The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Casino Gambling
Playing at a casino for the first time is an exciting experience. It also causes a lot of anxiety for first-timers. What do I play? How much do I risk? What if I lose all my money in the first 10 minutes?
These are all common concerns that new casino-goers may experience before their first trip to the casino. If you’re one of the people with those concerns, don’t worry, you’re not alone. No one walks into a casino the first time with all the answers.
The best thing you can do is what you’re doing right now; educate yourself by reading all the casino tips you can find.
What You Need to Know
To get the most out of a casino visit, consider these suggestions and beginner casino tips:
- The house always wins over the long term. That’s not to say you can’t get lucky and hit a million dollar jackpot or have a hot streak at craps. But all casino games have a built in house advantage, which means that mathematically, if you play long enough the casino will win your money.
- Have a winning mindset. Sure, luck is the biggest factor in whether you win or lose at the casino. But there’s an old saying that says, “scared money don’t make money”. That’s been true in my own experience. Maybe it’s because you make worse decisions when you’re scared (like not betting the max on jackpot slots and video poker), or perhaps it’s some outside force like The Law of Attraction. Either way, gambling is a lot more fun when you are playing with the belief that you’ll win.
- Bring an amount of money you’re willing to lose (and stick to it). There’s no worse feeling than losing money that you can’t afford to lose. I should know. On one of my early trips to the casino I used some of my student loan money to gamble. Things were going great when I was up nearly $1,000. But then I lost it all back. Then I went to the ATM and lost another $600 before I finally quit. That experience taught me the cardinal rule of gambling:
- NEVER chase your losses. Chasing your losses is when you increase your bets when you are losing hoping your next bet will win it all back. Everyone who gambles in a casino sooner or later will experience losses and how you handle yourself in this situation will determine in the long run whether or not you will be a winner. If you’ve lost one or two of your playing session bankrolls, the best you can do is limit your losses. The casino will always be there for your next visit and if you follow the proper playing strategies you will soon be back on the road to winning.
- Pick games based on your bankroll size. Sure, it’s best to stick to low house edge games such as blackjack, craps, baccarat, and video poker. But there’s no reason to show up to a $10 blackjack table with $20. With $20, you’d be better off playing $0.05 video poker or penny slots.
How Much Money Do I Need to Bring to the Casino?
Learning the correct casino game strategies is only half the battle. You are doomed to lose if you are not prepared with a sound money management plan.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau says that most gamblers budget around $600 for gambling expenses for a four-day trip. Without a commitment to your casino budget, your relaxing weekend getaway could turn into a financial disaster. Not fun. First off, you should avoid the temptation to use credit cards, casino credit, or other money that is designated for expenses outside of the casino.
The following guidelines will maximize your profits and minimize your chances of going broke.
1. Don’t play with scared money. Set a maximum amount that you can afford to lose and if you lose that amount, quit playing.
2. Never increase the bet size on consecutive losses. On consecutive wins, increase your bets in a manner that suits your style of play. We would recommend a simple 50% progression or a 1, 2, 3, 5 progression. For a 50% progression, after you win a bet, make your next bet the same plus 50% more. The progression would look like this for a $5 bet: $5, $8, $12, $18, $27, $40, $60, etc. You keep increasing your bet until you lose, then you start again at $5. For the 1,2, 3, 5 win progression, you increase your bet from 1 unit to 3 then to a maximum of 5 units following consecutive wins. For example, the progression for a $5 basic bet is $5, $10, $15, $25 then back to $5. After you make the maximum 5-unit bet, win or lose, make your next bet 1 unit. This progression, therefore, is more conservative than the 50% progression.
3. Your playing bankroll for the above win progressions should be 100 units. If your minimum bet is $5, you need a $500 playing bankroll.
4. Do not bring your entire bankroll with you; bring enough for 2 or 3 playing sessions 40 or 60 units). Use 20 units per playing session and quit the session if you lose the 20 units or win 10 units. Hence, a $5 player with a $500 dollar playing bankroll would use $100 per playing session and quit if the $100 was lost or $50 won.
5. Don’t ever quit a session in the middle of a winning streak. If you managed to win 10 units, keep playing with the goal of winning another 10 units. As long as you keep winning, keep setting 10 unit winning goals. However, when the tide turns and you begin to lose, quit the session with your profit. Remember, a small profit is better than no profit!
6. As your playing bankroll increases as you win, increase your bet size. Likewise, decrease the bet size if your playing bankroll decreases. Always make your minimum wager equal to 1/100th of your playing bankroll using the win progression.
Getting Comps (Freeplay, cashback, concert tickets, hotel stays, etc)
One of the first stops you should make is to the casino’s player’s club. There you can get a player’s card that the casino uses to track your play. All that is needed is a government-issued ID card. This can be a driver’s license, passport, or anything else official with a photo on it. Players can also have a slot attendant or pit boss make one of these cards.
