As someone who has had over 15,000 hours of experience gambling, thinking about gambling, reading about gambling, and writing about gambling, I think I’ve got a good handle on what is and isn’t successful at the tables.
In this post, I offer you seven random observations that I hope will be useful to any gambler at any level of experience. Keep reading below to learn more about becoming a successful player at the casino and keeping your bankroll afloat.
1 – The Importance of Referees in Gambling
In Bob Dancer’s Million Dollar Video Poker, he talks about a thought experiment. He suggests that you can imagine playing in a three-on-three basketball game where you call your own fouls. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it?
In fact, it probably happens on playgrounds throughout the country on a regular basis.
But what if you put $500 on the outcome of the game and see what happens with the call-your-own-fouls strategy? Do you think you’ll have more frequent arguments? Will those arguments be more heated?
You bet they will.
When you’re gambling in Las Vegas and have a dispute with a casino, you have somewhere to turn in the event of a disagreement. You can take your grievances to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
But if you’re gambling at a tribal casino in Oklahoma, the overseeing authority is the tribal council.
If you’re gambling at an offshore casino that’s licensed out of Costa Rica, you’ll turn to the gambling commission there. Which do you feel like the fairest referee is going to be?
I’m probably going to choose the Nevada Gaming Control Board, but you might be more trusting of the other two referees I mentioned than I am.
2 – It Takes More Than Knowledge to Win at Gambling
I can explain how to count cards in blackjack in fewer than 1,000 words. I might even be able to pull it off in 500 words. I write clearly, so if you read well, you’ll “know” how to count cards.
But that knowledge alone won’t make you a winning blackjack player. There’s just more to it than that.
For one thing, if you want to win at gambling, you need a bankroll. Without a big enough bankroll, the size of your edge doesn’t matter. You still stand a chance of going broke because of the random nature of the endeavor.
And your bankroll is just the tip of the iceberg. You also need enough skill and self-discipline to do the right things repeatedly in your quest to win at gambling. That’s harder than most people realize.
You can find gamblers who are good at math who could solve any probability problem they’re confronted with, and they’re still losing players. Alcoholism and drug addiction can prevent you from being a net winner as a gambler. Just ask Stu Ungar.
3 – Every Hand’s a Winner, and Every Hand’s a Loser
That’s from a Kenny Rogers song, but its meaning runs deeper than most people think.
For one thing, it means that if you play your poker hand correctly, it will win in the long run—or at least lose so little that you’ll be profitable overall. Deuce-seven offsuit is a winner if you fold it, but it’s also a winner if you know exactly when to bluff with it.
But the Other Meaning Is This:
Every gambler wins some of the time. And every gambler loses some of the time. It doesn’t matter how good or bad at your chosen gambling endeavor you are, either. That’s the nature of random chance. Even lottery players occasionally win a few bucks, even though they’re facing some of the worst odds in gambling.
Everyone also sees their share of winning streaks and losing streaks. It’s how you respond to these streaks that matter. Many people make a lot of bad decisions when they go on a losing streak. Imagine the poker player who goes on tilt when he’s losing and starts betting and raising with everything.
He’s turning a losing situation into a bigger losing situation.
If you want to gamble, you must learn to live with losing streaks and with winning streaks. It’s easier and more fun to learn to live with the winning streaks, naturally, but you’re going to deal with both over the lifetime of your gambling career. It’s inevitable.
4 – The Importance of Having a Bankroll Can’t Be Understated
Even if you’re a strictly recreational gambler, it’s important to have a big bankroll. I’ve gone to Las Vegas with only $200 I could afford to play with gambling.
Can you guess how much fun that was? It’s more fun going to Vegas with $2,000 earmarked for gambling.
If you’re a professional gambler, guess what your tools are? They’re dollars.
And most professional gamblers at some point or another have a losing streak that’s big enough and lasts long enough that they have to go out and get a job, even if it’s only temporarily.
If that’s you, don’t stress out about it. Work your job, rebuild your bankroll, keep studying your game of choice, and get ready to get back into action when you have rebuilt your bankroll.
5 – Gambling Is Easier and More Fun When You Don’t Have a Full-Time Job
Gambling is easier and more fun when you don’t have a full-time job.
If your hope is to gamble at high levels and win enough money to earn a living, you probably need to consider your gambling a job, too. It might start out as a part-time job, but eventually it should be your main endeavor.
Why Is This?
It’s simple. If you’re tired from your full-time job during the day, you’ll be less likely to make optimal decisions when you do get a chance to spend some time gambling.
It’s hard to be a world-class poker player while you’re spending your days working as a CPA, for example. That’s why Chris Moneymaker quit his job and started playing poker full-time once he won the World Series of Poker.
And let’s face it, gambling for a living is more fun than most nine-to-five jobs.
6 – It Takes an Understanding Partner If You Want to Gamble Seriously
It’s best to have a partner that’s supportive of your gambling endeavors. This includes anything like writing and publishing about gambling as well as any actual gambling habits.
You should consider a lot of factors when choosing a partner. And if you already have one, you should evaluate their attitude towards gambling. In a supportive relationship, you can both make decisions together, deciding how much you want to gamble and let the other person know how serious you want to be about it.
Long story short, if you’re a serious gambler, you need to consider having some serious talks before getting into a serious relationship. Gambling involves the use of money, which could very well affect your livelihood if you aren’t managing it correctly. This could easily affect your relationships.
7 – A Lot of Gamblers Neglect Their Health
Many, if not most, gamblers suffer from obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Such gamblers aren’t going to succeed. Pathological gambling issues ruin lives just as surely as compulsive alcohol or drug abuse. Sadly, it’s common for one to accompany the other.
In other words, if you’re an alcoholic or drug addict, you’re also likely to develop process addictions like gambling. Even relatively minor drugs as tobacco can and will shorten your life. Have you ever noticed how smoky the average casino is?
On top of that, all-you-can-eat buffets are common in casinos because overeating is common in casinos. Birds of a feather flock together. If you hang around in a barber shop long enough, you’ll usually eventually get a haircut.
Spend enough time with gamblers and you’re likely to develop some of the same unhealthy behaviors.
If you want to succeed, you’ll need to develop good habits to compensate for your new bad habits or to replace those bad habits. This means going to the gym or going outside to walk a few times a week. It means giving up alcohol, drugs, and tobacco in favor of bottled water, herbal supplements, and fresh air.
Being a successful gambler isn’t much different from being successful in any other area of life. Gambling seems different because of the adrenaline and the glitz, but there’s nothing so different about gambling that the rules of success vary.
Want to succeed as a gambler? Study a couple of good books about the game you’re trying to get an edge at. Read a book or two about developing good habits. Take care of the rest of your life like your health and finances with zeal.
And you’ll learn to succeed at gambling, too, if you have the temperament for it.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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