Research – What No One Talks About When Trying to Become an Advantage Gambler

By Randy Ray
Published on April 22, 2018
Research for Bigger Wins When Gambling

Becoming an advantage player is the pinnacle of gambling. This means that you’ve mastered a certain gambling technique or game well enough to make long-term profits.

“Profits” is the key word here because many people fixate on how much money they’ll make as an advantage gambler.

Obviously, the money is important. Otherwise, why would you choose such an unconventional way to make money?

But what many players overlook is the strategy research that they’ll need to do. Furthermore, they also fail to learn how much time it takes to become an advantage player.

I’m going to ignore the monetary side of advantage gambling and discuss the research side. Specifically, I’ll cover what games offer an advantage, research for each method/game, and how long it takes to become a successful long-term gambler.

Casino Games That Offer a Long-Term Advantage

The first thing that you need to understand before embarking on your research is what forms of gambling offer an advantage. In other words, you don’t want to pour hours into studying three-card poker, only to find out that there’s no advantage-play method.

Here are several games that advantage gamblers can win with.

  • Blackjack – Card counters, hole carders, and shuffle trackers can all gain a long-term edge
  • Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) – You choose optimal sporting lineups in tournament-style formats
  • Poker – Poker has created more professional players than any other form of gambling
  • Sports Betting – You’ll earn profits as long as you win 52.4% of your bets (assuming 10% “juice”)
  • Video Poker – You can win on full-pay Deuces Wild (100.76% payback), 10/7 Double Bonus (100.17%), and Double Double Bonus (100.07%)

You can collect long-term profits through all of these games. You can also try “comp-hunting,” which involves combining generous comps with near-100%-payback games.

But that doesn’t mean every advantage-play technique is created equally.

First off, house-banked advantage gambling has an added element of difficulty because the casino can ask successful players to leave. You’ve probably seen movies where card counters try to stay under the radar (e.g., the film 21).

The house doesn’t care if you win in player-vs.-player games like poker and DFS. After all, the point of these gambling activities is to out-perform other players.

But the downside is that strategy is more complex for these games because you’re facing human opponents who can think critically. Contrast this to card counting or video poker, where optimal strategy doesn’t change.

You want to take all of this into account before deciding what game or advantage-play technique you’ll pour research into. Here are my personal rankings for the best advantage gambling methods and games.

  • Poker – Has the hardest strategy, but also the most opportunities to become a winner. Plus, poker strategy can be found all over.
  • Card Counting – Downside is that the best card counters only have a 0.5%-1.5% edge. Upside is that it’s easy to learn card-counting techniques.
  • Sports Betting – This is much harder than casual sports fans think. But like poker, sports betting offers numerous opportunities to win.
  • DFS – Newer advantage game that has created some pros. The drawback is that a small percentage of DFS players win the bulk of profits.
  • Video Poker – You can gain an edge on three different games. But these are all found in Nevada casinos only.
  • Hole Carding – Anybody can spot the dealer’s hole card with enough practice and effort. But it’s difficult to find a dealer who consistently lifts their hole cards too high.
  • Shuffle Tracking – Being able to track 10-value cards is a very lucrative skill. The downside is that shuffle tracking is the most difficult advantage method to learn.
  • Dealer Signatures – You can gain a solid edge by finding a dealer who consistently spins the ball in predictable sections of the wheel. But the jury is out on how effective dealer signatures are.
  • Wheel Bias – This is an archaic method that relies on a worn-down wooden roulette wheel. But most modern wheels have metal frets, meaning they don’t break down and favor certain numbers.
  • Comp Hunting – Casinos are much stingier with comps these days. You’re highly unlikely to receive enough comps to earn a profit.

Research for Different Advantage Play Methods and Games

I’m not going to cover all of the gambling methods that I discussed above. The reason is because a few of them are so obsolete that they’re not worth discussing.

But I will briefly cover what research you need to do for the top advantage-play games and techniques.

Poker Research

Poker has been around long enough to where players used to only be able to study strategy through books and magazine articles. But the internet has greatly changed how poker players can research strategy.

Players have access to online articles, training sites, Twitch and YouTube videos.

Twitch has especially become popular because you can watch professionals stream their online poker sessions. This gives you a real-time look at how poker pros handle different situations.

Training sites, articles and YouTube videos are all good for learning specific poker skills. For example, you can find many videos and articles that are solely dedicated to 3-betting.

Poker has more resources for you to research than any other advantage game. This is good from the perspective that you’ll never be lacking in terms of strategy materials.

The only catch is that every other player can research the same materials. This has helped amateurs bridge the gap between themselves and advantage players.

