Ahh, the art of the gamble. It comes in all shapes and sizes: from the poker table to taking that leap in life, we are all living a game of chance. It seems like we are all gambling on the daily when we are not even sure what a quick drive to the market might turn into. But this list takes you to the classic art of gambling – the one that takes place amidst gambling halls, surrounded by people and their ambitions. Having played poker myself a couple of times, I get the appeal of it, the rush of the win, the shattering feeling after the loss, the readiness to do it all over again.
The books in this list below feature all aspects of gambling – the reasons why people do it, the places where they do it, and the circumstances they find themselves pulled in as a result of this.
Ready, set, and place your best bets on these compelling reads.
Books About Gamblers and Gambling
Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
To kick off this list, I have to begin by mentioning one of my personal favorites. If you have ever read Agatha Christie, her books always feel as nerve-wracking as gambling. You are never sure of anyone’s motivations or who is giving them away.
In this book featuring Christie’s famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot is introduced to a fabulous art collector, Mr. Shaitana. Shaitana promises to show Poirot his collection over a game of bridge with some of his guests. As the party begins, so do the games, coming to a halt when Shaitana is found to be dead – stabbed in the chest with a stiletto from his own collection.
The Last Chance by Darrien Lee
This is one that features gambling as well as behind-the-scenes of what it takes to run a casino. Running their Los Angeles casino has been rewarding for the Chance brothers. Now, word on the street is that a plan to take over their casino is underway, that could end up costing the Chance family more than their life. That is until their 25-year-old sister Keilah Chance comes home for a short visit. Just as fierce as she is beautiful, Keilah is determined to protect her family legacy at all costs and will stop at nothing to do so.
The Right Mistake by Walter Mosley
This is a book that features gamblers more than gambling itself. Living in South Central L.A., Socrates Fortlow is a 60-year-old ex-convict, still strong enough to kill men with his bare hands. After serving 27 years in prison, he is filled with profound guilt and is ready to turn inwards. Along with his gambler friend Billy Psalms, Socrates calls together local people of all races from their different social stations to conduct meetings of a Thinkers’ Club, where all can discuss the unanswerable questions in life.
Death on the Flop by Jackie Chance
This is a cozy mystery set in Vegas! Belinda Cooley agrees to accompany her twin brother, Ben, to Las Vegas for an amateur Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. What she did not see coming is her brother disappearing hours before the game – and now Belinda has to play poker in his place to save his spot, oh and also figure out where her brother is.
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
If you haven’t had a chance to come across a gambling hall in a historical romance, then you are in for a treat with this one. Gambling hells provide the perfect backdrop for our heroes and their rakish ways. Equally excellent backdrop for our heroines to drop by after hours and scandalize everyone.
In this second book in a series that can be read in any order, we have Sara Fielding, an author who wants to observe the workings of London’s underground gaming halls for her latest novel, including the most famous gambling club of all, Craven’s, and the notorious man who runs it. Derek Craven, master of the Craven hall, grew up on the rough streets of London and learned to get by any means necessary, eventually accumulating enough wealth to run a popular, thriving gaming club. Now he finds himself against a danger that he doesn’t know how to protect himself from.
The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Like all Dostoevsky’s works, this read breaks down the psychological mechanizations of people. This novella is actually based on the author’s own addiction to roulette. Alexey, a young tutor, tries to reach larger than his means but instead finds himself in a vicious cycle of betting and selling. The description of the casino, the kinds of gamblers, and capturing the desire to win, all are some of the observations Dostoevsky excels at. If you want to travel to 19th century Russia and see how gambling happened then, then follow along.
Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard
At the center of our story is Daredevil Dennis Lenahan, who has brought his act to the Tishomingo Lodge & Casino in Tunica, Mississippi — diving off an 80-foot ladder into nine feet of water for the amusement of gamblers, gangsters, and belles. But when he witnesses an act of violence moments before his performance, he finds himself at the center of more attention than he signed up for.
Widows in Law by Michele W. Miller
In this story of suspense we have three women, Lauren, Jessica, and Emily, who find their fates intertwined from the death of one man. Trying to salvage the man’s estate, secrets come to life about past debts and discretion. With one mobster wanting his money back and the three women in the dark about it, it became a race against time as they are pulled into a world of high-stakes illegal gambling.
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead
This is the only nonfiction on here, but one that definitely warrants a mention. Whitehead is an author that has incredible range. From dystopian to historical to an account of playing poker for an assignment, he tells his story with ease. After weeks of preparation that included repeated bus trips to glamorous Atlantic City, and hiring a personal trainer to toughen him up for sitting at twelve hours a stretch, the author journeyed to the gaudy wonderland that is Las Vegas to try his luck in a multi-million dollar tournament. Whitehead did not win tens of millions of dollars, but what he does do is take us for the ride.