Advantage gamblers are always playing a game they can beat, or are looking for one they can beat. They don’t always win, but they don’t play unless they realistically think they can create an edge.
Most gamblers who hear the term advantage play think it means blackjack card counters. While counting cards while playing blackjack is an advantage play, it’s only one of many. To be an advantage player you simply need to find, or create, an edge, and then exploit it.
If you ask most gamblers to list possible advantage play games, few think of poker or sports betting. But the truth is that some poker players and some sports bettors are able to gamble with a long term edge.
Any gambling activity that you can do with an edge is an advantage play. This is an important point to remember when looking for easy ways to be an advantage player. If you can find someone to pay you better than 1 to 1 on a coin flip, it’s an advantage play, and it’s easy.
Most advantage play methods are hard. Some of them take months or years to learn and require a lifetime of work to perfect. Others are easier to learn, but require constant jumping from game to game and being under constant threat of detection and being barred from the casino.
One reason more players don’t try to look for advantage play opportunities is because the belief is that it’s hard. While advantage play is hard, it doesn’t mean you can’t get started with some simple steps, and it doesn’t mean you can’t look for a few easy opportunities, even if they don’t come up on a regular basis.
The lazy gambler’s guide to advantage play is here to help you in two areas. The first area is to help you get started without investing a great deal of time. Once you get started you can determine how much more work you need to do and decide if the effort is worth it.
The second area is to show you how to look for easy advantage opportunities. This is as much about your mindset as it is about particular methods. Many advantage play opportunities exist, but they aren’t always available on a regular basis.
Get Really Good at One Thing
Over the years I’ve experiments with many different types of advantage play. I’ve played poker, bet on sports, and learned how to count cards, and taken advantage of many one time and infrequent opportunities. The problem I had for several years was I didn’t dedicate enough effort to any one thing. This negated most of the upside, because it divided my attention.
If you dedicate your work toward becoming a full time advantage player, you can learn to be good at many different things. But this is basically a full time job and takes a lot of work.
If you’re looking for an easier way to start, that doesn’t require full time dedication, you can pick one advantage play area to get started. It’s easier to get really good at one advantage play method if you want to get started and have a realistic chance of getting an edge.
In the next section I cover the best options to get started, with a few steps to start with each possibility. I suggest starting with one that fits what you enjoy.
I’ve always enjoyed playing poker and betting on sports, so I eventually focused on poker while still making occasional sports bets. Once I started focusing on poker, my results improved a great deal.
I’m not saying you should start with poker, because your skills and interests might not be the same as mine. One of the big reasons poker worked out so well for me is because I enjoyed learning about it almost as much as I enjoyed playing. It didn’t feel like work as I learned and improved my skills.
If you can an advantage play method that you enjoy learning about so much that it doesn’t feel like work, it can help you reach your goals faster.
Here are the main areas you can find advantage play opportunities. One is not necessarily better than another and what one person finds difficult, another might find easy. Read through the list and see which ones interest you the most.
Poker offers many choices when it comes to advantage play. Poker is the perfect game in many ways because you aren’t fighting the house edge. The only cost in poker is the house rake, so if you’re able to learn how to play better than the majority of your opponents you can turn a profit.
In addition, if you’re patient and learn what to look for, you can pick your opponents most of the time. If you find games with poor players you can quickly start making profit.
Some poker players play different games, different formats, and different money levels, but this is much like a beginning advantage player trying to learn everything at once. Pick one game, one format, and one buy in level, and master it before playing other games. I suggest starting in cash games, but if you want to be a tournament player you can start with them.
Texas holdem is the most popular game, and is available online and in just about every poker room in the world. No limit games are more popular than limit games, but both are offered in most places. You can pay cash games, multi table tournaments, or single table tournaments. You can also play satellite tournaments to gain entry into bigger buy in tournaments.
Other poker games that you can also find many places include limit and pot limit Omaha, limit and pot limit Omaha hi lo, and limit and pot limit 7 card stud.
