Yes No Casino have tracked down one of the leading professional online slots players for a Skype interview. For a few reasons he wishes to be referred to only as “John”.
Hi John, thanks for talking to us, it’s not easy tracking down a “pro”, let alone finding one willing to share their tales.
My pleasure. Yes we are a bit of a secretive breed. Obviously we don’t really go around advertising what we do. There’s a lot of guys out there who try and avoid the tax man. I have an accountant who deals with my income and tax returns so I don’t have to worry about that but I do wish to remain off the casinos radars as much as possible. Then of course there is the stigma of being a professional gambler. It’s been getting better these past few years with the growing mainstream popularity of poker, but still many people don’t really understand it.
What sort of trouble do you have with the casinos then?
Some casinos will just shut down accounts with little or no reason if they see the same players winning over and over again, month after month after month. There is also the casino players blacklist where the casinos share details between each other of fraudulent players and professional gamblers. Many casinos will refuse registration or will close the account after first withdrawal when verifying documents if they come across a blacklisted player. This is of course for all online gambling, professional online slots players are far rarer than those who play the live casinos, etc.
The way I play I can actually be good for the casinos but they often tar us all with the same brush.
How do you mean you are good for the casinos, that doesn’t make sense?
Sorry, I’ll explain. I make my money from the progressive jackpots. It’s very difficult to make consistent money just from playing the slots themselves. It’s not impossible despite what many would have you believe, but it’s damn bloody hard work. So I don’t focus too hard on making a profit with the slots themselves, I try to play as close to break even as possible, sometimes I am over, sometimes I am under. But it’s all about the progressives for me. The small jackpots of a few hundred to a few thousand pounds keep my bank balances ticking over nicely and every once in a while I’ll land a big one in the tens of thousands or even a couple of hundred thousand.
But I didn’t explain did I?
Basically a progressive jackpot is built up by all the players playing a single or multiple slots at a single or multiple casinos. The progressive jackpot doesn’t cost the casino anything. It’s already been paid for. Nobody cares if the same person wins 10% of all the progressive jackpots in a given week.
So for the casino it costs them nothing when I win, and in fact I pump back a lot of the smaller progressive wins to get the big one. So if I start with a bank balance of 10,000, win 5,000 in small progressives and have a bank balance of about 8,000 when I land the big one. That means the casino has made a profit of 7,000 from me (my -2k plus the 5k of progressives). Make sense?
(* More about progressive jackpot strategy)
Crystal clear! Ok so tell us about your biggest ever win.
My biggest and luckiest win by far has to be around the 500k mark on Playtech’s Marvel slots. I was only chasing a 50k jackpot at the time but luckily for me the big one fell in. Apart from that I’ve landed a couple of jackpots in the 100-300k bracket. Mostly though we are talking about 20-100k.
With those huge wins isn’t it time to retire to a nice private island somewhere in the sun?
Don’t be fooled. I don’t have nearly as much money as you may think. This is my job, my livelihood, my only source of income. I have to pay taxes, build my own pension fund as well as all the other day to day stuff. The first thing I did when I won the half million was speak to my accountant and then buy a mortgage free house, secure my future. But apart from that I don’t really have a huge amount of disposable income. At least not nearly enough to retire from.
Sometimes it can cost me 50 grand to land a jackpot of 40 grand. Sometimes 40 grand to land a 20 grand jackpot. Not all weeks and months are the same. Any gambler will tell you that you have good periods and bad periods. As a professional you have to have enough in your bankroll to be able to go through a 6 month fallow period. At any time I have over 100,000 in my numerous casino balances plus the same again in a backup fund. Obviously I didn’t start out with such a huge bankroll but then I only started out chasing smaller wins.
So you will be carrying on forever?
No, certainly not. At the moment I am looking at buying another property which I will be looking to do up and rent out. The long term plan is to build up a small property business and which monies I’ll be keeping completely separate from the gambling business. As soon as the property side is bringing in a good monthly wage, that’s when I will retire from the gambling. I would say we are looking at a few more years unless I get lucky and land a million in a short space of time. It would be foolish to think I can carry this on forever. The technology keeps changing, the markets keep changing, the volume of competition keeps changing. It’s a huge risk to carry on too long and start going backwards to bankruptcy if I fail to keep adapting properly.
Very wise John, and some good advice in there too. Can you tell us how you started out trying to be a pro?
