Playing casino games that can offer you a long-term advantage is exciting. Games like poker, sports wagering, and esports betting give you a realistic chance to make gambling profits. You can also use various advantage play techniques like card counting, progressive jackpot hunting, and shuffle tracking to win in the long run. You may find the idea of earning income through advantage gambling appealing. But it’s important to realize that not all advantage techniques and games are created equally.
Some are excruciating ways to make profits due to one or more reasons. I’m going to cover several terrible ways to grind out gambling winnings. These games and advantage play methods might offer you positive expected value (+EV). But they’ll make you want to quit long before you collect any significant profits.
1 – Video Poker
Video poker is unique in that it’s a house-banked game that offers the chance to win long-term profits. But this is rare in gambling when considering that the casino doesn’t like relinquishing its edge. In fact, they throw suspected advantage players out of their establishments.
Just keep in mind that you need to find the “full-pay” version of Deuces Wild. A full-pay game features the best pay table on a certain video poker variation. Having a 0.76% edge on the house compares well to other advantage techniques. For example, skilled card counters have between a 0.5% and 1.5% edge. But the problem with video poker is that your biggest bet will be too small to earn significant profits.
Here’s an example to explain:
- You’re playing Deuces Wild (100.76% RTP).
- You use perfect strategy, giving you a 0.76% edge.
- You play 800 hands per hour.
- Your max bet is $1.25 per hand (five coins).
- 800 x 1.25 x 0.0076 = $7.60 in winnings per hour
- You’re comped on 0.1% of your bets.
- 800 x 1.25 x 0.001 = $1 in comps per hour
Earning $8.60 per hour is fine if you love of gambling as a hobby. After all, who doesn’t love making money doing something they love?
However, you’re not going to make a decent living at this rate. This is especially true in pricey Las Vegas, which is the only reliable place to find full-pay Deuces Wild on a consistent basis. Using the database site vpFREE2.com, you can see that the largest concentration of full-pay Deuces Wild machines is in Vegas.
This brings up another downside in that you must live in or around Sin City to make serious profits through video poker. You may not have a problem with this, especially if you’re looking to move somewhere more exciting than your current location. But you’re not going to relocate for $8.60 an hour if you’re happy with your current city.
2 – Progressive Slot Machines
People lose more money on progressive slot machines than any other game in the casino. What many of these same players don’t realize is that you can actually gain an advantage through the right slots games. Progressive slot machines can offer +EV when their jackpots reach a certain point. The reason why is because a jackpot’s increased value grows to the point it pushes RTP over 100%.
Contrast this to a table game or video poker progressive jackpot, where you do have enough info to calculate this. You can find the fixed odds of blackjack and video poker outcomes, which is why it’s also possible to determine when these games are offering a profitable jackpot opportunity. Given that you won’t know the perfect time to play for a progressive slots jackpot, you merely have to guess.
Here’s an example on how to do this:
- A slot machine’s base payback is 94%.
- The starting jackpot is $10,000.
- The jackpot grows to $150,000.
- You now believe that the game is offering +EV.
It’s possible that you’ll have a long-term edge when playing at this point. Again, though, you can’t really tell.
Another problem with progressive slots advantage play is that it’s a volatile affair. Volatility refers to how likely your short-term results are to meet long-term outcomes. A slot machine is highly unlikely to give you short-term results that are anywhere near the stated payout percentage. Theoretically, a slot with 95% RTP should pay $95 for every $100 wagered.
This brings me to one more point in that the odds of winning a larger progressive prize are astronomical. You’ll have to make tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of spins on average before winning a six or seven-figure jackpot. Even if you go after smaller prizes in the $5,000 to $25,000 range, you still don’t have great odds of winning the top prize. Assuming you don’t hit the jackpot, then your theoretical advantage will go out the window.
3 – Lottery Style Poker SNGs
A sit and go (SNG) is a single-table online poker tournament that features anywhere from 2-10 players. The top 1-3 finishers will receive a prize depending upon the number of participants. SNGs are already attractive from the viewpoint that you don’t have to wait until a specific time to play. Instead, these single-table tourneys begin as soon as the required number of players registers.
A few years ago, online poker sites rolled out lottery style SNGs to appeal to even more players. Lottery SNGs have been popular among recreational players ever since their inception. A lottery SNG seats three players and requires a standard buy-in. The prize pool is determined by a combination of the buy-ins and a random multiplier.
Here’s a simple example on how this works:
- Three players pay a $10 buy-in.
- The random prize multiplier is 100x.
- 100 x 10 = $1,000 prize pool.
- Winner takes all.
The hope is that your table gets a big multiplier and offers a huge prize pool. But the reality is that you’re far more likely to be playing for small payouts. This creates a lot of volatility since the majority of your winning prospects are wrapped up in the biggest lottery SNG payouts.
Being a skilled player gives you a better chance to win the SNG and earn whatever payout is available. But you also have to rely on a tremendous stroke of luck to win bigger payouts that’ll boost your bankroll and provide profits. This can happen over time if you’re patient enough to wait. However, you can also go the safer route by using your skills to win consistent profits in cash games and/or regular SNGs.
4 – Deposit Bonus Hunting
Online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks offer deposit bonuses in order to draw new customers. The general idea is that you make a deposit and qualify for a bonus.
Here’s an example:
- A gaming site offers a 100% match bonus up to $100.
- You deposit $50.
- You qualify to earn a $50 bonus.
The great thing about deposit bonuses is that they give you a chance to earn extra money while playing games you already enjoy. The downside, though, is that the terms and conditions are normally skewed in a manner where the house still wins in the long run.