Card Counting Research

Card counting all begins with learning a specific method that’ll help you keep track of card values. One of the easiest strategies for doing so is the Hi-Lo method, which involves assigning values to different groups of cards.

Here are the card groups, along with what values they represent.

  • 2 through 6 = +1
  • 7 through 9 = Neutral
  • 10 through ace = -1

Cards valued 2-6 receive a positive value because they help the dealer avoid busting out when trying to reach a hard 17. The goal is to bet more money when a positive count is higher.

Aces and 10-value cards receive a negative value because you don’t want these to come out of the shoe until later. The more 10s and aces there are, the better chance you have of getting a natural blackjack and earning a 3:2 or 6:5 payout.

Learning a card counting system is only the tip of the iceberg, though, because you also need to practice it and avoid casino detection.

One of the best ways to practice counting is by using a free online card-counting program. These flash different cards onscreen, and you need to keep count as the cards are dealt.

You also might want to do some hands-on research in low-stakes blackjack games. You can try to count cards while playing the lowest limits possible to get used to the casino environment and surrounding distractions.

Another good place to do research is in blackjack/gambling forums. Here you can learn some of the different ways that the pros avoid being made as card counters.

Of course, you can always buy a book and get a more detailed take on how to beat this game.

Sports Betting Research

Good sports bettors thoroughly research matches before placing a wager. Some of the different aspects that you can research before betting include:

  • Against the spread (ATS) records
  • Home and away ATS records
  • Individual matchups
  • Injury report
  • Line movement
  • News
  • Recent history between teams/players
  • Sportsbooks that have the best odds
  • Weather (outdoor games)

Researching all of these different factors takes time. And a good rule of thumb is to never make more than 2-3 bets in a week, considering the time commitment to quality wagering.

Bettors can also use software to help make their picks. Dozens of websites have software that delivers detailed stats on matchups.

Some of the perks that you can get through software include public betting percentages, sharp money betting percentages, special picks, and real-time odds updates.

The only catch is that you must pay to use this type of software in most cases. But this can be worth it for really serious bettors.

DFS Research

Daily fantasy involves putting together the best lineup you possibly can for a given situation. And the biggest skill you can have involves knowing which players are undervalued based on their salaries.

Spotting undervalued players helps you put together good lineups under the salary cap. You can then use the extra money to go after high-profile players with expensive salaries.

DFS articles are found all over the internet. You can also watch plenty of videos where experts discuss their daily/weekly picks.

Some DFS pros put together algorithms that give them a leg up on the competition. In fact, many amateurs think that DFS is hopeless due to these programs.

But keep in mind that the vast majority of algorithms are unsuccessful when navigating daily fantasy’s unpredictable waters. Therefore, anybody can pick winners with enough research and experience.

Video Poker Research

Video poker is the only casino game where the house voluntarily gives you a long-term chance to win. But again, you have to play full-pay Deuces Wild, 10/7 Double Bonus, or 10/6 Double Double Bonus to gain an advantage.

Any other type of video poker game and/or pay table won’t deliver over 100% payback. And considering that these machines are only found in Nevada casinos, the average video poker player won’t win in the long run.

But if you do live around or are visiting one of , then you’ll find beatable video poker machines.

You can find which casinos offer of the aforementioned games by visiting the website You then navigate to the “Casinos” tab at the top and search for Vegas, Reno, or any other Nevada casino town.

This search will produce a list of video poker machines in these town’s casinos. You then browse through the casinos to see which ones offer games with over 100% payback.

The next step is to purchase video poker training software. These programs point out correct and incorrect decisions as you play video poker.

The goal is to practice enough to where you can automatically make the right choices.

You might be wondering why you should buy software, rather than use free programs. And the answer is that free trainers don’t cover the three games I discussed before.

If you have no intention of going to the Silver State, then don’t worry about buying the software. But if you’re taking a trip there and want to become an advantage player, then it’s worth spending $50 or so.

Hole Carding Research

North American casinos see blackjack dealers receive one face-up and one face-down card (a.k.a. hole card). The dealer peeks at their hole card to ensure that they don’t have a natural blackjack.

Dealers are trained to peek for a blackjack without exposing their card to players. But some dealers – either through inexperience or carelessness – will lift their hole card too high.

Anybody who consistently does this is referred to as a “flasher.” And a trained eye who spots the flasher’s hole card will gain up to a 13% advantage.

You need to sit in either the first-base seat (to dealer’s immediate left) or third-base seat (to dealer’s immediate right) to have the best shot at seeing the hole card.

