Most people, when they gamble, are gambling with a mathematical disadvantage. The odds are against them in the long run. Where that disadvantage comes from varies based on your gambling activity of choice.
And if you’re playing casino games, the disadvantage comes from the difference between the payout odds and the odds of winning the game. For example, in roulette, a bet on black pays off at even money, but you have a slightly lower than 50% probability of winning.
Expert gamblers, though, only place bets when they have a mathematical advantage. The techniques they use to get that mathematical edge are called advantage gambling techniques.
Some of them are harder than others, but most of these advantage gambling techniques are within the realm of possibility for the person of average intelligence who’s willing to put in the effort to learn them.
Here are my favorite expert gambling techniques worth trying.
Expert Poker Play
Possibly the easiest way to get an edge when gambling is to play poker at an expert level. Everyone knows that poker is a game of skill.
They only put money in the pot when they have a mathematical edge.
Think about it this way. If you played in a poker game with no rake, like a home game, with eight other players, you’d break even in the long run if all the players were of the same skill level as you.
But if you played in a game where you’re twice as skilled as all those other eight players, you’d show a long-term profit.
Card Counting in Blackjack
Generally, blackjack has a house edge of about 2.5%—at least the way most people play. If you learn and master basic strategy, though, you can cut that edge to between 0.5% and 1%.
Basic strategy is just the mathematically correct play in every possible blackjack situation.
But if the house still has an edge, even if it’s much lower than usual, you don’t have an edge. It’s only advantage gambling if you have an advantage over the other party, whether it’s the casino or the other player or whatever.
The most common way to get an edge over the casino is by counting cards in blackjack. The unique qualities of blackjack are what make it a game where you can gamble like an expert.
Here Are 2 Reasons Paying Attention Pays:
- You get paid off at 3 to 2 any time you get a two-card hand totaling 21
- The composition of the deck changes as the cards get dealt
Think about this:
The only way to get a blackjack, a two-card hand totaling 21, is to get an ace and a 10. If you took all the other cards out of the deck besides the aces and 10s, you’d wind up with a situation where you’re more likely to get a natural.
As hands of blackjack get played, these lower cards sometimes outnumber the higher cards disproportionately, and vice versa.
Another way to get an edge at blackjack is to see what the dealer’s hole card is. The dealer’s hole card is the face-down card.
If you’re using a mirror or some kind of device to spot that card, you’re cheating, and there’s a difference between cheating and advantage play.
But if the dealer is accidentally exposing her hole card, and you’re smart enough to spot that card and take advantage of it, then you’re just using the best available information to get an edge over the casino.
Hole carding is commonly used in blackjack, but it can also be used to get an edge at some other casino card games. Three Card Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker are also games where you can get an edge via hole carding.
Shuffle Tracking in Blackjack
Shuffle tracking is a technique where you track specific cards or runs of cards through the shuffling process. It’s mostly used in blackjack, although shuffle tracking also has applications in other casino card games.
It’s easier to use shuffle tracking in games with simple shuffling procedures. This makes shuffle tracking more effective in a game with 6 or 8 decks being dealt from a shoe. Ironically, when counting cards, you prefer fewer decks.
But shuffle tracking is also a way to enhance your existing card counting strategy. It’s also often used as a team technique. One player keeps count of a section of the deck, or a “zone.”
When you find a zone which has an advantage for the player—it’s rich in aces and 10s—you can change the size of your bets when cards are about to be dealt from that zone.
Expert Video Poker Play
One of the cool things about video poker is that you can calculate the expected return for a game based on the pay table.
This is what separates video poker from slot machines. You know the probability of getting a specific card in video poker, which is something you don’t know when you’re looking at symbols on a slot machine game.
This isn’t something the average person can do with a pencil and paper, though. Luckily, you don’t have to. Computer programmers and video poker experts have done the math for you already.
And even though there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of variations of video poker available, the number of pay tables are limited. The best pay tables, combined with the mathematically best decisions, combine to create a game with an expected return of over 100%.
By identifying and finding those games and playing them with perfect video poker strategy, you’re giving yourself an edge over the house.
Another technique for getting an edge over the casino is to find a game with a close to 100% payback percentage and only play when the rewards program is offering bigger payouts than normal. This additional 0.4% or so in rebates can turn a game with a 99.7% payback percentage into a game with an effective payback percentage of 100.4%.
Casinos and slot machine manufacturers can do the math on video poker pay tables, too, so they’re less likely to manufacture and install games where they don’t have an edge.
Some video poker games feature a progressive jackpot. Since the payback percentage for a video poker game (or a slot machine game) is a function of the payouts combined with the probability of achieving those payouts, you can calculate the size of the progressive jackpot needed to make a video poker game into a positive expectation game.
For example, if you’re playing 9/6 Jacks or Better, you’re playing a game with a 99.54% payback percentage. But if the jackpot for a royal flush grows over time, that number rises.
The payout for a royal flush is normally 800 for 1.
Once it grows to 976 for 1, the game becomes an even money proposition.
As the payout grows even larger, the game becomes a better deal for the player.
The breakeven points change as the rest of the pay table changes, too.
Most progressive Jacks or Better games have 8/5 pay tables instead of 9/6 pay tables. You need a much higher payout for that top jackpot to hit that break-even point—1733 for 1 instead of 976 for 1.
You probably already know that the house edge in craps is really low. When you combine the odds bet, the house edge gets smaller still. You wouldn’t need to be too accurate in terms of influencing the outcomes of the dice rolls to change the odds from being in the casino’s favor to being in your favor.
The problem is that I’ve seen no credible evidence that people can really use dice control in a casino setting. The casinos don’t seem too worried that their countermeasures in craps are being overcome by dice setting experts.
Compare their reaction (no reaction at all) to dice control with their reaction to counting cards.
Still, if you want to try this, you might be able to make some money at it. You’ll need to watch some videos and spend hours practicing in your basement or your garage.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a lot of trials before you can be confident that you’re actually succeeding, too. You also need to have ice water running through your veins.
Shooting dice in your basement with perfect control isn’t like shooting dice with perfect control in a casino. In the casino, you have a ton of distractions.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that even though these gambling techniques can get you a mathematical edge, none of them are easy.
Most of them are pretty tough, in fact.
But if you have the desire and the willingness to put in the work, you can certainly become an expert at gambling. I think your best option is to become a professional poker player, but you might have a different attitude and temperament than I have.
Which advantage gambling techniques looked easier and which looked hardest to you? Are you planning to try any of these for yourself?