Dec 11, 2015
Are AP's Offering TMI?
The first thing that I would like to do is thank Wizard of Vegas Member and renowned Advantage Player, 'Axelwolf,' for inspiring this Article. In fact, I should actually take it a step past, 'Inspired,' and instead say he straight up suggested I write it.
As we all know, the Internet is capable of delivering information right to our eyes within seconds. Much of this information is subject matter that, at one time, would have taken many hours of research or independent study to ascertain. For many gamblers out there, Wizardofodds.com and WizardofVegas.com represent tremendous sources of information related to gambling and Advantage Play. From its humble beginnings as, 'Mike's Gambling Page,' Wizardofodds.com took on a tremendous life that has transcended decades and is now one of the most cited gambling sources of all time. At that time, not even our own Wizard could have ever anticipated that his lone site would eventually become the flagship of a collection of gambling related sites.
One other aspect of the Internet is that it makes the sharing of information much more convenient. There are many Advantage Players out there who consider this an unfavorable development as casinos and the employees thereof also have access to this information and, therefore, are better able to take countermeasures against threats that they may not have otherwise been aware of. One prominent example of such a site owned by our own Forum Member, 'Teliot,' is APHeat.net While Teliot recognizes the fact that Advantage Players and casino staff alike have access to his information, the site exists primarily with the casinos in mind. That is because Teliot, a former Advantage Player, hosts game protection seminars for casino staff and also does other work with casinos.
It seems that Table Games are a good place to start, would the gambling public have any idea of the efficacy of hole-carding, card-steering or edge sorting without the Internet? I believe that it is safe to assume that they would not, but then, there is also the question of whether or not the general public is even able to make use of the information available to them in an effective manner. The unfortunate answer to that is: Doubtful.
Therefore, I think it can reasonably be argued that the only entities that benefit from the discussion of the finer points of Table Games Advantage Play are the casinos themselves. The fact is that, were the cat not out of the bag, the sharing of information from casino-to-casino would either be slow (or non-existent) and I think plays would last much longer as the casinos themselves would not have much of an idea of what it is they should be looking for.
Furthermore, I think casinos get the added benefit of players who attempt to engage in Advantage Play and are not able to do so effectively. The concept of trying to do something such as hole-carding or edge-sorting, as with most things, is definitely more difficult in practice than it would appear to someone who simply reads the information. To put it simply, not everyone is going to have the chops to do it, and those that attempt to while lacking the chops are playing a negative expectation game that generates revenue for the House.
Naturally, it is plausible that there are some players out there who would not have discovered these tactics without the aid of the Internet who went on to become successful AP's via use of these tactics. Furthermore, there may also have been pre-existing AP's who added these tactics to their repertoire as a result of reading about them, but I cannot imagine that they are making the sort of money that other AP's are losing if AP's still had an ultra-private clique, of sorts. The casino just has such an awareness of these plays now that they can defend themselves well against the AP's.
It should also be considered that casinos don't even have to KNOW a player is doing something along these lines to ban a winning player. The casino can ban a player for whatever reason they like, so even if there is an extremely solid AP out there making money via use of these tactics, he really cannot camp out too long lest he be shown the door. Remember, that is even if the casino does not figure out what he is doing.
Machine and/or Promotion Plays
With respect to machine plays, from personal experience, I would conclude that the cat doesn't really seem to be out of the bag on the best machine plays. The reason that I suspect this is the case is because the most serious machine/promotion players are going to keep a tighter wrap on things because countermeasures are so much easier to take if the casino knew what was going on in the first place.
Consider the difference between machines and Table Games for a second, with Table Games you're always going to have break-in dealers (unless you're one of the best paying properties) from time to time, so it stands to reason that the forms of Table Games AP are always going to be viable somewhere. With respect to machine plays, there are simple changes that can be made to the machines themselves and/or casino policies that would make the very best plays much more difficult, if not completely unplayable.
Granted, I think that there is some information out there that hurts the Advantage Player in smaller ways, such as the Optimal Strategy for so many Video Poker games and pay schedules being readily available. The ultimate result of that is if a player can read a strategy sheet correctly, then the player can play the game optimally. The result of that we are increasingly seeing is that casinos are downgrading their Video Poker pay schedules such that Promotions/Points/Mailers often have to be factored in to offer any kind of an advantage, and furthermore, we have seen laws enacted that would seem to make it technically illegal (in Nevada) to use your smartphone to look up the Optimal Play on a Video Poker hand.
I think that another thing we are seeing as a result of the wide availability of Optimal Video Poker play information is that many of the newer games coming out invoke a altered Optimal Strategy as compared to the Base Game. Many of these strategies are so difficult that our own Wizard has occasionally said, "Sorry, but you're own your own with that!"
I don't think that a play such as Vulturing Ultimate X is really something that anyone could have reasonably expected to stay under wraps because, quite frankly, it's really not that hard to figure out. I'm sure without the wide availability of that information online that it is quite possible that a few more people out there could use vulturing as a primary source of AP and make a reasonably strong income in so doing, but in terms of net value, I think it is better that the information be known to all of the AP's out there rather than letting another ploppy pick up the multipliers that the ploppy before him left behind. With respect to Ultimate X, then, I would say that the sum of AP's make a greater amount of money with it being known information.