Another way to spot the dealer’s hole card is by doing so when they slide it under their upcard (a.k.a. front loading). Sometimes a dealer may accidentally lift the card while performing this action.

In either case, you need to do a tremendous amount of research to find dealers that are bad enough to expose their hole cards. I’ve seen estimates that only 1 in 200 dealers are flashers.

This means that when you do find a flasher, take extra precautions to ensure that nobody knows you’re peeking at the hole card. Don’t lean at an unnatural angle and risk drawing scrutiny.

If casino security or a pit boss notices this, they may watch the dealer closer to see if they’re exposing their hole card. The result will be the dealer receiving better training to avoid flashing in the future.

Shuffle Tracking Research

Shuffle tracking is a very advanced technique that involves tracking 10s and face cards (a.k.a. high cards) throughout the hand and shuffle.

By tracking these cards, you’re hoping to have a general idea of when they’ll be dealt. You then bet more when a 10-value card is coming because it improves your odds of getting a blackjack.

In expert hands, shuffle tracking is an incredible advantage gambling method that gives you up to a 50% edge.

But the drawback is that this technique is far more advanced than simply counting cards. In fact, you need to count cards too so you know how many high cards are left in the deck.

Another downside to shuffle tracking is that you’re relying on specific shuffles to win money. If the dealer shuffles too much, then it’s impossible to track high cards with any consistency.

Here’s an example of a shuffle style worth tracking.

  • “Zero shuffle,” meaning the shoe is separated into piles and shuffling is only performed between piles
  • One pass, meaning the dealer only goes through one round of shuffling
  • One riffle, meaning the dealer only riffles the piles once

How Long Should You Research Strategy for Each Game?

Another big aspect to consider is how long you need to spend researching each form of advantage gambling.

The truth is that there’s no limit on the amount of time you can spend mastering an advantage casino game. But some lend themselves to easier study than others.

Here are my estimations on how much time you should dedicate to each advantage-play method.

  • Poker – Spend one hour studying strategy for every hour you play in the beginning. Switch this ratio to one study hour for every 4-5 of hours of playing once you become better.
  • Card Counting – You can learn a card counting system in well under an hour. But you should spend 20-25 hours practicing your strategy and researching ways to blend in with amateur players in the beginning.
  • Sports Betting – I recommend spending a few hours reading general sports betting strategy articles to start with. You should also put 0.5-1 hour into researching each bet.
  • DFS – This is another game where you should spend several hours reading general strategy as a beginner. Put 0.5-3 hours into creating an optimal lineup and transport it into different matches.
  • Video Poker – Practice with a video poker trainer for the appropriate game for 10-20 hours. I recommend spending another 1-2 hours practicing each week so that your skills stay sharp.
  • Hole Carding – You must spend countless hours playing at different blackjack tables in order to find a flasher. Once this work is done, make sure that you don’t give up that you’re a hole carder.
  • Shuffle Tracking – I recommend that you first start out by becoming an expert card counter. Then you should spend another 20-30 hours perfecting your shuffle tracking skills.

Will All of Your Advantage Gambling Research Pay Off?

This all depends upon what your goals are with advantage gambling.

If you merely want to earn some extra money from your hobby, then it’s very likely that your research will pay off. Many players can gain an edge with enough hard work and research.

But if you’re expecting to become a professional gambler, then it’s questionable whether you’ll be fulfilled. You often need special qualities, such as the ability to contain emotions during a bad gambling run.

Most gamblers who set out to become pros never do so, either because they give up or because they lack certain traits.

Giving up doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a quitter or sore loser. Instead, you can simply decide that being a professional isn’t as great as it once seemed.

I suggest that your first goal should simply be to gain an edge, regardless of how small it may be. You can then decide whether to go all-out in trying to make a living through gambling.


The key thing to consider before you embark on becoming an advantage gambler is the research involved – not the money.

Everybody dreams of the riches that they’ll win as a pro gambler. But not many think of how they’ll spend countless hours doing research and grinding in casinos.

Knowing what kind of research and effort is involved helps you better make an informed decision. And if you’re fine with what you have to do to become an advantage player, then you’ll be set.

This also gets you started on the right path, so that you can research your preferred game the best way possible. Use this post as a guide to help you figure out what advantage-play method you want to pursue and what’s the best path to reach your goals.

Research - What No One Talks About When Trying to Become an Advantage Gambler
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Research - What No One Talks About When Trying to Become an Advantage Gambler
Doing research is an essential skill for most advantage gamblers, and becoming an advantage player is the pinnacle of gambling. You need to know how to do research if you want to win.
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