The fantasy and the reality of being a professional gambler are two divergent things. Anyone who has ever gambled and won any small amount of money has immediately had the vision of being able to do it as a source of income. Some especially fool-hearted folks, such as myself, have even gone so far as to quit their day job to pursue that dream full time. Maybe it is the allure of being your own boss. Perhaps the travel and the mental challenge is the draw. However, overwhelmingly it is the seemingly supernatural ability to make money where the odds are literally stacked against you. What does it really take to be a Professional Gambler though? In this article, we are going to explore the professional gambler mentality needed to succeed.
The Professional Gambler Mentality
Famous sports philosopher Yogi Berra once quipped “90% of this game is half mental.” As a Professional Gambler, I can relate to that. Sometimes the toughest opponent is in your own head.
The Truth About Professional Gambling
Since we are focusing on the mental game, we will step over the very necessary components of having a bankroll and more importantly, an edge. The first point to consider is how realistic are you being in pursuing this income source. How much can you make at this? Is your edge quantifiable and sustainable?
If you are basing your pursuit of this career on just recent past results, you probably are not being very realistic. Have you considered how you will deal with all the regular expenses of life outside of your gambling? Health insurance, cost of living, etc. If this is your sole source of income, you will be self-employed. You will need to understand self-employment laws and taxes and even retirement benefits.
There is so much that goes into becoming a Professional Gambler that it is often better to make a list of reasons why you SHOULDN’T become one. Then when that list no longer presents barriers to entry, you are ready to make the leap.
What Does It Take To Be A Professional Gambler?
Do you have the temperance to be a Professional Gambler? If you are betting sports as your source of income, you will have to put any team allegiances aside. Can you bet against your favorite team if the situation dictates?
Everything in professional gambling comes down to a math equation. Do you have Expected Value (EV) in your betting situation? A rational Professional Gambler never puts themselves in a situation where they don’t have a positive expected value (+EV). Any wager or bet made without +EV is a leak in your game. Make a few -EV wagers and you’ll quickly find your +EV edge has completely eroded.
Having that Professional Gambler mentality requires having that focus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are concepts such as Cover Betting and Account Seeding that are good discussions to have, but for most aspiring professionals, you need to be rational in how strict and disciplined your approach will be.
Professional Gambling Is More Than Just Results
For any Professional Gambler, and especially a sports bettor, it is natural to view wins and losses as a scoreboard as to how successful you are. Sports are built around that. However, to be a Professional Gambler, you need to disassociate yourself from the results. Did you make a +EV wager? If yes, that’s a Win. If no, that’s a Loss.
There is a popular term used in sports, “Winning is the best deodorant.” It is also true in betting. The problem is, winning results can mask losing behavior. If you look deeper than the results you won’t be lulled into thinking you have an edge that is not actually there.
Using tools like the Unabated Closing Line Value Calculator can help you determine if the market believes you had an edge. Enter your wager and the closing line to determine your edge relative to the closing market line.
Long-Term v. Short-Term Results
If you make the leap to being a Professional Gambler, you are a business. Your business should be built for long-term success. As such, set long-term goals. Be mindful that focusing on anything but those long-term goals has sub-optimal in helping you grow. Do not concern yourself with short-term variance. If you try to have a winning day, every day, you will only frustrate yourself. A winning month is nice, but it is not a metric you need to base your success or failure on.
The IRS bases your success on a year-long scale and you should probably use this as your standard of measure as well. This doesn’t mean you can’t track your performance for any shorter period of time, but don’t focus too much on the short-term swings of your success or failure.
How to Handle Your Money Like A Professional Gambler
To a Professional Gambler, money is everything. It is the tool you use to make more money. Money won or lost is how we keep score. It is our reward at the end of the journey. Money is also something a Professional Gambler has to view much differently than most people.
How A Professional Gambler Uses Money as a Tool
A skilled craftsman is only as good as the tools they use. As such, they protect and value their tools above all else. Likewise, a Professional Gambler needs to protect and value their bankroll as it is the tool they will leverage for income.
If you view a $500 wager as if you were betting a new TV on a game, then you aren’t ready to be a professional. That $500 wager is just a fraction of your bankroll; nothing more. It is the tool you are using to hopefully gain a return. If you win, you can then subsequently wager those earnings in the future. You will be wielding a bigger tool for the next job. Conversely, If you lose, you have fewer tools for the next job. This is also why proper bet sizing is important. You cannot be too reliant on the result of any single wager for the future viability of your business.
Becoming Desensitized to Fluctuation
You not only need to view your wager as just a fraction of your bankroll, but you also need to view the fluctuations in your bankroll as inevitable and natural events. Precondition yourself to the realization that the current amount in your bankroll is just a single point in time. It will always be moving as long as you are making bets with it.
This is why tracking your EV is much more rewarding than hawking your bankroll. Over time, the two numbers will converge, but being completely in step with your EV is rare. Your bankroll is always going to be fluctuating around your EV.
