Gambling Wizards – Conversations with the World’s Greatest Gamblers by Richard Munchkin

The following is a small excerpt from:

Gambling Wizards – Conversations with the World’s Greatest Gamblers
by Richard Munchkin

For those of you who didn’t know, Richard Munchkin is the brother of backgammon player and author Jake Jacobs.  Who has penned many backgammon books, but is also the author of a great fiction book, The Battered Butterfly.

In Gambling Wizards, Munchkin interviews gamblers from several disciplines.  Interviewees are Billy Walters, Chip Reese, Tommy Hyland, Mike Svobodny (BG!), Stan Tomchin, Cathy Hulbert, Alan Woods and Doyle Brunson.  There’s something for everybody in this book and all of it is entertaining and informative.

From Chapter 2 – Chip Reese (He is speaking of Nick Vachiano, poker and pool player).

The only downside he (Vachiano) had was that when he was winning, he was a hit-and-run guy.  He’s win a little bit and if he lost, he would go for a number (take a big loss).  Most of the time he won, because usually, during the course of a session you get ahead a little bit.  So he booked a lot of winners and very few losers, but when he did book a loser it was a big one.

I remember one time we were playing $300-$600 (seven card stud) at the Flamingo and Nick was losing about $40,000. …The game had been going on a long time and I quit,  There were a couple of other guys who didn’t want to play short-handed, so the game was going to break up.  Nick says, “Hold it.”  …He gets up and takes me to the cage.  He goes to his safe deposit box, and he’s got a big box.  I only had a little safety deposit box – I had about $300,000 in it and I was proud as hell….He opens this big box and he probably had a million dollars in it.  He says, “See this here.  You know me.  I always win and I leave.  This is the only time you get a shot at this money – when I’m going off (losing and steaming).”  He says, “Are you sure you want to quit?”  You can tell when a guy is in heat from gambling.  I smiled and said, “You’re right.  Let’s go back and play.”  He went off for about $200,000 in that game.  He talked me into staying and winning a bunch of money.

You can get Gambling Wizards from Flint’s Carol Cole here Flint Backgammon Boutique  or any online bookstore.

Bold Building Blocks Escape To Produce a Crucial Victory – Paul Magriel

(This article appeared on May 10, 1979.
Back when Peaches and Herb topped the charts with Reunited, Woody Allen rocked the box office with Manhattan,
and backgammon had a weekly column in the the New York Times!)

by Paul Magriel

The American Stock Exchange Annual Tournament under the direction of Susan Bender was completed recently after several months of elimination rounds.  First place went to 25-year-old Michael Rosenberg, a talented young Scotsman from Glasgow, who took up backgammon seriously just a year ago when he moved to New York City.  A natural games player, he had previously gained international recognition as a bridge expert and member of the British Bridge Team.  The runner-up was Charles Silverman, semi-finalists were Robin Katz and Mel Weiss.

The diagrammed position illustrates a critical situation that arose in the 21-point finals between Rosenberg (Black) and Silverman (Red).  Many of their co-workers on the Amex watched as the lead changed hands several times in this hard fought contest.  Finally, after more than 4 hours and 20 games, the score was tied 19-19.  In the next game, Black built an early lead and doubled.  Red accepted and later the position shown in the diagram was reached.  The outcome of the match now depended on the next few rolls.


Black has a definite advantage, despite Red’s lead in the race.  Red’s home board has deteriorated and, of greater importance, Red has a man stuck in Black’s home board.  This man sits on the 2-point behind Black’s broken 5-point prime but is able to run out with a 5.  To win the game, Black must contain this last man.

With the roll of 4-1, Black’s immediate concern is to deploy his men in the outfield in order to get the best possible coverage to hit Red if he leaps out.  Black, however, must plan ahead and consider how to permanently prevent Red from escaping – as long as Red is sitting unmolested on the 2-point, he will constantly threated to run out.  One method is to prepare to attack Red and close him out.  To implement this plan, Black can bring a builder into his home board, 11/6 to hit Red later.  Another game plan to prevent Red from escaping permanently is to form a full 6-point prime.  Accordingly, Black might consider playing 14/10, 11/10 in order to keep all his men in the outfield as builders for the bar point (7 point).

After much thought, Rosenberg rejected both these plays.  Instead, he boldly and correctly played 11/7, 8/7 making the bar point, but leaving a blot on the 8-point exposed to a direct 6-shot by Red.  Rather than wait and give Red chances to escape, Black goes directly for the prime, and so forces the issue at once.  If Red fails to roll a 6 immediately, Black will then be a strong favorite (29 combinations out of 36) to cover the 8-point thus ending Red’s chances.  Further, even if Red rolls the 6 and hits Black, Black may still re-enter and hit Red back.  In the actual game, Rosenberg’s play succeeded.  Silverman failed to throw the needed 6.  Rosenberg covered next roll and easily went on to win.