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Best of John Grochowski

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A Shuffle through the Gaming Mailbag

2 October 2002

Q. I know that making a living as a professional gambler is risky and probably foolish. Assuming that I wanted to do it, however, please let me know if this makes sense:

  • I have set a pre-tax yearly salary objective (I will pay taxes, of course).
  • Since I don't want to work every day, I have set a target of number of days to be worked during the year.
  • I believe a great deal of discipline is necessary; therefore, I have come up with a pre-tax objective daily target. The idea is to make this target and leave for the day. I don't believe staying, even while winning, is disciplined because eventually all monies will go back to the house. For this example, this is $400 per day. This is a profit objective; therefore, I would stay ideally until I have $400 on top of my original bankroll.
  • Again, the longer one stays in the casino, the more likely that all monies, bankroll and profit, will be lost. Therefore, my strategy is to win money quickly and leave. I will divide my daily target into large chunks or wagers that ideally could be won in a short amount of time. Of course, "ideally" will be a struggle more than a reality. For this example, the chunk (or amount of each wager) equals $100.
  • Given this high wagering amount, I think a bankroll of eight times daily target, in this case approximately $3,000, is necessary, specifically to weather the bad times.
  • Of course, this strategy can be used with many casino games, but I think it would be best either with blackjack (with basic strategy) or craps. My game of choice is craps. Staying with a disciplined approach, my plan would be to place $100 pass/don't pass line wagers only--no odds, place bets, etc.
  • There would be a loss limit of twice the daily target. In this case, I walk if I lose $800 and come back another day.

Again, I know professional gambling is high-risk, but is this at least a step in the right direction as far as using an approach?

K., via e-mail

A. Let's not sugarcoat this. I can't stress strongly enough what a bad idea I think this is. You can't beat negative expectation games regularly enough to make a living at it.

Even games with relatively small house edges will grind you down in the long run. Those who make a living as professional gamblers master one of the few games that give the player a chance to gain a mathematical edge over the house--blackjack for card counters, video poker for those who play at expert level on a few select games, live poker, sports betting and horse betting. Even for the true experts, grinding out a profit is a long, tough haul, and it requires not only knowledge, skill and discipline, but a bankroll large enough to withstand the inevitable losses.

The bankroll that you suggest--$3,000 if your daily win goal is $400--is nowhere near large enough, even setting aside the problem that you are talking about playing games that spot a mathematical edge to the house. Eight consecutive losing sessions would wipe you out. If you're planning to play enough to make a living, streaks of eight consecutive losing sessions are not only possible, they're inevitable.

But bigger than the bankroll issue is that you are talking about trying to make a living playing the very games on which the casino makes its living. Guess who's going to win?

Craps and basic-strategy blackjack have narrow enough house edges that they're fun to play as recreation. We win sometimes, we lose a little more often. But play them professionally? The extreme likelihood is that you will lose money, not make a living.

Q. I'm a VERY occasional visitor to the casinos, but I really enjoy the craps tables.

The problem is, to successfully play craps at a table with a $5 or $10 minimum bet requires a pretty big bankroll. But craps is such a fun game, and I have a feeling if it weren't so expensive, more people might learn to play it. What are the chances that casinos might introduce a table with a smaller minimum bet? Could that conceivably draw more people to the game, who would then work their way up to the bigger tables?

J.H., via e-mail

A. I'd love to see more low-limit craps tables. I've had a blast playing dollar craps in Las Vegas. But in most newer gaming markets--and indeed at the most popular resorts in Las Vegas--casinos find they can fill their tables with $5 and up players. Make your suggestion to pit personnel whenever you play, and fill out customer comment cards to let casino executives know how you feel. Only casinos that feel market pressure will introduce lower minimum bets.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski