Ligaz11 Review of Getting the Best of ItOn October 22, 2021 by Jerome Diggs
Over the last two decades, David Sklansky has been one of the most prolific as well as one of the most engaging gambling writers. During this time, little in the gambling world has escaped his attention. Nowhere is this more evident than in Getting the Best of It. In this book Sklansky covers an exceptionally broad range of gambling topics including, but by no means limited to, poker, blackjack, horse racing, and even keno.
Sklansky’s first section covers mathematics. Most of these topics are pretty elementary, but if the reader doesn’t understand them, they’ll have a hard time making any money gambling. As Sklansky point out, even the math adverse would be well advised to expend the energy to understand the essays in this section. Two of the essays are likely to be of interest even to someone who already understands basic probability theory. One of these essays covers Bayes’ Theorem, the other is titled “An Interesting Dice Proposition”.
In the next section, Sklansky covers what most folks would consider his forte, the game of poker. In my opinion, this set of 12 essays represents some of the best brief ideas ever written about the game. I don’t agree with absolutely every detail Sklansky writes about here, but every essay contains at least one, and usually more than one, engaging thought. In my opinion, these essays are excellent in promoting “thinking practice” among readers. If one uses these essays as examples of how a player can think about situations they encounter, I would all but guarantee that this would bring about significant improvement in one’s play.
Section three covers blackjack. Again, I mostly agree with everything Sklansky has to say. At this point, most, but not all, of these topics have been discussed in other sources in the gambling literature, but that doesn’t mean that this information isn’t worthwhile. Of the six sections in this book, the one on blackjack is probably weakest, but I still found it worthwhile. Section four covers other casino games, including the only significant analysis of “crapless craps” I can recall seeing in print, and, believe it or not, some worthwhile keno information.
Next, the author discusses sports and horse betting. While this isn’t a comprehensive coverage of handicapping or wagering, there is important information here. I believe Sklansky correctly outlines just how difficult these games are to beat. If a given method which claims to overcome the vig at sports or race betting doesn’t specifically address the issues that Sklansky discusses in this section, I’d be willing to bet that the strategy in question won’t be a long-term winner. The last section covers “General Gambling Concepts”. It includes two of my favorite Sklansky essays, “The Law of Averages and Other Fallacies” and “Another ligaz11 Gambling Paradox”. If a significant percentage of casino patrons deeply understood these two essays, it would profoundly affect the profitability of casinos everywhere.
There are a few essays in this collection that miss or are no longer as relevant as they once were, such as the author’s essays on progressive slot machines. I would also understand if a reader who had a narrow gambling focus (on blackjack, for example) was hesitant to pay this much money when they’re only interested in a small percentage of the book. However, anyone with a general interest in gambling, or anyone who wants to learn to think deeply about any wagering endeavor would be well advised to read Getting the Best of It. Note that many of these essays are from a column Sklansky wrote in the 80s for the magazine Gambling Times, so if one has a complete collection of his articles there, it may not be worth the cost of acquiring this book, even for the updates and section introductions. Getting the Best of It is now in its second edition. There are some updates, but the differences in the two editions are definitely not significant enough for one to want to upgrade their first edition.
Getting the Best of It is a collection of some of David Sklansky’s best writing. In this book, Sklansky writes provocative and valuable information about a wide variety of gambling topics. While it may seem a bit broad for those gamblers who have a very narrow focus, it’s chief benefit is as a model for how gamblers looking for an edge can think more effectively about how to approach casino games. In this respect, it succeeds handsomely.