For those who do not do it on what is effectively a full-time basis (myself included) there are a good deal of misconceptions on just what it is to be an advantage player. While being a professional gambler is generally less restrictive than jobs in which your schedule is given to you on a weekly basis and you have to punch a time card, (or are otherwise accountable to someone for your activities) there is still a high degree of both discipline and self-motivation that is required in order for an individual to be successful gambling as a primary source of income. It may seem like a romantic, 'Do what I want to do when I want to do it,' sort of lifestyle, but that is hardly the case.
There are exceptions to this rule, while organizational skills are required, Blackjack card-counters can, by and large, play when they want to play...but that is because the source of their profits is largely more consistent and readily available, though as has often been stated by Board Members here and on Podcasts and websites elsewhere, on a percentage or even dollar basis of expected profits, Blackjack card counting is hardly the way to go and other skills are required.
In fact, of the AP's that I know personally who are in it full-time and rely on Advantage Play as a primary source of income, exactly 0% of them card count at Blackjack as a primary means. In fact, most of the ones that I know will occasionally play Blackjack because they think it's occasionally enjoyable, and they will count cards while doing it, (because, why wouldn't you?) but they do not even necessarily do it enough to have a huge expectation of profit. That leads us to misconception number one:
You Make Your Own Schedule
While an Advantage Player who is playing in order to take advantage of what I will term, 'Regular offers,' can largely make his own schedule, generating the Maximum Expected Value on the overall play(s) will often require playing on multiplier days which are determined by the casino, not the player. Certainly Advantage Players would LOVE for a casino to offer individual players a Points Multiplier on any day of the week or month of that player's choosing, but that I know of, that is either never or nearly never the case. In order to ensure maximum profitability in many cases, a player must play when the multiplier days are offered, and if the play is juicy enough, the players are effectively scheduled to play at certain casinos on certain days.
Furthermore, The Plaza recently had a Tax Day Promotion that occurred last month and that I also covered in an Article last month. There were many very easy ways of playing this Promotion (provided a person had the bankroll) that were expected to generate thousands of dollars in Expected Value. The Promotion lasted 24 hours, so obviously, a player seeking to maximize the Expected $$$ return on the overall Promotion would be there for a solid 24 hours. The Promotion in question, furthermore, stands to be one of the most lucrative single-day Promotions to be found this year, anywhere, so for someone who counts on Advantage Play as a primary source of income, particularly those who are based in or around Vegas or for whom travel to Vegas was feasible, this Promotion was a, 'Can't Miss,' opportunity.
Therefore, not only is the schedule of an Advantage Player subject to the whims of the casinos when it comes to when they are going to offer even basic Promotions such as multiplier days, but an Advantage Player also has to be ready, able and willing to drop everything and get wherever he/she needs to be when a major Promotion is taking place. For many Advantage Players, the Plaza Promotion will result in a not insubstantial percentage of their total income derived from Advantage Play this year, on both an Actual Value and Expected Value basis.
Furthermore, there are opportunities with respect to Table Games that involve hitting up certain weak dealers who may be making a wide variety of mistakes that swing the odds in the player's favor. In effect, what might generally not be a viable play at certain times at a particular casino becomes a viable play when a particular dealer is dealing, at least, until the mistake in question is (inevitably) corrected. When these sorts of opportunities pop up, and they are relatively rare, the Advantage Player who is aware of the opportunity will eat and sleep based around what the schedule of the particular dealer in question is.
In addition to that, when a casino is packed that affords the opportunity to have more, 'Cover,' for Advantage Players of all types, but particularly for those who play Table Games. It is for this reason that New Year's Eve in Las Vegas in a must play day for Blackjack Card Counters as it is one of the few days where their (obvious) tendency to vary bets might not be noticed as there may be much larger chips changing hands back and forth, and as a result, closer attention might be being paid elsewhere by surveillance and pit staff.
Expectation = Reality
For the hopeful prospective Advantage Player, there often seems to be a tendency to believe that they will eventually profit because that is the expectation. Given the Law of Large Numbers, this will hold true in the long run, but the most lucrative promotions that are out there do not tend to fall under the purview of the, 'Long Run.' The result is that some of the largest percentage advantages that can be found throughout the course of a year might also result in the most devastating single day losses for an Advantage Player who, 'Runs bad.'