How A Professional Gambler Builds a Bankroll
Your goal as a Professional Gambler should always be bankroll growth. This is where the reality of being a Professional Gambler really diverges from the fantasy of it. To most people, making a living from betting sports might afford them the cars, home, and lifestyle that they desire. However, in truth, much like taking money out of an investment, there is a great opportunity cost if you operate that way.
The best thing you could buy with your winnings is a bigger bankroll. If you remove money from your bankroll to fund discretionary spending, you are removing tools from your toolbelt and removing future leverage you have in betting. Eventually, you may reach a point where bankroll size relative to what you can actually wager makes further bankroll growth inefficient. However, that’s when you should diversify your investments, but that’s a topic for a different article.
How A Professional Gambler Handles Losses
As mentioned, a key component of the Professional Gambler mentality comes from your ability to the ups and downs of the job. However, your ability to handle losses is far more important than your ability to handle wins. Put more work into your mental fortitude for dealing with losses than any other mental aspect of your game.
It is Never a Material Loss
A big trap bettors fall into is thinking about money lost in terms of opportunity cost to something they could have purchased with that money. Going back to our earlier example, a $500 wager should never equate to a new TV in your mind. If you view your bankroll money in terms of purchases you needed to make using that money, then it was never really part of your bankroll.
Your bankroll is made up of dollars you’re using for their utility value. Any gain or loss in your bankroll is not representative of any material object.
Keep Future EV in Mind
Remember that gaining EV is your real goal in maximizing bankroll growth. If you gained EV, you didn’t lose ground on your goal. Your losses in Actual Value (AV) are inconsequential as long as you didn’t over-bet your bankroll.
Focus on that increase in EV rather than the decrease in AV. It will do wonders in terms of accepting a loss, even a gut-wrenching bad beat.
3 Ways to Shake Off Extended Losses
Dealing with an individual loss is one thing. However, what if you have to deal with a punishing string of losses. Every bettor goes through this. How you deal with an extended downturn is another major component of being able to handle losses. Here are 3 ways to deal with a losing streak.
- Pause : Take a break for a day, a week, several weeks. However long it takes for you to no longer feel like you are cursed.
- Adjust Your Stakes : Lowering your bet size is sub-optimal for bankroll growth, but it is better than raising your stakes to compensate for recent losses. If you have the instinct to lower stakes when you begin to self-doubt, you’ll have a long life as a bettor.
- Shift Your Focus : If recent losses are in your head, get them out of your head by focusing on something else. Focus on a hobby, or focus on betting a different sport.
When your confidence returns, resume your betting. Notice the advice did not include re-evaluating your angle, work to see if the market was now more efficient, or try to find new outs for the bet. Those steps should be taken frequently whether you are winning or losing. This brings us to the next necessary mental component of being a Professional Gambler.
How a Professional Gambler Handles Wins
While less important than how you handle losses, the way you handle wins is still imperative. You’ll find that as you become more desensitized to the swings of your bankroll, it’ll be the wins you become more numb towards than the losses. That is just the way the human brain works. The dopamine high from significant wins tends to decrease over time.
Assess Your Results
The natural intuition is that when you are winning, you do not want to change a thing. However, if you work just as hard on the way up as you do on the way down, you will be in much better shape in the long run. The best time to assess your edge and the market’s efficiency is all the time.
Never let winning be your deodorant. Be vigilant about whether there are ways you can improve your edge despite good results. Betting earlier. Finding new outs. Whatever it takes to continue to improve.
Buy More Bankroll
As I mentioned before, but it is worth repeating, the best thing you can buy with your winnings is a bigger bankroll. The natural inclination is to reward yourself. However, do you reward yourself when the stock market or the price of Bitcoin goes up? Treat your bankroll like an investment fund and you’ll be less inclined to want to take money out of it.
When it comes to their chosen profession some Professional Gamblers can fall into the trap of God Mode. The feeling of being invincible. The feeling that they are destined to win out in the end. A mindset that they just cannot lose.
This is as problematic as believing you are cursed. Streaks happen and the human brain is programmed to seek out patterns whether they exist or not. Just because you are winning does not validate your edge any more than losing invalidates it. Your results are a product of the EV you generate. Sometimes you manifest more AV than EV, sometimes you simply bank EV for future manifestation. Do not let yourself slip into God Mode, it often precipitates a fall.
Adjust Your Stakes
As I mentioned, many players are afraid to change a thing when they are winning. This includes their bet size. Worse yet, many will anticipate regression is coming and will lower their stakes to lock in a win. Past results do not indicate future performance – Good or Bad. If you have used your winnings to buy a bigger bankroll then you should be willing to adjust your stakes accordingly.
- Separate your mind from your money.
- View money as a tool to do your business.
- Become desensitized to fluctuation.
- Never view your wins or losses in terms of what you could have purchased.
- Assess your edge just as much when you are winning as when you are losing.
- View your bankroll as an investment fund.
- The best thing you can buy with your winnings is a bigger bankroll.