Roll the Bones Audiobook available

Roll the Bones Audiobook

I am very excited to announce that the audio version of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling is now available. For the second time, I collaborated with Eric Martin, who narrated and produced the audio version.

The audio version has some unique content–an interview where Eric and I talk a little about the writing process for the book and what has happened in the gambling world since the paperback/ebook’s 2013 publication.

You can buy the book through Amazon, Audible, or iTunes. If you have never used Audible, you are in luck. I have a special code that can get you a free 30-day Audible trial, which will let you listen to all 16 hours and 59 minutes of the book for free.

I’d like to thank Eric for all of his hard work on this project–it would not have happened without him.

So if you have 17 hours worth of travel time, downtime, or just plain free time and want to learn more about the history of gambling with an emphasis on casinos, you are in luck.

Roll the Bones: Casino Edition Available (Almost) Everywhere

If you’ve been waiting to buy Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Casino Edition) in paperback from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, wait no longer: it’s now available from both booksellers, as well as, where you get a 20% discount:

You can also order the book from booksellers and bookstores just about everywhere.

I don’t know if listing the price is a marketing-savvy thing to do; I know most places that ask you to buy stuff don’t. But I figure that it’s better to let you know up front what it costs so you don’t feel bait-and-switched. There are many shipping options for Lulu, the least expensive of which costs $3.99 and seems to take about a week to arrive, give or take.

If you’ve got a favorite bookseller that stocks gambling and Vegas-related books, please ask them to stock this. It would be a great help to me, and it would be wonderful to get the book in front of more people.

Get your eRTB ‘signed” and maybe make me happier

These days, some people prefer their books in print; some prefer them electronically. That’s why I’ve gone to great lengths to make the new edition of Roll the Bones available across as many platforms as possible. Well, if you define “making a few formatting tweaks to submit it to four different eplatforms” as great lengths, at least. Although I’ve got to say the iBook process was a bit more than that…

Anyway, one of the questions I’ve gotten about ebooks is how a reader can get one signed. I was thinking that the best way would be to meet in person and write a brief note, but it turns out someone’s devised a more sophisticated way that works at a distance. Authorgraph purports “make ebooks a little more personal,” so this morning I decided to give it a shot.

It was easy to sign up, and I’ve already sent three Authorgraphs this morning.

Here’s how it works, as best as I can figure out. A reader sends me a request. I then personalize a “signed” note, which goes into a collection of notes they can keep on their ereader. As of now, it doesn’t go directly on the ebook itself, though I guess if I met someone in person I could write a note on the file.

Thus far I’m pretty pleased. It’s always gratifying to learn that people not only had enough faith in you to buy your book, but that they want it signed, and it’s great to be able to extend that to digital versions.

And this hits at something that’s actually a source of a good bit of anxiety and self-consciousness for me: signing books.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s something I genuinely like doing. But two things about it make me nervous:

1. In trying to come up with something pithy to write in the book, I’ll just sound inane.

2. My handwriting does not look like it belongs to someone capable of reading a book with multisyllabic words, much less writing one.

The first one I solved by simply being honest, usually saying something like “thanks for reading,” which has the benefit of being absolutely genuine. The second, though, doesn’t really have an easy fix. I’ve just never had handwriting that was remotely legible, no matter how hard I try. It was a real problem back in grade school; more than one teacher just gave up. It ties right in with my not being particularly well-coordinated in anything that requires fine motor skills. Some people are terrified of speaking in public; I’m more worried by writing in public.

So book signings can be difficult for me, mostly because I am afraid that once people see how abysmal my handwriting is, they’ll assume that I’m a lot less intelligent and/or insightful than they thought I was (which I realize is quite likely true, but there’s no sense in proving it beyond a doubt). On the other hand, there’s little that’s more rewarding to a writer than interacting with readers (well, I’d say getting a nice royalty check is up there, and so is signing a contract with a publisher that believe in you, but it’s definitely in the top three), but on the other, it’s not as easy as I’d like it to be.

Which is why something like Authorgraph has the potential to be a real life-saver: it lets the author create something personalized for the reader, electronically, which means no hand-writing needed.

Although you still have to sign, and my attempts at “drawing” a signature in the Authorgraph interface were horrible. I don’t mean “the pharmacy tech couldn’t read the doctor’s script and accidentally poisoned someone” bad, I mean, “you’d politely smile if you saw it hanging outside a nursery school classroom” awful. So I went with their “adopted” signature, which is just my name in a handwriting font. Trust me, it’s for the best.

The other funny thing is the font that I get to write a message in. You’ve got the choice between handwriting and a typewriter. The handwriting looks a little too fussy, a little too old-ladyish to be something I can comfortably use, but the typewriter font is oddly appropriate: it looks, like I said on Twitter this morning “like an extortion note.” It really does look like the font the Mob Museum uses to me, for some reason.

