Spend enough time grinding casino games, and you’ll inevitably meet your fair share of businesspeople that use gambling to blow off a little steam.
I’ve gambled alongside plenty of folks who founded million-dollar companies or serve as CEOs, and the experience is always illuminating, to say the least. They aren’t always the best players at the table (that’s my usual role, after all), but businesspeople still wind up leaving me with lessons to ponder when we part ways.
And that makes perfect sense when you think it through.
Like winning gamblers, successful businesspeople have managed to beat the odds in their respective field. Their job involves managing delicate risk to reward ratios, while carefully investing assets in hopes of securing a financial windfall. In business, a short-term variance can wreak havoc on your bottom line, and the same holds true for a gambler’s bankroll.
All in all, gamblers and businesspeople are cut from the same cloth. That’s probably why I enjoy meeting fellow players with a background in business because even though we apply our skills toward vastly different ends, many of the means remain the same.
As it turns out, I’m preparing to diversify my portfolio; I think that’s how you say it, by investing in an old friend’s business venture. That leap of faith has me thinking about how my background as a gambler may be of benefit, and conversely, how those encounters with business-minded individuals have improved my results at the casino.
In that spirit, I present seven business principles that you can use to take your gambling results to the next level. For each entry, I’ve included a quote from one of the world’s most celebrated titans of industry to show how the principle has been applied by the finest minds in the business world.
Business plans and investment prospectuses, focus groups and market trends, these are just a few of the many research tools in the arsenal of every great businessperson.
Before any deal is done, hours and hours of research have been devoted to exploring every possible contingency. They call this process “due diligence” in the business world, and without it, major companies leave themselves vulnerable to unexpected catastrophe.
Between acquiring competing firms, fending off takeovers from the big boys, and launching new product lines, the best businesses spend just as much time planning their maneuvers as they do executing them.
As a casino gambler, I’ve tried to apply the same level of research and planning to my own development. Whether it’s memorizing and mastering the optimal strategy for various forms of video poker or scouting out the gameplay setup and house rules on blackjack offered by neighboring casinos, there’s always something interesting to study before the real game begins.
One of my most valued research tools is the Wizard of Odds gambling instruction website, which serves as a running compendium of facts, figures, odds, probabilities, and strategies for every conceivable casino game. The site is maintained by Michael Shackleford, a mathematician and game theorist who turned his passion for sharp gambling into a veritable business empire.
As the self-styled Wizard of Odds, Shackleford runs perhaps the world’s greatest resource for intelligent gamblers. In addition, he published Gambling 102: The Best Strategies for All Casino Games in 2005, while contributing as a consultant to major game design companies like Real Time Gaming (RTG), Playtech, and Shuffle Master. He even invented a few table games of his own along the way.
Whenever I’m looking to learn a new game or brush up on my knowledge of a casino classic, my first source for research material is the Wizard of Odds. The site eschews the usual “surefire” systems designed to hook suckers and instead relies on an impartial appraisal of the facts. If a game is fun, but unbeatable from a mathematical perspective, Shackleford is sure to let his readers know the score.
No matter your experience level or bankroll limitations, studying the fundamentals of any casino game you decide to play is essential to success.
2 – Foresight
Replace the word “business” with “gambling” in the quote above, and every aspect of Bill Gates’ prediction still rings true.
Between the rapid rise of online casinos, the potential legalization of sports betting nationwide this year, cryptocurrency conversion, and virtual reality- the gambling industry is evolving like never before. Indeed, in 2018, somebody who has never even stepped foot inside a brick and mortar casino can easily claim status as a professional gambler.
And while the digital revolution certainly has a lot to do with gambling’s ongoing transformation, the land-based industry is also entering a new age.
Slot machines are no longer simple three-reel concepts based on the old “spin and hope” premise. Instead, modern players are gravitating toward fully interactive slots featuring video clips, sound effects, and licensed pop culture themes. Skill-based slots are also on the rise, allowing players to influence the outcome through hand-eye coordination, memory, and a whole host of abilities.
Every year sees dozens of new table games take a trial run, and while most are weeded out of the highly competitive economy, a few rookies manage to stick the landing and secure permanent placements.
As a person who derives the bulk of their living from gambling, part of doing my job well involves looking ahead to see what this crazy industry has in store next. I try to keep up on current developments by reading trade websites like the Casino Journal and the American Gaming Association, which help to inform the gambling public about what’s going on behind the scenes.
