Advantage Players: How To Make A Living Off Of Arcade Games

You’ve probably heard of professional gamers — people who make their living at the highest levels of play in their chosen video games. And as esports becomes more mainstream and recognized, they only become more public. But there is another class of “professional” gamers — that is to say, people that make a living gaming. They’re called “advantage players”, and while they may not have the fame and fortune that comes with being a Street Fighter champion, they’ve been able to live comfortably on winnings from arcade games.

[Image via YouTube]

[Image via YouTube]

How Advantage Players Make A Living Playing Arcade Games

How It Works

Generally, there’s very little that separates advantage players with professional gamers — they just play different types of games. Replace Call of Duty with Drill-O-Matic, or Super Smash Bros. with Skee-Ball and not much changes. Advantage gamers must strategize and learn every last detail of their chosen games in order to make their visits to the arcade worth the time.

The way this shakes out is that advantage players will post up at an arcade (usually a Dave and Busters or someplace similar, with high-end ticket prizes available) for 5 to 8 hours to try to rack up as many tickets as they can. After they do, they cash in their tickets for prizes like video game consoles, iPads, or phones. Then it’s a simple matter of selling the items on eBay or Craigslist to make their daily wage. Experienced advantage gamers can rack up as much as $50 per hour depending on how much they can sell their prizes for.

The Strategy Of Advantage Play

The term “advantage play” comes from professional gambling, and it describes a strategy of play that capitalizes on the quirks in certain games in order to, well, gain an advantage. It’s technically not cheating, since players don’t alter the games in any way or anything, but some casinos still frown upon this style of play. If you’re having trouble grasping the concept, just think about Jim Sturgess’s character from 21. He’s an advantage player — even though it’s a lot sexier-sounding to call him a card sharp.

These strategies translate to ticket-spewing arcade games too. Manuals are available online for most of these games, and by reading them, arcade advantage players can learn, for example, whether or not a machine drops the chances of winning a jackpot after one has just been won. Obviously, that’d be less-than-ideal. Instead, advantage players hone in on consistent games where they can build muscle memory. Remember, to actually, like, make money doing this, these players not only need to win consistently, but also to win jackpots consistently.

It might be surprising to learn that there’s not really one specific game that advantage players agree on as best for winning tickets. Of course, some are better than others, but often it’s down to personal preference and skill. Wired writes about an advantage player who focuses on a game where players throw footballs into targets — he beats his own high score each time to win successive jackpots. Kotaku has a story about a man of mystery who hustles businesses by playing Drill-O-Matic. And, believe it or not, some people can make a living playing — no lie — a Kung Fu Panda game. It’s all down to what you’re good at, and what games have the highest payouts.

The Unwritten Rules Of Making A Living At The Arcade

Now, we don’t have this problem here at Replay Lincoln Park since we reward you with drinks, not tickets, but it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that people who run ticket-based economies might not be huge fans of advantage players. And yeah, at casinos, advantage players are often grabbed by their shirt collar and tossed through the door into the rain by two burly men wearing bow ties (citation needed). Oddly though, arcades seem to have a mutually beneficial relationship with their advantage players.

There’s kind of an understanding between advantage players and arcades that players should rotate across different arcades so that one arcade isn’t being cleaned out for, like, 5 days in a row. And as long as that’s not happening, arcades are happy to have advantage players there because the general clientele enjoys watching these players win. And all in all, a person going home with high ticket prizes doesn’t really move the needle for a Dave and Busters that much, since that’s one player out of thousands — who are also buying food and drinks. An iPad or two every week or so isn’t going to make a dent.

What’s far more critical for advantage players is not getting on the bad side of other advantage players. See, arcade advantage players are a relatively small, tightly knit group. There are only a few thousand nationwide — and at least on the local level, advantage players need to be in touch with one another so that they can make sure they aren’t both trying to clean out the same arcade on the same day. Not just because that’d be, like, super awkward, but also because it screws over other advantage players by making the arcade less amenable to them in the future.

There are subreddits for this kind of thing¬†that keep the peace and allow for advantage players to coordinate, but one of the more important reasons advantage players need to stick together and get along is that there’s always a chance another advantage player undercuts another by offering the same product on eBay for a lower price — which, once again, screws everyone over since that’s the way that advantage players actually get paid for all their work.

It’s Not For Everyone

Personally, I prefer playing games for pleasure, not business, but if you want to try your hand at advantage gaming, we can offer you some strategies to hit the jackpot at Skeeball every time without fail. And hey, once you’re all practiced up, you can test your skills at our SkeePlay event tonight and Thursday!