Greg Elder is a kind of person you don’t meet often. He dropped his “normal” job to become a professional gambler – a field where many people fail. And he succeeded! Greg wrote several books about his experience as a gambler. At the moment he is working on his new book that will be published soon.
David: When did you start your career as a professional gambler?
Greg: about three years ago I was coming off a job I hated and I decided to do something that would add some passion back into my life.
David: What was your last job?
Greg: I’ve had several of them: I was a teacher and basketball coach right out of college, but the job I hated was selling insurance.
David: Why did you go for gambling, why not for example stock trading, or some business?
Greg: I read a book called Million Dollar Video Poker by Bob Dancer that inspired me and I had always been an avid gambler so it just seemed to make sense. I knew it would be risky but at that point I didn’t care as long as I was happy doing it.
David: And your family was ok with that?
Greg: No, most didn’t know.
Greg: The only one whom I told about that was my wife and she was very skeptical. However, I was able to go on an early winning streak and this made her more supportive. She has been great through the entire time. I didn’t tell my close friends and other family members what I had been doing until the book was coming out. They thought I was still selling insurance.
David: “early winning streak” – is it something typical? I had same experience as a stock trader, without any particular knowledge.
Greg: A famous gambler is notorious for saying “the best advice to becoming a pro gambler is to get lucky early on.” There is some truth in it because most people don’t have the bankroll to sustain a heavy losing streak early on in their career. Pro Gamblers don’t usually want to rely on luck to win, but a little luck early on can go a long way.
David: back to your first steps: what did you do first? Did you read a lot of theory or started directly to gamble with the real money?
Greg: Started with sports gambling while I taught myself to count cards in blackjack. I had some previous advanced knowledge of sports gambling but wasn’t at the pro level, so I did get lucky early with that. That gave me enough time to learn how to count. Once I learned how to count cards I only bet when I had the advantage.
David: It means that after sports gambling you went first to play blackjack?
Greg: Yes, while I was gambling on sports I learned to card count in blackjack and then went in that direction.
David: Did you play online or offline? Did you have to change your location?
Greg: Online for sports gambling but that’s illegal in US, but everything else was land-based. Can’t count cards online.
David: You live on the east coast – have you had to go to the Atlantic City? Where did you play?
Greg: Yes, that was the tough part that I knew would be a problem because all the best games are in Vegas. I started card counting in Atlantic City, but as I moved into video poker I was able to find an advantage play in Harrah’s Cherokee in NC and another in Tunica MS.
David: So you didn’t have to move to Vegas? What about AC?
Greg: Honestly that was my biggest hesitation about doing it. I knew I wasn’t going to raise my 5 year old daughter in Vegas, I love Vegas but I don’t want her dancing on any poles in clubs. I knew I would have to account for travel expense at first, and try to find advantage plays closer to home.
Greg: I did find that there are advantage plays in other areas. AC is hard but there are a few situations you can make money.
David: Did you work alone or in teams?
Greg: Everything was done alone intentionally. I wanted to experience the adventure from the ground up. I knew there would be mistakes but I didn’t want any outside influences other than books and research materials.
David: Tell me more about advantage gambling opportunities you discovered.
Greg: With card counting with the rules the way they are set in AC you basically have to find a dealer that gives you deep deck penetration. Also, you have to have a pretty big bet spread to get an advantage.
Greg: In video poker there was a Deuces Wild machine called “Not so Ugly Ducks” that has a payback of 99.73% so I combined that with certain comps and promotions and was able to get about a 1% advantage. I only did it for about a year so all I needed were a few positive plays to take advantage of.
David: Did you have steady wins from those advantages?
Greg: Yes, but the video poker play was at $5 ($25) per hand which my bankroll of about $20,000 at the time was not sufficient enough for. You have to read the book to find out what happened after that!
David: I’ll will, promise! What is it all about in professional gambling: math affinity, discipline, luck?
David: Or bankroll
Greg: It’s very good you added bankroll. Luck has nothing to do with it. It’s all based on mathematics. As long as you have the mathematical edge you will win in the long run. The two biggest things are to maintain the discipline to ONLY make positive expectation bets and have a sufficient bankroll to withstand losing streaks. Even though you have the advantage it is only 1-2% so there will be periods of time when you will go on long losing streaks so your bankroll must be able to withstand it.
David: discipline – I know about this problem, from trading times. I think it is where the most fail. How difficult was it to be disciplined gambler?
Greg: VERY and you will see in the book where at times I failed and it hurt me. The casino does everything it can to manipulate you to make decisions based on emotions rather than logical decisions. There are pro gamblers who can win on certain games but aren’t disciplined enough to play those games only.
David: You have written several books about gambling. Can you describe briefly, what are they about?
Greg: Well, honestly I had only intended to put out my future book which is currently being published and is due out hopefully by Christmas called Gamblers Fight Back. This book tells the whole story and exposes the gambling industry and shows everything I learned along the way. However, it takes so long to get a book traditionally published I decided to put out some eBooks on some specialized areas like blackjack card counting, sports gambling, etc. until my future book was released. They started selling well so I put a few more out. Most aren’t that long but are relatively cheap from .99 to $4.95. They can all be found on Amazon just type in Greg Elder.
David: Gamblers Fight Back – is it your story? Is there any happy end? Let’s say so, where did your professional gambling careers bring you?
Greg: A Good question. Yes, I accomplished the goals that I set forth going in. I didn’t become rich, but it opened my eyes to the fact that even though I’m 38 with a wife and a daughter I can still do whatever I enjoy. Gambling has opened worlds I have never even considered. I have never thought about writing a book or doing a blog or podcast, or even talking with you here today. For me it was gambling, but for others it may be gardening or golf whatever you are passionate about find a way to make it a part of your life. People need to step out of their comfort zone once in a while.
David: I read on your website, something like this: now you can say, that the step towards professional gambling, was mistake but it was a lot of fun. What you didn’t write about – would you do the same again, if you knew how it ends??
Greg: The way I got into it was a mistake. I just decided one day to do it and sold a sports memorabilia collection I had to raise a bankroll. We were not in a good financial situation and I would not recommend starting like I did. However, I got lucky and what I thought could end up being a mistake turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. It made me feel alive again. Like anything is possible.
David: Thanks a lot!
Here some books from Greg Elder: