Posted by vegasliving
Apr 09, 2016

Wisdom of a Vegas Professional Gambler

I have a few close friends here in Las Vegas who are professional gamblers. I define a professional gambler as one who makes enough money at gambling to pay for their living expenses and still have a growing savings account. People who barely make it monthly or, worse, have to borrow to make ends meet, are not professionals. I can take you to downtown Las Vegas and introduce you to a couple of destitute gamblers who I’ve come to know who live in cheap flop houses. They call themselves professionals because they are unwilling to work any job, yet they struggle to pay their cheap rent and go without food or sometimes beg to meet their monthly room rent. That is a troubled individual, not a professional gambler. One such fellow I know got booted from his flop house and slept under a bush in the desert for six weeks, yet he called himself a professional, which was only an illusion of his mind.

The “real” professionals that I know would not think of such living conditions. These professionals have conquered poor money management and live a disciplined life of self-control. One pro told me, “Self-control is controlling yourself.” Let me talk about his wisdom.

This man stands out as much more “together” in his thinking than the others. He is not a wild character, he doesn’t do drugs or get drunk, he pays his bills on time, even ahead of schedule, he’s a home-owner, drives a nice car, has money set aside for home and car repairs, he has a happy household and even goes to church, but when it comes to his gambling, he is disciplined with his money. Let me share some of his advice that has stuck with me over the years.
First, he said that everyone, including professionals, will lose or even have streaks of losses, but he does not measure his income by the day, but by the end of the week or month. Second, he held his hand up with his thumb and index finger extended and a gap of about three inches between them and said, “To be a professional gambler, you have to know how to win this much,” reducing his fingers down to an inch he continued, “and you have to know how to quit when you’ve lost this much.” That made perfect sense to me. Obviously to profit you have to make more than you have lost. But isn’t that what is wrong with almost all gamblers?

It reminded me of my first year in business economics as a college freshman. My professor said, “You can earn a degree in business or economics and everything comes down to one simple sentence: You have to show more profit than overhead to succeed.” The professor added, “That is why I tell every student that you need to maximize your profit while reducing your overhead and if you do those two things in any business, then you will be successful.” In my years in business, even with a college education, I keep going back to those two freshman thoughts to keep me on the basic track for how to make a successful business.

If we apply that to the life of a professional gambler, then there is no other way to do it. At the end of the week, a professional gambler must (to use my friend’s chosen word) “know” how to make a profit and “know” how to quit with minimized losses. You will lose, but even casual gamblers like me need to follow similar disciplines as what a professional gambler does, that is, maximize profit and quit when losses are low. If you are wondering what his games are, he has a variety of low house edge games like live poker, craps, baccarat, and occasionally a run of $100-minumum single-deck blackjack where he is the only player at the table.


OnceDear Apr 11, 2016

Thanks VegasLiving, BUT...

... Minimize losses by quitting "when you have lost this much" What does that mean in your world? Why are you quitting at that time and what trigger should/would bring you back to the game? Are you just advocating stop losses and session target betting?

Surely, if you have an edge, you simply never stop even if you are losing and if you don't have an edge, you simply never play even if you are winning. The 'how much' you wager should be the bit that varies and that does so to match your current bankroll against your selected risk of ruin.

rdw4potus Apr 11, 2016

I'm stuck on your professor's comments. Gross profit? Net Profit? Operating Profit? Why just overhead and not all components of cost of goods sold? Direct costs aren't overhead, afterall... That seems like a very unnecessarily vague statement, but I suppose it was a freshman level course.

At the end of the week an AP must know how to make a profit? What if the AP is working a play with a cycle longer than 1 week? Isn't that like a company that takes several years to close a wildly profitable $100MM deal? Long and uneven sales cycles and long and uneven AP cycles are exactly why long range thinking is all that makes any sense in evaluating these things.

vegasliving Apr 12, 2016

Yes, rdw4potus Apr 11, 2016, no argument here on "long term thinking" as necessary to any good plan, whether it is in business or as a professional gambler. My intention was not to layout an economics plan. Your point is likely why Forbes magazine (January 2015) tells us that 90% of all startup businesses fail. That is, they fail to profit at the end of the story, whether the story was a week, a year, of five years.

In my thinking, that is why I can never become a professional gambler, because I can't take that risk whether others are capable of doing so or not. I once attended a seminar by the famous Video Poker King, Bob Dancer, who revealed in the seminar that he and his wife Shirley went on a marathon play on a high-roller video poker machine when the Eastside Cannery opened in Las Vegas. The took turns to sit at the game so nobody else could walk up and play one round and hit "their" royal flush. Well, they didn't even hit it themselves. They sunk $30,000.00 into one machine before calling it quits. "Hey," I thought, "That is a little under what I net in a year," so I found it absurd that someone would lose that much on a single machine in a three-day marathon before finally calling it quits. At the end of the story, and this is why he can live off of his gambling as a professional, Bob still profited $120,000 with that loss and another loss of $20,000 at another casino. Professional gamblers that I know all do the same thing. They measure the profit on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis so that they don't freak out when they have a bad loss. I'm too much of a tightwad for that. If I loose $100 to $300 in a single poker game, then I freak out. However, doing poker and sometimes keno as a hobby, I've changed by game plan and measure things on the long term and I keep a notebook of my wins and losses to track them and I am showing a profit now for my hobbyist labor. Heck, I just won $800 in video keno last night (4-11-16) at Sam's Town with 6/6 on a 50-cent bet. Nice hobby.