I’m a little older than I’d like to admit, so staying in tune with the latest advancements in gambling technology can be a chore. Thankfully, resources like those linked to above make it easy to find everything I need to remain a winning player today, and in the days to come.
Another way in which foresight comes in handy as a gambler involves looking ahead to secure the most favorable odds and game conditions.
For instance, when I’m heading to Las Vegas for a weekend spent chasing royal flushes on the video poker machines, my first stop is the vpFREE2 searchable database.
This website is a godsend for careful planners like myself, as it allows you to search through the known video poker placements throughout any region in North America. My game of choice is Deuces Wild, which is famous among sharp gambling circles for offering the elusive beast known as positive expectation. In other words, when you play Deuces Wild according to perfect basic strategy, the game offers players an edge, rather than the house. In this case, the payback percentage is 100.76 percent, which equates to a 0.76 percent advantage for the player.
The catch here is that the 100.76 percent payback rate is only available on Deuces Wild machines which use the “full pay” table (1 2 2 3 5 9 15 25 200 800). Any other paytable configuration reduces your payback percentage down under 100 percent, giving the edge back to the house.
As you might expect, casinos aren’t all that keen on offering players a positive expectation gamble, so full pay Deuces Wild machines have become increasingly rare. In fact, if you’re playing anywhere on The Strip, you won’t find a single machine which qualifies.
But by taking advantage of the handy vpFREE2 search tool, I can pull up an accurate listing of 32 locations where full pay Deuces Wild video poker can be played in Sin City. The site even breaks the list down by coin denomination and how many hands can be played per deal, so you’ll always know what to expect when entering any casino.
My personal haunt is the $0.25 game at Fiesta Rancho, as it offers a clear view of the sportsbook, but you can choose your own favorite using a simple vpFREE2 search.
Whether you’re looking ahead to the next decade of casino gaming, or simply planning your next visit to Vegas, foresight is an invaluable resource that lays the groundwork for future success.
3 – Focus
One mistake I see rookie gamblers make all the time is putting too much stock in their short-term results.
Maybe they make a perfectly timed double down on 11 against the dealer’s 6, only to draw a low card before the dealer runs pure to a 20. Perhaps they go for the gusto with a big bluff at the Texas Holdem table, with the table “fish” inexplicably calling on a bottom pair to ruin their day.
Sports bettors, table game enthusiasts, and poker players alike must cope with a phenomenon known as “variance” when pursuing their favorite skill-based games. They can play the hand perfectly, make no mistakes whatsoever, and still lose their wager when bad luck decides to strike.
That, in a nutshell, is the very essence of gambling. Even with a skill component in play which ostensibly gives the player control, random chance ensures that short-term results can swing wildly in one direction or the other.
Gamblers refer to short-term streaks as the “swings” for that very reason, as your chip stack or bankroll will swing wildly. Win six bets straight, drop seven in a row, then win another – and you’ve broken even on a 14 wager roller coaster ride.
The trick is, as media maven Oprah Winfrey alludes to in the quote above, to avoid focusing on those short-term results.
You may feel like a king among commoners when you hit on hard eight at the craps table, but try placing that same longshot bet multiple times and the swings are likely to strike with a vengeance. Conversely, going from $100 to $0 while playing video poker may hurt, but as long as you’re playing with a perfect strategy, the next $100 is likely to produce a rebound.
It’s only natural to fixate on the here and now, but all great gamblers are capable of disassociating themselves from short-term outcomes. One hand, one session, even one year of results isn’t worth wasting your focus on: not when you have a full view of the whole path ahead.
4 – Patience
If you’re going to invent, it means you’re going to experiment. And if you’re going to experiment, you’re going to fail.
And if you’re going to fail, you have to think long-term.” Jeff Bezos, Founder, and CEO of Amazon
The cold, hard truth of casino gambling is that you’ll lose more bets than you win.
It doesn’t matter if you can count cards at the blackjack table, have Jacks or Better strategy down pat, or play poker like Phil Hellmuth himself – gambling is defined by negative expectation. For that reason, many beginners often find themselves becoming discouraged when things don’t go their way.
