It seems like being a casino advantage player would be the perfect life.
You figure out a way or ways to beat the casinos and make a living gambling. What could be better?
It might sound glamorous and look good from the outside, but is it really as good as advertised?
You can find dozens of books and hundreds of articles about players who’ve been able to make money from the casinos. Many of them make it sound like a romantic way to live your life.
But the truth is that only a small percentage of players are good enough to do it and even the ones that are good at it view much closer to a job than playing games.
Most of the advice and information you read about advantage play is telling you how to do it or why you should do it. I’ve decided to show you some of the things you should know about the other side of the business of advantage play.
Here are 7 reasons not to be an advantage casino player.
1 – The Travel
When you’re living depends on finding casino games you can beat you have to play where the best games are located. You might be able to play in Las Vegas for a while, but you might have to travel to Mississippi or Atlantic City or somewhere else in order to find profitable games.
And a profitable game today might not be profitable tomorrow. You’re always at the mercy of the changing landscape of the gambling world.
Professional advantage players fall into one of three categories. You can find some crossover, but most players are good at one thing. The three main categories are:
Depending on your definition, you might not include all three categories when you think about advantage play. But I include anyone who gambles for a living and can show a long term profit. All three of these categories have players who meet this definition.
The only one of the three that doesn’t need to travel to find the best opportunities is a sports bettor. And even they may need to do things in order to get enough money down on a game at the price they want.
Poker players can sometimes find long term profitable games in areas with lots of options like in Las Vegas or Los Angeles, but many of the best games aren’t in these cities. Some of the top professional players spend more time in private games around the globe than in poker rooms.
Casino players can learn to count cards well enough to show a long term edge in blackjack against the casinos or find dealers that show hole cards that can lead to profit in blackjack and other games. A few other techniques can be found, learned, and exploited, like shuffle tracking and edge sorting, but the all have similar problems.
The casinos try to find advantage players and keep them from playing.
Casinos can outright ban the players and / or find out what they’re doing and put measures into place to eliminate the advantage.
This means that card counters can’t play in the same place for too long before the casino figures out what they’re doing. So they have to play short stints and change casinos frequently. This leads to extensive travel.
If you know how to do it you can learn how to spot hole cards dealt by sloppy dealers. These dealers are rare, so you have to play in many casinos to find them. And if the casino figures out a dealer is flashing cards they instantly correct the dealer procedure or fire the dealer.
The bottom line is that most advantage players need to travel a great deal of the time to find profitable games. This takes a toll both physically and mentally, so it’s a definite reason to think twice about becoming a professional advantage player.
2 – The Grind
Even the best advantage players operate with a small edge. This means the must grind out a living over time.
When you have to play many hours for a small consistent profit it’s almost the same as having a job. Think of the similarity between working a job at $20 an hour and playing casino games or poker where you make $20 an hour.
It might seem like gambling is a better and more fun way to make the same amount of money, but when you gamble the rewards aren’t consistent. Some days you might still lose money and these streaks can last for a week or longer.
At least when you work a regular job the money is consistent.
If you play blackjack and count cards the best you can hope for is a profit range of a half a percent to 1%. And even with this you can’t simply sit and play the same place for hours or days straight.
If you can manage to make your average bet $100 and make 100 bets per hour you wager $10,000 per hour. At a half percent edge you win $50 on average per hour.
This sounds pretty good, but the swings can be large like I mentioned above. Some days will be profitable but others will still be losers.
In addition, you might only be able to play an hour or two at one casino before needing to play somewhere else. It eats up your playing time every time you need to move.
The other problem is if your average bet is $100 per hand the pit and surveillance will watch you much closer than a $25 player. This makes it harder to get away with counting cards for long.
If your average bet is only $25, your average hourly profit in the example above is only $12.50.
But what if you’re a good poker player and don’t have to worry about the casino kicking you out?
This depends on how good you really are and how much you can consistently win an hour. But if you can make $10 an hour playing poker, which very few players are good enough to do, you have to play 50 hours a week to make $500.