To me that gives Authorgraph some charm, some personality, which is just what it needs. Even the little widget is kind of homey:

I like it. So if you’ve got an ecopy of Roll the Bones in any of the four platforms that it’s available on, send me a request–I’d love to sign it for you.

Roll the Bones: Casino Edition is an iBook

For all of those who’ve been waiting to get Roll the Bones: Casino Edition on their iDevice in all its iBook glory, today should be a happy day: it’s now available!

With this, the book is now available on all of the digital platforms that I’m aware of. Here’s the complete list of where to get it:


Paperback available from! 20% Early-bird discount!


Kindle Edition available from

Nook Book available from Barnes & Noble

eBook available from Kobo

iBook available from iTunes

The last outlet I need to secure is getting into Ingram, a book distributor, which I’m doing through Lulu’s Global Reach program. Once it hits there, you’ll be able to order print copies on Amazon,, and other online retailers, and order a copy through your local bookstore. Hopefully at that point I’ll be able to get it into Las Vegas-area outlets like the Gambler’s Book Store and the Mob Museum.

Special thanks go out to the guy from iTunesConnect support who spent 43 minutes on the phone with me last Thursday figuring out where a critical error was coming from. There’s definitely more of a learning curve to getting stuff into iTunes than Kindle or the other platforms, but it’s not that bad.

Roll the Bones: Casino Edition launches: How and why

I have some news to share on the book front: it’s been a long time coming, and there’s more work to be done, but you can get a copy of Roll the Bones: Casino Edition through before the official launch.

rollthebones-thumb150So far, is the only place you can buy the book, and it’s only available in paperback. That’s going to change soon–possibly as soon as today, if converting the book to epub format isn’t too difficult. Once I do that, I’ll have an ebook version readily available just about everywhere ebooks are sold, including iBooks and Amazon.

This is a really big step for me as an author. Let me tell you why. The story of Roll the Bones goes back to January 2004, when an editor at Gotham Books persuaded me to put together a proposal for a global history of gambling. It was around this time that books like Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World were popular, and this was pitched as the same sort of thing, but for gambling. There had never been a full-scale history of gambling from the beginning of time to the present attempted, so there was a definite niche.

Between the time I delivered the manuscript and the publication date, there were some personnel changes at Gotham, and the editor who had brought me on board and believed strongly in the book left the press. Fast forward to a few year later, and Gotham chose to let the book go out of print. My agent suggested that I get the rights reverted to me, which I did, and I decided to publish a new edition myself through the Winchester Books imprint that I’ve started for this and other projects.

This wasn’t an easy decision. As someone who had three books published by academic and trade presses, I was used to taking a very passive role to most aspects of the book business. I’d basically provide the text, give proof pages a cursory review (usually thinking, “well it looks like a book to me”) and that was about it. Cover art–such a big part of a book’s identity, for better or worse–was totally off limits. I got lucky–one of my books has a cover I can live with, though I’m still mystified as to the color choice, and one is a classic. The other….well, like I said, these things were totally off limits.

I found that publishing the Casino Edition myself didn’t necessarily mean doing everything myself. The best analogy I can offer is for working on a major home improvement project. You can hire a contractor, who deals with all of the sub-contractors and gives you one big bill, or you can be the contractor yourself, hiring the subs as you need them to help you finish the job. If you hire the right subs, you can get excellent quality and value–if you know what you’re doing.

Except imagine that it’s not a home improvement contract, but a business, and that it’s a choice between you working for the contractor, who will bear most of the costs of construction and give you a small portion of any revenues, or putting your own money into the business and getting a much larger share of the revenues. And having complete creative control and responsibility. Typo? Your fault. Distribution problems? Your fault. No marketing? Your fault. That’s the price of really owning your own book.

To me, that’s what it came down to: have both control and responsibility over the finished book that readers can enjoy. With my experiences, I can’t say it’s that bad a trade-off, since my previous books didn’t exactly get an avalanche of marketing support. It’s not that I’m going to be able to retire on my earnings from this book; I might not even break even. But I feel good knowing that you can buy a book that’s 100% my vision of what I wanted you to read.

That’s not saying that I did it all myself. I got some great help from many people, which is why the acknowledgements are 3 pages long, and probably could have been double. If you want to know about quality control, here’s my process: I hired a copy editor to work on the original manuscript; got help with learning InDesign to format the manuscript; used a team of volunteer beta testers to catch errors introduced during the processing of the manuscript; hired a professional proof reader and indexer to do a final read-through and provide a well-done index; and relied on a friend for some fantastic cover design.

Doing much of the layout work myself gave me a much closer feel to this book than anything I’ve written before. Like I said above, before I just emailed a Word file, then mostly let other people do everything. I found that fretting over photo layouts gave me a much greater appreciation of how I should place photos in the text, and, indeed, why I should have photos at all. And doing a ton of menial, repetitive tasks made me feel like I’d invested much more in the book than my time in writing it.

Of course, I did invest more, this time around. Let me paraphrase Steve Wynn for a moment here: “Of all the books I’ve written, this is the first one I’ve put my own money into.”