I started out a long time ago in the bricks and mortar casinos. I spent a lot of time there in my youth, not doing very well I might add. But you get talking with some of the other patrons and you do some internet searching and a few of us had heard about the teams who go around the Vegas casinos taking over banks of slots when a progressive jackpot reached a certain level. So we decided to set up a little team and tried and find a casino to try the theory out for ourselves. Things didn’t go too badly for us for a while but we were no lean mean Vegas crew and in the end we just didn’t have the organisation or the motivation to really cut it.
It was about this time that I tried out an online bookmaker for some sports bets. It was only after half a year or so that I plucked up the courage to try out the online slots on offer there. I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was doing or how those slots worked but I was having some fun and my money lasted quite a good while. I can’t quite remember how it exactly happened but I noticed the progressive jackpots, thought back to my “crew” days and wondered if the same principal could be applied here and how? I did some research into various progressives, went round the old arcades and casinos looking for familiar faces and seeing if anyone would be interested in setting up an online crew. I got a dozen guys together to give it a shot, set up an affiliate account at one casino and had the guys all sign up through the link I emailed them (of course I didn’t tell them this, I just pocketed a hundred quid per sign-up for myself – wouldn’t you have done the same?). We sat down to work out a plan of action and then started. I think after our first day we had already dropped down from about 14 of us to 7 or 8. After a week we were just 4 and even though we actually won a small jackpot of a few thousand, we were all well out of pocket (at least I was and that’s what the other guys were saying too). So it was pretty much a bust and we completely disbanded again.
But I had seen the one jackpot win we shared and seen the potential. And I was determined to find out a way I could make a success of it, by myself.
What happened next?
I decided I needed to really know the slots inside out. Figure out a way to win without the jackpots. How to beat the house edge. There’s not a lot of information out there on the internet that helps with this. The consensus is that the house edge will always beat you. I set about playing thousands and thousands and thousands of spins of a particular slot and writing the results down in a book and then transferring the data to a spreadsheet. I then did the same thing for another couple of slots till I was satisfied I had enough data to try and work something out from.
I was looking for patterns, for long sequences of wins and losses, anything that I could use to my advantage to see exactly how these slots paid out. Armed with this information I spent a few months playing the cheapest possible video slots (9 line slots where I could spin at 9p upping only to 18p to test my theories out). I found that I could usually make a really minimal profit over the course of a few thousand spins. But with the help of casino welcome bonuses I managed to start eking out some profits and start being a bit more ambitious.
I bought myself a couple of second hand laptops and a cheap router and had 3 computers on the go at the same time and conservatively starting gearing towards the progressives.
Every time I got a decent win I would be thinking how I could invest it back into making myself a better player and how I could make myself into a one man full crew. That was the real beginnings of it all. Me, 3 computers and a lot of pencils and notebooks.
What’s your current setup?
Well I still have the notebooks. Loads and loads of notebooks. You could fill half a library with my notes! But now I basically have my own computer shop. I’ve got half a dozen laptops and 18 desktop pc’s. I’ve got a couple of servers and a bunch of routers. I’ve got a whole range of IP addresses I can use safely and securely without breaking any casino rules or doing anything illegal. I’ve got accounts with hundreds of online casinos. You name it, I’ve got it. This is a big business and it has been worth the expense investing in top end internet connections and equipment.
And which piece of kit do you think is your most valuable?
Haha, I’d have to say it’s still my trusty pencil and notebook!
Somehow I thought you were going to say that!
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps and become an online slot professional?
Well obviously I’d try and discourage anyone from trying this. From a selfish point of view I don’t need any more competition of course. But being realistic it is such a lot of hard work and it can be very very expensive if things don’t go your way. A successful gambler of any sort, be that poker, slots, racing or anything is the true exception. The chances are trying to emulate one of us is going to get you bankrupt, and in serious trouble. There’s no way I can encourage anyone to pursue this as a career choice.
That reminds me, I almost forgot to ask you what your worst run has been? You can’t surely be making a profit all the time?
No, no, definitely not. I think the worst time I’ve had was a period of almost a year where I steadily lost about 350,000. I was really very very close to giving up completely before things started to pick up again. Like I said, this is a grueling and at times very expensive business.
Any final words of advice you can share with YesNoCasino.com for the casual/recreational slot gamer?
Never gamble more than you can afford to lose. Set aside a small amount of money which you can consider entertainment value. Once that has gone, shut down your computer and leave it. Consider your gambling money in the same way you would the price of a movie ticket or a dinner out in a restaurant. Entertainment, no more and no less. So enjoy it and walk away.
Thank you so much for talking to us John and for sharing your experiences.
If you have any questions for John, please leave them in the comments section below and we will put them to him when we catch up for a follow up Q&A session in the future.