Tag: gambling

Never Gamble More Than You Can Afford To Lose!

The number one tip we can give you (regardless of how much money you have) is NEVER gamble more than you can afford to lose! This seems like such an obvious statement but unfortunately there are some people who don’t heed such warnings.

Let me float this by you right away. When I lose money the lost money has more intense emotions attached to it than when I win that same amount of money. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that I lost $1000 last night, how am I feeling? Correct, I feel rotten to the core; totally miserable, asking myself “what happened?” Now, if I won a $1000? Correct, I’m happy but I won’t be singing and dancing the entire next day.

In short, losses hit us harder than wins. The loss of emotion weighs more than the win emotion – given an equal amount of money being weighed.

When I first thought of this idea I did wonder if I were alone in my feelings. I’m not. I did a little survey of 15 people, some I knew, some I didn’t know, and 12 of them agreed with me that losses had a more powerful impact on them than an equivalent winning experience. The other three felt that both states of being were about emotionally equal.

In my view, I maintain that losses really blast us; while wins were more ephemeral. Perhaps that’s why the daily “news” is generally about bad experiences as opposed to good ones. The headline “Man is love his wife” can’t outmatch “Man hate his wife.”

So then the goal of gambling should be to limit one’s losses or at the very least, the emotional toll of such losses so as to enjoy one’s wins far more. There are two ways to do that, by playing proper strategies and just as important with proper money management techniques.

[Please Note: Money management is not a method for overcoming the house edge. If the game has a negative expectation, money management cannot flip that expectation to favor the amateur or professional gambler. The player can, however, use money management to contain his losses.]

Large bankroll - Small bets


My mentor the Captain of craps believed that satisfactory gambling can only occur if losses do not eat up one’s gambling bankroll. He posited that a large bankroll must back a casino player’s individual wagers.

If one is betting $10 then having a bankroll of $20 is not sufficient to make one relaxed when a loss occurs; indeed, a two-loss streak ends the player’s chances. His bankroll is busted. Such a wipeout would be devastating.

THE 401G

Actually, let’s take first things first – players must have gambling bankrolls. No player should attempt to play casino games with money necessary for food, housing, medicine and one’s daughter’s college tuition. Never stretch real money.

The gambling bankroll should be a separate account, specifically kept in an interest paying checking or savings account. I call this the 401G account with the “G” standing for gambling.

There are basically two ways to create such an account. If you are fairly well off, you can simply take money from other accounts and create the 401G. Yes, that money was originally intended as an excess cushion for real life but if you know you can harvest it for gambling then do so. But that is it. You will not after this first dip touch your real-life accounts. Instead on a regular basis you will take a small percentage of your income to place in the 401G.

The second method, which will probably be used by most players, is to set aside a small percentage of one’s ongoing income into the 401G. Many people have a 401K or equivalent account where regular deposits are made from their paychecks and the 401G should also have regular deposits. Such deposits will build and maintain the account.

[Please Note: Players want enough money in their 401G so that they never have to worry about losing it all. A bankroll should be constant or go up at any given time. This can be accomplished through patience and discipline.]


Here is my personal horror story: I once lost my entire gambling bankroll. It was almost 30 years ago and I was playing with a small amount put aside to gamble. I lost my head, I bet too much, I went on a complete losing streak and was wiped out.

My wife the Beautiful AP and I stopped by the Captain’s house on our way back from Atlantic City. The moment he saw us he said, “There they are with empty pockets.”

He then told me in no uncertain terms what I had done wrong. It was simple really, I bet way too much for a way too small bankroll in total. Then we worked out what my bankroll should be to bet what I wanted. It took me a year of regular deposits to get the bankroll up to where it needed to be to assure me of never being wiped out again.

In my case (okay, hold your breath) it was five hundred to one. For every dollar I wagered I had to have five hundred dollars in my 401G. If I wanted to be a $10 bettor that would mean I was backed by five thousand dollars sitting comfortably in the account. I was teaching and running a theatre company at the time and I slowly built up the 401G.