As a reader, that should tell you something: I believe enough in this book that I’m willing to pay to get it into production and into your hands. Again, this isn’t an easy decision to make, but I’m glad I made it. After all, it’s a book about gambling, and most of the people who buy it will probably be gamblers. What right do I have to ask them to spend their money on it if I’m not willing to put my own money on the line?

On that note, here’s something to keep in mind: if you’re a table player, for less than one green chip, you can own this book forever if you take advantage of the current 20% lulu-only discount. If you’re a slot player, that’s potentially 30 seconds of coin-in on a penny slot ($4 max bet, 1 spin each 6 seconds). That’s gotta be a positive expectation wager, or pretty close.

Thanks to everyone who has gotten me here, and who is going to roll the dice with me and read the book.


Lucky 13 for Roll the Bones

Roll the Bones has made another list…’s list of the top 50 gambling books of all time. At #13, it’s near enough the top to be respectable:

In Roll the Bones, David Schwartz has compiled one of the most thorough historical accounts of gambling available. Schwartz manages to include gambling’s development in different areas of the world including Native America, China, Western Europe and the U.S. Events are set out in chronological order, which makes the book very easy to read, and all forms of gambling are covered. Towards the later stages of the book, the author moves to more modern issues and offers some enlightening discussions about gambling’s importance and place in society. Also of note is the thought-provoking musings about the future of gambling and how it might change. All in all, Roll the Bones is strongly recommended to anyone interested in the history of any form of gambling, or even anyone just looking for a good read.

via Top 50 Gambling Books of All Time –

It’s nice to get some recognition…the is the second list like this the book has made in the past few weeks, coming on the heels of Joe Mazur’s “Top Five Gambling Books” list at the Wall Street Journal.

So it’s not just me telling you that if you want to read a good book about gambling history, you should give Roll the Bones a try.

Roll the Bones in Polish

It’s a happy day in my writing career. The Polish translation of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling is out at last. For those of you who speak Polish, here’s the first bit of the prologue:

Jak feniks z popiołów

Był 5 czerwca 1637 r. Purytańscy osadnicy, przybyli niedawno ze starego kontynentu, posuwali się naprzód zajmując coraz to nowe tereny, zaś dla Indian z plemienia Pequot (Pekoci), z doliny rzeki Connecticut, oznaczało to koniec świata.

Słowo pequot w języku algonkińskim znaczy „niszczyciel” i tylko podkreśla reputację tego plemienia. Wieki temu Pekoci i Mohikanie wyemigrowali razem z doliny rzeki Hudson i udali się do Connecticut, po czym rozdzielili się na dwa wrogie sobie plemiona. Pekoci zajmowali się wyłącznie walką z Mohikanami i Narragansettami, bądź łupieniem okolicznych wiosek, których mieszkańcy drżeli na samą myśl o tym plemieniu i jego wodzu, Sassacusie. Kiedy jednak wielka migracja białych, mówiących po angielsku kolonistów rozlała się po równinach wzdłuż Zatoki Massachusetts, zagrażając dominacji Pekotów, konfrontacja stała się nieunikniona.

Zaczęły nasilać się akty przemocy: porwania, napady i rozboje, co prowadziło do otwartej wojny między Anglikami a Pekotami. Jeszcze kilkanaście lat wcześniej biali przybysze na swoje pierwsze Święto Dziękczynienia zaprosili swoich sąsiadów, Indian, by wspólnie z nimi zajadać się pieczystym z dzikiego indyka i innej upolowanej zwierzyny. Teraz stara przyjaźń ustąpiła miejsca ekspansji, zaś angielska broń palna miała okazję zmierzyć się z legendarnym okrucieństwem Pekotów.

Historia Hazardu – książka.

It is my first written work to be translated into any language, which I guess means something. In any event, if you’ve been wanting to get a copy of Roll the Bones for a friend but their lack of English reading skills has been a problem, you are now in luck–if they can read Polish.

Pole the Bones

HUGE publishing news: Roll the Bones is going to be translated into Polish very soon. I’ve been told that the agreement has been signed, and that after I write a brief introduction they will be good to go.

This is tremendously good news for all of the Roll the Bones fans in Poland, who can now enjoy the book in their native language.

It’s the first time any of my work has been translated and sold overseas (that I know of), so this officially makes me an “internationally-known author.” I won’t let it go to my head.

I know there’s a lot of people waiting for the Hungarian version to come out, but for now they’ll just have to…keep waiting, I guess.

Does this now make me the only historian of gambling to have a book translated from English into Polish? If it does, is there any more obscure mark of competency that I can try to garner next?

Win RtB (and Rush)

There’s a great contest happening over at VegasTripping. Win, and you could get a very rare and obscenely valuable signed copy of Roll the Bones, plus and unsigned copy of the mostly-overlooked Rush CD, Roll the Bones. It’s a good deal, even if Alice in Chains’ Dirt is the real theme album for the book–at least that’s what I was thinking when I wrote it.