If you are a card player or gambling enthusiast then you've probably heard all of the above terms used in the context of gambling and gamblers, especially poker players, golfers and pool hustlers. I thought it might be interesting to explore the definition of each in hopes of uncovering their similarities and unique differences.
First off, advantage play is defined as someone who has an edge on a particular game, usually involved with gambling. Advantage play can be as simple as being the best poker player at the table. "James was a professional poker player and had a huge advantage over the rest of the guys at the table..." or it can be more complex like the fact that Phil Ivey was denied millions of dollars from two casinos for what they define as cheating. Phil on the other hand defined his actions as advantage play. The second example of advantage play sounds a lot more like cheating than the first does it not? But is it?
Many Blackjack players who are known card counters get banned from casinos for advantage play. So what is the difference between advantage play and flat out cheating? I guess that depends on who you are talking to. Lets explore each definition and see what you think crosses the line from Advantage Play, Hustling, Angle shooting and mere cheating.
First off, lets take a look at the pro. Whether on the golf course or at the card table the "professional" may be considered an advantage player because of the amount of skill and success he or she have at a particular game. Having said that, the smart Hustler has been known to beat the more skilled pro many times over. Example - Remember the film Tin Cup where Don Johnson's character makes a bet on who can hit a golf ball farther between him and Kevin Costner's character? Costner, knowing he was the better golfer accepted the bet and he swung first hitting the ball very far. Then Don Johnson walked out to the highway and knocked his ball down the road...once it landed it just kept on rolling forever. That is a perfect example of someone getting hustled.
Old time poker pro Amarillo Slim was famous for making proposition bets and hustling his opponents. One of his famous bets was to beat an advantage ping pong player by putting one restriction on the bet...that he would get to choose the paddles. The player agreed, and when it was time to play, Slim whipped out two frying pans and handed one to his opponent. He had been practicing for months on hitting a ping pong ball with a frying pan and easily won the bet. Later on another group of hustlers thought they would pull one over on Slim so they found a world champion ping pong player and asked him to practice with a frying pan. They then called Slim and set up the bet. As expected, Slim said he would play for any amount of money so long as he could choose the paddles. They agreed and couldn't wait to surprise Slim.
When the day came for the bet, Slim walked over to the Coke machine and bought two bottles of Coke. He emptied them both out and handed one bottle to the ping pong champ. Slim had fooled them again! To his credit, the champ hit every ball that came to him, but without any prior practice using a Coke bottle all the balls just went flying out of bounds and Slim easily won the bet a second time. Lesson...you better know what you are doing if you ever try and hustle a hustler!
So, is hustling considered cheating? Not by my definition. Dictionary.com defines a hustler in the following ways: (my thoughts in parenthesis)
1. an enterprising person determined to succeed; go-getter. (I agree)
2. Slang. a person who employs fraudulent or unscrupulous methods too obtain money; a swindler. (ehh...well... sometimes)
3. Informal. an expert gambler or game player who seeks out challengers, especially unsuspecting amateur ones, in order to win money from them:
He earned his living as a pool hustler. (The perfect definition!)
4.Slang. a prostitute. (Harsh)
5.a person who hustles. (duh)
So, as you can see, by definition, the term Hustler can mean one thing to one person and something different to someone else. Now lets explore the definition for the word Advantage.
1. any state, circumstance, opportunity, or means specially favorable to success, interest, or any desired end: (sound familiar?)
2. benefit; gain; profit: (sounding very familiar!)
3. superiority or ascendancy (often followed by over or of):
His height gave him an advantage over his opponent.
So...right off the bat, we see many similarities between Advantage Players and Hustlers. Lets take a look at the term Cardsharp.
Card Sharp noun
1. a professional card player who cheats
However, when you look up the definition of CardShark it doesn't say anything specific about card cheating, but it does refer to cardsharp.
Card Shark noun
1. an expert cardplayer.
And before I sum up what all of this means to me, and what it should perhaps mean to you, lets first define Angle Shooter. There was no definition for Angle Shooter online so I took the initiative to write my own definition and put it on the urban Dictionary for review. (Fingers Crossed)
To me, the Angle Shooter is truly the lowest form of scum you can ever find at a card table. Someone who exploits certain aspects of the rules of play in order to make his or her opponent trip up. Angle Shooting is done right out in the open which is what makes it so repulsive. I have no respect for an angle shooter. Having said that, the angle shooter isn't necessarily a cardsharp. So...why would I despise an angle shooter more so than someone who by definition is a professional card player who cheats?
For one, it takes no true skill to be an angle shooter, whereas a card mechanic takes an enourmous amount of skill and dicipline. Lets take a look at the definition of "mechanic" in this context.
Slang. a person skilled in the dishonest handling of cards, dice, or other objects used in games of chance. (I agree with everything in that definition except the word "dishonest" doesn't always apply. I prefer the word "secretive" in place of dishonest, but that would definitely be up for debate.)
With the proud exception of "angle shooter," I can personally identify with all of definitions herein. While I recognize that a card mechanic may be refferred to as a cheat, I tend to compare a mechanic more to an Advantage player. Why? To become an advantage player takes great skill, and lots of practice. There is no artform I know of that takes as much practice to master and skill to execute as does that of a card mechanic.
One of my all time favorite quotes from the famed card mechanic and Casino Game Protection Consultant, Darwin Ortiz is, "If you had any idea how difficult this is you wouldn’t be sitting out there…you’d be kneeling."
It takes several years and thousands of hours to become a true master card mechanic. And...what I'm about to say, I don't say because I am one...I say because I feel this way about any dicipline that takes years to master... Its hard not to have respect for someone who has obviously mastered his or her craft to what would be considered the "Highest Level." And a card mechanic who can manipulate the outcome of a high stakes card game with noone having any clue what just hit em...well...that is a rare and beautiful thing for those of us who appreciate card table artifice.
But where does one draw the line between art and theft, or cheating? Personally I subscribe to the beleif that games of chance are no different than the harsh world of business. Its dog-eat-dog. You are either the hunter, or the hunted, the predator or the prey. Having said that, all predators get to choose the type of prey they wish to devour. On the flipside of that, the prey has the option to choose which games to play in and which to avoid.
Personally I have always tried my level best to pick a mark that deserved to get felted in the first place. Also, as a personal rule, I would never try to hustle someone who I couldn't beat straight up. At least those were the rules I tried to follow when I was playing for a living.
By the way...my favorite kind of player to hustle is the one who openly claims to be a hustler. A real sharp would never, ever, EVER make such a claim. My own wife didn't really know the extent of what I could do with a deck of cards until I decided to retire early and write a book.
What are your thoughts on all the above? I would be interested to hear any and all opinions. And if you want to learn more about Card Manipulation be sure to subscribe to my site and follow us on facebook and twitter!