Inspired by the true story of Archie Karas' "greatest gambling run of all time", and annoyed by the pitiful salaries early in the game in GTA: San Andreas, I have pooled my six-year experiences to bring you a detailed guide on professional gambling within the state of San Andreas.
“Bankroll” = Your total cash available for gambling.
“Base Bet” = The default minimum bet you’re using for any given game.
“Betting Ratio” = The spread, or ratio, between the maximum bet and the minimum bet in any game type. Example: If a game has a $20,000 minimum and a $1,000,000 maximum, the betting ratio is 50-to-1.
“Payout Odds (x-to-1)” = The x represents the number of losses you can take before breaking even with a single win. Example: If your payout is listed as 10-to-1, you need to win once every eleven times to break even.
“Progression” = The pattern of betting used over multiple individual gambles within the same game type.
“ROI” = Return on Investment.
Games - Los Santos
'Pool (in bars):'
Betting Ratio = 20-to-1 (min. $50 max. $1,000)
Payout Odds = 1-to-1
The game of pool is the only gambling game in San Andreas where your personal skills are more important than your understanding the associated math, and where that same skill set dictates how you should bet. With a constant even-money payout, it is important to maintain an aggressive betting progression if you wish to make money quickly.
Example #1 – Low skill
Start with a base bet (the minimum) of $50, and practice at that level.
Once you feel you can beat the game at least 25% of the time, double your bet after each loss. When you win, return to the initial base bet and repeat the process until your skill improves to an estimated win rate of 50%.
Progression: $50, $100, $200, $400, $800.
Exampe #2 – Medium skill
Start with a base bet of $250, and double your bet after each loss. When you win, return to the initial base bet and repeat the process until your skill improves to an estimated win rate of 75% (or more).
Progression: $250, $500, $1000.
Example #3 – High skill
Once you’re confident you can crush the game consistently, and once your bankroll allows it, simply start with the maximum bet of $1,000 and continue playing until the time investment/net profit ratio starts to become meaningless.
Progression: $1,000 games, every time.
Inside Track Betting (ITB):
Betting Ratio = 1,999,999-to-1 (min. $5 max. $9,999,995)
Payout Odds = 11-to-1 or 12-to-1
The ITB facilities in San Andreas are easily the most versatile and most profitable gambling options in the whole game. However, it’s also one of the most time consuming – especially when taking the conservative strategy. Over the thousands of races I’ve wagered on, it’s become clear to me that the payout odds for each horse do NOT accurately represent the chances of them winning. In other words, the payout math doesn’t even out after an infinite number of races. That being said, you should always bet on the #5 horse if you want to maximize your profit and minimize the risk. My examples in ITB will assume all bets are placed on the #5 horse, which pays out either 11-to-1 or 12-to-1 on each bet placed. In order to guarantee success in ITB betting, you must have at least a $200 bankroll to start with.
Note: After thousands of wagers, I have never lost more than 19 consecutive races – and that only happened once. It is assumed (quite safely) that you will always win within the first 20 races you bet on. A huge majority of the time, you’ll win within 15 races.
Example #1 – Conservative approach
Bankroll needed = At least 40 base bets.
Assuming you’re almost broke with $200 to your credit, you start with a base bet of $5. The idea is simple; place one base bet ($5) for the first 10 (losing) races, then double the wager to two base bets ($10) for the next 10 (losing) races. As soon as you win, no matter which race you win, you revert back to the start of the progression and repeat the process until you have a large enough bankroll to increase your base bet without risk.
Progression: $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10.
No matter which race you win, you are guaranteed to end up with more than you started with at the beginning of the progression. Going broke with this method is effectively impossible.
Example #2 – Medium approach
Bankroll needed = At least 75 base bets.
This method is very similar to the first example, but, instead of doubling your wager every 10 races, you double it every 5 races. As soon as you win, no matter which race you win, you revert back to the start of the progression and repeat the process until you have a large enough bankroll to increase your base bet at minimal risk.
Progression: $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $10, $10, $10, $10, $10, $20, $20, $20, $20, $20, $40, $40, $40, $40, $40.
No matter which race you win, you are guaranteed to end up with more than you started with at the beginning of the progression. Going broke with this method is highly improbable.
Example #3 – Hyper-aggressive approach
Bankroll needed = 100 base bets is my recommended absolute minimum, but it’s up to you.
