Can a Compulsive Gambler Make It as a Professional Gambler?
By Arnold Snyder
(From Blackjack Forum, July 1993)
© 1993 Arnold Snyder
Question from a Player: Do you think a compulsive gambler could learn to play blackjack or poker professionally?
Answer: I have been asked this question on numerous occasions. It strikes me as a weird question. If I were writing a column for a magazine for wine connoisseurs, and if I were considered to be an expert on fine wines by those who appreciate fine wines, would I be asked: “Do you think an alcoholic could learn to be an expert on fine wines so that he could make his living by drinking?”
The answer, of course, is: Yes, a compulsive gambler can learn to play at a professional level, to about the same extent that an alcoholic in our society might be able to make a successful career out of drinking. This is a bizarre world we live in, so I suppose anything is possible.
Problems Faced by the Compulsive Gambler Who Competes With Pros
One problem that a compulsive gambler faces, however, is that he is competing with professionals who do not share his compulsion to stay in the action. And his competition will likely take strong advantage of his weakness. This means that a compulsive gambler will have more than his share of losing streaks. . . .
If you lose more than you win, are you still a professional?
Let’s define the players:
By a professional gambler, I mean a player who is willing to risk money on the outcome of the game, and who wins more than he loses in the long run. In poker, the professionals are any of the other players at the table who might fit this definition. In blackjack, the casinos comprise the largest class of professionals, though there are a few players who play against the casinos at a professional level.
But whether we’re talking about individual players, teams of players, or casinos, any of these professional gamblers will immediately cease and desist from putting any money into action the moment it becomes apparent to them that they no longer have the best of it. Period. This is not an emotional decision to a professional gambler any more than it is an emotional decision to a professional stock investor to pull capital out of one investment, and stick in another, based on factors of estimated risk and expected return on investment.
A pro has one goal: to maximize the return on his investment. He’s in it for the money. A compulsive gambler has a different goal: to keep his money in action. He’s in it for the action. It’s a different Weltanschaung, that’s all. A pro sees gambling as a means to money. A compulsive sees money as a means to gambling.
Now, let’s step back and look at any gambling game in which the strategy of one player is to maximize the return on his investment, while the strategy of his opponent is to keep his money in action as much as possible. Which player in this game will tend to end up with the most money?
Problems Faced by the Professional Gambler Who Competes Against Compulsive Gamblers
Compulsive gamblers pose a big problem to the professionals, like: should we eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? This is true in all forms of gambling, including the stock market, real estate, commodities, and just about any activity that could fall under the general headings of “business” or “investing.”
So, yes, I suppose a compulsive gambler could become a professional blackjack or poker player; it’s just that he’ll operate in the red a lot. If he is an otherwise intelligent person who has access to money from some other source, he will provide bread and butter for the noncompulsive professionals, who like to operate in the black.
This could be the best way to tell the compulsives from the noncompulsives. Operate in red: compulsive. Operate in black: noncompulsive. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to gather data on this, because compulsive gamblers tend to lie about their finances.
I must also acknowledge that my views on this subject are a minority opinion. As I make no claim to being a qualified expert on human psychology, I consulted with a select group of professional gamblers whom I believe to be noncompulsives. I asked each of them, separately, how they would answer the question: Can a compulsive gambler become a poker or blackjack pro?
The consensus (summarized):
“Absolutely. Tell that guy to bring his money into any of the Las Vegas poker rooms. We love it when a new player shows up who has a lot of money, and he’s looking for action. He’ll have a real swell time, and I’m sure in no time, just from hanging out at the same tables with us pros, and watching how we skin him, he’ll be a pro himself. A real pro. His lifelong dream will be realized. He can gamble every day, every second of his life, and it will be his job! He’ll have to do it! Think of it! Nirvana! Yes! Yes!”
So, there are some professionals who feel that the compulsives have a real place in the professional gambling community. Positions of importance and stature, and a real bright future.
All joking aside, professional gamblers and compulsive gamblers are two different animals. In any competition between these two personality types, and every bet is a competition, one side’s got the upper hand here, and it doesn’t take a mensa membership card to see which way the wind is blowing.
So the reality-based answer to your question is: No.
Send your random thoughts, hair-raising tales, and any financial opportunities I wouldn’t want to miss to: BishopSnyder - gmail - com. ♠
For more information on compulsive gambling versus professional gambling at blackjack and other games, see the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library.
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