Wikipedia: Advantage Play


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Advantage gambling, or advantage play, refers to legal methods used to gain an advantage while gambling, in contrast to cheating. The term usually refers to house-banked casino games, but can also refer to games played against other players, such as poker. Someone who practices advantage gambling is often referred to as an advantage player, or AP. Unlike cheating, which is by definition illegal, advantage play exploits innate characteristics of a particular game to give the player an advantage relative to the house or other players. While not illegal, advantage play may result in players being banned by certain casinos.

A skillful or knowledgeable player can gain an advantage at a number of games. Card games have been won by card sharps for centuries. Some slot machines and lotteries with progressive jackpots can eventually have such a high jackpot that they offer a positive return when played long term, according to gambling mathematics, though this requires often difficult to acquire information about the settings of the specific slot machine and specific casino, a knowledge of statistics and probability, as well as a large enough bankroll to withstand the inevitable volatility. Some online games can be beaten with bonus hunting.

Sports and horse betting

Sports and horse betting can be beaten by placing arbitrage bets, which involve placing bets at different bookmakers who are offering different lines (odds). Many online sports books now offer bonuses like free bets or free money. These bonuses usually come with a stipulation that the bettor place a certain number of bets. For example, a site may offer a bettor $50 free if they deposit $100 and place a total of $1000 in bets. These can reduce the vig taken by the house or even offer the bettor a small advantage. [citation needed]

Another form of advantage can be found by betting the "middle" on a sports event. This situation occurs when two bookmakers are offering different lines on the same event, or if a bettor has placed a bet and the bookmaker changes the line. The bettor simply takes the most favorable lines at each bookmaker, and if the result of the contest is between the numbers, or in the "middle", then the bettor wins both bets.

For example, Bookmaker A lists the Jets to be a 4-point favorite over the Bills. Bookmaker B has the Jets as just a 2-point favorite. The advantage player may bet the Bills +4 with Book A and then the Jets -2 with Book B. If the Jets win by 3, the advantage player collects on both bets. If the Jets win by either 2 or 4, the advantage player collects on one winning bet and the other "push." And if the Jets win or lose by any other total, the two bets cancel out, leaving the advantage player to pay only the vigorish on the bets. Given typical 10-cent lines, a middle need only win 1 time in 21 to break even, which is a realistic goal – the middle is always a plausible result since it is based on the actual strength of the teams. Middling is an example of line arbitrage.

Special offers

Using special offers provided by bookmakers it is possible for a skilled bettor to put the odds in their favor. Special offers may include; cashback on specific events, enhanced odds and comp points. To profit from these specials, a skilled bettor will use betting, laying and dutching[1] to create their own book on an event that may not guarantee profit but will still put the odds in their favor instead of the bookmaker(s) involved. Sign up bonuses are also classed as special offers and can be used in a similar way to lock in a profit regardless of the result using the principles of matched betting.

Betting exchanges

Betting exchanges offer advantage players a chance to make a larger profit than possible with bookmakers because exchanges charge commission only on the net winnings[2] in a particular betting market. One way to make money on the exchanges is "trading" - in the above example, the Jets might be a favorite decimal odds of 1.90 to defeat the Bills. If a "trader" thinks these odds too long he may bet $1000 on the Jets, and should he prove correct and the odds on the Jets get shorter, "lay off" by laying, say, a $1016 bet against the Jets at 1.87. If the Jets win, he collects $900 on his bet on the Jets and pays out approximately $884 on the bet he laid against the Jets. If the Jets lose, he loses his $1000 stake on the Jets but keeps the $1016 stake on the bet he laid against the Jets. Either way, the "trader" makes a $16 profit and he will pay a commission only on that profit (usually not more than 5% or 80 cents in this example) for a net profit of $15.20 regardless of the result. Of course, if the odds go the wrong way the "trader" may lose money but most exchanges do not charge a commission in the event of a net loss.


Blackjack and other table games can sometimes be beaten with card counting, hole carding, shuffle tracking, edge sorting, or several other methods. The players most skilled in these techniques have been nominated to the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

Video poker

Some video poker games, such as full pay Deuces Wild, could be beaten if played with perfect strategy[3] devised by computer analysis of the game. However, as of 2023, full pay Deuces Wild video poker is no longer known to exist at any casino since Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino near Las Vegas, Nevada became the last casino to remove the game.[4] Technically there are some other varieties of video poker that can result in a positive long term expected rate of return, but the "long term" can be extremely long, the margins very low, and the strategies are much more complicated to memorize compared to Deuces Wild. Current versions of Deuces Wild video poker are played exactly the same as the original "full pay" version as far as how the game is played; they just offer smaller payouts for winning hands compared to the "full pay" version, making the house edge against a perfect player just slightly over 0%, meaning even a player who plays perfectly will still almost certainly lose money over the long term.[5]

Similar to the Blackjack Hall of Fame, there is an internet "Video Poker Hall of Fame".[6]

Some video poker games with a progressive jackpot for a royal flush offer in excess of 100% payback when the jackpot amount exceeds a certain level. Organized teams of video poker players are known to occupy banks of machines in this situation, playing until the jackpot is won (which may take many hours).[7]


Poker can offer a long-term advantage to a skilled player because it is played against other players and not against the house. The casino usually takes a rake (commission) or a time charge. Whether a poker player can win enough from the game to cover the rake and make a profit depends, aside from the rake level, not only on the player's skill, but also on the opposition's lack thereof - the degree of difficulty can vary widely from casino to casino. Tables with relatively easy opposition are referred to as "soft."