Even if you can make $20 an hour you have to play 50 hours a week to make $1,000 a week.
Don’t make the assumption you’re good enough to make more than $20 an hour without a long track record of success. The truth is only a small percentage of poker players are good enough to make this much money.
So if you have to play 50 to 80 hours a week to make enough money, is poker going to be fun anymore?
Grinding out a living playing poker may sound like fun if you’re currently playing 10 or 20 hours a week, but if you’re suddenly forced to play three or four times that long it quickly becomes as bad or worse than a job.
3 – The Swings
I’ve already mentioned the swings a couple times, but they’re so important that they deserve their own section.
Even the best advantage players have losing playing sessions and streaks. When you’re working with a mall edge the nature of gambling is that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
The mathematical facts that run casino games are such that even players without an edge can win or lose any decision.
This creates a situation where you may be forced to play through a downswing in your bankroll or several hundred or thousands before things turn your way.
This requires a large bankroll and also stands to have a serious impact on your mental state. Can you keep playing the best way even if you seem to be consistently losing?
It’s great when a positive swing hits but negative swings have killed the hopes and dream of many advantage players.
The stress of a losing streak can make you start making poor decisions and question everything you do. The only way to combat this is to completely understand the numbers, be 100% sure your systems works, and have a big enough bankroll to ride out the swings.
You also need to be able to keep enough of your profits in reserve when you have a good run to help cover when you have a down swing.
Once you have a large enough bankroll, and you should never start playing without an adequate bankroll, the rest is a matter of mental toughness.
It’s easy to think you’re tough enough mentally, but when you’re down $10,000 and 800 miles from home things can look quite dark.
Advantage play isn’t for the faint of heart.
4 – Hiding in Plain Sight
If you play poker you don’t usually need to worry about the poker room or casino barring you from playing as long as you don’t cause trouble.
But if you’re a profitable sports bettor or a casino advantage player you need to stay under the radar. If you don’t the sports book or casino will limit your play or refuse to let you play.
Sports books are in the business of making money so they try to identify the few people who can beat them and restrict their wagers. They may refuse to accept your bets or put a cap on the maximum you can lay down on a game or contest.
Most sports bettors can’t do better than 50% in the long run so the books lock in a profit with the vig. But if you’re good enough you can win enough to cover the vig and show a profit.
When this happens you reach a point where you need to be able to get large sums down on games where you have an edge. But the sports books don’t want sharp sports bettors to lay down much money.
To combat this you may need to place bets at many different sports books. You also may need to do this in order to find and take advantage of the best lines.
This can quickly become a problem because you can only travel to so many different sports books. One way that large bettors and betting syndicates get around this is by having others place bets for them.
This practice is illegal in many places, so be careful if you decide to go this route.
Even if you can spread our bets around it can quickly become a tracking an execution nightmare.
If you’re a winning sports bettor you need to figure out a way to do it without the books knowing how good you really are. This means trying to hide in plain sight.
Card counters and other casino advantage players often have an even rougher time of avoiding detection.
Casinos use face recognition software and share information about advantage players. The casinos don’t want to let you play if you can beat them, which keeps them on the lookout for advantage player all of the time.
This is the main reason you need to move around often and only play short sessions.
Many advantage players have tried to use disguises and change their appearance from time to time. The problem is if you’re a great card counter it’s hard to hide from the casinos.
They know what to watch for with betting patterns and player behavior and many casinos have computer programs that can evaluate a certain player’s actions to tell if they’re counting cards.
Card counters have to make large bets when the deck is in their favor, so unless you can back count or use a team counting system it’s hard to avoid detection for long.
Casinos have eliminated back counting in some areas by restricting mid shoe entry into a games.
Blackjack teams can still be profitable if they’re run by a smart leader and have smart players, but it’s getting harder and harder all of the time to run a team for long.
5 – Stress
Stress has been mentioned in earlier sections, but the life of an advantage player is more stressful than fun.
