AP’s purpose in life?

An aps purpose in life

I recently came across an essay on the realities of being a full-time professional advantage player, which summarizes a debate I have had in my own mind forever.

Realities of the AP business. You have no bosses or customers to speak of, so you are totally independent of the (B.S.) most people go through in a normal day. This is the good part. The only person that you need to answer to is yourself. Don't (lie to) yourself, or you will become a bad boss. Be true to yourself.

You produce no product or service that society requires. This is the bad part. As you become more successful, your purpose in life becomes more meaningless. While others are saving lives or producing goods and services, you are not much better than a parasite to society. With success comes (a feeling of) a debt you owe to your fellow man. Most successful AP’s I know give heavily to charity and/or donate their time and money to help their fellow man in some small way. I believe it is their way to make up for the empty feeling one gets from years and years of not producing anything of substance. Many successful AP’s look for something else to do with their lives after becoming financially independent. Relationships don't work for most of us early on in our careers, so this is another avenue many professionals look to achieve as they become financially successful.”

I think I have always feared that if I was to make a career out of blackjack that I might feel that I was not fulfilling a "purpose" in life, but on the contrary most normal jobs don't really fulfill a purpose, or at least not a noble one. And I’ve thought that having the free time and money to volunteer and donate is a purpose in itself, but I’ve never made that leap. I wonder if the true AP’s feel this and do give their time or money as this author describes, and thus come to some peace with this, or is this a mental struggle that just goes on and on?

Captain Jack: How I Fought the Void… When I decided to go full-time pro, I decided I would hold quarterly performance evaluations and in doing so I would set goals in three areas: Professional (goals for net profit, EV, and research work), Health (goals for weight loss and exercise), Personal (goals for devoting that expanded free time towards things that would be personally enriching -- family, friends, charity, etc.).

So how did that system work out? Well, I've met or surpassed just about all my professional goals each quarter. I've fallen short on just about all my health goals. However, the hardest aspect has been the personal goals. It's been a complete failure. All that extra free time has gone into expanding my AP research. My primary sources of AP income require relatively little travel so I work from home a lot. I'm writing databases and simulations and I literally get swallowed up in them for weeks at a time. I have a hard time budgeting my time to focus on family and non-AP activities. I guess in that sense, I'm working far more than I ever did when I had a full-time “normal” day job and did AP on the side.

However, I don't know of any good AP who doesn't have an endgame. I guess that's my hope for getting it right in the future. This AP thing really isn't something you can make a lifelong career out of. This business has a ceiling -- $250-500k/yr is where you max out in this business and you are probably going to flame out at those stakes. I'm sure there are outliers that are exceptions, but for the most part that's the top of the food chain. I know that sounds good to someone who makes $30k/yr counting cards part-time, but if you put your 10,000 hours into a number of other pursuits, you would likely find a much higher earnings potential. Anyway, my endgame is to build my bankroll to a point where I can then transition it out of this business and into something else that would provide more passive investing. Maybe then I'll be able to rebalance my life and focus more on health and personal life and let the money make money on its own -- or maybe I'm doomed to always be obsessed with my current pursuit.

Steve Waugh: I’ve been reflective for a while. I agree with the part about not fooling yourself while being your own boss.

Regarding work satisfaction, I would urge you to look at it in the context of life overall and setting life goals. There is no "magic answer" -- the answer lies within you. Your life is unique and you will find your purpose if you ask the right questions to yourself. Do you think adapting (not suggesting that you are trying that) another person's goals to your life will provide the answer?

Also there is nothing specific that you "should" do. Remove the pressure and you can become the best version of yourself. What aspects of your life matter to you the most -- your health? Your friends? Your family? Work? And what priority? What specific goals for each of them and what is your commitment to each of those?

GBV: Advantage players have provided immense value to humanity. In response to, “You produce no product or service that society requires,” every new technology in the modern world from aircraft through computers to building construction depends on the science of probability theory, which is of course used so heavily in advantage play. Probability theory was developed by gamblers like Cardano in European gaming halls, centuries ago. They weren't trying to change the world, they just wanted to win. Life doesn't work out like that sometimes.

You may have a negative attitude about your contribution towards the universe, but the universe doesn't necessarily have that negative attitude towards you.

In response to, “This business has a ceiling -- $250-500k/yr is where you max out in this business and you are going to flame out at those stakes. I'm sure there are outliers which are exceptions, but for the most part that's the top of the food chain,” when you get to that type of level it actually gets easier. The casinos are happy to accept a much smaller advantage over you. You don't need to do that much to get an edge over them.

