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Gaming Careers - FAQ

I'm a college drop-out. I was studying for a mathematics degree, but earned an MCSE and made more money. But I LOVE statistics, and currently work for a consulting company in an Indian casino. I've never heard of actuaries until I saw this site. How does one become an actuary?

Dave from Redding, California

To become an actuary one must pass several examinations. The first set of exams are mathematically intensive and the second set are based on the theory of investments, actuarial science, pensions, and other such topics. However it will be difficult to find employment without a college degree. Most actuaries have at least an MA in mathematics. Your Microsoft certification would certainly give you bonus points but not enough to compensate for a lack of a degree. To learn more visit the Society of Actuaries web site.

Update: Since this question was posted the Society of Actuaries changed the exam requirements. There are now fewer but harder exams. That is about all I know about it.

In your experience, which sites actually pay their affiliates for traffic. Am especially interested in Unified Gaming 10% deposit/lifetime. Thanks.

Kevin from Bay, St. Louis, U.S.

I used to be a Gambler's Palace and Sportbet affiliate, as well as some other Unified Gaming casinos. Both Gambler's Palace and Sportbet seemed to pay me on a regular basis. These two had the most prominent positions on my site at the time. However, it was hard to tell from which casino I was being paid. They all issued checks though the Bank of Nevis, without any details about from who or why you were getting the check. Checks based on my own gambling winnings also came without explanation from the Bank of Nevis, making things even more confusing to keep track of.

As a card counter, what are the odds to make it as a professional blackjack player? What do we have to do?

T&M from Philadelphia, U.S.

First, it takes a lot of time to learn the theory and strategy of card counting and get your counting speed up to casino play. You will also need a large bankroll of at least $50,000, but preferably $100,000. To make a decent living you have to be comfortable with a bet spread of at least $25-$300 and it takes a large bankroll to sustain the ups and downs. For most people, I think it is better to play part time.

Dear Wizard, First I want to say you are running a first class operation. Second, I was wondering about the prospects of gambling for a living or gambling to supplement one’s income either online or at a real casino. I can imagine it is probably a dubious enterprise for most, but for some, it could be rewarding. Second, I am wondering about the casino’s limits on the size off a wager and how that affects the expected return or how well one can do in a session. It would seem low limits would favor the casino, rather than the player, since statistically, the longer you play the more you will lose. Also, it would seem that it would be easier to start small and work your way up rather than start big and go higher. Also, do you think it is possible to tilt the odds in a players favor long term by a style of play in an online casino for a game such as blackjack?

Craig

Thanks for the kind words. I could talk all day about your first question. There are ways to gamble for a living. In my opinion the most viable ways are blackjack card counting, sports betting, and Internet bonus/advantage play. All three of these methods require a large bankroll to make enough to live on, ballpark $100,000, and that is just to get by. Most people have to start small and build their way up. Everyone has to bet relative to his own bankroll. Internet betting limits are high enough for most players. Not many people wish to bet more than $500 per hand. Boss Media’s single player game offers a small player advantage in blackjack, but it is so small it is not worth the time to play it.

Thank you for all the excellent information that you provide. My question concerns your recent answer to the question about gambling for a living. Specifically, making a living from internet casino bonuses. Do you think that this is still possible? Back in 2000, I made a good deal of money from Internet bonuses. If I had worked on it full time, I probably could have quit my job. However in 2001, I only made about 4 grand all year from Internet bonuses. The reason for that is the fact that casinos have gotten so stingy with their bonuses. Many of them require a player to play a deposit five or more times before withdrawing. This of course cuts down a player’s advantage and also makes a streak of bad luck a decent possibility. Even with a 100k bankroll, it does not seem that this could work. Am I wrong? Is there something else I don’t know about?

Tim from Chicago, USA

The days when it was easy to make good money gambling on the Internet are over. Players can still make $50 here and $100 all over the place but the $500 or more bonuses are hard to come by any more. It isn’t the play requirements that are ruining bonus hunting, it is caps on the size of bonuses. To give an example, consider a 20% bonus with a 5 times play requirement, up to a $100 bonus. If you deposit $500 then the expected loss of $2500 in action playing basic strategy blackjack is only $10, assuming an 0.4% house edge. Even if you play ten times through the deposit the expected loss is still only $20, which is much less than the $100 bonus. The problem, in my opinion, is that it isn’t worth the fuss for only $80.

Many senior managers in casinos today have an educational background similar to yourself rather than coming up through the gaming floor. I was just wondering if, with your interest in gaming you had ever considered going to the dark side and making a move into casino management.

