So you have an interest in Las Vegas literature? Then you've come to the right place. In my continuing quest to get into heaven I've gone to the trouble of reading loads of books about everyone's favorite city. I only list the books I recommend, so if you like me, you might like these.
Jump to:

We'd be more in love with this book if we were the ones who got to write it. Martinez gets $50,000 from his publisher to spend on living in Las Vegas for one month. He documents, in a diary-style book, how he spent the money, what he got for free, how he was treated, and how much he loved gambling. The lucky bastard.

Bugsy by George Carpozi, Jr.
What list of books would be complete without a biography about the man miscredited as the creator of modern Las Vegas? None. So, we put this on the list. It's not a great book unless you are really into old mobsters and Las Vegas, but it is probably the best of Bugsy's biographies.

Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss by Frederick and Stephen Barthelme
The Barthelme Brothers are writing professors in Mississippi. After their parents' deaths, they became addicted to gambling. This book documents their accelerating spiral into debt and compulsion, which eventually led to their arrest for cheating at the casino. It's a harrowing book that in many ways links gambling addiction to larger losses in our lives.

Loaded Dice by John Soares
John Soares claims to be one of the most successful uncaught casino cheats in the world. It is hard to tell whether the tales in the book are true or not, but either way it makes for a fascinating joyride with some shady and calculating characters as they rob casino after casino blind.

While we are none too enamored with John L. Smith's limited writing abilities, we are obsessed with the subject matter in this book. Stupak is to Vegas what P.T. Barnum was to the circus, its biggest showman and clown. Learn how he might have burned down his own casino. Thrill as he builds a tiny dirtbag dive into the biggest dirtbag dive in the Las Vegas Valley. Stupak's dump is now the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino, and even that transition makes for good storytelling.

Running Scared by John L. Smith
Here John L. Smith runs amok with a book that ultimately got the publishers successfully sued by its subject, Steve Wynn. Smith plays fast and loose with the facts, trying to tie Steve Wynn up to whatever mob links he can find. We doubt many of the book's inferences are true, and it is not well written or edited, but it is still fun to see that Wynn guy get smacked around a bit. If you want to read about what a jerk the former Mirage owner potentially is, it's all in here in lurid, ambiguous details.


Bob the Gambler by Frederick Barthelme
Frederick Barthelme has a keen understanding of gambling addiction, being an addict himself. His book is a bleak portrait of the gambling addict. It's a good update to the Dostoyevsky story by the same name (minus the "Bob"). The book can be a bit slow at times.

The Desert Rose by Larry McMurtry
Larry's written some pretty dang good books, the best of which in our opinion is The Last Picture Show, but The Desert Rose does Las Vegas justice. It's the story of an aging showgirl whose daughter is becoming the star of the show she is fading out of. Outstanding and believable desert characters, backstage scenes, and the dull throb of Las Vegas' lower social echelons.

In the Shadow of the Strip by Richard Logsdon

Literary Las Vegas by Mike Tronnes (editor)


Basic Blackjack by Stanford Wong
Stanford Wong is a bit of a math geek, but he knows the probabilities of blackjack like most people know the names of their own children. If you want to get serious about blackjack and learn how to do your best against every blackjack variation, this book will teach you the rudimentary skills to be successful. It is a basic strategy book and does not discuss card counting.

The Biggest Game in Town by A. Alvarez
This book, based on a New Yorker series of articles, is the best book about poker we have ever read. It takes the reader inside the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe. It's the only book we know of that tells you what professional poker players think of each other, and what they do when they are not playing poker. You'll learn that many are gambling addicts that lose their poker winnings to house games they can't possibly win.

This is by far our favorite gambling book. It does not teach you how to play, but rather it entertains you with anecdotes and a travelogue of one man's journey all over the globe in search of high stakes poker. Anthony Holden is funny, smart and a fabulous writer - plus the story is enough to make anyone want to be a poker player full time.

Craps Made Simple by Thomas B. Gallagher
You are well-suited to avoid any book that talks about "winning" at craps because in the long run only the house wins. But while you will lose money in the long run, you can have a load of fun and minimize your losses by playing smart.This book is straightforward and explains how to play the game at a very simple level, so that even the biggest idiot among us can walk up to a table without being intimidated.

Knockout Blackjack by Olaf Vancura
Boy, with a title like that how can you go wrong? Actually, this is a good book for peope who want to learn the principles of card counting but don't have the time or inclination to be taught a complete card counting system. It's a quick way to improve your game with sound fundamentals.

Las Vegas Blackjack Diary by Stuart Perry

Video Poker-Optimum Play by Dan Paymar
Besides having a large ego, Dan Paymar is one of the true experts in the field of video poker. This book introduces the beginner to how to play the best video poker games as well as possible. With his help, you will learn how to extract more than 100% of the money you put into a VP machine. It's a simple guide and works well as an introduction.

