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Feature Stories

All In And Letting It Roll

10 things you need to know

about professional gambling

Everyone loves to win. No one more so than gamblers. Anyone who has ever been on the plus side of a bet or game of chance will tell you there’s nothing like the pure adrenaline rush that comes from knowing money is going to find its way into your hands. Throw in the allure and glamor infused into the proceedings by films like Hard Eight, Oceans 11 or Casino. All of a sudden the idea of chucking the straight life and going all in for the life of a professional gambler sounds like the way to go.

According to Frank Scoblete, one of the world’s foremost authorities on gaming and casinos and the author of 30 books including Confessions of a Wayward Catholic and the forthcoming I Am a Card Counter: The Inside World of Advanced Blackjack, there’s far more to becoming a professional gambler than meets the eye. If you’re really serious about becoming a professional gambler, Scoblete says this is what you need to know.

1. Proper Games — “You have to choose games that can be beaten and where skill can overcome luck: blackjack with card counting. Craps with dice control. Video poker, full play machines with proper strategy, casino room poker and advantage play slots. Believe it or not, there are some slots out there that can be beaten. Those are the games you can beat in the casinos.”

2.  Skill Level — “You have to know how good you are and how to bet accordingly. So if you’re into blackjack and you know that you can keep an accurate count, know the mathematics behind that count and what you should bet based on that count, you do it. If you are not aware of how good you are, and you have to test yourself at home, then you can’t play. The bottom line is if you can’t do it, then you don’t play. It sounds easy to know your skill level, but it’s not because a lot of gamblers are wishful thinkers and they hope they can win. It doesn’t work that way. In the movies maybe people have luck but as a gambler, there’s no such thing as luck. You’re dealing with math.”

3. Rhythm — “You have to keep a normal rhythm every day. You can’t stay up for 25 hours playing. You get up at a normal time. You do your normal things: brush your teeth, have breakfast and if you work out, hit the gym. Schedule playing against the casino in a normal workday. So you might play for two or three hours in the morning, you might play a little bit in the afternoon and you might go home at night and watch a good movie. You can’t get caught up in the 24-hour rhythm of a casino. I don’t care how good you are, you will be destroyed. Fatigue will destroy you.

Think of a great heavyweight champion like Muhammed Ali. He could go 15 rounds. Let him go 300 rounds. How’s he going to be at the 300th round? He’s not going to be any good. The same is true with a gambler. You have to keep a normal human rhythm and not fall for the casino rhythm.”

4. Know Your Cost Of Living — “You have to schedule your monetary life the way any worker does. You have to know what your rent is and pay it on time. You have to pay your food bills. You have to live a normal life and part of that is budgeting for all of your living expenses and none of this fly-by-night kind of stuff. For most people, it’s impossible to be a professional gambler. It’s a very tough lifestyle.”

5. Bankroll — “You have to have a big bankroll. The ratio is1,000 to one. For every $100 you bet, you have to have 10 grand in the bank. Let me tell you something, it is a lot of money but when the bad times come, you get hammered and hammered. I know this guy who had one hour at a casino where he lost $12,000 at blackjack. Now if he only had $20,000 in his bankroll, it would have been a devastating experience. But he told me that he had something like $120,000, so he only lost 10 percent. And if you have five times as much, you’re really not talking about anything that’s going to want to make you kill yourself. Now that’s economics. You need a big bankroll, small bet.”

6. Chasing — “You don’t want to chase the losses. If you’ve had a bad day, that’s it. The day is over. You start again tomorrow. You don’t think that you have to make up for what you lost yesterday by increasing your betting. Yesterday is dead. Today is a new day. You play today. Many gamblers have been destroyed because they chase their money. They lost, they double up, they play longer hoping to get it back. You cannot do that. That would be another thing that destroys you. So you can’t chase losses.”

7. It’s Work, Not Fun — “I’ve gotta tell you, I enjoy going out to dinner while I’m in Atlantic City and Vegas. I enjoy swimming. Yesterday my partner and I hit every casino in Atlantic City and played just one hand of blackjack for fun. We hit every casino just for something to do and to have a fun time. But actually going into a casino to win money consistently is work. It’s a grind. It is not fun. It’s fun in the movies and when people talk about it. But to actually do it and to actually be good is not fun at all.”

8. Variance — “In every game there are ups and downs in playing. It doesn’t matter how good you are. If you’re a fighter and you’re the greatest fighter that ever lived, you’re still going to get punched in the face. There’s no way out of it. I once went 72 straight times with the dice. That means I got them, rolled and sevened out without winning anything. Now that’s a down. You can’t allow the downs to destroy you because if your skill is there, ultimately the ups come and you will overcome the downs and win money. That’s called variance. Things will vary. And you can’t allow yourself to let the downs destroy you.”

9. Know Your Opponents — “If you’re in a contest with other players, and this would apply to casino poker, you don’t have to be the best player at the table. You have to know which players at the table are worse than you. Those are the people that you’re going after. Know your opponent. And don’t bluff because poor players can’t be bluffed out of a hand, because they’re too stupid to know that you might have a good or bad hand. They’re just playing as if they’re in a movie. Now if you’re with the best, best players in the world, on rare occasions you might be able to get away with a bluff. But in regular casino poker, even if you’re a pro, don’t bluff.”

10. Don’t Do It — “Don’t even think about being a professional gambler. Learn how to beat the games. That can be done and use it as an avocation.     E njoy the fact that you can beat them. You will win money. My wife and I in the ’90s sent our kids to private high schools and college. We bought a house and a car. You will win money. But if you do this full-time, it’s not a pleasant lifestyle. It really is not. So work a regular job and hopefully your job contributes something to society and just use the gambling as an avocation to make a little extra money.”

Frank Scoblete is a published author, columnist and expert on gaming and casino culture. He’s is a frequent speaker on the subject and teaches seminars on card counting and dice control You can learn more about him at goldentouchcraps.com or frankscoblete.com