Introduction to Living Playing Slots
Audience member RS asked, “Are there people that make a living playing slots?” What an excellent question! Yes, they do. But how? Let’s get into it!
As I relate information I’ve collected over time on this topic, keep in mind that I’m not an income tax specialist. If you pursue any of the ideas I put forward in this article, I recommend seeking professional advice from an income tax expert.
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Do Professional Gamblers Exist?
The first question we should ask ourselves when considering making a living playing slots, is whether anyone else does with some other form of gambling. The answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” And the IRS agrees.
Professional gamblers do exist. But we should be clear about the term “Professional Gambler” given its sometimes casual use. For clarity, what does the IRS consider a professional gambler? Here’s a professional interpretation.
The professional gambler reports gambling winnings and losses for federal purposes on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business. To compute his or her business income, the professional gambler may net all wagering activity but cannot report an overall wagering loss.“Tax issues for professional gamblers” by Alistair M. Nevius, The Journal of Accountancy, October 1, 2016.
Using less income tax jargon and plucking out the important bits, a professional gambler:
- Reports gambling winnings and losses as business profit/loss.
- Cannot report an overall wagering loss.
Some of the lack-of-clarity of the general use of the term “professional gambler” comes into play at times. The lesser term semi-professional gambler reports the same as a professional gambler but instead only makes enough to supplement their income.
Semi-pro gamblers don’t earn a living through gambling. Not a full-time living, anyway.
The IRS doesn’t distinguish between semi-pro and pro gamblers as, either way, they have an overall profit. When it comes to slots gambling, should we make the same distinction between pro and semi-pro? As we’ll see, this is a trick question.
Do Professional Slots Players Exist?
I have met slots players who claimed to be professional gamblers. But it’s been less than clear when speaking with them that they only play slots.
Whatever your table game of choice is, being a member of the casino’s loyalty program means you receive free slot play. You can be a professional gambler because you make a profit at poker. But you’ll play machines to use the free slots play. Otherwise, it’s an awful waste.
These professional gamblers have pro status with the IRS because of their gambling at table games, not for playing slots. What we’d like to know is, do professional slots players exist?
As explained to me by long-term slots players, having once obtained professional gambler status playing slots, the IRS will not revoke a prior decision. This process is a so-called grandfather clause.
But what if you’ve never attempted to be a professional gambler before? Will the IRS accept you as a professional gambler who only plays slot machines? The answer is no. They won’t. At least, not automatically.
Why not? Frankly, the IRS has the outdated idea that slot machines are entirely luck-based. They think playing slots is equivalent to flipping a coin.
If you attempt to get professional status playing slot machines only, the best advice suggests a high likelihood of an IRS audit.
Further, if challenged, they’ll take the issue to court where you’ll need to explain slot machines aren’t entirely luck-based convincingly. How might you do this? For example, you could record an audio book like Learning to Win (commissions earned)….
The term I’d use here is problematic. It’s problematic to convince the IRS that slot machine casino gambling isn’t entirely luck-based. I’m confident I could prove it sufficiently in court, but why bother making an effort?
I have never officially been a professional gambler whose game-of-choice is playing slot machines. I hadn’t tried to convince the IRS of this because, well, what was there to gain? Answer: Nothing that I could see. Can you?
Be Able to Win at Slots
Having a professional gambler status isn’t necessary to make a living playing slots. People often want professional gambler status for, well, the elevated condition they think still comes with it.
It’s kind of a thing of the past, but I suppose the heart wants what the heart wants. Who am I to stand in the way? Nevertheless, a bit later, I’ll explain a popular workaround.
Pro gambler status or not, making a living playing slots absolutely means making a profit at slots. Audience member SD does. He told me his buddies pointed out how good he is and that he should make a living.
The real first step at making a living playing slots is to be able to win at slots. With standard casino business practices having broken slot machines from being fully luck-based, winning at slots has become a skill. And we learn skills.
Let’s say that you’re like RS and win at slots. How? Because you’ve got skills. You’ve found the patterns to succeed at your casino, where perhaps the simplest ways to take advantage of standard casino business practices are described by my winning slots strategies.
Great job! Well done! I’m proud of you!
But how many patterns of winning are covered in your skillset? To keep winning, you depend on the casino to keep doing whatever they’re doing. If your casino comes under new ownership and they make business changes, then your winning at slots is disrupted…perhaps indefinitely.
To make a living playing slots, you need to win at slots. That’s the first necessary skill. But the other essential skill is being able, again and again, to learn how to win at slots.
How to Win at Slots
Professional poker players can make a profit gambling. Some play poker regularly and earn their living incrementally throughout the year. Other poker players take a while to save a monetary stake and compete in a huge poker tournament somewhere once a year.
Skilled slots players earn their living incrementally throughout the year. But do some slots players win big? Occasionally they do, but 99% of the time it’s just luck.
Life-changing jackpots worth millions of dollars still exist, although they are fading away due to nightmare-like legal liability issues for casinos. These are the so-called wide-area progressive slot machines. People who have won these mega jackpots were lucky, which is no way to make a living.
Sometimes skilled slots players are lucky, which is terrific and adds to their income. The rest of the time, they grind it out. They are advantage players (APs), as explained in Understanding Advantage Play Slots in Modern Casino Environments.
Skill-based slots players search, study, observe, and experiment until they find those few slot machines at a casino which are winners when played in a specific way. These skilled players then proceed to wear out the chair at that slot machine as they, week after week and month after month, incrementally make money.
Once you figure out how to win, in general, you don’t stop doing whatever you’ve figured out unless forced. As mentioned, maybe the casino changes ownership. Or, much more rarely, perhaps something drastic happens to the economy, such as a global pandemic.
As we all know, these things happen. Consequently, making a living playing slots isn’t a job. It’s a career. And careers don’t just happen. They’re created and managed.
Your Slots Gambling Career
I may never pursue professional slots player gambler status with the IRS. It’s difficult, and the legal fees will be expensive. And I’d only be doing it to make a point.
But I, and more than a few others, make up to a full-time living playing slots. And none of us, or you for that matter, have the problematic IRS issue of proving we win at slots.
What’s this miracle solution, you ask? Well, why not make playing slots your business? After all, why wouldn’t you? It’s another potential revenue stream!
As I’ve already pointed out, make sure you check with an income tax professional. But everything you might be looking for from having professional gambler status can occur another, similar way. Start a business where your business is about slots.
Are you shy? Then start a podcast. You’ll likely never have to meet anyone in person! And it’s not hard or particularly expensive. See my other article Why You Need to Start a Recreational Gambling Podcast. A gambling podcast works just as well when it’s not recreational anymore.
Are you photogenic? Great! YouTube it is! Some Youtubers only ever use the camera on their phone. As you get popular, you can monetize through YouTube. Or sooner, if you’ve got a product to sell elsewhere. Clever shirt, anyone?
Or maybe you’ve written a book on slots? That works, too! Maybe I’ll see you later on the book tour, paid speaking engagement circuit!
Other successful slots businesses include recording your play at casinos, although it’s not as easy as it seems. You can’t just record at a casino unless they let you, so you’ll need a contract. Your casino will either agree or they won’t, so just ask them.
Summary of Living Playing Slots
Making a living playing slots can be a part-time supplement to your other household income or be a full-time career. Whatever level of profit is your financial goal, you’ll need to know how to win at slots.
Further, you’ll need to be able to succeed using skills you’ve developed and not fully depend on luck-based winning.
Related Articles from Professor Slots
- Understanding Advantage Play Slots in Modern Casino Environments
- Why You Need to Start a Recreational Gambling Podcast
Other Articles from Professor Slots
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