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Who Can You Trust?

by Ed Miller |  Published: Jan 31, 2018

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“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

As someone who has been teaching poker for 13 years I’ve heard that line a hundred times. And I’ll tell you what.

There’s a lot of truth to it. It’s not totally true. There are exceptions and partial exceptions. But the main idea, at least with respect to gambling, has a good bit of merit. You should be skeptical of anyone claiming to want to teach you how to gamble better. Let me explain.

The Motivation Problem

Say someone says they want to teach you to gamble better. They’re selling a book or a seminar or coaching or sports picks or whatever. The first question you should ask yourself is, “Why is this person selling this? If this knowledge has enough value to be sold, why aren’t they keeping it to themselves and using it to make money?”

There are some answers to this question I think are reasonable. Poker, of all the gambling endeavors, I think tends to have the most reasonable answers. Here’s my answer, for instance.

I write mostly about how to win at small-to-medium-stakes live poker games. Applying that knowledge to make money is honestly a grind. You have to drive to the casino, sit in a game, be with people you may not like, breathe often poor-quality air, and so on.

Or you can play fewer, but more enjoyable hours. And make up the lost income teaching others to play a bit better and get more enjoyment from the game.

There are, I think, quite a few people out there who are selling useful information about how to do better at small-and-medium-stakes poker. That’s because you’re not giving away the keys to the candy store when you teach people this skill.

For me, I also very much enjoy writing, so I’d probably write about gambling even if doing so did hurt my bottom line a little. But only a little. I’m not crazy, nor are most people smart enough to find an edge gambling. Almost no one is going to give out high value gambling information that they could easily leverage themselves.

The Burn Out Problem

Most gambling opportunities are ephemeral. You find an edge in something. Maybe it’s a way to beat a certain table game. Or maybe it’s an angle no one else has noticed in sports. The key though is it’s a small little crack in the gambling Matrix, where you can consistently make +EV (positive expected value) bets, and only you or you and a very small number of others know about it.

Everyone who finds these opportunities knows that they will be gone very quickly if they get hit too hard. If a casino suddenly has a line out the door and down the block to play a table game that until recently was almost completely ignored, guess what. They’re going to pull the game. They may not know why the line is forming, but they won’t care. They’ll just pull the game.

Same with a sports angle. As soon as it becomes known to enough people, they will bet it out of existence very quickly.

Most gambling opportunities are very easily burnt out. Even teaching one other person about it could spell the end of the line. Writing a book about it or selling coaching services to anyone willing to pay—well that will obviously burn it out in no time flat.

This is, in fact, the main problem with trying to teach anyone about how to win at gambling. In most cases, the moment you start teaching other people how to do it, the opportunity gets burnt out almost immediately.

If you put this idea together with the motivation problem, you can sniff out a lot of BS vendors. Oh, you say if I pay you $50 every day you will tell me the best players to play at daily fantasy sports?

Guess what. That’s not a thing. Why? Because daily fantasy sports is subject to burnout. The moment you tell people who your players are, basically any edge you had will disappear. There’s a motivation problem. Daily fantasy sports scales well—if you have a winning strategy for one contest, there’s a good chance you have a winning strategy for most of the contests. And you can enter all those contests easily with a few clicks and one upload of your lineup sheet.

So if you have already committed enough time and energy to find the best daily fantasy sports lineups every day, applying that knowledge to make money is a nearly trivial next step. And it would be literally impossible, given the way the game works, to make more money for yourself by selling the lineups to your customers—and have them all be profitable.

The Frenzies

These concepts cover most of the gambling world, but sometimes the rules change a little when there’s a frenzy. A frenzy is when interest skyrockets in a short period of time, tons of new players enter the game very quickly, and money is flying everywhere. Online gambling—including poker—experienced a frenzy in the early part of the last decade. Today cryptocurrency is experiencing a frenzy.

During frenzies, you will find knowledgeable people more willing to share knowledge. I think there are a few reasons. First, the opportunity feels so massive as to be inexhaustible. That is, in the moment, it feels like it will never burn out. So people let their guard down about letting others in on it.

Second, the early adopters of these frenzies often tend to be young people—those who often don’t have the perspective to see how fortunate they are to have found themselves at the center of a money storm. They’re just so excited to be part of it that they will talk more freely about what they know.

But even in frenzies, you should be very skeptical. It’s one thing to find an online poker forum in 2002 or a subsection of the cryptocurrency Twitterverse in 2017 where knowledgeable practitioners are talking freely—in all senses of the word—about what they know with their peers. The key ideas are free and peers. They’re not charging one another for knowledge, and it’s understood that the people they are talking to are on relatively equal footing.

It’s another to have a “cryptocurrency tycoon” willing to share his secrets with the peasants for the low-low fee of a very expensive online seminar. This is very likely to be BS—because if he had valuable knowledge to sell he could use it himself to make a lot of money and his “secrets” would likely be subject to burn out.

Final Thoughts

If you want to get better at gambling, be skeptical of everything you read. Making money at small-stakes poker is a grind and isn’t going to make you rich, so there is logical space for good teachers. But in most other areas, ask, “Why would you sell this information if it’s as valuable as you say it is?” Usually there won’t be a good answer. ♠

Ed MillerEd’s newest book, The Course: Serious Hold ‘Em Strategy For Smart Players is available now at his website edmillerpoker.com. You can also find original articles and instructional videos by Ed at the training site redchippoker.com.