Many players focus on no limit Texas holdem because it’s so popular. And many players are able to learn how to win in the long run. But it can cost a great deal of money to get from your current skill level to become a winning player, and a no limit game makes every mistake cost more than a limit game.
I suggest starting with limit games at a fairly low buy in amount. Limit Texas holdem is a good choice, but more players specialize at Texas holdem than the other games. Omaha or Omaha hi lo offers more profitable games in my experience, because fewer players know how to play and fewer players specialize in it.
The way to get started playing poker is to make sure you completely understand the rules. This doesn’t take long, but it’s important because if you don’t know all of the rules you might make costly mistakes.
Here’s an example:
Many Texas holdem players try Omaha because you start with four cards instead of two. They think they can play more hands because they have more starting cards. The truth is that you need to play fewer hands in most Omaha games, but that’s not the point when it comes to understanding the rules.
In Texas holdem you can use any five cards from your hand and the board. In Omaha you have to use exactly two cards from your hand and exactly three from the board. If you don’t know how this works, you can make a mistake by thinking you can use one or three of your hole cards.
Once you pick a game and format, set aside a bankroll for play. Then start reading good books and online articles about your game. As you gain experience, try to learn from each mistake and improve every time you play.
Sportsbooks make money by charging a fee, called a vig, on every wager. For most bets, you have to bet 11 to win 10, or 110 to win 100. When you win you get back your bet and your win, but when you lose you lose your entire wager. One way to look at the vig is you only pay it when you lose.
If the sportsbook paid out even money you could bet 100 to win 100. In the long run this would lead to the sportsbook breaking even, and they aren’t in business to break even. The vig means that you need to be able to win more bet than you lose to turn a profit. This isn’t easy, but it can be done.
In order to make a profit with normal vig you need to win 52.4% of your bets or more. If you can learn enough to win 54 or 55% of your bets you can make a great deal of money betting on sports.
To be a winning sports bettor you have to know as much about the sport you’re betting on as you can, and find sportsbooks that offer odds you can beat. You can shop for lines at different books to find the ones that offer the most profit for the games you bet on.
Winning sports bettors evaluate games or matches, called handicapping, and then look for lines that offer value against their predictions.
Here’s an example:
You bet on NFL games and the Jets are playing at the Patriots. You evaluate the game and determine that the Patriots should win by 10. Then you look at four different sportsbooks for the lines.
Two sportsbooks have the Patriots favored by 10, one has them favored by 9, and the other has them favored by 11.
At this point you can decide that the lines are too close to your estimate to make a bet, you can bet on the Patriots and give 9 points, or you can bet on the Jets and get 11 points. The other option is to bet on both the Patriots and give 9 and bet on the Jets and get 11. If you bet on both sides and the Patriots win by 10 you win both bets.
It’s better to find lines that offer more value than this example, but the sportsbooks are good at predicting the outcomes of games. A better value is when you determine the Patriots will win by 10 and the books have them favored by 7 or 13. This is a larger spread between your predication and the line, so if you get good enough handicapping you can win more games with lines offering value like this.
As you gain experience handicapping games you can find more lines that offer value. You can flip a coin and win 50% of your bets in the long run, so if you learn enough you have a realistic chance to push your winning percentage to 54 or 55%.
Card counting is used almost exclusively to play blackjack. You can find blackjack games with rules that offer a house edge of .5% or less. With card counting you can lower the house edge enough that you can play with an edge against the house. If you can learn how to count cards at even a low level, you should be able to play at a break even clip while you improve your skills.
The challenges of card counting include:
Learning perfect basic strategy
Learning how to count cards well
Not getting caught
Betting enough when you have a positive count to make enough profit
Many players don’t try to learn how to count cards because they believe it’s too hard. While it’s not simple, it’s not as hard to count cards as most people believe. You can learn how to count cards in a few hours, and then practice until you can do it well.
If you enjoy playing blackjack, I urge you to learn more about counting. The way to get started is to learn more about how the rules change the house edge and learn how to use perfect basic strategy. You can use a chart or card to help you learn how to make the best strategy decisions.
