Gaming Careers - FAQ
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
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.
Matthew from Toulouse
Sorry, I don’t know of anything like that in print. However, here is my own two cents.
- You should have at least a million in reserves to cover the normal ups and downs of gambling.
- Go with a high end experienced software company with a good reputation.
- 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.
- Take it easy on the bonuses. I would rather reward players after they play according to the value of their action.
- 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.
Richard from Brisbane, Australia
I answer that question in my article Table Games. Eliot Jacobson also has a good article on this subject, titled The Elements of a Successful Carnival Game.
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.
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.
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.