There is another advantage to playing poker as opposed to games where play is against the house: since the house has no direct interest in the outcome of a poker game, successful poker players can operate openly without risk of being banned by casinos.

While in the short term luck primarily determines a poker player's results, over the long term the skilled player will invariably profit if playing against weaker competition. A player can profit from their skill in many ways. For example, by understanding pot odds and implied odds, a player can assess whether it will be profitable to chase a flush or straight draw. Identifying exploitable patterns in an opponent's play also gives the skilled player an edge. For example, a weak opponent might almost never bluff, or might bluff far too often. Or an opponent might make huge bets only as bluffs, and make smaller bets with good hands (or vice versa). A skilled player noticing such patterns in an opponent's play can make better decisions when facing a bet from that player.

In live settings, some players will take advantage of tells, that is, opponent facial expressions and mannerisms that may give away information about the strength of the player's hand. Skilled players use all available information (not only an opponent's actions earlier in a hand, but also his or her actions during previous hands) to assess which action will be most profitable, be it a call or a fold, a bluff or a bet for value.

Other types of advantage play

Dice control

Experts disagree about whether or not an advantage can be gained at some other games. One example is dice control. Authors Stanford Wong[8] and Frank Scoblete[9] have stated that by setting and throwing the dice in a certain way players can alter the odds at the game of craps enough to gain an advantage.


In the Japanese game of pachinko, there are numerous purported strategies for winning, the most reliable of which is to use inside information to learn which machines have the highest payout settings. Because of the "Stock", "Renchan", and tenjō systems, it is possible to make money by simply playing machines on which someone has just lost a huge amount of money. This is called being a "hyena". They are easy to recognize, roaming the aisles for a "Kamo" ("sucker" in English) to leave their machine in a favorable mode.

Angle shooting

"Angle shooting" is another type of advantage play. Despite "angle shooting" being legal, it is possibly an unethical way to beat casino games.[citation needed] One way to get an advantage at a casino is "hole carding" where a player tries to look at the dealer's hole card in blackjack and then uses that information to play their hand differently.[10] This clearly gives an advantage to the player since knowing your opponent's cards reduces the risks involved in the game. Taking advantage of incorrect payouts is another example of angle shooting. For example, if an inexperienced dealer pays 2 to 1 on a blackjack instead of 3 to 2, not correcting him or her is also taking advantage of an incorrect payout.[11]

"Angle shooting" can also happen in poker. For instance, in no-limit poker a player may hide high denomination chips behind stacks of low denomination chips, giving off an appearance that their stack is less powerful than it really is. Another example is making an illegal move, which the player may later declare void if it suits them. While angle shooting is seen as "fair game" in games against the house, it is heavily frowned upon in games where players compete with other players, as it ruins the table atmosphere, makes the game less appealing to novice players, and is not in the spirit of the game.[12]

Casinos and playrooms continually create new rules to defeat angle shooting techniques.[12]

Comp hustling

Comp hustling can be another form of advantage gambling. Players, known as comp hustlers or comp wizards, who play games with a low house advantage or low bet size such as penny slots, can get more than their expected loss in free items from the casino.[13] Many advantage players also take steps to maximize the comps they receive from their play.[14]

Roulette wheel

Roulette wheels with manufacturing defects or uneven wear may land on some numbers (or, more likely, a certain grouping or groupings of numbers in close proximity on the wheel as opposed to the numbers' location on the betting board) with a statistically significant greater frequency. It is sometimes possible, though very rare in practice, through large numbers of observations, or noting patterns of wear on the wheel's surface, to determine when this is the case and bet accordingly.[15] Physician Richard Jarecki was able to exploit this to great effect at European casinos in the 1960s and 1970s.[15]

Exploiting weaknesses in casino machinery

Weaknesses in casino card shuffling machines that allow a skilled player to predict which cards are likely to be dealt next have been exploited on at least one occasion.[16]

Casino countermeasures

Casinos sometimes take measures to thwart players who they believe could potentially pose a threat to their profits, especially card-counters or hole-card players. However, some casinos tolerate card-counters who do not bet large amounts, who are not good at counting, or who do not use a large betting spread.

