In a brief introduction to his old friend's new book, Go with the Odds (Macmillan, New York, $6.95), bridge expert Oswald Jacoby tells us that Charles Goren does not gamble, and the reason he does not gamble is that "he knows the odds." Once in his life, Jacoby goes on, Goren "bet $10 on a horse race—and that was a sentimental wager because the nag he backed was named after him."
Unfortunately the reader of Go with the Odds will never get to learn what happened to the horse named Charles Goren but he will find out what the other Goren thinks of a man's chances to win in most of the standard casino gambling games—craps, roulette, baccarat, 21, bingo—as well as in lotteries, slot machines, horse races, the numbers game, gin, poker and bridge.
Goren begins his odds-making with the question of motive. How badly do you want to win? How much can you afford to lose? It makes a difference. For example, if you shoot craps with rigorous and intelligent attention to the odds at a Las Vegas layout, you can reduce the chances against you to a mere 0.85% instead of 16.7%.
"If you play long enough," writes the expert in a gloomy phrase that seems to reduce everyone's chances at craps to absolute zero, "the casino must beat you no matter how you play. If you make the best bets at the dice table you figure to lose 85¢ on every $100 you bet. If you bet foolishly, you figure to lose $16.70 per $100."
Betting cautiously, however, is hard work, and that doesn't come easy to the gambling man. Since in the long run the odds are bound to catch up with him anyway, Goren's book is really a manual on how a gambler can make the best of a host of bad bargains. Its simpler axioms are familiar: make as few bets as possible (the fewer you make, the less the house or track odds will grind you down); bet heavily when playing with the house money, lightly when playing with your own; in horse racing bet to win. More recondite rules, such as how to get the best odds at craps or make sure bets ("Now, that's my kind of bet!" Goren observes parenthetically) at 21 are spelled out in complex but meticulous detail.
Go with the Odds is not an easy book to read—or to heed. It will certainly not command much attention from the hunch-players and it is not likely to take the place of the latest trusted dream book with the policy crowd. It does not seem destined to make anybody—save Goren—rich. But it is a fascinating study and if it doesn't teach you how to win, it will at least, as Jacoby says, teach you "how to lose the least...knowing you are nobody's sucker."