They’ve studied their strategy tables, they’ve planned ahead to locate the best game conditions, and they’re doing everything they know how to beat the game – but their chips are claimed by the house nonetheless. This is the reality that only the most successful gamblers can truly stomach.
As the quote from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos demonstrates, worrying about success or failure in the short term isn’t a productive use of your time or energy. Instead of worrying about every hand you play, try taking a more “macro” approach to your results. Losing one hand, or a few hands in a row really doesn’t mean much when you’re recording yearly results.
When the bookselling behemoth Amazon was still in its infancy, Bezos was forced to deal with impatient investors who wondered when the startup would finally start producing profits. Amazon completed its first online book sale in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the company squeezed out the profit – and a small one at that, with $5 million gained on $1 billion in revenue.
The slow rate of growth may have grated on shareholders, but Bezos knew all along that he was building an Amazon which could weather the proverbial storm. He was perfectly happy to incur operating losses in the early going, so long as his efforts wound up bearing fruit in the long run.
Most of us aren’t blessed with Bezos’ business acumen, but we can all strive to his level of patience when trying to grind our way into the black as a casino gambler.
5- Self Appraisal
Mega-billionaire Warren Buffet made his fortune by betting big on the success or failure of companies he acquired, so it’s not surprising to hear him speak of “leaks.”
Gamblers use the term leak when referring to any flaw in their game, as these holes allow precious portions of their bankroll to bleed away. Table game players who like to dabble in the longshot side bets are leaking, as are poker players who win big in the tournament, only to hit the pits to blow it all later.
A leak can be major such as alcoholism or other habits that affect one’s judgment while playing. Minor mistakes, on the other hand, are often in terms of bet sizing or game selection.
Speaking for myself, one of the biggest leaks in my game always used to be laziness. If the casino I was calling home for the trip didn’t have full pay Deuces Wild, I’d settle for the inferior alternative by default. Same goes for 6 to 5 payouts on blackjack instead of the more generous 3 to 2 rate of old. When faced with game conditions that were less than optimal, I’d simply plow ahead and hope my superior play offset the increased house edge.
Of course, it never did, and many of my more disastrous sessions occurred when I was trying to climb a hill that was just too steep.
Today, tools like the vpFREE2 search and other research aids have helped me patch that leak. After admitting to my own sloth when it came to scouting out games, I set to work compiling my own notes on where to locate the best odds, payouts, and house rules. Soon enough, I was limiting my gambling trips to these preferred venues, thus removing any need to play an inferior game.
As Buffet might say, I decided to change vessels entirely, rather than devote my time to plugging that particular leak.
No matter how good you happen to be, or how much money you’ve made gambling, I’m willing to bet big that you have a leak waiting to be addressed. Be honest with yourself and study your own habits carefully, before setting to work and solving those leaks altogether.
6 – Flexibility
The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and CEO of Apple
When the late Steve Jobs made the statement above, he was undoubtedly referring to computer programmers and software designers who have limited themselves to a single area of expertise.
But his assessment rings true for gamblers as well, many of whom develop a one-track mind when it comes to specialization. Blackjack sharps stick to 21; video poker savants seldom leave the machines, and so on.
Having a “best game” never hurts, as I’ve mentioned, mine happens to be full pay Deuces Wild video poker, but it always helps to remain flexible. You may not have access to your preferred variant at different venues, and even if the game is on offer, it could be crowded and full.
When this inevitability arises, it’s nice to have a few other games to fall back on. Mind you, I’m not advising anybody to play a downgraded version of their favorite gamble, so anything less than full pay Deuces Wild has been out of the question for years now. But when full pay Deuces Wild isn’t in the cards, I’m more than happy to grind Joker Poker or Double Double Bonus.
7 – Perseverance
To say this quote from Tesla impresario Elon Musk is spot on would be an understatement.
Musk may be worth $15 billion today, but the former head honcho of PayPal had his fair share of failures along the way. When his Space X startup began launching rockets over the last decade, the first few attempts resulted in spectacular explosions.
Those are the odds one faces when trying to reach the stars.
Eventually, the calculations were perfected and the processes refined, with the result being several successful launches and firsts in the history of space exploration. Innovation is important to Musk, so he forged onward in spite of the odds.
From one gambler to another, I advise you to follow his lead.
Most gamblers don’t think about business while placing bets. But you can use these 7 business principles to improve your gambling results now that you understand how business and gambling can be related.