I disagree with your statement that 500K is in any sense the top of the food chain. In the high stakes universe there are many at any one time who have always had an edge over the casinos. These maybe aren't what we would think of as AP's; they don't run simulations or read much. But, they have a huge amount of money and understand on an intuitive level that if they keep sessions short, stick to the smart wagers, and hustle the best deals (most of this group are successful businessmen), they will make money. The return on investment isn't fantastic, but the absolute returns are very good.

Youk: You need to ask yourself: What does it mean to be successful in your life? In my opinion, it boils down to two things: 1. Do you enjoy what you are doing with your career? 2. Are you comfortable with your work/life balance?

For full-time AP's, the first question is usually answered with a yes. We choose to go into this profession, knowing there are many other things we could be doing with our lives. What we enjoy could be many things, including beating the casinos out of their money, using statistics and math in our favor, making loads of money, being able to work alone or with teams, having time flexibility, or whatever else justifies to yourself why you're in the business.

The second question is the tougher question we need to ask ourselves once in a while to keep ourselves grounded. For some, like Captain Jack, working is a high priority. This also goes for most full-time AP’s. Most AP plays usually have two factors going on: a limited amount of time to play, and/or a limited amount of money to make. The combination of these two factors drives the AP to continually try to get the money while there are still good conditions.

The key is whether you are comfortable with all the work you are putting in. Eventually you will answer that question in your own way. Myself, I've been a full-time AP for a while now, and am already playing a lot less than I thought I would be. Though, one factor for that is that I've done well, and therefore am able to get away from the casinos now and then. But, even if I made a lot less money, I probably would be doing what I'm doing right now, which is focusing on non-gambling activities. I'm not 100% comfortable with where I'm at, but I don't think anyone ever will be. My former principal had a great saying: Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

Chiquinho333: I've been a professional gambler for over a decade, and don't harbour any feelings of emptiness for my lack of contribution to society, nor do I feel that my existence is meaningless. Being a full time AP is a constant exercise in self-development. The most successful among us have learned to take full responsibility for all of our actions, a quality that a high proportion of non-AP’s lack. We constantly have to evaluate ourselves and have learned to deal with a level of frustration that the average person cannot. We learn to be brutally honest with ourselves, and are then able to apply this self-honesty to other avenues of our life outside of AP.

As a result of my own hard work, I have earned a lifestyle which grants me a great deal of freedom. Why should I feel guilty about that? I only have one (work-related) regret … that I didn't make more money.

As for endgame, AP becomes more interesting the bigger your bankroll, so why have one at all? New opportunities open up. My plan is to delve into more interesting and challenging forms of AP as my bankroll grows. If one day I get bored or am unable to balance my lifestyle with the family life that I intend to have (I don't see why this wouldn't be doable), then I will start developing an endgame. Until then, why plan to stop doing something that I am passionate about?

I occasionally see some AP’s beating themselves up about a life misspent. I don't understand why they feel so indebted to society. To heck with all this self-flagellation. Let's all just give ourselves a big pat on the back instead. Advantage play can make us better people.

MoldedTruths: Many normal jobs cause harm or are parasitic, self-destructive or simply serve to further enrich some filthy-rich creep, so feel good that you are not a part of that.

Originally published on Green Chip, edited for this format.


The Stereotypical Card Counter
December 8, 2023 5:23 pm
I am convinced that being an AP offers a very exciting adventure and lots of stories from all the travel, which can be fun, but also exhausting at times.

It is not uncommon for a traveling pro to smell the roses every now and then, especially during times when the casino is slow.

For religious AP, there is assurance that Sunday mornings are slow times for casinos, so you typically don't lose much in EV by going to church. Saturdays get more complicated.

As far as creating value is concerned, I don't care so long as I get the money and avoid breaking the law.

End game: my goal has been to increase my savings, get closer to retirement, and focus on personal things that get neglected because of AP work.

Now I have $50k in savings, which puts me above average for someone my age, but it's not enough for retirement. Still young, though.

The other day, I tried to recruit a good friend of mine from IT, but my IT friend said he's not passionate enough about blackjack, whereas I full blown obsess about it, and love it.

Also, the IT guy has confidence that he can someday earn $400 an hour without being a professional blackjack player.

Please log in or register to leave a comment