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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ADVANTAGE GAMING

by Nicholas Colon

Nicholas Colon is the Managing Director of Alea Consulting Group, a casino gaming consulting firm with a player centric philosophy. It is staffed with world class players, gaming authors, mathematicians, top legal minds and a variety of industry professionals.

The chances for a player to make money by engaging in advantage gaming are very high when they have the appropriate bankroll, and when they allocate the appropriate time that is needed for the math to work out. Another under-reported aspect of advantage play is the mental toughness required to take on this challenging task. This requires infinite patience and the ability to detach ones' self from the emotional reality of the situation. The financial swings are dramatic, violent, and can try the boundaries of one's own sanity. You could easily half your bankroll before you start making money. If you think a typical 9-5 job is tough you should see the $5-$40 spread of the Atlantic City eight-deck grinder. To get into the appropriate mental state, a player has to remove emotion from their play. The simplest way to put it is that you must play as a computer, only reacting as the basic strategy charts indicate and scale your bet as the count dictates. The more hands that you play in this way, the more likely you will keep your sanity, and the more likely it is that you will be a winning player. But the player should be aware it is much easier said than done. There are infinite obstacles that must be hurdled to achieve this goal.

Nothing that I can write here can prepare you for what you will go through as a professional Advantage Player. The emotional swings mimic those of a manic depressant, and the ongoing badgering that you will receive from casino personal, as well as personal tribulations, is uncanny. Not so long ago I was consoling a player whose bankroll was down 45% after only three weeks of play, and whose partner had left with part of the remaining bankroll. He was also backed off from every major property's blackjack game on the Las Vegas Strip. And to put a cherry on top, he had to file a lawsuit against CAESERS entertainment because four of their security officers broke into his room while he was sleeping, proceeded to take pictures of him, and then they forcibly evicted him from one of their properties during one of the busiest convention weeks in Las Vegas.

The only thing I can tell you is that you need to stick with it. The math always works out, ALWAYS. You must stomach the negative swings and be sure to choose a partner or partners that are trust worthy. To be successful at any advantage gaming venture, you must get a lot of play in. The more hands you play, the less risk there is because you are getting closer to the point where the Expected Value equals the standard deviation and thus giving the player just over an 80% probability of never having the bankroll go negative. This usually occurs at around 10,000 hands for a 1% edge. Being a professional player also means keeping good records. You do this to estimate your edge and winnings. In the beginning of a bankroll, it also gives a goal. The closer you get to that goal, the more your actual winnings will reflect the theoretical.

There is an array of emotions that you will have when engaging in casino gaming for profit over an extended period of time. I will describe a few of the more dominant ones. The first is when you are going through a positive swing and things are overtly good as follows.

The Positive

The team or player is hitting every double down and getting great second cards on every split. Your stiffs are always against a week dealer's bust card and they obligingly bust every time. In this positive swing scenario, the endorphins are flowing and the player is consistently making money. The attitude that comes with this is, "I'll go to the casino and make a couple thousand dollars today." The comps from the casino flow like the Nile; everything from comp suites to lavish gourmet dinners to VIP booths at night clubs and concert tickets come with minimal effort. They player is invincible. Ironically, during these times the casino personal tends to leave the player alone although the eye in the sky is most likely watching from a distance. You feel good, the team feels good, and everything is perfect.

The Negative

On the flips side of that coin is when you or your team is going through a negative swing and you'll be losing all your 19 and 20s, your double downs will get weak cards, and you will bust your splits. The thing that I can relay from years of playing on teams and individually is that when you're losing every aspect of play is scrutinized. It's replayed over and over in your mind searching for mistakes. At the same time, the will to play for players to play is greatly diminished. When the bank is negative, many of the players will not want to play at all.

To counter this threat of diminished moral in a team environment, I find it is best to...

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