Every day in casinos around the globe, a silent war is being waged. No, I'm not talking about the battles between average customers and the house, as these are played out in the light of day for all to see. I'm referring to the covert conflict between the casino and advantage players, men and women with a singular devotion to getting an edge over the house through a combination of comps and legal play.
While some of these individuals wind up losing just as much as everyone else, there are an elite few who manage to walk away with a profit on a consistent basis. The tactics they use are legal, but they must still be ninja-like in their approach; most casinos have the right to refuse service to anyone, and overly successful players can sometimes be asked to leave (especially in the case of card counters).
If some of these individuals are successful, it begs the question, "Why do casinos stay in business when they lose money to advantage gamblers?" That's what we intend to address in this article.
While all advantage players want to get an edge on the house and make a long-term profit, they often choose different casino options in order to meet their objectives. In this section, we'll be looking at some of the most popular casino games for advantage players.
Video Poker – For those who love to shave as many percentage points as possible off the house edge, video poker has long been a favorite. Unlike the random idiocy of slots, video poker allows the player to make a logical and strategic decision on every hand. This results in a low house edge to begin with, but it drops even more when the gambler employs the basic strategy chart during play.
Employing basic strategy doesn't guarantee a royal flush on every hand, but it does give you the best mathematical chance of winning on a consistent basis. If you can find a machine with a generous pay table, this can even lead to the player having a slight edge over the house in the long term. This makes video poker a rarity among casino games.
Blackjack – When advantage players sit down at a blackjack table, their weapon of choice is known as card counting. This is a method of play designed to give the player an idea of when the odds are in their favor, thus allowing them to make more ambitious wagers during this period.
Card counting is based on assigning a numerical value to each card, with the most common being +1, 0, or -1. When aces and 10-value cards are played, the count if often reduced by one. When low-ranking cards are played, the count is increased by one. The logic is that a deck filled with aces and tens is more useful to the player, which means they should wager more when the count is high.
When combined with basic strategy, a successful card counter can gain a narrow advantage over the house. This isn't easy, however, as it requires patience and the ability to make quick mathematical computations in a crowded environment. And even if done correctly, there's also the chance that the casino will get wise to this legal tactic and escort you off the premises (unless you're in Atlantic City, where card counters are protected from ejection by law).
Craps – While the first two entries on this list are longtime favorites among advantage players, this one is more recent and the subject of quite a lot of debate. In order to gain an edge over the house in this normally random game, the player must employ what is known as "dice control."
Prior to the roll, the player sets the dice in their hand in a specific way to influence a certain outcome. They then toss the dice just hard enough to tap the back wall of the playing surface, thereby satisfying the rules of the game while still negating the randomizing effects of a full-on collision.
Proponents of the method such as Frank Scoblete and Stanford Wong argue that a skilled dice controller can make dozens of consecutive rolls in this fashion, racking up lots of money in the process. Not everyone is convinced however, and numerous sceptics continue to scoff at this tactic.
If you decided to open a casino tomorrow, you would undoubtedly have to deal with a small percentage of customers who've obsessively studied ways to separate you from your money. From card counting to dice control, these methodical individuals enjoy the challenge of taking on the casino and proving themselves able to circumvent the house edge.
But even if some of these individuals manage to win big, you can always rely on the throngs of regular customers to serve as a safety net. To illustrate my point, let's look at some numbers.
A recent article from the Motley Fool laid out the quarterly profits from Wynn Resorts and the Las Vegas Sands. According to this information, each table game at Wynn Las Vegas made $8,130 per day, while each slot generated $276. The numbers were even higher at the Wynn Macau, with $26,146 per day for each table game, and another $1,163 per slot.
These figures are based on the amount of profit generated per day, so the winnings of any advantage players are already factored in. As you can see, the damage done by these crafty gamblers is nothing more than a drop in the ocean when compared to the losses sustained by bored suburbanites and other casual patrons.
Most players have limited options when it comes to making a profit against the casino; either they win or they don't. The house, however, has numerous tricks that it can employ to separate you from your money, and this is a major reason why these establishments continue to operate in the black. The following are some of the most common (and effective) tactics:
While some advantage players may win on a regular basis, they're far outnumbered by regular gamblers who lose over the long term. This disparity in the two groups allows the casinos to generate a massive profit each year, which is more than enough to cover any losses. While the phrase "the house always wins" isn't entirely true, it's close enough to assure that the casino industry is in no danger of collapsing in the foreseeable future. In fact, it seems stronger than ever.