SOOPOO Apr 17, 2016

Craps? Baccarat? Obviously not a professional gambler.....

odiousgambit Apr 28, 2016

My means of support is invisible to other people. I could go around claiming I am a professional gambler. Not saying this guy isn't - but I would have to hope you are wrong about what games he plays - I'm sure you don't know everything about him.

ZenMasterFlash May 04, 2016

I have been a full-time Professional Gambler for 2.5 decades.

I still travel extensively and have gambled in 9 different states this year.

"Professional" means that I live a middle class existence without "earned income."

I have a Graduate Degree, have taught at University, been a healthy care professional, etc.

My skills pay my bills, but note that Professional Gamblers recognize a few salient truths:

Frugality is a ubiquitous character strength.

Emotional stability is ann absolute requisite for this profession.

Professional Gambling is always a "Grind".

"Risk Aversion" is a key consideration.

Apart from earning money, life must be joyous and fulfilling.

ZenMasterFlash May 04, 2016


An additional point that I want to make.

Had I not exited from my "Nine to Five"

"establishment" career my current income

would be in the $125,000 to $140,000 range.

DOUBLE what I earn as a Professional Gambler.

I have NO REGRETS. Money is not primary to me.

Posted by vegasliving
Apr 07, 2016

Keno Wins & Frank Gorshin (the Riddler in Batman)

Video Keno, which has much better odds than the live game, typically holds a house edge ranging in the 7% figure. It has fascinated me from 1980 until now. In the early ‘80s, when computer technology was still relatively young, there was a flaw in the RNG of the Keno machines and, of all people to tell me that, it was Frank Gorshin, the actor who played the Riddler in the televised Batman (Bert West) series of the 1960-70s. The original video keno machines were about five feet tall, red, with two CRT monitors, and the player sat on a barstool-height chair to play it. The light wand for picking numbers could be waved over the top monitor for a random pick of the player’s numbers or you could signally pick each number from the lower monitor. In those early days, a nickel still had value, so I stared out carefully playing nickel video keno and then progressed to quarters.

One day, in 1985, I went to "Bob Stupak's Vegas World," which is where the Stratosphere is currently located. Frank Gorshin’s name was on the marques, doing comedy, and it was after midnight. I was playing the quarter keno machines that were lined up against the north wall around the west side of the big bar. A kindly older gentleman sat by me and began asking me how the machine worked. I explained it to him and then he smile and asked, “Like this?” I nodded my head and then I realized he was messing with me and that he knew all along how to play the machine.

We played and he was popping off wisecracks about our numbers hitting or missing when an entourage of a couple of suited men and two cocktail servers came up behind him and said, “Mr. Gorshin, this is ------ and she will be here to get you anything you want. Would you like a drink now?” He answered, “Yeah, and give this kid a drink on me.” I about fell out of my seat. I was sitting there making jokes and laughing with Frank Gorshin, the original Riddler in the televised Batman series, and I didn’t know it.

My first thought was why he was playing quarter keno since he could probably play any level of game in town, but that was not my business. I was happy to be sitting by him, so when the suits left, he turned back to me to finish his former statement, with a raised an eyebrow, and said, “Hey, kid, don’t tell anyone that I was playing with ya, ok? I don’t want a crowd over here.” I was all smiles and had enough sense respect to not ask him for his autograph, because he just wanted to joke around and have fun after his show.

As we were playing, Mr. Gorshin said to me, “Have you heard about the bottom-row quirk?” I hadn’t, so I asked him what it was. He said there was something quirky about these keno machines that seem to hit heavy on the bottom row and a lot of players play only the bottom row. I looked at his screen, and sure enough, that is where he had all of his numbers. About an hour later, he hit 6 out of 6 for $400 on a single quarter bet, which was hand paid. Those kind of machines poured coins into a tray when you won, but only up to $200. I saw it myself; Frank Gorshin hit 6/6 on the bottom row. He tipped his server and change-girl. We had to buy rolls of quarters from change girls back then to play, and he played another roll of quarters before telling me that old guys need their sleep and he left. After that, I began playing the bottom row.

For the next couple years I won hundreds and hundreds of dollars on those old upright keno machines just by playing the bottom row. There was really a flaw in the RNG and a the insider players got together to talk about where the machines were and how to play them. They were called themselves the “bottom row club,” and it has been mentioned in a couple of keno books. All of the sudden it stopped because the programming was changed by the casinos. After that, you could not hit anything any more frequently on the bottom row than what you could any other row. It was fun while it lasted, but even more fun to learn about it from Frank Gorshin.


JohnnyQ Apr 09, 2016

Cool story, thanks for sharing.

I saw Jay Leno once at the Imperial Palace auto museum. He didn't share any Keno tips with me.

AxelWolf Apr 15, 2016

That bastard Leno keeping all his cars and casinos secrets to himself.