You’re constantly battling to maintain an edge while dealing with travel, the swings, and bankroll issues. You’re always looking for the next opportunity and game and trying to hide from the casinos.
Not many people are cut out for this type of constant stress. It’s often less stressful to work a regular job for money and simply gamble for fun when you’re off of work.
Stress can kill you, or create health and mental issues that are hard to deal with. Stress can lead to alcohol and drug abuse and lead you to poor decisions. The truth is that nothing about stress is good.
Unless you can find a healthy way to deal with it the odds of becoming and staying an advantage player for long are against you.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be an advantage player, but you must be prepared for the stress.
But if you don’t deal well with stress now it’s just another reason not to be an advantage player.
6 – Being an Advantage Player is Hard
The main reason the world doesn’t have many advantage players is because it’s hard.
It’s hard to learn how to play poker well enough to beat the game and continually find games that are profitable. Your learning never stops because you have to constantly adjust as your game improves and the games of your opponents changes.
Sports’ betting also requires a great deal of study and trial and error. You must constantly be working on building new systems and models and tweaking your old ones. The sports books do a good job of finding holes in their lines and fixing them.
If you beat them they might start tracking your bets to learn what you know, and figure out how to adjust the lines to close your profit opportunities.
You also need to become and stay an expert on the sports you bet on which takes a great deal of time.
Some pari-mutuel betting opportunities are available in the horse and dog racing world, which require constant study of the animals and trainers. You almost need to be present wherever the track is in order to have a hope for a long term edge.
And the track takes a percentage of the total wager pool, kind of like rake in a poker game, so you have to be able to beat the percentage and get enough bets down without moving the odds so much that you lose your profit.
If you play blackjack you have to learn perfect strategy and then learn how to count cards perfectly in a casino. The process isn’t overly hard if you work at it, but playing for money live in a casino can be difficult.
Players who can see hole cards from certain dealers have to practice seeing and identifying a card in a split second and be able to use the information to their advantage without being obvious. And finding and keeping track of sloppy dealers is also difficult.
Figuring out how to be an advantage player is hard, and when you add the fact that you have to be able to do it consistently and not get caught, it’s simply too hard for most people.
7 – No Friends and No Family
While it’s possible to have a family and be an advantage player, it tends to put a great deal of stress on your relationships.
You’ll work odd hours and travel more than most people. Unless your spouse understands and fully supports your work it can quickly lead to problems.
You also end up missing important events in your children’s lives. If a profitable game is running you can’t afford to leave in the middle for a recital or ball game.
Of course many successful business people have the same problems, but most people in your life won’t consider gambling for a living a business, or even a job. Most people will think you play games for a living, and you’ll get judged for being gone all of the time.
You’ll also have a difficult time having many friends. You spend time with some of the same people while you’re working, but the truth is that most of them aren’t more than acquaintances.
When you find a profitable situation you need to take maximum advantage of it which means that you probably don’t want to tell anyone else about it. Being an advantage player often creates a feeling of isolation because everyone you spend time with is trying to find profitable opportunities as well.
This can also lead to paranoia in extreme cases, which is yet another reason advantage play isn’t for everyone.
If you have friends outside of gambling most of them won’t understand what you do. Or even worse, they’ll try to get you to teach them how to do what you do.
You can handle these situations however you think is best, but most of the time it ends poorly. So before you try to help a good friend consider if it’s worth the chance of damaging the friendship.
One way to deal with this is never teach anyone how to be an advantage player unless they pay for your expertise. This makes it a business transaction and usually makes them more likely to follow your advice.
If you have dreams of being a professional advantage player don’t let me stop you. But you need to understand the 7 reasons not to be an advantage casino player so you’re prepared for the bad things that come with it.
You need to make a serious comparison between working a regular job for a living with the downsides of advantage play. For most people, working a regular job and gambling when they’re off offers a more fulfilling life.
Only you can decide what’s best for you. Now you possess enough information to make an educated decision.
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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