So You Want To Be A Successful Gambler?

As a means of making money, gambling actually has quite a few things going for it, not least that it often provides fairly immediate results and can be a lot more fun than your average boring J.O.B.

That said, some forms of gambling are intrinsically hairier than others and in general, to ensure sustainable long term success, you ought to aim less at orangutang and more towards the shaved rat end of the Hirsute Spectrum.

Certainly, the web is not short of sites dispensing encouragement and blithe assurances that successful gambling is not only potentially lucrative but really quite easy too. Just start off with a practice account, don’t bet more than you can afford to (definitely will) lose, blah blah and more fucking blah.

Getting Past The Blah

A major problem of course is that the folks behind these sites are variously grinning imbeciles, that particular breed of low-life scam artists that give weasels a bad press or the mouth-breathing, knuckle-scraping, ass-scratching progeny of unnatural acts between the other two.


The reality is that it’s not easy and even if it were, it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

Let’s consider something that really is quite easy: acting. We all play roles and pretend to be people we’re not all the time; but because the barrier to entry is so low, only a very select few ever get to make money from it and only a fraction of those get to be seriously rich.

Even things that superficially appear easy all too easily become dauntingly difficult because of competition and the fact that those few who are marginally better than most get all the cream. But unlike acting, gambling entails a whole lot more risk than the possibility that the only line you will ever get to deliver is “Would you like fries with that?”.

So how then would a would-be successful gambler succeed in their ambition? Well number one is to properly understand different forms of gambling so as to avoid being taken for a sucker. And number two is to work at it.

That’s right – work. You think that Angelina Jolie owes her success to luck? Look closely and you will start to wonder whether, even if you were blessed with similar looks and talents, you would actually have the determination and stamina to achieve the same.

Anyway, back to point one. Virtually all forms of organized betting rely on two things: math and psychology. And these are invariably manipulated to ensure a third thing – it’s rigged against the punter yet they still can’t resist taking a punt.

Frigging With The Rigging

For example, even though buying a lottery ticket is for all realistic purposes indistinguishable from making a charitable donation, many people completely overlook how heavily weighted the math is against them and focus instead on the impressive size of the “possible” win.

A single lottery win would solve all their problems in an instant (or so they believe) and that “promise” blinds them to the relentlessly unidirectional flow of money. It’s much the same delusion that fuels belief in the bogus but beguiling myth of the Law of Attraction, thereby “attracting” money from those who can ill afford it towards the wallets of the schmucks who promote it.

Anyways, the wider point here is to always figure out the underlying math and not allow reason to be clouded by emotion and fantasy. To be a successful gambler you must avoid anything where you will be unable to counterbalance the natural tilt of the odds against you. So lotteries and games of pure chance such as Roulette (for which there is no secret formula to winning, despite what you may have heard, read or seen “demonstrated” on YouTube) are out.

Unbelievably some of the top results for a search such as “how to win at roulette” quite seriously advocate the quite seriously idiotic Martingale system. Between the fuckwits who make these videos and the fuckwits behind the search algorithm that lists them first (yes Google, we’re all looking at you with your mendacious platitudes about “quality” search results) it’s a tough call to decide which are the more fuckwitted. But I digress…

Any game where you cannot influence (or predict) the outcome so as to counteract the odds initially stacked against you means that a) you can only “win” by pure luck, and b) the “house” is always packing considerably more luck than you, so mostly you are just going to lose, lose some more and keep on losing till finally you end up a walking paradox: a loser with nothing left to lose.

So what you want is something with natural odds as close as possible to being even and an element of “skill” that means you can (with some effort) position yourself so as to be more likely to win than the other players. And therein lies arguably one of, if not THE, biggest secrets to betting successfully. Don’t play against the house (or the rules of the game) – play against the other players. And the reason is…

You do understand where your “winnings” come from don’t you? Not from the bookmaker or “banker” or lottery company but from the losers. And the greater your win, the more losers there are (or the greater the loss among fewer losers). It’s not quite robbery because of course it’s perfectly legal and the losers placed their stakes entirely of their own volition. But pretty it ain’t.

The Forest Where You Might Get Eaten By A Bear

A good analogy might be the old yarn about two guys who suddenly see a huge bear, hell bent on a good lunch, charging towards them. As they turn to flee one spots the other pulling on his running shoes and says “What are you doing? You know you can’t outrun a bear” to which the other replies “That’s right, but I only have to outrun you”.

Let’s examine by way of example bookmakers, who traditionally make money because they are better informed about the “form” of the horses in a race than their punters. But they also combine this with the ability to vary the odds and so ensure things work out in their favor whichever animal eventually wins.

If it was just you against the bookmaker then you could never consistently win. But they have to manipulate the odds according to the whims of the majority of their mostly uninformed and/or misguided customers. In other words, arrange matters such that the losers collectively finance the winner(s) with some profit left over for themselves.

