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Gambling fans should bookmark these websites

| Sunday, March 26, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Maybe you need to check a fine point of blackjack strategy or scout video poker options for an out-of-state trip. You might want to find gamblers' description of what specific casinos offer or travel vicariously through other players' trip reports.

Perhaps you have a gambling question that nobody's been able to answer fully. Or you just want to keep up with news from the casino world because all that D.C. infighting is tiresome.

Fear not. If you like reading and talking about gambling – and I bet that describes most Player's Advantage fans – you have plenty of options online.

As a fan of casino gambling since before the birth of the worldwide web, I've checked out scores of gambling-related websites over the years. A few stand out because of the quality of information they provide. Here's a guide to my favorites:

An original: Las Vegas Advisor, the brainchild of Blackjack Hall of Fame member Anthony Curtis, started in 1983 as a monthly newsletter, focusing on all things Vegas for people looking to get the most from Sin City through smart gambling and cut-rate deals. The recently updated website, www.lasvegasadvisor.com, features an encyclopedic guide to any type of Las Vegas offering, including 27 restaurant categories plus details on casino buffets; a rundown of shows and concerts; and blogs by gambling experts including Jean Scott, James Grosjean and Bob Dancer. A subscription, which costs $37 or $50 a year, gets you the monthly newsletter either online or hard copy, plus an annual Las Vegas coupon book that can easily cover the subscription cost and access to online forums.

Playing strategy and advice: Two sites stand out for their breadth and expertise: www.wizardofodds.com, started in 1997 by former Social Security actuary and current adjunct professor of casino math Michael Shackleford; and www.888casino.com/blog, operated by the world's largest online gaming venue. Shackleford sold his site in 2014 but remains the main content supplier. WizardOfOdds offers the best strategies for virtually every casino game, from Alphabetic Roulette, in which letters replace numbers, to a blackjack variant called Zappit. The free site includes odds calculators that account for rule variations in blackjack and other games. The 888 blog, also free to all, is relatively new but boasts an impressive lineup, including Henry Tamburin's “Ultimate Blackjack Guide” and the AP Heat blog by gambling mathematician Eliot Jacobson, which analyzes ways that advantage players can attack a variety of games. The content gets updated frequently. Honorable mentions in this category go to www.wizardofvegas.com, also started by Shackleford, which focuses on Las Vegas and has lively, informative forums; and to www.vegasclick.com, operated by former professional gambler and slot mathematician Michael Bluejay, who worked with Shackleford for 10 years. Bluejay's easy-to-follow explanation of how slot machines work is eye-opening.

Casino news: Players and casino industry insiders can keep on top of developments through www.cdcgamingreports.com, which provides news stories and analysis by its own writers and aggregates reports from publications throughout the United States. For a scholarly approach, check out the Center for Gaming Research site, gaming.unlv.edu, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to a section on casino math, the Center collects casino revenue figures from across the country, offers podcasts and publishes research papers such as “Of the Rat Pack, Ashtrays, Cocktail Napkins and Grateful Losers: The Making of the Las Vegas Experience as a Historical Process in the 20th Century” and “Elvis Who? Understanding, Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Las Vegas Customers.”

Specialty sites: Blackjack aficionados should check out www.bjinsider.com, a monthly ezine compiled by author Henry Tamburin ($19.95 per year) or www.bj21.com, founded by famed player and author Stanford Wong (much of the site is free, but portions require subscription). Video poker fans should be familiar with www.vpfree2.com, which provides strategies for most games and grades the offerings at casinos throughout the country. Many poker players enjoy the forums at www.twoplustwo.com. And, of course, all Player's Advantage fans should frequent this site: www.triblive.com/aande/gambling.

Any list of favorites is sure to overlook sites that should have been included if I had the space or knew more about them. If you'd like to suggest additions or quibble with my choices, email me at playersadva@outlook.com

Mark Gruetze is the Tribune-Review's gambling columnist and has written for three sites mentioned in this column: BJInsider, 888 blog and CDC Gaming Reports. Reach him at PlayersAdv@outlook.com

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