This method is highly variable, and requires a hefty time investment to master. There are literally hundreds of thousands of different progression options, but I will list only three versions. As with the other examples, you revert back to the start of the progression with every winning bet (this is especially important here). When you decided to increase the base bet depends on your mood and goals. I’ve listed the progressions from lowest to highest “going broke percentage”.
Steady Progression: $5, $10, $15, $20, $25, $30, $35, $40, $45, $50, $60, $70, $80, $90, $100, $125, $150, $175, $200, $250.
Studder Progression: $5, $5, $5, $5, $5, $10, $25, $50, $75, $100, $125, $150, $200, $250, $500, $750, $1000, $1250, $1500, $2500.
Reckless Progression: $5, $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320, $600, $1200, $2500, $5000, $10000, $20000, $35000, $50000, $100000, $150000, $200000, $250000, $500000.
While you will still earn a profit no matter which race you win, going a long time without a win (especially in the reckless example) can burn your bankroll in a hurry. Obviously, far more than 100 base bets would be ideal for these progressions. Going broke is a very realistic possibility using these methods, but yields profit way quicker in the times when you do succeed in dodging the “hero-to-zero” ending.
Games - Las Venturas
Betting Ratio = Always fixed ($1, $5, $10, $20 and $50 machines are available)
Payout Odds = Variable…
3 Cherries 25-to-1
3 Grapes 100-to-1
3 69’s 250-to-1
3 Bells 500-to-1
3 Bars 1000-to-1
3 Double Bars unknown…I never hit it
Slot machines are extremely profitable as far as ROI goes, but it takes a long time to secure a decent win and you’re unlikely to ever make more than $50,000 from a single win. That being said, it’s best to only use them after going broke – in times when you need some re-start money while risking very little of your limited bankroll.
As for strategy, I can only recommend saving time (because your wins are random). All your bets are fixed, so there are no possible progressions for me to suggest. However, you can expect to win one of every 100 spins, at least. That being said, you should always play as high as you can afford, using a bankroll of about 100 bets.
Note: Like the ITB, the payout odds do NOT accurately represent the chances of winning; I’ve noticed the 3 bells tend to hit more frequently than 69’s, and almost as often as grapes do.
You start with $5,000 and spin 60 times at $50 per bet, but you lose all of them (-$3,000). Drop down to $20 machines to avoid going broke, and keep moving up and down the “bet ladder” (using different machines), always trying to keep your bankroll around 50 to 100 bets. This way, you can get back into the table games quickly. Hitting 3 bells at $50 gives you $25,000 – plenty to work with on a $10,000 roulette table. I recommend moving off of slots as soon as you can afford it, and going back to them whenever you get close to broke. Remember, as a gambler, your bankroll size represents your possible income; the more you have, the more you can make. Going broke is the ultimate failure, leaving yourself with $100 to play $1 slots with is a wise move if it gets to that point.
Betting Ratio = 50-to-1 (min. $20,000 max. $1,000,000 on the highest-stakes table)
Payout Odds = Variable…
Thirds (sections) 2-to-1
4 numbers 8-to-1
2 numbers 17-to-1
1 number 35-to-1
This is how you eventually build your fortune, in a much quicker and more amusing way than you could at the ITB. Unlike the ITB, you don’t have to wait a long time to get a positive return on your wagers. The payouts available are both higher and lower than the ITB, so it allows a lot of versatility to make up for the much smaller maximum bet (compared to ITB).
There are thousands of possible ways to play roulette, but because it’s among the worst games in the casino as far as odds go (because of the existence of the zero, the house has a greater edge), I will only list three; two for profit and one for fun gambling.
Example #1 – Betting sections
Bankroll needed = 50 base bets.
Although this game can played at any stakes, I’ll assume you’ve made it big by now and are playing the highest-stakes roulette tables with a bankroll of $1,000,000. Bets can only be made in increments of $20,000, so that will be your automatic base bet. Unlike the ITB, you don’t have the freedom of going really deep into your pockets. It’s imperative that you win sooner than later, and so the reckless strategies which can yield profit at the ITB will run you into the ground playing roulette.
Place one base bet on a section, I usually use the 3rd twelve. If you win, continue with one base bet on the same section until you lose. Once you lose, you have two main profitable progression options:
Aggressive Progression: $20000, $40000, $80000, $160000, $320000, $640000, $1m.
Conservative Progression: $20000, $20000, $20000, $40000, $60000, $100000, $200000, $400000, $700000, $1m.
As you can see, either one will yield you healthy profits whichever bet you win (paying 3x your bet each time), but the conservative approach will sacrifice early profit by giving you a mere break-even situation if you win the third bet, in exchange for allowing more room to stay alive if you go a long time without winning.