Here’s an example on how this plays out:
- You’re eligible for a $100 bonus.
- Wagering requirements are 40x the bonus.
- 100 x 40 = $4,000 must be wagered to withdraw the bonus
- You play a slot with 96% payback (4% house edge).
- 4,000 x 0.04 = $160 in theoretical losses
- 160 losses – 100 bonus = $60 total loss
Most players wouldn’t expect to lose this much money when unlocking a bonus. But the math shows the harsh realities of the average bonus offer. You can find some opportunities where it’s possible to earn a theoretical profit through your bonus.
Here’s an example on how this works:
- You qualify for a $50 bonus.
- Wagering requirements are 20x the bonus.
- 50 x 20 = $1,000 must be wagered
- You play a slot with 96% payback (4% house edge).
- 1,000 x 0.04 = $40 theoretical losses
- 50 bonus – 40 losses = $10 total profit
It’s nice to take advantage of profitable bonus opportunities. But the roadblock is that it’s really hard to find these deals. I’ve seen some offers where you can earn a theoretical profit at regulated New Jersey online casinos. These casinos are still relatively new and doing whatever they can to entice players.
The only reasonable route would be if you’re already a skilled poker player or sports bettor who can combine your winnings with the bonus. Yet you also have to consider that you only qualify for a welcome bonus once, meaning you’ll have to switch sites to take advantage of these offers.
5 – Ace Sequencing
Ace sequencing is a technique where you track cards from the point when they hit the discard pile to when the dealer shuffles and deals. The goal is to determine when the aces will come out of the shoe, so you know when your chances of getting a natural blackjack (21 on first two cards) are better. You also need to bet more when your odds of getting aces increase to capitalize on your advantage.
Just imagine making $100 bets where your EV is $50. The amount of profits that you can make with this type of advantage is seemingly endless. Everything I’ve discussed makes ace sequencing seem like a dream strategy. But the main drawback is the difficulty in mastering this method.
First off, ace tracking is a lightly used advantage gambling technique. You won’t find many discussions and resources on using it, versus something more common like card counting. Even when you do know how to properly track aces, it’s very difficult to put theory into practice.
Ace sequencing starts with watching discard piles.You need to have such a trained eye that you can monitor aces from the discard tray to when they’re being shuffled into card clumps. You’ll also need to remember the 2-3 cards placed on top of each ace in the discard tray. These anchor cards signal when an ace will be coming out.
6 – Edge Sorting
Edge sorting is an advantage play technique where you look for flaws in cardbacks. The goal is to relate these flawed card backs to specific values, which you then use to determine what cards will be dealt next. For example, certain card values (e.g. 2-5) in a flawed deck might feature half-diamond patterns on the edge, versus full-diamond patterns for other values (e.g. 6-A).
Famous poker player Phil Ivey and his accomplice, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, made edge sorting famous when they won a fortune of the Borgata and Crockfords. Ivey and Sun approached these casinos with the prospect that they wanted to play high stakes punto banco (baccarat variation). Ivey was willing to front a $1 million deposit at both locations if they would agree to certain terms.
Here are the specific conditions that Ivey and Sun requested:
- Purple Gemaco deck (had flawed card backs).
- Cards rotated at 180 degrees (spot the flaws better).
- Mandarin-speaking Chinese dealer (make requests that the casino staff couldn’t understand).
Using this combination of special terms and edge sorting, the duo won $11 million at Crockfords and $9.6 million at the Borgata. However, they didn’t get to keep the money in either case. Crockfords withheld the money on grounds that they’d wire Ivey the funds after a bank holiday. But the London casino instead reviewed their security footage and felt that Ivey cheated them. They instead kept the money and waited until the imminent lawsuit from Ivey, who felt that he legitimately won the $11 million.
Keep in mind that Sun spent hours analyzing various cardbacks to find the defective purple Gemaco deck. Even with her trained eye and knowing which card values had flaws, she still needed the dealer to rotate cards 180 degrees in order to better see the flaws. Unless you have some of the world’s best vision, you won’t be able to spot flawed cardbacks. And you’re very unlikely to convince another casino to rotate cards 180 degrees when considering that they’ve probably all heard of Ivey’s case.
7 – Banking Slot Machines
Banking slot machines (a.k.a. bonus accumulator slots) are games that deliver bonuses when a special meter is filled. You need to collect designated scatter symbols to increase the meter.
The reason why is because other players have already contributed the necessary money to increase the meter. You’re capitalizing on these previous wagers to gain an advantage. What’s attractive about using bonus accumulator slot machines to earn an advantage is that there’s little strategy involved. All you do is find banking slots, walk around their casino locations, and sit down when you find a near-full meter.
This idea seems easy, but it’s actually difficult for the following three reasons:
- Many regular players are aware of the filling meter and want to trigger the bonus.
- Few banking slot machines exist today (even in Vegas).
- You’ll be competing against other advantage players who are also aware of this technique.
The first two points make it hard to find profitable bonus accumulator opportunities. The third point means that you’ll have competition for the few +EV opportunities that do exist.
Advantage slots teams can be very aggressive when it comes to bonus accumulators. After all, part or all of their livelihood depends upon earning as many bonuses as possible. This doesn’t mean that you can’t try banking slots advantage play. But I wouldn’t stake your income on winning profits from these games.
Certain games are also extremely volatile and will likely drain your bankroll before you make anything. Progressive slot machines and lottery SNGs are both in this class. I’m not saying that you should completely swear off anything I’ve covered here. But you also shouldn’t devote much time to these pursuits, because there are better opportunities available.