Definitions

Advantage play

Advantage gambling

Advantage gambling, or advantage play, refers to a practice of using legal ways to gain a mathematical advantage while gambling. The term usually refers to house-banked 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.

A skillfull or knowledgeable player can gain an advantage at a number of games. Blackjack can usually be beaten with card-counting and sometimes with shuffle tracking. Some video poker games can be beaten by the use of a strategy card devised by computer analysis of the game. Some progressive slot machines can eventually have such a high jackpot that they offer a positive return when played. Online games can be beaten with bonus hunting.

Sports and horse betting

Sports and horse betting can be beaten in the long run by skillful handicappers who only bet when they believe the line offers them an advantage. Sports and horse betting can also be beaten by placing arbitrage bets, which involve placing bets at different bookmakers who are offering different lines. 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 "juice" or vig taken by the house or even offer the bettor a small advantage.

Another form of advantage can be found by betting the "middle" on a sports event, or by betting for the favorite to win but not to cover the spread. This takes the form of two separate bets: one bet against the spread, and one bet on the money line for the favorite to win. For example, suppose the Cowboys are playing the Giants and the Cowboys are favored by 3.5 points. If the Cowboys win by 4 or more, the spread bet will lose but the money line bet will win; if the Giants win, the reverse is true, but in both cases, one bet wins and one loses. However, if the Cowboys win by 1 to 3 points, both bets win. There are thus only 2 possible outcomes: a high probability of a small loss, against a small probability of a large gain.

Poker

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 or a session fee. A skilled poker player can often win enough from the game to cover the rake and make a profit. But this is often more difficult at lower levels, as the rake is higher in proportion to their total winnings.

Other ways to gain an advantage

Experts disagree about whether or not an advantage can be gained at some other games. One example is dice control. Authors Stanford Wong and Frank Scoblete believe 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.

"Angle shooting" is another type of advantage play. "Angle shooting" refers to legal but possibly unethical ways to beat casino games. 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 his hand differently. Taking advantage of incorrect payouts is another example of angle shooting. Not correcting an inexperienced dealer who pays 2 to 1 on a blackjack instead of 3 to 2 is an example of taking advantage of an incorrect payout.

Comp hustling can be another form of advantage gambling. Players who play games with a low house advantage can get more than their expected loss in free items from the casino. Many advantage players also take steps to maximize the comps they receive from their play.

Hazards of advantage gambling

Casinos sometimes take measures to thwart players who they believe pose a threat to them, especially card-counters or hole-card players. But some casinos tolerate card-counters who don't bet large amounts, who are not good at counting, or who don't use a large betting spread. Some countermeasures include shuffling more frequently, imposing betting limits, "backing off" the player by asking him not to play blackjack any more, or asking the player to leave the casino. In New Jersey, a player may not be asked to leave a table for counting cards, although the house may still impose betting limits or shuffle sooner. Players caught counting cards or hole-carding ultimately may find themselves listed in the Griffin Book and become unwelcome in most casinos. Video poker and skillful progressive slot players are rarely ejected, but it has happened. They may have their comps reduced or eliminated. Skillful sports bettors may have their betting limits reduced and may not be allowed to take advantage of bonuses at online sports books.

Craps players are often stopped from playing if the dice fail to bounce off of the back wall of the table.

In most jurisdictions, advantage players abide by the established rules of the game and thus commit no fraud against the casino. Unlike cheaters, advantage players should be able to operate without fear of being criminally prosecuted if they are discovered.

See also

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