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Best of John May
Top Ten Casino Game Profit Opportunities13 August 2000
Here's a list of the top ten casino games. This list is not the top ten games for the recreational gambler. That's usually just a question of measuring house percentages. This list addresses a more complicated question: What are the top ten casino games for the serious player, the one who is either a professional or is only interested in winning?
Poker is the number one game for the professional player. The reason is fairly obvious: you are not playing against the casino but against other players. The gambler who makes a serious study of probability and psychology will always be able to find enough players at lower levels of play who are essentially guessing about correct strategy and donating their money. The poker table is essentially a centre for the transference of wealth from the unprepared to the studious.
Poker's chief drawback is that it becomes increasingly difficult to win money as the quality of opposition becomes tougher at higher levels of play.
Blackjack is narrowly edged out by poker. Last year I might have put blackjack at the top of the list, but things are declining fast today. The professional card counter can still find games to win at in Las Vegas, but the picture is increasingly bleak in most of the rest of the world. Where once the norm was a single-deck game dealt to the last card, and a card counter could easily achieve a 2% advantage, now the norm is six decks with one and a half decks or more cut out of play. Only a 0.5% edge can generally be attained in such games. Unless you have a 20,000 unit bankroll and are prepared to suffer losing periods of over a year, you cannot count cards professionally. And, unlike poker, you have to outwit a casino that will bar you if they discover what you are doing.
While blackjack conditions have always fluctuated wildly from one generation to the next, the current downturn does appear to be more serious. Moreover, a vast technological array of devices has appeared to thwart the card counter, such as continuous shuffle machines, facial recognition devices, auto-peek devices, and so on.
High-stakes professionals have responded by developing powerful new techniques superior to card counting which the casinos have no protection against, many of which depend upon weaknesses in the shuffle procedure. You can read about some of them in my next book.
However, the modern blackjack player undoubtedly has to be smarter than his antecedents to profit consistently from blackjack.
3) Video Poker
Video Poker is the most straightforward game for an advantage player. Learn the optimal strategy for the various machine types and grind away. No pit bosses to stop you playing well as they do at blackjack. No fiendishly clever opponents to outfox as in poker. Easy.
But boring. Way, way boring. And the ceiling on max profits is extremely low. You cannot make much more than $25 an hour this way.
It may come as a surprise to many of you that roulette ranks this high. The truth is that biased roulette wheels still exist. I am not sure if the myth that roulette wheels are nowadays completely unbiased was perpetuated by the casinos or not, but it has served them well. Several high stakes teams operate in this area.
Such wheels are not easy to find, but you can find them if you know what to look for. The big drawback is the immense amount of "waiting" time required to find such a wheel and the huge fluctuations involved with betting on single numbers. But this is partially compensated for by the huge advantages that can occur as a number or octant becomes significantly biased.
Consistently beating baccarat is tough. Conventional card-counting systems just don't work as well as they do at blackjack. You need to use more powerful non-linear count strategies or use a very advanced technique, such as sequencing, which I described in my Baccarat for the Clueless. Even then, the majority of baccarat games are not beatable.
Nonetheless, the almost limitless table maximums mean that if you can find an edge, the potential profits can be spectacular. Baccarat is the only casino game where a player could enjoy an annual six-figure salary.
6) Gaming Tournaments
Gaming tournaments can be conducted with any casino game, but they are really a unique type of gambling. Tournament strategies are very complex and professional play is virtually impossible because most of the time even a skilled player will finish nowhere. Few players have the bankroll to last through the majority of losing tournaments they play till they finally win one and their profit kicks in.
Nonetheless, tournaments do have an advantage in that your opponents are frequently poor players and your expectation may often be 400-500% or more if you really know what you are doing.
There are a couple of cunning techniques that can be used at craps, such as "backlining" (buying someone else's positive expectation bet). But you could not expect to make a living this way.
The only plausible method that could conceivably win at craps is through dice control (or perhaps, as suggested by Frank Scoblete in Beat The Craps Out Of The Casinos, by finding someone who can). I would not rule out the possibility that dice control is possible. But even if you can do it, ascertaining your exact edge is very difficult and it's not easy to determine how to best exploit your edge. Moreover, players suspected of dice control can find very extreme countermeasures taken against them. It's also a little known fact that dice control is prohibited by the letter of the law, though perhaps not its spirit.
8) Caribbean Stud
Caribbean stud can be beaten by a number of methods. Though this game has a high house edge, it's possible to find dealers who expose their hole-cards (a front-loader), which can give you an edge of up to 17%. The progressive jackpot usually offered with this game can sometimes become favourable. And if you can find a table of players who all show you their cards, then card-counting can give you an advantage of up to 2.71%.
In practice, however, except in Europe where dealers are not as used to protecting their hole-cards as their American counterparts, these opportunities occur only rarely.
9) Let it Ride
Like Caribbean Stud, this game can be beaten if you can find a front-loader. Let It Ride dealing procedures have been altered radically since the game's introduction to reduce hole-card exposure.
10) Pai Gow Poker
This banking game can be beaten if it is possible to hold the bank frequently and bet comparatively small amounts as a player. Usually the house commission on banker wins means it's not possible to do much better than a meagre 0.3% advantage, but an exception to this rule exists in California, where a flat rate commission is charged per hand instead.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John May