Here’s the truth about professional gamblers: They don’t gamble the way you do.
Not only are they more knowledgeable, more skilled, and more disciplined, but they consider things that wouldn’t even occur to the average recreational gambler, even the ones who are serious about winning more often.
Here are some of the things they do that you wouldn’t even think of.
1 – The Real Pros Think in Terms of Averages
The average recreational gambler might go play video poker over a weekend and think he’s doing really well by keeping a log of his play. He might know how many hours he played which game. He might even know his win amount or loss amount.
This kind of record-keeping is great, and most pros do this kind of record-keeping, too. It’s great for tax purposes, for example.
But professional gamblers are more interested in averages than they are in actual results.
Here’s an example: A professional blackjack player might go to a casino where he can play 50 hands per hour with a minimum bet of $10 per hand. He might average $20 per hand after accounting for the occasional bets he raised when the count was positive.
The average gambler would know that after four hours, he’d lost $200. The professional gambler would understand that his average winnings are 1% x 50 hands per hour x $20 per hand, or $10/hour. After four hours, he’d think of himself as being “up” $40 even though he’d lost $200.
This ability to think in terms of averages in addition to actual results is one of the differences between professional gamblers and skilled recreational gamblers.
2- Pro Video Poker Players Often Track “Scares:
If you’re dealt 3 or 4 cards to a royal flush, and you miss that royal flush by a card, this counts as a scare. Some video poker players also call these 80-percenters because you have 4 of the 5 cards you need to get your royal flush.
A real video poker pro knows that it takes an average of 47 scares to make a royal flush, so the value of a scare is 1/47 of the size of the jackpot. If you have a royal flush worth $1000, for example, each scare is worth an average of $20.
That video poker player might get 2 scares in a day. Instead of feeling like he’d lost and being frustrated, he just realizes that he’s “up” $40 and that much closer to his eventual royal flush.
Of course, he gets less excited when he gets his eventual royal flush. He doesn’t count it as $1000, either – he counts it as that $20 average.
This is a great mindset for keeping a cool head while you’re gambling and not getting rattled by wins or losses.
Recreational gamblers might track scares, too, for multiple reasons that don’t make sense to a pro. Some gamblers think that some video poker machines aren’t dealing a fair game, and by tracking scares, they can catch those machines and avoid them. This idea is so silly I won’t even refute it.
Other gamblers just enjoy complaining, and their complaints are more interesting if they can be more specific about it. You see this at the Texas hold’em tables all the time, too.
3- Pros Know How to Calculate the Value of a Progressive Jackpot
The size of a progressive jackpot on a slot machine doesn’t really matter much. You have no idea how likely or unlikely you are to hit it, so you never know when your expected value goes from negative to positive.
But when you’re dealing with a progressive jackpot on a video poker game, it’s a whole different ball game. You know the odds of getting a royal flush, so you can calculate at what point the expected value for the game goes from negative to positive.
And, since the average player sees a royal flush once every 40,000 hands, it’s not next to impossible to hit this jackpot. At 500 hands per, the average video poker player will get in 40,000 hands every 80 hours.
What a lot of video poker writers don’t tell you is that it’s easier to get an edge at a video poker game with a progressive jackpot than it is any other way. Just wait for the jackpot to hit the break-even point before playing. What is that break-even point?
It varies based on the game, but here are some break-even points:
- In 8/5 Jacks or Better, the break-even point is 8666 coins. On a quarter machine, this is $2166.50.
- In 9/7/5 Double Bonus Poker, the break-even point is 5763 coins, or $1440.75 on a quarter machine.
- In 8/5 Double Double Bonus Poker, the break-even point is 9515 coins, or $2378.75 on a quarter machine.
Obviously, if you’re playing on a dollar machine, the number of coins is the same as the number of dollars, but on a $5 machine, you’d multiply the number of coins by 5 to get the dollar amount.
4- Professional Gamblers Don’t Teach Others to Gamble
Most real professionals are eager to learn but reluctant to teach. I’ve read about gambling writers who’ve been approached – in person or via email – and told, “Hey, I appreciate you teaching me how to beat these games, but I wish you’d stop. The more people you teach, the tougher the casino games become.”
To an extent, this is true. Casinos put more countermeasures in place and use tougher rules when they want to thwart certain types of advantage players. The fewer people who take advantage of an opportunity, the longer that opportunity tends to last.
An average gambler who learns a technique for beating a game can’t wait to share what he’s learned.
Then you have people like me, who write blog posts about how to beat gambling games for a living.
5- Professional Gamblers Often Form Teams
It would never occur to most average gamblers to try to form a team. In fact, most average gamblers would be reluctant to share their winnings with other people even if it meant they got to share in the other gamblers’ winnings.
I was invited to join a poker team once, but the player who invited me to join wanted to cheat. His idea was to get 4 of us together and come up with some signals about what we had in our hands. He felt like collusion would get us a big edge against everyone else at the table. I declined.
The idea of cheating at the poker table is repellent to me. I don’t even cheat at casino games, and I sure don’t mind taking their money. Taking the money from other poker players doesn’t bother me if I’m beating them fair and square.
But I don’t want to win their money by cheating. Even advantage players who aren’t cheating often form teams, though. The MIT Blackjack Team is a notable example, of course.
Video poker teams are common, too. I wrote in my last point about the sizes of video poker progressive jackpots and how easy it is to get an edge.
I left out the most practical consideration of all. How hard is it to get a seat at one of these games when the break-even point gets hit?
As it turns out, there are professional video poker teams out there who wait for jackpots to get to a certain size on the progressive teams. When it does, they sit down at all the available machines. They have players who are there to take over when they’re ready to get up.
They occupy all the seats until the jackpot gets hit and the opportunity is gone.
6- Bigger Bankrolls than You’d Consider
Many recreational gamblers don’t give much thought to the size of their bankroll, nor should they. After all, if you’re playing with a disadvantage, you’d need an infinite bankroll to avoid going broke.
Some would-be professionals think about their bankrolls and put one together.
But they’re usually so eager to get into action that they gamble at higher stakes than their bankroll can actually afford. They also usually overestimate their own skill at the games they’re playing.
A true pro gambler has far more money in his bankroll than the average gambler would ever think is necessary.
7 – Most Gambling Pros Keep a Low Profile
Most professional gamblers want a fortune. They’d prefer to avoid the fame. You’ll see plenty of exceptions on the poker circuit, but you’ll find plenty of serious poker pros who aren’t interested in becoming poker celebs like Phil Hellmuth.
You can make money in poker in multiple ways, and one of those ways is by becoming famous enough that you earn money from endorsement deals with cardrooms and casinos. Some pros also get their fans to bankroll them so that they can play for bigger stakes than they could otherwise afford.
Some other gamblers must keep a low profile. Card counters, for example, can’t win if the casino knows who they are. So, they avoid publicity unless they publish a book.
And a lot of blackjack writers are writing under a pseudonym and don’t include author photos in their books. Stanford Wong isn’t his real name, folks. I think it’s John Ferguson. He’s not even Asian. But if he were really counting on blackjack to make his living, I wouldn’t know his real name, and neither would anyone else.
Professional gamblers do things and think about things dramatically differently from the way you and I do. Most people don’t have the temperament to go pro, but if you do, be prepared to learn how to think differently and take different actions.
If you don’t, you have little chance of success.