Once you understand how the rules change the house edge and can use basic strategy, the next step is to find a counting system. Popular card counting systems include the hi lo, Red 7, and Knock Out, also known as KO. All three of these systems are effective and easy to use once you learn how.
Learn how each system works and then choose one you like. Any of the three systems listed above are fine, so you can’t really go wrong. Once you choose a system, learn as much about it as possible and practice until you’re comfortable.
Then start using it in live play. Once you can use your system, learn about camouflage techniques and how to keep from getting thrown out of the casino.
Hole carding can be used when you’re playing blackjack or just about any other table game that has hidden cards. Hole carding is when you find a dealer that does a poor job dealing, and they flash the value of face down cards so you can see them.
The biggest problem with hole carding is you can only use it when you find a sloppy dealer. And it’s hard to do, even when you identify a poor dealer.
I don’t recommend starting your advantage play experience hole carding, but you should always watch for sloppy dealers to see if you can take advantage of it in a game you’re already playing.
Horse racing is somewhat like poker, because you’re not playing against a house edge. All of the money wagered on a horse race goes into a pool and the track keeps a percentage of the pool. If you can pick winners better than most of the other bettors you can turn a profit. The horse racing betting system is called a pari-mutuel betting pool. The house percentage is often 15 to 18%.
Just like sports betting, if you want to bet on horse races you need to learn as much about handicapping as possible. Learn about the horses, trainers, jockeys, and tracks where you place bets. The percentage the track keeps is usually higher than the vig charged on sports bets, so it can be difficult to turn a long range profit betting on horses.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports, also called DFS, are set up a lot like poker. You compete against other players by picking a team of players who accumulate points for the day. When your players accumulate more points than you opponent’s players you win. The house charges a fee, like the entry fee in a poker tournament on each bet placed.
You need to learn about players like you do when you bet on sports. It takes a great deal of work to get good at DFS, but if you’re better than most of your opponents you can turn a long term profit.
Esports betting is fairly new in the gambling world, but it functions quite a bit like sports betting. Teams and players compete by playing popular games, like video games, and you can place wagers on them.
To get started, learn which esports have available odds and where you can place wagers. Then learn more about the players and teams competing in your favorite games so you can handicap future matches.
Most people think of the prop bets offered by sportsbooks on sporting events when they hear prop bets. But that isn’t what I’m talking about here. In this case I’m talking about bets you can make with people you know. You can bet on anything that you can think of if you can find another person to take the bet.
Poker players often place side bets as they play. They might bet on if the turn card is going to be red or black or what suit the river is going to be.
People have been betting on dice for hundreds of years, and people bet on their favorite sports teams with friends all of the time.
Smart players can come up with prop bets that give them an edge. The key is figuring out the true odds of a bet and then finding someone you can be with that will accept worse than the true odds.
Here’s an example:
You know that the chance of rolling snake eyes, two ones, with two dice is 1 out of every 36 rolls. If you can find someone that will pay 40 to 1 on snake eyes, you play with an edge every time you roll. Or you could find someone willing to place bets and you only pay 30 to 1 on snake eyes.
Here’s another example:
You know that the chances of any coin flip using a fair coin is 50% on heads and 50% on tails. So a fair payout is 1 to 1. If you could find someone that agreed to pay $1.10 to $1 you’d be playing with an edge.
It’s difficult to find someone to make a bet on a coin flip that doesn’t offer fair odds, but many people have no idea what fair odds are on dice rolls. Come up with a big list of things that most people don’t know fair odds on and see how many people you can get to make wagers on them with the odds in your favor.
Here’s another example:
You know a few people who are big fans of a local team. This can be a college or pro team, but the key is that they always think their team is better than they really are. You look at the Las Vegas odds and make a bet with these fans after moving the line in your favor.
This is one of the easiest bets you can make with an edge. You can often move the line three or more points in your favor on a football game, which gives you a big advantage.
You don’t need to dedicate 40 or more hours a week toward being an advantage player. You can get started with just a few hours every week as long as you focus on one thing. Once you master one advantage play technique, then you can add another one. With enough time and practice, you can create many different advantage play opportunities without too much work.