Over the years, I have built my 401G to the point where I can be a high roller without fear of winding up on the street should I experience a truly awful negative streak.

Now I think a five hundred to one distance between a single bet and a total bankroll is not farfetched and is reachable by just about anyone interested in being a “safe” gambler.  A five-dollar player just needs $2500 to get in the game.

Roulette player is celebrating a winning bet


Now, if you are adding to your 401G because of a good series of wins, that’s terrific. You will add the wins to the account and continue to add the percent of your wages to the account.

Let us say you have a five-dollar to $2500 spread between a single bet and the total bankroll and you have now gone up to $5000 in total bankroll? You can double your single bet level or take the extra $2500 and use it to buy something you want.

[Please Note: You never stop putting money in your 401G account. I am assuming that anyone reading this is probably someone who enjoys casino gambling and goes more than once a year. It is important for regular players to keep a consistent pattern in their savings and playing.]


When we go to casinos we usually don’t play one long session; we break our gambling day into several sessions, maybe morning, afternoon and evening. That is probably the best way to apportion one’s day. I think it is crazy to play endless hours of mesmerizing games – half the time you probably won’t remember what went on during such long hours.

So let us say that you have a $5000 total bankroll and your bet is $10. You are going to spend two days in the casinos. How should you break up your bankroll? Let us assume three sessions a day of between one and two hours on each session.

As a generalization, you should take one-half of your bankroll ($2500) and divide it by six sessions. That comes to a session stake of $416 per session; so let’s make that $400 per session. You do not want to risk your total bankroll on one casino trip. You might be a serious player who goes once a month or even more – you therefore do not want to risk all your money in a single trip.  Don’t bring all the money!

Now, I mentioned that you might want to play an hour or two per session, however that can be misleading. What if things are going really well, do you want to leave after an hour or two? What if (horror of horrors) you are getting pummeled? Do you play until you lose everything?

Okay, here is a quick and easy chart to show what to do in given situations and at the end of each session. This is for land-based casinos (cruise ships too). I will delve into Internet casinos after this.

Session One: Bet Level is $10. Session stake is $400. Maximum time of play is two hours.


  • One hour or less: If the loss is more than half your session stake, quit the session.
  • Two hours: If you have any loss whatsoever you quit the session.


  • One hour or less: If you have a win of $200, you put aside $200 of your $400 stake and that is not to be gambled again in this session. You still have $400 with which to play.
  • One hour or less: If you go up another $100, you take that out of original session stake. You still have $400 with which to play but $300 has now been set aside. With each $100 win, you take that from your original stake. Once you are playing with $400 in wins do not allow yourself to lose more than $200 of those wins.
  • Two hours: Quit session or take one-third of your wins (assuming wins are substantial!) and play with that money. Anytime you lose half that money, you quit for that session.
  • At end of session, any money, be it the initial $400, or what’s left over from a loss, or what has been won and the initial stake, goes in the safe and is not to be gambled with again. You safe now contains that session’s money, win, lose or draw – money not to be gambled with anymore.

The above approach should be used for all sessions. Once a trip is completed you take home whatever money is in the safe and put it into your 401G.

[Please Note: Using the above approach to each session will generally mean that you will not lose a session stake and you will be able to come home with some money, if not a win. No real limit is placed on wins but limits are fully placed on losses.]

Online casino player


An online casino is either great or awful; whichever they are is totally up to you. With discipline and control, go ahead and have fun, but if you are the rambunctious type in your play then you had better be careful. Casino games have no heart; they are based on math. But you do have a heart and you can easily lose your head and your money if you ever lose control.

So what should be your money management technique on Internet casinos? I would limit myself to one session – at maximum – on a given day. I would also try not to play every day unless you are able to keep adding to your 401G without any strain on your finances. Keeping yourself at a hefty one to 500 spread would be harder if you are betting into that 500 every day without more money going into the account. You can see that to be careful is the watchword here.