Anonymous

I’m tired of professional gamblers referring to those who work in or for casinos as the "dark side." Casinos provide thousands of jobs across the country, revenue to government, and a source of entertainment to millions. I don’t remember the source but I read that something like 90% of visitors to Las Vegas leave with a gambling loss, yet 95% leave happy. The other side is quick to argue that casinos contribute to the problem of compulsive gambling. Yes, there are some compulsive gamblers who abuse what should be done in moderation. However I believe that the majority should not be denied the opportunity to place a bet because of the problems of a minority. In other words I believe that the benefits that come from legalized gambling far exceed the costs.

I fully admit I consult for casinos and gaming businesses. I have to because this site doesn’t make enough money to support my family. My bankroll is not large enough to make a living as a professional gambler. However I make no apologies for what I do. To answer your question, yes, if the right offer came along I would consider employment in casino management.

Hi, I read almost everything on your site and all I can say is WOW and THANKS so much for all the help you bring to everyone. I have however a question which I think is interesting and should be added in your FAQ section. You say there is no betting system that can beat a game of luck. I am 100% on your side with that as I have tried dozens of them and with no results. You just can’t beat the casino in the long run. HOWEVER, how come there are professional players? I mean, there are some people that are called ’Professional blackjack players’ who make their living by gambling. Everyone sees them on television in tournaments and things like that where they bet thousands and thousands. How come they make a living out of it if there is no possible way to win in the long run, it’s their job, so it’s necessarily in the long that they are winning. How come?

Anonymous

You’re welcome. It must have taken all day to read my entire site. You are confusing betting systems, which are worthless, to legitimate strategies that give the player an advantage. Two games that can be proven beatable with good rules and proper strategy are blackjack and video poker. So I call a system a worthless method of following trends in games with a house advantage, and a strategy something like card counting in blackjack that is mathematically proven to work. Video poker can be beaten by hunting down the best pay tables and then following a reliable strategy on which cards to keep and which to discard.

How can one get started in a career as a gaming mathematician?

Anonymous

The vast majority of gaming mathematicians are employed by manufacturers of slot machines. To break into this field all I can suggest is to let the resumes fly. It would also help to attend the Global Gaming Expo to learn more about the business. If you wish to follow in my footsteps in self-employment it will take a few years at least to build up enough business to make a living at it. Again, it would help to attend the gaming shows to drum up some business.

In one of your old columns, you mention a manuscript for a book that you wrote, that you were unable to publish. What was the book about? Is the manuscript available anywhere? I’m curious because about 20 years ago, I wrote a draft of my own book about odds and gambling, a sort of condensed and simplified version of Allan Wilson’s book. I wrote to Stanford Wong, asking him if he would look at my manuscript. He replied yes, but he would have recommend that I not bother to write the book in the first place. There were already too many gambling books. So I gave up on the idea of trying to publish my book.

Anonymous

Yes, I wrote a gambling book manuscript four years ago. I shopped it around and only Huntington Press agreed to publish it. However three years and four revisions later and it still isn’t out. There is already a glut of gambling books on the market so I agree with Stanford to not waste your time. Since I wrote my original manuscript I have learned that the name of the author is much more important to selling books than the content of the book itself. A no-name has almost no hope of publish a book on gambling, or anything. If you want to publish a book you should do something else to become famous first.

[Update: The Wizard’s book Gambling 102 was published in Spring 2005.]

Are there any real professional gamblers out there?

Anonymous

Yes, lots. I know several personally. I’m trying to become one myself but in my opinion you need a bankroll of at least three times the annual income you are accustomed to, and I’m not there yet. For true stories of some the best professional gamblers I recommend Gambling Wizards by Richard W. Munchkin.

I read your article entitled Marketing New Casino Games, and I am a bit discouraged because I just invented a new game and I am actually thinking of marketing it. In your article you mentioned that new table games are rented out to casinos for about $300 to $500 per table per month. I thought that there is big money in this business if you're fortunate enough to invent a really good game. I was told that Derek Webb, the guy who invented 3-card poker made millions from the game. Is this not true?

Anonymous

Truly top games like Three Card Poker can get up to $1,500 to $2,000 per month, from what I hear. I don't know exactly how much Webb made but whatever it was he had to spend a lot of it on lawyers fees defending the game. There is an article about Webb and Three Card Poker in the August 2004 issue of Playboy.

Can you give some of the best sites, books references and online resources in detailing how one should start an online offshore (out of USA) casino? Thank you and very nice informative site.

