Gamblers Fight Back: A Professional Gambler’s Journey of How to Survive and Thrive in the Casino by Greg Elder
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Gamblers Fight Back by Greg Elder is a short book providing some insights into the author’s personal gambling experience. Gamblers Fight Back is organized into sections ranging from Elder’s general comments on casinos to descriptions of some aspects of three types of gambling games: video poker, blackjack, and sports betting. I suspect this book is an attempt by the author to squeeze additional revenue from his experience as a full time gambler. Overall, Gamblers Fight Back provides little value to anyone interested in the life of a career gambler.
The first few chapters set the stage for why the Elder decides to dedicate his full time to gambling. Before turning to gambling full time, he pursued careers in insurance sales and eBay power selling, but after these efforts failed, he was inspired by the book Million Dollar Video Poker by Bob Dancer to take up gambling full time. Unfortunately for Elder, Bob Dancer may have simply been lucky (although his book, Million Dollar Video Poker is a fabulous read). Bob Dancer manages to parlay a $20 stake into a million dollars over the period of a few years, but Dancer has recently acknowledged his good luck based on the size of his bankroll. Bob Dancer was also playing video poker during an earlier era in Las Vegas when opportunities for video poker advantage play were much more available (for higher stakes) and he played during an era when Las Vegas casinos were less sophisticated regarding the design and co-ordination of slot club promotions. Many of the advantage play gaps found in casino promotions during Bob Dancer’s run no longer exist.
Greg Elder sets up a series of “straw man” arguments to lure readers into the possibility of full time advantage gambling without going into the specifics of bankroll requirements and the daily process required. The introductory chapters of his book focus on how to avoid getting kicked out of the casino (since you are such a threat to casino profits) and the proper psychology of a full time gambler (since one of the main things preventing you from gambling full time is your own psychology). These sections mirror the themes of a recruiting pitch for a multi-level marketing program, but provide little value to a sophisticated reader.
The book ends with sections devoted to video poker, blackjack, and sports betting. While the blackjack and sports betting sections contain very little insight, the video poker section talks about playing 9/6 JoB, which is a starting place for video poker advantage players. Although Elder fails to outline the specifics of how he suggests players gain an advantage over the casinos, a knowledgeable reader can piece together the advantage plays including point multipliers, mailers, and drawings. A much more serious omission is the detail these strategies yield and the bankroll requirements. I fear this book gives players enough information to get themselves into trouble without tackling the more substantive issues of risk management. This fear is highlighted by the author’s description of his own busted bankrolls.
One major frustration I have with Elder’s book is his use of the term “professional” when referring to full time gamblers. Professionals have characteristics such as being a member of an association which upholds standards of practice, educational requirements, and various standards of care. Examples of professions are doctors, lawyers, and dentists. Full time gamblers are not professionals; they are simply full time gamblers. Your career may be as a “cashier”, but you are not a “professional” cashier. By attaching the term “professional” to a full time gambling career, the author attempts to elevate gambling to something it is not.
Gamblers Fight Back provides some advice that is outright dangerous to readers. While outlining the strategies players should use when mastering various video poker, the author suggests creating a laminated reference card in order to avoid mistakes. This is a great advice for casual gamblers, although full time gamblers should know applicable video poker strategies perfectly. Where the author misleads the reader is his suggestion that gamblers should use a mobile in the casino. This is a dangerous suggestion since using a mechanical device is not allowed in Nevada and most other North American gaming jurisdictions. If a reader where to take this advice, and hit a jackpot, they would give the casino an excuse to refuse payment.
It becomes apparent midway thru the book that the author is not a successful gambler. He includes a whole section on how to grub stake a bankroll, but his suggestions would leave the would-be gambler seriously undercapitalized. The author goes on to describe his $12,000 bankroll as he is playing $1 JoB. This is a very risky gamble based on bankroll size and exposes the player to likely ruin.
I wonder about the author’s logic and math. Can someone really make consistent profits playing 9/6 JoB in Las Vegas? The best promotions seem to be double points, which bring the game return close to even (when played perfectly) coupled with mailers and drawings. At 500 hands per hour, $25 per hand, and an advantage of 0.5%, this means potential profits of $60 per hour and a bankroll of $500,000. A $5,000 bankroll using the same characteristics would mean $3 per hour; surely a fun activity for a vacation, but not a full time career.
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