At one time or another we’ve all needed to get up to speed on a subject ASAP. Basically you want to go from being a rookie to having a working knowledge in the shortest possible time. In these situations anything that can usher you up and over the learning curve is worth its weight in gold. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Gambling by Mark Balestra is such a tool. Think I’m bluffing? Considering that I’ve been working in the online casino industry for almost two years now and much of what I’ve learned is found between the covers of Balestra’s humble tome, I don’t think I’m bluffing at all.
Beginning with the basics of what an online casino is, Balestra takes the reader through the learning process one step at a time.
Even if that was all the book offered, it would still be a worthy read for anyone in the industry and certainly for those considering online play. But where a book like this can really excel is by organizing the information so that it is easy to read, entertaining enough to keep us from nodding off, has enough pictures to give us a feel for the environment, summarizes the key points and indexes the material properly. Again, all that is here making this book one for the desk top as opposed to one for the public library. It’s a resource, albeit one that will see less use as the reader’s expertise develops.
As with any book about the Internet, it’s the leads to links and resources that can really make a difference for the beginner. After all, they’re being introduced to a part of the virtual world and the better the guide, the happier their journey will be. Balestra’s book provides ample references to fill anyone’s Favorites list. Casinos, info pages, directories, software suppliers, self-help resources and strategy sites are all referenced.
Unfortunately the Web is a very volatile place and things on the information super-highway change faster than most of us would like. So too here. Although the information for the book was gathered late in 1999, some of the links are already dated. The exceptional Kenny Rogers 789betting Casino (www.kennyrogerscasino.com) mentioned on p.104 has, for instance, disappeared, at least for the time being. This is no fault of Balestra’s though as it is simply the nature of the Web and something that every Web user must contend with.
If there’s one point on which I take exception with Balestra it’s on what I’ll call his optimism when it comes to the online experience. For example he mentions on p.115 that when you’re finished with a particular casino’s download software you can remove it “cleanly and without incident” by using Win98/NT’s Uninstall. Sadly it’s hardly ever that simple. It’s up to the software provider to make sure their install/uninstall process is clean and complete and, as any heavy user of download software will tell you, the uninstalls often leave bits of rubbish laying around that will eventually clutter up your system. Sometimes different packages will conflict with each other on your system, other times they simply won’t work at all. Obviously these become Customer Support issues, but they are part of the online experience and deserved specific mention.
Quibbles aside, Balestra’s book is a great resource and as complete an introduction to online gambling as the newcomer could ask for. I’ll certainly be recommending it to anyone interested in getting into the game.