Now this is a book that really works! Lee Jones has put his time in at the low limit tables and he comes back with a book that tells you, in non-technical terms, how to play the preferred poker game in Las Vegas. Lee recognizes we haven't all played at a table before and describes sound strategies at a clear and simple level. If you read this book, and your low-limit table mates have not, you're in a good position to beat the living snot out of them.


Cult Vegas by Mike Weatherford

Las Vegas Then and Now by Su Kim Chung

A Short History of Las Vegas by Barbara and Myrick Land


This adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's book is almost as pretentious as the book itself, but Terry Gilliam does a pretty good job of invoking the drug-addled atmosphere of the story. Benicio Del Toro is pretty scary as Dr. Gonzo, and Johnny Depp really overdoes it as Hunter S. Thompson, which is probably exactly what Hunter would have wanted.

Go by Doug Liman
Although only a small parts of Go (and not even the best parts) take place in Las Vegas, it's worth seeing just because it's one fantastic movie.Three separate stories interweave, as the camera follows drug dealers, gay actors, a swinger Amway couple and some grocery clerks around while they blaze through 24 crazy hours in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The characters are well-drawn, and the movie refuses to slow down for even one second. It's frantic and much more thrilling than most big blockbusters that are supposed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Honeymoon in Vegas by Andrew Bergman
Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker head to Las Vegas to get married, but Cage is having some second thoughts. He gets involved in a poker game with James Caan, and puts up Parker when the stakes get high. Of course he loses, and then hilarity ensues. Cage plays intense frustration to pretty funny effect, and Caan is as smooth and creepy as ever. While it's not nearly the funniest movie on Earth, it takes place just before the construction boom of the 1990s, and gives you an accurate look of how fun and cheesy the place was in the days before all the "classy" megaresorts opened up.

Las Vegas Video Postcard by Michael Fawcett
This DVD is for people who just can't stand the idea of books. Basically, it's just a video guidebook to the city, with hotel and attraction reviews, plenty of shots of the glittering lights on the Strip, and clips from a few shows in town. Our only beef is that they pretty much ignore everything except the Strip.

Leaving Las Vegas by Mike Figgis
Want to get real depressed about life in preparation for your trip to Las Vegas? Well, why not buy this DVD about a guy who decides to kill himself with alcohol? There aren't a lot of flattering shots of the Strip, or much information that a tourist would want, but it's a beatiful, sad movie. Plus, Elisabeth Shue is totally hot in it.

Lost in America by Albert Brooks
For anybody who's seen "The Muse," and the remake of "The In-Laws," it will come as a real surprise to learn that at one time, Albert Brooks made incredibly funny movies. This is one of the only Vegas movies that even people who don't care a lick about the city can enjoy, and the scene where Albert Brooks tries to convince the manager of the Desert Inn to give him back the money his wife lost, as a savvy marketing move (he coins a jingle: "The Desert Inn has heart, The Desert Inn has heart") is truly a classic moment.

Ocean's 11 (1960) by Lewis Milestone
This sucker's a slow-paced mess, with a truly unbelievable heist (Quck! Turn off the lights and we'll rob the casinos!), but that's not really the point. You're watching it to see the Rat Pack in action. Yeah, it's pretty dull, but so is high school, and this is a lesson in how to be suave and cool, and is good for you in the end.

Ocean's 11 (2001) by Steven Soderbergh
There's no question this is one slick production. George Clooney plays Danny Ocean, who gets together a gang of crooks in hopes of knocking off the Bellagio in a daring heist. Steven Soderbergh definitely knows how to make a movie look good, but he usually bothers with a better story. This movie mostly depends for its appeal on the many well-dressed celebrities who appear on screen.

A documentary about Sinatra and his gang, with tons of old footage of them performing, making movies, talking and just generally being super cool.

Vegas Vacation by Stephen Kessler
All the gags in this National Lampoon movie are pretty obvious. They poke fun at bad buffets, Wayne Newton and the Hoover Dam (with Damn Dam puns). Bleh. But if you're just looking for some cheap laughs and nice shots of Las Vegas, go for it.

Viva Las Vegas by George Sidney
Elvis plays a racecar driver who's a little down on his luck in Las Vegas. He needs a new engine for his car, so he has to get a job as a waiter at a casino, where he falls in with Ann Margaret. It's an understatement to say this is a big ball of fluff, but Elvis looks good and plays some rockin' songs. It's worth viewing if for nothing else than to see Ann Margaret dance like an epileptic in hot pants.


Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich

Some people say the 50s were the golden age of Las Vegas. It was a still an adult playground and almost anything went. We tend to think we would have enjoyed the 50s quite a bit, but not the part where mobsters bust up smart-asses like us. That would stink. For that reason, this book is a good representation and as close as we want to get to those old Wise Guy days.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Of course we had to put this on the list. If you have never read it, the hype has probably ruined it for you, because it's not as great as most people say. But, any serious student of Las Vegas should read it anyway. Dr. Gonzo and his lawyer go to Las Vegas, get really stoned, fill their car tires up with too much air, and throw up a bunch. Even if it isn't great it is still better than 90% of Las Vegas literature. Get past Hunter's intense love affair with himself and some parts are downright funny.

Inside the Gambler's Mind by David Spanier
Want to know what a Brit thinks of American gambling and the psyche of the gambler? This well-written book will tell you. David goes deep into the mind of the gambler and comes out all covered in brains and blood. He understands what makes gamblers tick like nobody else and he gets his points across better than most.

Las Vegas Behind the Tables by Barney Vinson
Barney tells you how much a pit boss makes, what happens in the security room, how the casinos might be cheating you and a lot of other dirty little secrets. Barney has not been rubbed out by any hitmen, so the secrets must not be too revealing. Still, it taught us all kinds of things we didn't previously know and found pretty juicy. And we're hard to please. Warning: It's another in a long line of books by people that know great stories but can't write worth a damn.

More of the same, except for this time around Barney doesn't have quite as many great stories to tell.

Even more information about the guys with no necks who created Las Vegas as an oasis in the middle of nowhere. Next time you're wandering around the MGM Grand, think about how much less like a mall the whole place would be if the mobsters, and not the corporations, had won.

Welcome to the Pleasuredome by David Spanier
David does up the town, explaining what makes Las Vegas tick and what people expect from it. He spends an inordinate amount of time either talking to or chasing down hookers, but it is an otherwise thoughtful series of essays about why our favorite city works.


We know what you're thinking: why would anyone want to go beyond Las Vegas? Well, maybe for some fresh air, or to get away from the smell of the buffet leftover dumpsters? In any case, this guide will show you how to get to the natural beauty surrounding all the man-made tackiness. Death Valley, Red Rocks, Mount Charleston, Lake Mead, plenty of day hikes and short drives.

Fodor's caters to people with more money to spend than us (which is just about everyone), but we've read these guides and salivated over the fancy restaurants and clean hotel rooms. If you have a little walking around money, Fodor's is better organized and informative than most other guides.

Another of the Big Boys of Travel Guides. It is a good book for the first-timer or someone that comes to Las Vegas very rarely. Like Fodor's, it isn't emphasizing your budget, but it is an outstanding guide to Las Vegas, with thorough reviews of all the major hotels and restaurants. They even recommended their readers visit the Gold Spike in a past version of this guide.

The Frugal Gambler by Jean Scott
The "Queen of Coupons" ain't as cheap as we are, but she's got way more class (and she often gets us free meals). The Frugal Gambler is your guide to the slickest ways to get the best deals in Las Vegas on rooms, food, entertainment and so much more without looking as pathetic as our own Stinky and Matt. It is pretty specific and doesn't offer a lot of opportunities for our kind of fun, but it's also quite educational. The bad part of the book is the constant shilling for other books from the same publisher.

Lonely Planet Las Vegas by Scott Doggett

It reads a little too flatteringly of the new Las Vegas. There are no mentions of busted kneecaps or violent expulsions of card counters, but it's still a good look at the operations and industry of the new, corporate Las Vegas where Guido The Hammer is being replaced by Herb The Accountant.

Time Out Las Vegas by Will Fulford-Jones (and us!)
London-based Time Out guides are made for the young hipsters who think that Lonely Planet books are for granola-eating, backpack-wearing hippies. Their Vegas guide is no exception, and it delivers plenty of good information, plus some extremely insightful sidebars, written by none other than Matt and Stinky, the same jerks who bring you this site. If you do buy this book, (in fact, even if you don't), please take a few minutes to send Penguin Books a note saying something like, "Boy oh boy, your latest Las Vegas guidebook is really brilliant! Especially the articles by Mark Sinclair and Matt Weatherford. Seriously, you should hire those guys to do a whole series of guidebooks, and pay them millions of dollars in advance money!"

Don't let the name fool you. This isn't a guide that reveals a lot of secrets that Las Vegas doesn't want you to know (like that the Horseshoe used to beat the crap out of cheaters in the parking garage). It is, however, the best of the Las Vegas guide books because it isn't too fawning or out of date. The big bonus is that Bob talks about little establishments outside the casinos that you'd never find on your own.

CheapoVegas home
All contents © 2000-2009
Help us keep the site up-to-date. Send us your comments, suggestions and corrections.
Share great prices on
Casino Boy's gone country, and he wants to take you with him!