forcing them to think about why they might disagree with the author’s position. As I mentioned earlier, the poker tournament strategy section is better than most books on the subject. Certainly, for the serious gambler, this book is worth reading.
One note: as of the writing of this review, the current edition is the fifth edition. I compared it against my fourth edition copy, and found a few minor differences. A couple of essays have been added to the newer edition and at least one has been dropped, but these differences are really quite minor. If one already has the fourth edition or, I suspect but cannot state authoritatively, earlier editions of this book, I doubt it would be worthwhile upgrading.
Gambling Theory and Other Topics is a very strong book on gambling issues by Mason Malmuth. This is one of the first places a large number of important ideas were first discussed in a substantial manner, and the book has remained pertinent. Although Malmuth almost seems to go out of his way to state some ideas in a controversial manner, he’s usually correct and, at worst, his ideas are almost certainly worth serious consideration. I recommend that all serious students of gambling read this book, although I don’t see any reason for owners of earlier versions to upgrade to the most recent edition.