Games to play


It is important that whichever games you choose to play that you use the best strategies. That means making the lowest house-edge bets at those games; even slot machines have better and worse ways to play them. What follows is quick playing advice which together with my money management techniques should be helpful in keeping your head above water. You will find more detailed articles on the various games on this site, make use of them!

Roulette: Best to make your roulette bets on the outside propositions of red/black, high/low, odd/even. You will not have seriously prolonged losing streaks on such bets even though the house edge is the same on these bets as on the inside numbers.

Craps: Pass and come with odds; don’t pass and don’t come with odds. No more than three bets at once and that is if you can make so many bets with your bankroll while playing craps. Never hesitate to make fewer than three bets. Do not make any of the other bets.

BlackjackPlay basic strategy perfectly. Buy a card with the basic strategy on it. Do not play by instinct.

Slots: No progressive games. Use a single credit on all machines – in a future article I will explain why this is the best way to play slots.


How to be a Professional Gambler

So, what exactly is a professional gambler? A professional gambler is a person who lives from gambling and spends most of his time at the casinos. Professional gamblers are actually earning their paychecks by making the right bets when they play at the live casino tables. In this article, I will go over some general misconceptions about casino gaming as well as go over a few real-world examples, gathered from several friends of mine who are professional Advantage Players. We won’t give out real names or when these “adventures” occurred, but rest assured this is about as truthful as an accounting of what real-world play is like.

The gambler lifestyle has been portrayed by Hollywood, and more so, by commercials for casinos, to be a glamorous one. Men are always dressed sharply and women are in their best gowns and, both seem to be having a wonderful time. They are winning money, eating at 5-star restaurants and drinking the best champagne. This is all done to entice the average person to come to the casinos and gamble, but more importantly to lose the maximum amount of money they can. The reality of the casino gaming world is very different.


The first thing a player must do is forget everything they have ever seen in the movies or have read that portray the life of a professional gambler. Movies like the blockbuster hit 21 and book from which it is based on Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich are strictly for entertainment purposes. Any relation to how things are is distant. The life of any person who has had success in any field has its shares of ups and downs but for some reason authors who write about gaming particularly ones who have not engaged in Advantage Play take a lot of artistic liberty when telling a story.

One of the things that happen when you take up the first level of Advantage Play, card counting, is that you start noticing blackjack players everywhere. On the graveyard shift in Las Vegas casino, you can find a card counter at least one of their tables. These people all have varying levels of skill. Some are strict blackjack basic strategy players with a minimal bet spread while others use all of the adjusted strategy plays and have an aggressive bet spread. Additionally, some use the basic Hi-Lo counting method, while others use the more advanced counting systems. The point is there are several ways to attack casino games and, specifically Blackjack, and the more complex the system is, the less likely the technique will be discovered.

Professional gambler is counting cards

There is a lot of lore that surrounds professional gamblers. Most have a kernel of truth to them but some are without a doubt embellished. One such story revolves around a new player who goes by the name el Gordito. As it goes, Gordito, during his infinite card counting days he was stopped for speeding on his way back to southern California from Las Vegas weekend trip. He told the woman CHP officer that he was in a rush to get home to tell his wife about a sizable win at the blackjack tables. He let it slip that he was a “semipro” blackjack player.

The story continues that the next thing he knew the officer was asking him questions like whether or not it was correct to split a pair of 2s when double after split is allowed. He claims that he got out a deck of cards and, while she held the flashlight, played a few hands on the hood of his car. The part about playing cards on the hood of his car, illuminated by a flashlight seems a bit of a stretch, but I know a few people who know the el Gordito very well, and they believe he was highly capable to talk his way out of the ticket.

Gambling is appealing because of it’s simple to play and most people have a good time with the games. Games can be played just for fun and with minimal losses; but, the vast majority of player’s do not win.