As usual, restart the progression once you book a win. The chances of going broke (starting with $1m) are moderate to high in the aggressive method, and low with the conservative one; in the aggressive progression, you will only have $380,000 left if you lose the first five bets, so you MUST win within six bets to avoid going broke.
Example #2 – Straight up
Bankroll needed = At least 50 base bets.
This is a heck of a lot less enjoyable than betting sections of betting combos (next example), because you’ll likely go a long time without winning anything. You wager on individual numbers until it wins. To ensure your results are smooth, you should bet the same number until it wins. If you feel like gambling, mix it up as needed. Keep in mind that mixing it up will be more inconsistent; you may win a bunch in a row, or you could lose (and potentially watch your last number hit right after you switched it, thus pissing you off and causing you to spew your whole bankroll in a reckless fashion…I might have done once or twice before).
Conservative Progression: $20000 non-stop until you have enough to increase the base bet.
Aggressive Progression: $20000 x20, $40000 x12, $60000 x2.
Example #3 – Mixed betting
Bankroll needed = 100 base bets is my recommended minimum, but it’s up to you.
This method is mostly reserved for players with a bankroll big enough to afford a significant loss. As I write this, I’ve just reach Las Venturas after starting a new game and my bankroll is at $11,700,000 and change…therefor, I would be gambling this way because I don’t mind if I lose $10,000,000 – all my important purchases (guns, houses, etc) have been made and there are very few missions left that require any money.
The style I play in this example starts off by betting sections (always the 3rd twelve), with a progression of; $20000, $40000, $80000, $160000, $240000. If I lose all five of those, I add numbers to the mix and increase all the bets gradually if I keep losing, to ensure that my win will at least break me even since the last win. By the time I’m betting $1m per spin, my bet layout might look something like this (all bets within the 3rd twelve so my winning spins piggyback off of each other):
3rd twelve = $600,000
Sets of 4 = 2x $80,000
Sets of 2 = 2x $40,000
Straight #’s = 4x $20,000 + 2x $40,000
The key to any roulette strategy is to make sure you’re not cancelling out your other bets (i.e.: don’t bet red AND black, odd AND even, etc) and to maximize your wins by a) always increasing the bets you’re making in conjunction with the payouts to make sure you don’t lose overall anyway when your individual bets win, and b) that your smaller bets support the bigger ones, and that the bigger ones are placed on high-probability events (even money, or 2-to-1 payouts).
As you increase your bankroll into the millions, you gain the freedom to stop caring about any and all strategies, and just gamble in a pure sense. With $50,000,000 to your credit, it would be no big deal to just lay a million on, say, number #35 on the wheel on your very first spin. If you win, you get $35,000,000. If you lose…who cares? You still have $49,000,000 left!
As for all the other casino games, I don’t play them much.
If my bankroll is swelled into the millions, I might play some blackjack for the maximum bet, but I’ve learned to stay away from blackjack when trying to build a bankroll because the payouts don’t compensate for lack of betting freedom (betting ratio is 50-to-1, but max payout is 2-to-1).
Video poker is utterly useless in my view – unless of course, you enjoy playing it. I find there is no freedom to bet wildly, especially compared to roulette or ITB.
The wheel of fortune can be very profitable as far as payouts go, and the betting ratio is huge on $1,000,000 tables, but without allowing myself to use cheats (specifically, speeding up time), it’s too boring to wait for a win.
All in all, gambling “professionally” in GTA:San Andreas is all about managing risk and emotion, just as it is in the real world. If you have enough information about the components of any game, it is likely you can play it for a profit. The keys to success, in short form, are:
- Starting each gambling game with a sufficient bankroll
- Increasing your bets after losses and reducing them after wins (assuming the payout/betting ratio allows it)
- Having a backup plan for when you go broke; driving a cab, collecting from assets, stealing and selling cars, completing missions, getting Katie as your San Fierro girlfriend so you don’t lose your weapons when you get wasted – whatever you like the most.
FINAL NOTE: Once I find the time, and once I buy Fraps, I will record and include video tutorials in this article to further aide the San Andreas player population in ridding the gambling establishments of their undeserved and endless wealth. Stay tuned!
HELP!: I just compared this article to others, and realized mine looks terrible. I am a first-time poster with this, and could use a lot of help formatting and linking to related articles. Feel free to send me a message if you can help me (and us) improve it. Thanks!