Advantage Play Methods: Specialist vs Generalist Gambling

Casino Chips in a Pile, Poker Cards
In most areas of life, the more you specialize, the better off you are. For example, general doctors don’t make as much as those who pick a specific discipline. This leads many people to believe that the way to the top is to specialize in something. But many people fail to recognize there are plenty of people who don’t but still succeed.

Thinking about this in terms of advantage gambling, should you specialize in one thing or should you build well-rounded advantage play skills?

I’m a generalist advantage player, and I can completely understand the benefits of specializing, but I get bored if I specialize too much. So, I choose to look for advantage plays across a wide range of games and activities. You need to decide which path is best for you.

The best news is that you can start on one advantage play path and change later. Once you master one area of advantage play, it’s fairly easy to maintain your skills while adding a second area.

You don’t have to play 40 or 50 hours a week of blackjack or poker to maintain your edge. 10 to 20 hours of play is more than enough to stay sharp.

If I had to start over, I’d focus on mastering poker advantage play, then add blackjack card counting and sports betting after I started turning consistent poker profit. However, starting with blackjack and adding sports betting and poker would work just as well, so once again, your best path is up to you.

The Specialist Argument

The argument to specialize in one advantage play area is simple. You can dedicate all of your time and effort into one thing, so you can master it faster and go deeper into your studies.

If you do anything other than dedicate all of your attention to reading articles and books and practicing, it’s going to take longer to achieve your goal. The same is true for becoming an advantage sports bettor or poker player.

Let’s look at a practical example. While the time it takes to master an advantage play area varies by person and activity, let’s say that it takes 500 hours of study, practice, and play to become a master in one area.

Group of Men Surrounding Poker Table Playing Poker

And the truth is that, by dividing your attention, it’s probably going to take more than twice as long. While some people are capable of learning to master two things at the same time without hurting their performance, most people do lose some time when trying to do so.

By focusing all of your time and energy on one thing before trying to master something else, you give yourself the best chance to succeed.

Once you master one advantage play area, the next question is whether you should stick with it or add a second or third advantage play area.

  • Blackjack advantage players usually start with mastering card counting, then look to add other advantage play blackjack methods like hole carding, ace tracking, and shuffle tracking.
  • Poker players that master Texas holdem gameplay might expand their mastery to other games like Omaha or add single table tournament or multi-table tournament skills to their game.
  • Sports bettors who focus on handicapping football games can start using their skills to handicap other sports like basketball, soccer, baseball, and hockey.

Going deeper into your chosen game or area might be more profitable than dividing your attention.

The Generalist Argument

An advantage gambler is always looking for a way to get their money on the line with an edge. The goal is to have a big enough bankroll so you can maximize your return in as many situations as possible without running the risk of going broke before the long term advantage pays off.

In order to do this, you need to be able to identify and exploit as many advantage play opportunities as possible. This means that you need to know as much about different advantage play opportunities as possible.

If you want to take maximum advantage of an advantage play area as quickly as possible, the path is clearly to specialize. But if you’re willing to work on many areas of skill and are willing to invest more time, you can build a wide range of advantage skills.

The biggest advantage of building multiple skills over time is that some of the skills easily translate from one area to another, and you start recognizing advantage play opportunities where you never thought to look.

What I see in advantage players is a distinct difference between the two types. Specialists focus so much on one area that they become true masters, but they often miss other opportunities because they’re so focused.

On the other hand, a gambler who trains himself or herself to be a well-rounded advantage player rarely masters any one area 100%. But they are able to find more opportunities to get their money on the line with an advantage. It’s somewhat of a mindset as much as mechanics for a generalist advantage player.

A generalist doesn’t really care where the advantage comes from, just that they have an advantage. The specialist focuses on squeezing the last partial percentage pint of profit from their chosen area of advantage play.

Learn From Experience

I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned over the years. These are simply how things worked for me, so they might not be the best way for you.

I spent years working on becoming a better poker player. Eventually, I learned what I needed and I’m able to turn a consistent profit in the area I choose to play. I could’ve continued to improve and move up to higher and higher limits, but I decided to add skills in other areas.

Player and Dealer at Casino Blackjack Table, Casino Chips

In the process, I learned certain ways I can bet on sports profitably and how to play real money blackjack without actually losing money. I could spend more time on any of these areas to improve, but I prefer being able to do a wide variety of things with a smaller advantage over pushing a single advantage to the maximum limit.

This also helps me recognize other positive expectation opportunities, because I’ve trained my mind to look for advantages in different situations. To be clear, there are many players in each of the activities that I’ve mentioned that are more profitable than me. This doesn’t bother me, but this is a consideration for some people.

I don’t need to be the best in any one area to feel fulfilled, so being a generalist works for me. Some people prefer to feel like they’ve mastered something. If this describes you, you should probably pick an area and work on it until you master it.


Whether you decide that specializing in one activity or being a generalist is best, you should start your journey toward advantage play the same way. Pick one area and learn how to be a consistent winner.

Once you can consistently play with an advantage, then you can decide if you want to become a true master of your chosen activity or if you want to learn how to beat another game. I don’t believe that there’s a single right answer for every gambler.

I also believe that you already know which advantage area you should start with. It’s the game that you’re most drawn to. This usually presents itself as one game or activity that you enjoy more than others.

But if you really don’t know where to start and don’t have a preference, I recommend starting with blackjack. Learn how to count cards and practice your skills until you’re a consistent winner. Then, you can decide which way to continue improving your advantage play skills.