Sometimes when players don’t have good results they question their skills. The reality is Advantage Gaming is a gloomy business when you’re on a losing streak. You begin to speculate about which curve of what fluctuation you were born. But, when you are on the positive side of the spectrum it’s like taking candy from a candy-hating baby. The hard truth is that the mentality of professional Advantage Casino player is that equal to a manic depressant. Most beginning and novice players are either very high or very low. Only most elite professionals can curb their emotional state to the point where it doesn’t affect other aspects of their lives.

Professional gambler is counting casino chips

The blackjack mathematicians refer to a card counter’s financial journey through good and bad times as a random walk with an upward drift. This definition really only applies to multi-deck shoe games and it does not account for the ups and downs of single-deck blackjack. Single-deck is too often like a sweaty calamitous trip through heaven and hell. The swings are exceptionally dramatic and push the bounds of your own sanity. Overall the casinos give you decent chance to win, and that’s all an Advantage Player can hope for.

The literature on advantage play is filled with techniques and statistical formulas. Most of it is provided by professional players who bet at the black chip level, or from academic gaming scientists. So the information that they share is pretty solid. To be fair some of the claims by some authors are pretty absurd, so be careful what you choose to believe. Another thing worth noting is that the best techniques are usually shared only with a few other top players in only the very top echelons of this elite field.

A common question is; what is it like for the average player? Since many players are only part-time players or gaming hobbyists, it might be interesting to review the playing records and experiences of a serious nonprofessional beginning card counter. A retired player who I will call Wild Bill has generously donated his complete first years’ records as a blackjack player. It should be noted that these records are over 30 years old.

Wild Bill’s Year One
No. Trips: 22Total Hands Played 18.9K
No. trips won: 13Hands per hour all decks: 88
Trips win: 59%Hands per hour single-deck: 83
No. sessions: 311Hands per hour double-deck: 93
No. sessions won: 162Total wagered: $245,000
Session win: 52%Avg. bet: $13
Most sessions won in a row: 9Win rate single-deck: 0.98%
Most sessions lost in a row: 6Win rate double-deck: 0.44%
No. sessions single-deck: 177Win rate overall: 0.78%
No. sessions double-deck: 128Most hands lost in a row: 8 (twice)*
No. sessions other: 6Most hands won in a row: 6 (many)*
No. sessions Las Vegas: 226No. casinos played: 63
No. sessions Laughlin: 77Casino most played: XXXX (24x)
Longest session: 3 hoursMost trips won in a row: 3
Shortest session: 5 minutesMost trips lost in a row: 3
Avg. session: 41 minutesNo. times had to sleep in car: 1
Total hours of blackjack: 216No. of times had to use ATM: 1
Avg. hours of blackjack per day: 8No. taps on the shoulder: one close call


I asked Wild Bill what did he learned after his first year of Blackjack play? He responded that he learned two valuable lessons they were: The lesson of Losing and The lesson of Winning.

The lesson of winning is “don’t be too greedy”. Several small wins are just as good as one large win. Even when a game is super good you don’t want too much face time with the pit bosses. Get a win and get out. The standard rule is play as long as the game is good, but I would expand it to play as long as the game is good and you are not getting any attention.

How did you get the nickname Wild Bill?  And how does Professional Gambler get a nickname?

“I’ll take the second part first. Gambling nicknames are usually given to you by another professional gambler or potential teammate, usually early on in your playing career. I have been given several nicknames over the years. Sahara Dave and Tuscany Tom are some of the other names I’ve been assigned. The name Wild Bill was given to me by a potential team whom I first met at Wild Bills gambling saloon.”

How about the names Sahara Dave and Tuscany Tom?

“The name Sahara Dave came about through an introduction that was made by a friend of mine with another professional gambler. We talked on the phone briefly and decided to meet at a restaurant on Sahara Ave in Las Vegas. When we first met I told him my name was Dave. After the meeting, I was comfortable enough to tell him ‘Hey my real name is Mike.’  He replied, ‘Sorry, but I’ve already put you in my phone as Sahara Dave.’  So that’s how that name came about. The Tuscany Tom name came about in a similar way. A lot of players get their nicknames in that way.”