This fact can be especially dangerous for an individual Advantage Player who is operating on a limited bankroll but cannot pass on a nearly unbelievable opportunity, so as a result:
You Are Often Accountable to Someone
Many people labor under the impression that one of the most attractive aspects of Advantage Play is not having anyone to answer to and being able to work completely on one's own if one so chooses. While that might be true for an extremely well-bankrolled Advantage Player, or one who plays in a steadily profitable series of plays with relatively low Variance, the truth is that most of the Advantage Players out there work in partnerships, teams (especially on high-risk, high-return plays) or otherwise straight up work for another Advantage Player, who in the context of a play or series of plays, is effectively their boss.
While this may not seem attractive to many of the independent-minded people out there, it is sometimes the most lucrative thing that one can do to yield one's autonomy to a fellow Advantage Player who has a stronger bankroll that can survive the swings. Alternatively, one can also, 'Invest,' on a play which will enable the person to have a voice in the manner in which a play should be approached, but in many cases, the team (whether permanent or temporary) might decide to go about the play in an entirely different way than a single particular investor deems Optimal.
Therefore, it is very essential for someone who does not have the bankroll to weather the storm of very large plays to be able to work well with others as certain plays can be very little different than a group project might be at a traditional place of employment. For those who are overly argumentative or otherwise unable to get along with their peers, they might find themselves shut out of certain plays due to a lack of bankroll or not finding others who wish to work with them.
Even for a well-bankrolled player, there are certain advantages to be had with respect to pooling resources together on a major play and operating, albeit temporarily, as a team. For example, the goal of a team going after a major play should essentially be to reduce Variance (thereby increasing the likelihood of achieving the Expected Profit) by, 'Getting as close to the long run as possible.' There is no need to get into a specific example in this case, so let us just assume that a single player is playing at a 10% Advantage, however, their remains a probability of 45% that the player will ultimately lose money in the event that the player fails to run as expected: In this case, the best thing to do is to combine bankrolls and work as a team because two people, three people or even ten people will increase the likelihood of success as you have more individuals who are playing into the advantage. While it is still possible for a large group of people to, 'Run bad,' the overall probability of a Net Loss will be reduced by having so many people on a particular play.
You Just Sit in Casinos
For many Advantage Players, this could not be less true. An Advantage Player that I know very well, for example, probably spends nearly as much time driving as he does actually in the casino. While this may be less true for Vegas-based Advantage Players than those based elsewhere, Vegas might not ALWAYS be the source of the best opportunities. For those who Advantage Play in areas in which casinos are more spread out, the ability/willingness to spend a lot of time travelling is essential in order to be finding and taking advantage of the best opportunities to be had.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for some of the misconceptions that readers out there may or may not have about Advantage Players. Needless to say, much like any other job (in my experience of talking to people, and working a variety of jobs) there is much more to the job than meets the eye. For example, one may think that a person can be a full-time Advantage Player simply by having a solid knowledge of Video Poker, the required bankroll for the denomination one is playing, and the ability to play for several hours. While I do agree that this might be true for a very small subset of Advantage Players, let along the entirely population, such players are certainly not maximizing their profits at all times by focusing entirely on Video Poker.
From what I have gathered from my friends, Advantage Play these days, more than anything else, requires thinking outside of the box in order to discover opportunities and then, the opportunities having been discovered, to make the most out of them. For some opportunities, this will be a relatively easy thing to accomplish (such as one of the ways the Plaza Promotion could be played) and for other opportunities, the task becomes much more difficult. In many ways, figuring certain plays out is a lot like solving a Logic Puzzle, there are hundreds if not thousands of different combinations of answers, and only one or a few of the answers are right...there is usually one answer that is the best.
If you are interested in becoming an Advantage Player, then the best place to start is by reading these Forums because it will quickly become obvious who the legitimate Advantage Players are and you will want to pay attention to everything they have to say. Some of these Advantage Players work on teams or run teams, so if you have questions you would want to address them in the thread in which they are posting, or alternatively, send them a PM. I would suggest that if you ask questions that show a strong knowledge of gambling, or an inquisitiveness (in general) beyond the level of that possessed by most people, someone will eventually take an interest in you and reach out to you with an opportunity.
Even as a Recreational Advantage Player (who really can do what I want when I want to do it) I have often found myself answering to other people for whom I am working and spending long hours on certain plays. There was a semi long-term play at one point upon which I spent about 75% of the hours per week doing that I spent at my regular job. Just recently, I spent a few days driving long distances in order to take advantage of multiple opportunities that were presented to me and will do the same again tomorrow.
My ultimate conclusion is: It's a lot of fun, but only if you have the sort of personality predisposed to doing such things.