Note: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, we may earn a small commission.
With the launch of Ohio sports betting only weeks away, PlayOhio has put together a holiday reading gift guide for sports bettors.
These books represent guides for all levels of sports bettors — from the casual bettor looking to make a game more interesting to the professional sharp who wants to hone their handicapping skills. We also include a few “edu-taining” reads for those who want to learn more about the industry as well.
On to the list!
For the beginning sports bettor
Sports Betting for Dummies, by Swain Scheps
This book may be the most obvious starting point for sports bettors, and for good reason. Sports Betting for Dummies targets absolute beginners, and its success lies in the way that Scheps explains principal concepts clearly and succinctly.
This comes in most handy when dealing with the unavoidable math and statistics discussions inherent in sports betting. Scheps’ sense of humor lowers the pressure on some of the statistical explanations and will keep you engaged even if math brings back horrible memories.
The book also gives solid advice for the relatively new field of online sports betting, and it gives good advice for how to juggle multiple online accounts to maximize bonus offers. It even gives advice on how many different online accounts a bettor should open. Read it to find out.
For the intermediate sports bettor
The Logic of Sports Betting, by Ed Miller and Matthew Davidow
This book by Miller and Davidow is regularly touted among industry people as a foundational read for all bettors. It may still work for a beginner sports bettor, but it is better served for people who already have experience with different types of bets and an understanding of how a sportsbook operates.
Miller and Davidow clarify how sportsbooks handicap markets to give bettors a better perspective on which markets give the best break-even opportunities. This book is really about developing a more nuanced understanding of when to attack a given market or how to make informed prop bets.
Like Sports Betting for Dummies, The Logic of Sports Betting also devotes time to leveraging promo deals and balancing multiple online accounts.
Ultimately, this is a good gift for bettors who are already successful but may need to question their winning assumptions and losers who just need a structured approach to break even.
For the sharp bettor
Sharper: A Guide to Modern Sports Betting, by Poker Joe
The name Poker Joe may or may not inspire much confidence, but once you dive into this concise book, you realize that Poker Joe is all business.
Sharper: A Guide to Modern Sports Betting is a useful book for seasoned bettors who already do their own handicapping and want to read changing betting lines more accurately. Poker Joe’s main interest is in helping bettors understand line movement. That is, when to jump on a bet before the line moves and expected value drops. He explains why line movements happen, which can help sharp bettors exploit over- and under-valued lines early on.
This book is heavy on math and probability, and anyone who considers themselves an advanced sports bettor will probably expect that. However, take that into consideration because Poker Joe moves quickly, and it’s easy to get lost. Reading this book with a pen and paper nearby is not a bad idea.
One of the many insights that will appeal to advanced bettors is Poker Joe’s evaluation of injury reports, a variable that even sharp bettors tend to get wrong.
Overall, this is a quick and insightful read for the sports bettor who wants to sharpen their game — and quickly.
Fun and Entertaining sports betting reads
Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, by Keith Law
ESPN reporter Keith Law wrote this book as a defense of the “new” stats (new in 2017, when the book was published) that baseball purists opine are ruining the game.
Law’s light but informative book stresses the importance of advanced analytics from a team’s perspective, but the logic holds true for bettors. Especially, for prop bettors and DFS players, the value in understanding a stat like a pitcher’s WAR (wins against replacement) as opposed to their win total comes in very handy.
Smart Baseball provides an all-around understanding of what Bill James called “advanced sabermetrics,” and, as mentioned above, it’s best suited for someone who bristles against these changes to the game.
So, if you’ve got a parent, grandparent, older aunt or uncle, or anyone who thinks baseball is going down the toilet and also likes to bet on sports, this book is perfect for them.
Dueling with Kings: High Stakes, Killer Sharks, and the Get-Rich Promise of Daily Fantasy Sports, by Daniel Barbarisi
Dueling with Kings presents a wild history of DraftKings and FanDuel, the top two Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operators who have now become the top online sports betting operators in the country. It’s written from the perspective of a sports writer who gave up his desk job to become a fantasy sports shark.
Barbarisi’s book offers his personal journey into the DFS world where “sharks” with advanced algorithms and six-figure bets troll the fantasy sports waters picking off all the little fish playing DFS for fun.
He looks at the bitter rivalry between FanDuel and DraftKings, some of the dubious moves they made to get to the top, and tells a fascinating story of the two operators and the vicious industry they created.
While tangentially related to sports betting, it’s a good read for anyone interested in understanding what events shaped the current landscape of online sports betting.
Then One Day…40 Years of Bookmaking in Nevada, by Chris Andrews
Told by a man who grew up under a Pittsburgh wiseguy and started sports betting in fifth grade, Then One Day gives a first-person account of sports betting in Nevada.
Andrews relates a series of stories of sports betting’s early days in Nevada, mostly told during his time at the Cal Neva Room in Reno. These stories follow high rollers, celebrities, lackeys, small time crooks, big winners, and big losers, all providing insight into the schemes and machinations of both bettors and bookmakers.
Andrews tells the story informally, sometimes crassly, with a few obscenities thrown in for seasoning, and that all feels very natural for a book about Vegas in the 70s. What the book would definitely benefit from though is an index. He covers so much ground that names start to swim together in your mind and it’s easy to lose track. That, however, may be an apt metaphor for what running a sportsbook in Nevada was like back then.