A countermeasure practice used by some casinos, which has long been considered controversial, involves shuffling the deck or decks earlier than would typically be done when the remaining cards are more likely to be favorable to the player than to the casino–a practice known as "preferential shuffling".[17] The practice has become even more controversial as casinos introduce new technology to aid them in preventing skilled players, and sometimes even unskilled players, from winning at blackjack or other card games involving skill in addition to pure luck.[18] Other examples of common countermeasures (roughly in order from least to most restrictive to the player) include imposing betting limits, asking players not to play blackjack anymore while still welcoming them to stay and play other gambling games (a practice known as "backing off" or "being backed off"), asking a player to leave the casino (with varying degrees of either professionalism or intimidation), or issuing a formal trespass order against the player.[19] On rare occasions, advantage players have been severely physically assaulted by casino personnel.[20] In New Jersey[21] and Missouri, a player may not be legally asked to leave a blackjack table or casino for counting cards, although the casino may still impose betting limits or shuffle sooner.

Players suspected of counting cards, hole-carding, or other advantage play by a casino may find themselves listed in the Griffin Book (or a similar agency's database) and become unwelcome in most casinos. [citation needed] The Griffin Book was sued,[22] but there are other substitutes today.

In the past, video poker and skillful progressive slot machine players were rarely ejected for winning, but the practice is common today.[23] They may have their comps reduced or eliminated.[24]

Skillful sports bettors, known as "sharps", may have their betting limits reduced and may not be allowed to take advantage of bonuses at online sports books. Instead, skillful sports bettors may rely on "runners" to place and collect their bets.

Craps players are required to bounce their throws off the back wall of the table, to prevent a skilled thrower from affecting the outcome.[25]

Advantage players abide by the established rules of the game and thus, in most jurisdictions, are not regarded as committing fraud against the casino. So, while they may face the above casino-imposed sanctions, they are able to operate without the threat of criminal prosecution for their behavior. This is not the case in all jurisdictions, however, and some advantage players have reported more aggressive countermeasures being taken even in well known gambling locations such as Monte Carlo in Monaco.[26]

See also


  1. ^ "Arbitrage - Dutching - Introduction". The Gambling Times. Archived from the original on 31 July 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Commission". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Video Poker". Wizard of Odds. Archived from the original on 27 November 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Full Pay Deuces Wild Is Now Extinct". Vegas Advantage. 7 Mar 2023. Retrieved 26 Mar 2024.
  5. ^ Casino&hellip, Sweeps (3 Nov 2023). "Video Poker Odds and Payouts Explained". Techopedia. Retrieved 26 Mar 2024.
  6. ^ "vpFREE Hall Of Fame". Archived from the original on 20 May 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Gambling with an Edge:Why I Don't Play Progressives". 8 September 2015. Archived from the original on 7 November 2021. Retrieved 5 November 2021.
  8. ^ Wong, Stanford (2005). Wong on Dice. Pi Yee Press.
  9. ^ Scoblete, Frank (2005). 'Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos. Bonus Books.
  10. ^ Uston, Ken (1992). Million Dollar Blackjack. Carol Publishing Corporation.
  11. ^ "Blackjack Dealer Error". Blackjack Forum (Online ed.). Summer 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  12. ^ a b "Angle Shooting | Poker Terms | PokerNews". Archived from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  13. ^ Rubin, Max (June 2001). Comp City. Huntington Press.
  14. ^ Scott, Jean (January 1998). The Frugal Gambler. Huntington Press. ISBN 9780929712406.
  15. ^ a b Slotnik, Daniel E. "Richard Jarecki, Doctor Who Conquered Roulette, Dies at 86" Archived 2020-11-09 at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, August 8, 2018
  16. ^ Kaplan, Michael (29 Jun 2016). "How 'Advantage Players' Game the Casinos". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 Mar 2024.
  17. ^ Curtis, Anthony (24 Mar 2024). "What Is Preferential Shuffling?". Las Vegas Advisor. Retrieved 24 Mar 2024.
  18. ^ Rose, I. Nelson (19 Feb 2021). "Preferential Shuffling". Gambling and the Law®. Retrieved 24 Mar 2024.
  19. ^ "Nevada finds no right of reasonable access to public accommodations unless a state antidiscrimination statute confers such a right". Scholars at Harvard. 10 May 2020. Retrieved 24 Mar 2024.
  20. ^ Uston, Ken (June 1986). "Ken Uston on His Beating at the Mapes Casino (From Blackjack Forum VI #2)". Gambling With An Edge. Retrieved 24 Mar 2024.
  21. ^ "Uston v. Resorts International Hotel, Inc., 89 N.J. 163". Casetext Search + Citator. 5 May 1982. Retrieved 24 Mar 2024.
  22. ^ "Griffin book producer files for Chapter 11, citing suit". Las Vegas Sun. 13 September 2005. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Lion Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire". Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  24. ^ Dancer, Bob (March 1, 2003). Million Dollar Video Poker. Huntington Press.
  25. ^ Butterfield, Roger (15 October 1945). "Harold's Club". LIFE. Time Inc.
  26. ^ "Interviews - Semyon Dukach - MIT Card Counting Team Captain". CasinoReviews. Retrieved 31 January 2024.

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