06/17/2009 11:00PM

Gambler's Book Shop gets new home


LAS VEGAS - It's hard to pinpoint a mecca for race and sports bettors when they come here.

Sure, some people might go out of their way to see the lavish books at the Mirage, Caesars Palace, Stardust, Las Vegas Hilton, or others that they had read or heard about, but most visitors head first to the hotel where they're staying and tend to bunker down there to battle the oddsmakers and other bettors.

But if any place could lay claim to be the gathering place for gamblers of all shapes and sizes (and sizes of bankroll), whether they were staying at the biggest, ritziest mega-resort or the smallest, cheapest roach motel, it would probably have to be the Gambler's Book Shop, aka the Gambler's Book Club.

The store just moved to its new location at 1550 E. Tropicana Ave. in Las Vegas on June 8.

The Gambler's Book Club was the brainchild of John and Edna Luckman of Chicago, who moved to California and then Las Vegas, where the husband worked as a dealer and floor man. He started the GBC in 1964.

"He realized there were very few books available for gamblers, and no places that specialized in any books on the subject," said Howard Schwartz, who was hired by the Luckmans in 1979 as an editor and now owns the GBC.

Schwartz tells the story of how Luckman - who made it into "Ripley's Believe It or Not" since he owned a gambling store in Las Vegas and had the word "luck" in his name - originally met resistance from casinos in town.

"There was a certain hypocrisy and stupidity among management at first," Schwartz said. "Many casinos would bar us from selling books in their gift shops.

"Instead of saying, 'If a guy understands the game and is intellectually challenged, people are more likely to play once they understand what the odds are and how to play wisely,' they would be afraid to educate players. They didn't realize at first that we were creating customers for them. Now, 20 to 30 years later, they're giving instruction in the casinos, and you see more videos."

But the GBC grew through word of mouth, and the store helped lead gambling out the shadows, publishing 134 books over the years, including many of the first books on most games such as "Hold'em Poker" by David Sklansky in 1976. Most every gambling author has been to the GBC's former location at 630 S. 11th St. for book signings, including Steven Crist and Andrew Beyer. And the GBC also followed through on one of the Luckmans's original missions of being a place for gamblers to visit and learn from each other as well as the published materials. The store has long been the first place that documentary filmmakers and TV shows come for research, and the GBC has been cited in countless magazine articles, books, and film credits.

"We were originally called the Gambler's Book Club," Schwartz said, "but changed it to shop because people thought they had to join a club to get a membership card or buy a certain number of books. So now we're known as the Gambler's Book Shop."

So why did the GBC move?

"We've been thinking about moving to the Strip or closer to the Strip for a long time," Schwartz said. "Our former lease is up in July, so we found this new spot. We've already had people stop in before checking into their hotels to make sure they could find us or to pick up books before they gamble.

"Our philosophy has always been to read before you play and understand the games before you make a bet," Schwartz said. "Bet smart and use money-management skills. We've always preached moderation. No book that we sell is a guarantee to make you a winner, but they'll help you hold on to your money longer and be a better investor."

Schwartz points out that Phil Steele's preseason football magazine is already in stock, with Marc Lawrence's "Playbook" to come soon as well as tons of other preseason publications. The bricks-and-mortar store is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The GBC's full catalog can be viewed at gamblersbook.com.

Vegas handicapping tournaments

The horse racing handicapping circuit heats up during summertime, especially here in Las Vegas:

* This Saturday, Green Valley Ranch has a $100 buy-in Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship qualifier, with two NHC berths up for grabs.

* The Red Rock Resort, which will host NHC XI for the third straight year on Jan. 29-30, 2010, has its $500 buy-in Firecracker Shootout on Julyo4 for NHC Tour members only (meaning if you're not a member, you would have to join for $125) with three NHC berths on the line.

* The Gold Coast has its annual Summer Classic on July 23-25, with a $400 entry fee and the top five finishers earning berths in the Horseplayer's World Series on Feb. 18-20, 2010, at the Orleans.

* Wynn Las Vegas hosts the $2,000 buy-in $125,000 Guaranteed Race Handicapping Challenge on Aug. 7-8 using just races from Saratoga and Del Mar.

* The Las Vegas Hilton's Pick the Ponies is Aug. 27-29 in the three days prior to Del Mar's Pacific Classic. The entry fee is $500, unless you register and pay $400 before the early-bird deadline of Aug. 17. The Hilton then kicks in the extra $100 into the prize pool.