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The most important characteristic of professional gamblers is the love of success. Professional gambling tends to attract people who are determined to win no matter what they do. Professional gamblers simply cannot accept losing.
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By Bishop Snyder
(Blackjack Forum Vol. XXIV #3, Summer 2005)
© 2005 Blackjack Forum

An ambitious new card counter recently asked me what I thought was the most important trait for a blackjack player to have to ensure his success—math ability, or a good memory? I told him I didn’t think either of those talents was the single most important trait for a successful blackjack player. Most of the successful pros I know are pretty good at math and memory, or at least, they worked at those things enough to get sharper than most people. But I do know some very successful players who are far from exceptionally gifted in those areas, and they’d be the first to admit it.

“So, do you think it’s the art of deception that’s the most important thing?” he asked. “Does it all come down to acting and the ability to fool the pit?”

“Well,” I said, “con artistry is important, too, but it’s not the most important factor.”

“Then it’s got to be connections,” he said. “You’ve got to know the right people, right?”

“No,” I said. ”That has nothing to do with it.”

“But if you don’t know the right people,” he said, “you’re never going to learn the top secret methods the pros are using. And that’s what it really comes down to, isn’t it... knowing the big secrets?”

“Well, not really,” I said.

“Now don’t tell me it’s money,” he said. “I don’t want to think it all hinges on whether or not you’ve got the big bankroll. That’s depressing.”

“No, no, that’s not it. You’re going the wrong way with this thing. I’d have to say the biggest factor that would contribute to any gambler’s chance for success—and I don’t think any gambler could really make it very far professionally without it—is love.”

“Love?” he said. “What’s love got to do with it?”

“You have to love winning,” I said.

“Are you sure you’re using the right word, Arnold?”

“If there was a stronger word,” I said, “I’d use it. But that’s the only word that fits. Nick the Greek once said that the only thing better than gambling and winning was gambling and losing. No wonder he died broke. No successful professional gambler could possibly utter such nonsense. I don’t know who said that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, but that would be the guy who would make it as a gambler. A successful gambler doesn’t just want to win. He doesn’t just hope to win. He doesn’t just like winning. He loves winning, and he loves it so much, he can’t live without it.”

If a player tells me he wants more than anything in the world to be a professional gambler, I can predict his chance of success within a very short conversation with him, just by asking him a few questions about his life. You can predict your own chance of success at gambling if you read the next few paragraphs carefully, and consider how they apply to you...

Every successful gambler I know has spent his life winning. He didn’t win because he was lucky. He won because it was the most important thing for him to do to have any satisfaction at all in this world. When he played Monopoly as a kid, he won. If he played sports, he won. If he entered a project in the science fair, he won.

But don’t think a successful gambler spends his life winning because he’s good at everything. He’s not, and he knows it. He spends his life winning because he concentrates his time and energy on whatever he wants to win at. Oftentimes, he picks things he’s already good at. If he’s good at video games, and he likes playing video games, his entire life will revolve around video games. He couldn’t care less about his grades in school, provided he can beat any kid in his class on a PlayStation. Successful gamblers tend to be selfish. They want to do what they enjoy doing, and they have no desire to waste their time doing anything else. In fact, if he’s not particularly good at video games—he just doesn’t have the natural hand-eye coordination—but he really likes playing video games more than anything else, he will become obsessive about acquiring the skill he needs to beat any kid on the block at the games he likes. No normal kid would even imagine the private hours he would spend just to make winning look easy.

Pro gamblers tend to be workaholics. They spend every waking moment working on their next win. Mentally, they never stop moving in the direction of their goals. If they’re poker players, when they’re not at the tables, they are constantly replaying hands in their heads. Winning is so important to a gambler that he refuses to waste any time at all on any endeavor he can’t win at. If he likes school, then he’s going to Harvard, or Stanford, or MIT, and most likely he’s going on an academic scholarship. If he doesn’t care much for school, he’ll probably be collecting bowling trophies, or beating the sharks at the local pool hall. He’ll resign himself to getting C’s and D’s in school, because he’s not going to bust his ass for B’s for something he doesn’t enjoy. Whatever he does, he’s going to win.

Who said it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game? Not a professional gambler.

Most people are trained throughout their lives to accept being losers. They probably had various talents in various areas, things they were naturally good at, but they didn’t focus on those things; they followed the programs set up by their parents and their schools and their peer groups. If they were getting mostly A’s and B’s in school, but a C+ in physical science, they’d buckle down and cram on physical science to get it up to a B-, even if they hated physical science. Losers strive to be “well-rounded.” Winners concentrate on dominating in the areas of their strengths. They don’t give a damn about being well-rounded. They just want to win at what they do.

When it comes to casino gambling, pros don’t look for games where they can just get an edge. They look for games they can crush. They want to destroy a game, annihilate it, kill it. And this is how they describe their exploits at the tables.

So, what are your chances of success as a professional gambler?

Well, have you already spent your life winning? I don’t care what you’ve been winning at, and it doesn’t have to be gambling. It could be Scrabble or darts or picking up girls. Have you been winning all your life at what you do?

If you enter a casino feeling like you hope to get an advantage over the house and maybe pick up some bucks, this is like aiming for all B’s in school. You might be able to make some money at blackjack if you apply yourself, but I wouldn’t bet on your making it at as a pro. If you want to crush the casino, destroy the game they offer, kill it—well, emotions that powerful can only come from one thing—love.

And there’s no other word for it. ♠

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