The “gambler” who possesses an equal or better understanding of form can exploit this discrepancy between the odds the bookmaker is obliged to offer and the more probable outcome of the race.

In theory of course it can happen that everyone gets wind of say a horse that’s being transported an unusually long way (most owners will rarely do this unless they expect to win) and they all place a wager on it. This could prove ruinous for the bookie, but good old human psychology usually saves the day.

By offering what appear to be much better odds on horses other than the favorite there will always be people tempted to win one hundred times their stake or more and the risk can thus be spread courtesy of three-legged no-hope donkeys that nevertheless offer the tantalizing possibility of a major jackpot should one of them somehow manage to limp home in front.

The successful gambler however, will pay no heed and continue to place bets only on the most likely winners, regardless of the odds since these all too often reflect the human herd’s mood swings rather than the true logic of form. And anyway, there ain’t no gain to be had by backing a loser just to be contrary.

The same principles apply to sports other than horse racing and of course to other forms of gambling on future outcomes such as options trading. But even provably good strategies for trading binary options only provide guidance for understanding and managing the math involved. They will not help one iota if you cannot reliably distinguish winning trades from losing positions.

The Successful Gambler Knows Which Way Is Up

If you fundamentally cannot determine how likely it is that say the Euro will end the day either up or down against the US Dollar then you a) haven’t put in the necessary work and b) have no business betting on it. It is almost certain that you will randomly win as much as lose and the sink hole of the math (remember, it’s against you by default) will remorselessly drag you under, siphoning off what was once your money to those who know better than to stake money on random predictions (a.k.a. silly wild arsed guesses).

The really serious gambler though usually prefers to avoid “trading platforms” whereby an intermediary organizes the game and routes the money from the losers to the winners. They are quite prepared to sit eyeball to eyeball with their opponents and physically gouge the money out of them.

And the element of “skill” that is necessary for any reliably successful system of betting is not confined to greater access to and ability to analyze information so as to more accurately call future events.

A deep understanding of the game itself (specifically the dynamics inherent in the math) and/or an ability to “read” the other players are great assets whenever playing face to face in games such as poker. And yes, it can indeed be very, very lucrative – but not for the “lucky”. The spoils belong to those who study and practice and, for want of a better word, work at it.

You can even apply the good old fashioned work ethic to beat seemingly unfathomable automated gambling systems such as one-armed bandits. I had a friend many years ago who, bored by his surroundings (we were staying at a low end holiday resort) took to studying people playing the slot machines.

He reasoned that the machines were probably not quite as random as one might be led to believe. For a start they have to cream off a profit for the owner, provide the players with a certain amount of interest and hope, and occasionally deliver an ostentatious jackpot so as to encourage further play.

In particular, the algorithm can only permit a jackpot to be triggered when sufficient funds have built up in the machine and it cannot delay for too long because it can only hold so much money. So he studied other people playing specific machines over a mind-numbingly long period of time and figured out how to spot when the jackpot window opens up.

How accurate was his analysis? Put it this way, Sanjay’s system paid the entire week’s expense for half a dozen of us (and then some). Though we were careful not draw attention to ourselves since the management in such places tends to notice and, ahem, “disapprove” of such activity.

It was not unlike having your very own cash dispenser – but there was no luck involved. Anytime we wanted more loot we had to careful monitor a target machine before “playing” it. And no doubt we would have had to put in the time and figure it out again, in other words put in the work, had we wanted to play machines in another resort.

So there you have it. If you want to make (or supplement) your living by gambling you need to first and foremost pick your game. There are plenty to choose from but only you can choose.

Identify something with fair enough odds and an element of skill that plays to your own natural abilities, then stick with it and get good at it. Work at it! You need to be able to tip the likelihood that you will win sufficiently to counteract the intrinsic math that will otherwise remorselessly drain your money.

And speaking of remorse, leave it behind. A gamblers winnings come from the losers so you cannot afford to feel the slightest bit sorry for that fact. They’re usually idle buggers anyway who couldn’t be arsed to do due diligence and would rather put their faith in luck or moronic “manifesting” voodoo than put in any actual effort.

Nor should you get too bent out of shape by your own losses, just so long as they are within the statistical norms that you calculate should result in an overall winning position. And if you haven’t calculated this then stop. Go back and start over… pick a game that you know (can mathematically prove) allows you to win over time.

Of course, it’s also crucial to factor in additional criteria; not just the true win/lose probabilities, but also money management – how much of your pot to wager each time. If you need help with that then try this simple betting stake calculator.

And finally, enjoy yourself. The most commonly claimed “secret of success” is to make a living doing something you really enjoy. If you hate doing whatever it is that pays the bills then you can never be successful at it and, by extension, never become successful. So if that’s what is happening right now, then stop, think and find something else to do. Fast! Life is short.