My conclusion on Machine/Promotion AP is that the availability of information with respect to Optimal Play on Video Poker (and this is perhaps also true of Blackjack and other Table Games) has resulted in the casinos making the pay schedules and/or Rules worse for everybody so that they can ensure their profits. Can you blame them? Imagine if 25% of Video Poker players were positively atrocious, and I mean to the extent of giving up an extra 3-4% compared to Optimal Strategy, and suddenly that became 10% of the players while another 10% went to giving up 1% and the other 5% gave up even less. Compounded over and over again, the result of that is going to be a serious loss of revenue! In the meantime, of the 75% who already played somewhere between reasonably well and perfectly, they have gotten even better.
Unless the number of Video Poker players seriously goes up, if you have people playing a better game, (and this is true of anything) then you need to make the pay schedules worse in order to take in the same amount of revenue on your machines.
The only saving grace of all this is that the good pay schedules have almost become something of a Marketing tool in and of themselves for the casinos who are willing to have an extremely thin overall edge on a segment of their players...because they just need players! If it weren't for that, then I suspect that Video Poker games north of 98%, or so, would be history.
When it comes to the absolute most profitable plays, though, I simply don't think the cat is out of the bag, yet. I'm aware of a few ways to go after certain promotions that I have certainly not seen anywhere online, and I would suggest that the knowledge is limited, at most, to several hundred people.
My (Small) Role in All of This
The real question that I think Axelwolf wanted to pose is: Should you really be writing about Advantage Play?
My answer to that is that I don't really think that it hurts anything. For starters, I don't write very much at all about live Table Game Advantage Play in casinos because I have very, very, little experience in that department. With respect to Internet Gambling, I would say that I delve more into the specifics of certain Promotions than perhaps some other sources, but in general terms, I'm hardly offering entirely new information. Finally, with respect to machine/promotion AP in live casinos, I only share information that I have come across independently. That is not to say that I am the only source of that information, given that I don't think anyone is the ONLY person doing anything, but it is to say that I don't share information that other people have given me.
In other words, I would consider any information that I try to provide a very small drop in the very large bucket of all of the information that is out there. Furthermore, I would also suggest that if I wasn't writing about it, somebody else would be.
Finally, I'm also inclined to point out that I'm not going to hurt myself or my friends in the process. If I'm aware of a tremendous play, but I did not figure the play out for myself, I'm not going to share it either publicly or privately. If I am fortunate enough to discover an unbelievable play that I don't think anyone else is aware of, then there is only a very small circle of people with whom I would even consider sharing the information, and I know those people would not pass it on.
If I only went on what I learned from regular media and my own observations, I would be assuming, with confidence even, that the only people profiting from casino gambling were BJ card counters and a few guys in the poker rooms. I still have the strong suspicion that I might never even meet accidentally any of the card counters, no more than I play BJ.
Having the Wizard and others I respect point out that more APs must exist than were dreamt of in my [former] philosophy has been a real eye-opener. I'll still say I suspect I may never have met any that would be good enough to do more than make their gambling cheap or cost free.
I accept that there are some who do, and some who have done fantastically well like Don Johnson. I can believe [but don't know it as a fact] that there are teams out there knocking down big bucks, maybe millions. In the big picture, though, what kind of an effect are these players having on the bottom line? I suspect cheaters, which I do not include here, are much more worthy of a casino's attention.
So, what do you think, Mission, or anyone? Is there more going on than I seem to imagine? Do casinos need to be monitoring sites like WoV?
I don't know that you have met any in person, but I would certainly suggest that many of them are here on the Forum. There's obviously not a, "Who's Who of Machine AP's," List that's going to be found anywhere, but Axelwolf is just one example of a few that are on here. There are also a few other guys on here that are on Axel's crew and a few other people that don't necessarily post much.
In addition to beating machines and/or promotions, there are actually some Don Johnson-esque type angles that are out there that some guys engage in (in various ways) for not quite the same amounts, but certainly for amounts for which a good living can be sustained. That kind of thing can exist for both Tables and guys with a focus on machines.
I would agree that cheaters are more worthy of a casino's attention, but then, I also think that is who the casinos are largely paying attention to as it is. The main aspect of something like what Don Johnson was able to pull off is that something like that is easily preventable as it is simply a question of a casino understanding the Math behind what it is offering. At the end of the day, that's all 80% of what AP is being that casinos make some kind of, 'Mistake,' on the math that most players don't pick up on, but some guys know how to take advantage of. Another 20% also invokes Math, but it is taking advantage of casino mistakes in other ways such as hole-carding sloppy dealers, for just one example. In something like that, the casino is not making a Math mistake, per se, but a procedural mistake that ultimately affects the Math.
There is definitely more going on that you imagine, and I am aware of just a small fraction of the stuff that you are not aware of, but I'm sworn to confidentiality with regard to a good many things. I say a small fraction because there is undoubtedly a tremendous number of plays and angles that I know nothing about and that I've never conceived of.
I don't know how much casinos would get, in terms of specifics, from monitoring sites like WoO. I would suggest that it is something that they should do because some AP's will occasionally let something slip that is otherwise not public knowledge, but those instances are few and far between. For the most part, though, if they did monitor the sites, they'd go long stretches without discovering anything new. When it comes to the absolute best plays out there, (especially for machines and promotions) like I said, they really haven't become public.