Matthew from Toulouse

Sorry, I don’t know of anything like that in print. However, here is my own two cents.

  1. You should have at least a million in reserves to cover the normal ups and downs of gambling.
  2. Go with a high end experienced software company with a good reputation.
  3. Abide by your own rules. If a player outsmarts you on a bonus or promotion pay him and then cut him off if you wish.
  4. Take it easy on the bonuses. I would rather reward players after they play according to the value of their action.
  5. It is hard to overstate the importance of good customer service. Try to get to know your players, especially the best ones, on a personal level.

Remember, you can sheer a sheep many times but you can slaughter it only once.

Hi, I have developed a card game I believe would be ideal for casino use. I am about to put a patent on it. I need to know how to get it into a casino. I think I need to find someone to partner me.

Richard from Brisbane, Australia

I answer that question in my article Marketing New Casino Games. Eliot Jacobson also has a good article on this subject, titled The Elements of a Successful Carnival Game.

I will soon be graduating with my math major, as well as an economics minor. I am even considering actuarial science as a potential career. I recently finished the required mathematical statistics course that covers the first seven chapters of John E. Freund’s Mathematical Statistics. Where can I look to find more material on gambling mathematics? I want the technical details on how you produce your odds. Are their any books or journals I can look in? Also, are there any other nonconventional career paths for actuaries other than what you’ve chosen?

Samuel from Miami, FL

I always encourage math majors to consider the actuarial profession. The best book on casino math, in my opinion, is Practical Casino Math by Robert C. Hannum and Anthony N. Cabot. However, I think you would find it below your level. Most blackjack and poker-based games are done by computer, looping through all the ways the cards may fall and making the play with the highest expected value at every decision point. If you can’t write such a program from scratch, a book about it probably wouldn’t help much.

To answer your last question, there are a number of nonconventional areas for actuaries. I know a self-employed actuary here in Las Vegas who specializes in splitting up pensions in divorce cases. The possibilities are endless.

Hi, I understand you’re busy so no worries if you can’t find the time to respond. I’m currently a math major at UNLV and am looking for some kind of direction relating to what to do with my life once I graduate. I’ve searched quite a bit for this information, and have definitely come up short. It seems the general idea here is that a math bachelor’s degree is quite useless, and that I should have been an engineer instead of a mathematician. I’m not very interested in being an actuary, because I don’t want to take additional time to pass the exams. Since I will probably stay in Vegas after I graduate, it seems that a great idea would be to work for the gambling industry, which you seem to have much experience with. Could you offer me any advice or direction?

Christina from

I can sympathize with your dilemma. When I graduated in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in math and economics, I had no idea what to do with it. The actuary exams looked daunting at the time, because I didn’t study statistics deeply at UCSB, and somehow I didn’t feel actuarial work was my calling in life. However, after accomplishing absolutely nothing for a solid year after graduation, I gave a second look at the actuary exams. With the help of a tutor, I gave the exams the old college try, and passed the first three with high grades in a little more than a year. That eventually led to nine years of actuarial work at the Social Security Administration, where I finished the rest of the associate exams. That said, I offer the following advice.

First, don’t dismiss the actuarial field lightly. If you are smart enough to get a math degree, you are smart enough to pass the exams. Maybe you’ll need to teach yourself some statistics, but I think you can do it. Actuarial work may not seem terribly exciting, but the profession is consistently highly rated for good working conditions and compensation.

Second, at least consider the National Security Agency. They hire lots of mathematicians to analyze a sea of chatter gathered from listening in on phone calls all over the world. If you take their screening test, don’t volunteer too much information or let them fluster you. This comes indirectly from people who flunked it.

Third, most mathematicians in the gaming business work for the big slot machine companies. There are not a lot of jobs in that field, but not that many people know such jobs exist either. Contrary to what many people think, the casinos don’t hire designated mathematicians. Overall, I think actuarial work is better paying and more interesting.

Finally, don’t put down a math degree. You’ll probably never use what you learned in the more advanced math classes, but the accomplishment itself shows you should be able to learn what you’ll need to for an entry-level position in any one of the fields I mentioned.

In your "Ask the Wizard" column #277, you were asked about the oldest casino game patent. Your answer mentioned Caribbean Stud Poker. That was not the first casino patent granted, although it might be the first patent on a successful game. I checked Google patents (believe it or not but the USPTO site does not go before 1976), and the earliest patent I found on any casino-type game is a patent for a game device issued in 1898.

Jon M. from Philadelphia, PA

Thanks. I can't tell what that is a patent for, but interesting to know that the business of inventing casino games goes that far back.