What do you think an AP’s most valuable asset is?
Is it 20/20 vision? A dextrous hand? A mind like a steel trap, lightning-fast counting skills, and an act that could fool even the most jaded pit boss?
Nope. It’s a strong network.
As an AP who is not particularly talented in any specific aspect of advantage play, there’s no question that my lifetime earnings have been heavily influenced by the strength of my network. I think my more naturally-gifted colleagues would tell you the same about themselves. For any AP, a strong network is the best and most reliable source of cold, hard EV.
This isn’t about being a leech; in fact, it’s anything but. If you’re honest, make fair deals, are easy to work with, and do your best to contribute whenever possible, you’ll likely be blessed with a wide network of players willing to share information and work with you. It’s never a one-way street—players who treat it as one will soon find themselves at a dead end.
There are players out there who are very bright and are unquestionably able to beat games on their own but that are giant pains in the ass to work with—or worse, completely dishonest crooks—and so they’re often stuck working alone, or working exclusively with green APs who haven’t caught wind of their reputation yet.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the AP biz is extremely reputation-based. If you give other APs a raw deal, it won’t take long for other APs to find out. Aside from the immediate implications of being a total asshole, you’re also heavily stunting your earning ability.
For the shot-takers, liars, and all-around shady APs who conduct themselves in this manner, I have no particular advice. You’ll be out of business soon, anyway.
But there are a lot of APs who mean well and still find themselves battling a questionable reputation. You don’t want to be one of these guys. Prevention is the best medicine.
One of the biggest gripes I hear about other APs is that they’re difficult or unpleasant to work with. This can range from trying to change deals during a trip due to playing with scared money, to splitting hairs over literal pennies during chops. If you’re sweating a few extra bucks amongst a play worth thousands, rest assured there are a lot of other guys out there who are more easygoing and just as capable as you willing to take your spot.
I don’t mean to suggest that you should be willing to be walked on by other APs, but often, differences of opinion will arise when it comes to splitting expenses and things of that nature. I stay flexible in situations like these, and it’s no coincidence that the people I work with consistently do the same. We’re not out to game each other, and we know that.
That leads to my next point: always make clear deals. I’ve been in situations before where disputes have arisen over non-minor things, like jackpot payouts, missing chips, and chop percentages after a game has already been secured.
In these kind of cases, I’ve generally been willing to give both sides the benefit of the doubt. Given the character of the APs involved, I don’t think anyone was angling dishonestly, but a major dispute still occurred, sometimes requiring mediation by an unbiased third party. In some cases, these disputes have hurt working relationships between impeccably honest APs.
The solution is to cover all the bases before the start of a play, or a trip, or a partnership. Account for as many possibilities as you can. Plan for the unexpected.
What happens if a teammate loses a purple chip while walking to the casino? What happens if a teammate is robbed in the parking garage? What’s the deal if one teammate starts a trip a day early and another starts a day late but stays a day extra? If someone wins a drawing for a new car while playing a session as part of a team, how is that handled?
The answers will vary from player to player, so talk about them before they happen—hopefully the bad ones won’t—and make sure you’re on the same page. The more you plan for, the fewer potential surprises you need to worry about, and the less likely it will be that you’ll have a disagreement that could hurt your working relationship.
Your network with other APs is your strongest asset, and it will usually be more consistent and valuable than any cache of secret games or individual skills you’ll ever develop. Plan ahead, be flexible, don’t be a jerk, and keep building that network with your good name and your easy-to-work-with attitude.
Blake Phillips is a professional advantage player and contributing editor to AP Street. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org