Chequers Book Reviews
The Professor, Michael Knapp

Delta Nights: N.O.L.A.: New Orleans & Louisiana Parishes Illegal Gambling Clubs Checks & Chips, Finstuen, Kleindeinst, Marshall & Marshall (1999)

110 pages, wire spiral bound, $29.95 (postage $3.50),
Marshall's Brocante, 8505 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78217

"Doc" Finstuen will be well known to most who read this review. His original research into illegal clubs and their chips, and his articles appearing in "Gaming Times" have added greatly to the hobby's literature. His professor's eye for detail and authoritative information-gathering, coupled with his sense of fun and good humor make his writing a pleasure. Al Kleindeinst and Louis and Beth Marshall are three of the most knowledgeable collectors of illegal club checks and chips from the South. Chances are, if one of them doesn't have a chip, it's not known to exist! Their collaborative effort, "Delta Nights: N.O.L.A." is a thorough and inclusive book for collectors of Louisiana chips.

Finstuen comments, "We tried to put it together so it would be 'the book we would have wanted to buy when we first started collecting illegal club chips and checks.'" Their goal has been achieved well!

The first section of the book consists of reprints of some of Doc's columns from "Gaming Times." The following section is a listing, by Parish and town, of the illegal clubs in the New Orleans area and their chips. "Delta Nights" uses the descriptive style and valuation codes of "The Chip Rack," so its information will be accessible and familiar to most collectors. After the text are ten pages of color photographs of the chips described. The chips are shown at about 20% actual size, so it's possible to get 50-60 chips on a page, with their hotstamps clearly visible.

Photocopies of pictures of some of the clubs, some of the figures and characters involved in Louisiana illegal gaming, matchbooks and advertisements follow, giving a flavor of the established nature of illegal casinos in New Orleans culture. Cross-indexes are included, as is a bibliography for further research and maps of the New Orleans area so collectors can determine where the clubs were in relation to each other and to the downtown area.

Research into the history and chips of illegal casinos during the 1920's-1960's in the U.S. is often difficult but always rewarding. By their very nature, it was not often advisable for illegal clubs to operate too openly, even if their existence was a well-known secret in some areas. Fortunately for collectors of New Orleans material, "Delta Nights: N.O.L.A." has done a lot of the work for them. If you collect illegal club chips, this book is a must-have!