There must be something intrinsic to the human condition that drives us to gamble. Wherever in the world one goes, the folks there will always find something to bet on, some way to make a wager. The languages, the buildings, the customs, even the games may change, but urges are unchanged. At some level we all can feel a primal need to put something of value at risk in order to obtain some reward. In The Gambler’s Guide to the World, gambling fiend Jesse May travels the globe exploring each corner’s casinos and the people who inhabit them.
May doesn’t actually cover the whole world, of course. But he does experience a great deal of it. He divides his attention into five regions, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Russia, and the United States. May is not content to observe these places. He made sure he actually experienced most everything he reports in his book. Therefore, his reports don’t read like an amalgamation of a bunch of travel brochures. When May says the mixed grill at the Coconut Bay Beach Club on Curacao is good food at a good price, it’s safe to assume that this is because the author has sampled it himself.
While this personal touch is nice, it does have some drawbacks. No person on a reasonable budget and schedule can truly be sure what the best item on a restaurant’s menu might be, even if that weren’t horribly subjective, much less come to understand everything valuable there is to know about a region. This is a (one) personal account, and at least as much a story as a travel guide. Therefore, it’s depth of field is necessarily limited, so it won’t be putting the folks at Fodor’s out of business any time soon. This book should be viewed more as a bunch of friendly, but expert, advice rather than a comprehensive travel guide.
Overall, I liked what I read, but I found the regional reports to be uneven. I liked May’s reports on greater Latin America and Moscow. They were both entertaining and revealing. If I were going to travel to those places, I’d definitely want to at least reread the appropriate sections if I didn’t bring the book along. However, I would have liked to have heard about at least one other destination in Russia besides Moscow, the descriptions of his European escapades seemed comparatively dull and perhaps a bit too poker-centric for much of May’s audience, and there are already a number of good travel guides to Atlantic City and Las Vegas, so I would have rather been able to read about the gambling in Australia, South East Asia, or South Africa than these more familiar places. However, a book advance only goes so far.
May told me a great deal about Atlantic City. It’s clear that he really knows this ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล place, and I’d be likely to take his advice to heart. He has a tougher job in describing Las Vegas, arguably one of the hardest towns to evaluate comprehensively in 70 pages in the entire world, and the only locale I know well enough to feel qualified to debate with Mr. May. While he does a good job identifying many undiscovered gems in this treasure trove, like the sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton, I think he really misses on a lot of them. I’m sorry, but whether one is interested in fine dining, or superb values, in my travel guide the California Pizza Kitchen in the Mirage doesn’t warrant a mention.
If you’re traveling to Central America, South America, the Caribbean or Moscow and are thinking about doing some gambling there, definitely pick this book up. If you enjoy reading about someone else’s exotic adventures, are thinking about a poker tour of Europe, or want a Casino Guide to Atlantic City, this book won’t disappoint.