How long have you been gambling professionally?

“I have been in gaming for the better part of 40 years. At first, it was just on vacations than on a once a month basis and, eventually, it was every weekend. At that point, I was treating it as a part-time job. I was able to move into the professional gambler occupation in my late 50s. I had saved enough and learned enough over the years that it was very doable so I decided let’s give it a shot.”

As a Professional Gambler which game do you mainly focus on?

“The essence of a professional gambler is to always be looking for opportunities. The classics game that everyone professional gamblers started with is blackjack. That game will always be there, but making money on that game is getting harder and harder every day. This leads a professional gambler to look for new opportunities. Every game is beatable given the right set of circumstances; the player just has to know what to look for. This involves a lot of game scouting, which can be very time-consuming. A player has to think of a way to beat a casino game and then test it via computer simulation, usually, they have to write the computer program themselves and see if it works. This approach involves a lot of studies and a lot of thinking. There are only a few resources that offer these next level insights. The most complete resource is the rare books section at the UNLV library in Las Vegas.

“In general we look for value in our betting, adhere to a solid mathematics strategy and hope for the best. A good professional gambler or rather a good advantage player has a vast tool belt because we know a good game can go away overnight but at the same time we know a new opportunity can easily pop up.”

What does the typical day of a Professional Gambler look like?

“First, there is no typical day for a professional gambler. And it really depends on what game we are attacking. When we do play, a lot relies on blending in with the crowd. So we make an effort to see what conventions are in town and blend in with them. Another case is when we are attacking a 3 card poker game using hole carding methods we may spend a day or two scouting dealer and games and try to gain schedule information from dealers asking them questions like “ You are always working don’t you ever get a day off?”  Fortunately for us, dealers volunteer their schedules with minimal effort.”

Where do you gamble? Online or Land-based casinos?

“Everywhere. Being a high-level professional gambler relies on being able to recognize opportunities as they present themselves. You have to remain fluid in your practice, and this relies heavily on critical thinking. Anyone can apply a system the real talent relies on developing the system and of course not getting caught. That being said I travel extensively to casinos all over the world, but mostly in the US as well as using VPNs (virtual remote access points), to get access to an online casino. I do this when I see an opportunity at these online casinos. A lot of the online opportunities rely on sticky bonuses where if you play some amount you get additional funds to play with. Some bonuses are sign up bonuses, so you go where there are opportunities. The internet has a lot of resources where players can evaluate the current opportunities.”

What was your previous occupation, and how do you relate it to the job of a professional Gambler?

“I was trained as an Attorney and did practice for almost 30 years. Relating it to my role as a professional gambler is pretty straightforward. Many people relate professional gamblers to stock traders. And I can see that argument because of the value-seeking and the financial swings that can occur. But I think it has a lot more in common with being a lawyer, especially a defense attorney. Because both have the objective of finding and exploiting loopholes in any given system. That’s why both lawyers and professional gamblers are loathed by establishments.”

How’s the casino gambling landscape evolved over the past few decades and what will it look like for professional gamblers in a decade?

“On one hand over the past 20 years, the environment has gotten a lot harder for professional players. Straight card counting is pretty much an impossible task. Live blackjack games have also gotten a lot harder to beat with the advent of continuous shuffle machines and 8 deck shoes where the dealer cuts two decks off. But on the other hand, the increase in the number of casino games that are offered by casinos gives a lot more opportunity for the astute player. Casinos, in general, are reducing comps dramatically to their players and this also has a negative impact on the professional gamblers bottom line. So over the years, it has gotten progressively worse for the professional gambler.

“In the future, I don’t see this trend changing. A lot of casinos in Las Vegas are charging their guests for parking and this does not make the gambler happy. Comps continue to fall and games get tighter and tighter, so professional gamblers will have to look harder and, think faster than they ever have in the past if they want to continue to make money.”