You either insert the card into the machine (for slots and video poker) or hand the card to the dealer on table games. You accumulate points that earn you free buffets and other perks like cash back. Plus, all casinos “rate” players based on the games they play and how large their bets are (on average). This rating will help the casino decide whether to give you larger comps like show tickets and complimentary rooms.
Slots typically earn about twice as many points as video poker, depending on the casino. These points may be converted into free play or cash at most casinos. Players often earn comps based on this same rate that may be redeemed for meals or hotel rooms.
Table games do not usually offer any cashback or free play, but comps that go towards free meals and hotel are earned. The rate depends on a number of factors. The two prevailing ones are the amount wagered and the time seated at the table. Other factors include the speed of the game and the house edge. A craps or blackjack player will earn fewer comps than someone seated at a Three Card Poker or roulette table. A shorthanded game will earn more comps than a full one due to its faster speed.
Skill can also play a factor. Blackjack players that understand basic strategy may earn fewer comps than someone that stays on 14 against a 7 or does not double down properly.
Your First Visit to a Casino is Key
The first day’s worth of play on a new rewards card can make all the difference. Casinos look at the action of new players and base mailers on it. Do not sign up for a player’s card if you only plan on spending a few minutes giving action. Wait until you can give a full day’s worth of play before signing up for a player’s card.
The first mailer a player gets is often the best one he will ever receive. Mailers have historically been sent through the U.S. Postal Service, but today they may also be received by email or text. The offer may include free slot play, table game bets, hotel rooms, and meals.
While the first mailer is typically the best, regular players also receive special offers. It is based on an average daily wager amount. The offer is typically 10-20% of the theoretical loss based on the slot or video poker game played.
Table game players often receive different mailers from casinos. These will not include free slot play. Instead, it is often a free table game bet voucher. Free meals or hotel rooms may also be sent to table game players.
Getting a VIP Host
A host gives players a personal experience while in the casino. They also give players a reason to visit when they may not otherwise. This includes special perks like a limo ride from the airport, hotel room upgrades, show tickets, and visits to resort amenities on the house.
It never hurts to ask a pit boss or slot attendant to call a VIP host after a big session. This can include large wagers, long playing times, or a big win or loss. At the very least, the host will simply say no. There is nothing to lose.
The policy on VIP hosts changes from one casino to another. Some set a specific players club tier where a host becomes the reward. Others wait for a player to ask for it. Some casinos have hosts scour through data to determine if a player’s action warrants special attention. Once a serious player is identified, a host will introduce himself to the gambler.
Best (and Worst) Casino Games to Play
You should avoid jumping into casino games you don’t understand. Some of the most innocent look bets have terrible odds for the player. It’s important to learn about each game and its odds of winning and then decide which games you will spend your time on. Learn how the game is played and some of its strategies. Discipline yourself to memorize strategy tables for blackjack, for instance, or know the odds on a specific roulette bet. Practice online before visiting a casino. That way you’ll have a better idea of how the games are played and maybe even pick up some of the terminologies.
Casino Games with the Lowest House Edge
Most players go to the casino with a favorite game in mind and will play it regardless of its house edge. This is not the best play. The main goal of gambling is to win. The correct action is to play the games with the highest chances of winning, even if you’re on a budget. Here are popular casino games that have a low house advantage if you use the proper strategy.
The game with the lowest house edge in a casino is usually blackjack. There are rules that may change the return of blackjack from one casino to another. The most important rule in a blackjack game is that it pays 3-2 on blackjack. If the table pays 6-5 on a natural, keep walking.
It is also important for the blackjack game to allow double down on any two cards and after splitting. Other rules that benefit players include permitting surrender and resplitting aces. It is also best to find blackjack tables where the dealer stays on all 17’s.
Craps is often the best or second-best game in a casino. The higher the odds allowed, the lower the house edge. That is because there is no house edge on an odds bet at a craps game. It theoretically returns 100% to the player. The best bet on the craps table to start a roll is the Don’t Pass. Don’t Come is the identical bet and has the same edge, but is only available after the come out roll. The Pass Line is the second-best bet. The Come offers identical odds for rolls after the come out.
Placing numbers is the next best bets at a craps table. The Field is reasonable as long as 12 pays triple. Most of the other wagers at a craps table are sucker bets. The closer you get to the middle of the table, the higher the house edge.
Ultimate Texas Hold’em
Ultimate Texas Hold’em is a complex game with a surprisingly low house edge. The game is based on Texas Hold’em where players are up against only the dealer. Players receive 99.6% returned on average.
Video poker can be a great game. Depending on the paytable, it may be the best in the casino. Some casinos offer better video poker than others. Check out VPFree2.com to find the best video poker in your local casino. It may offer a better return than blackjack or any other table game. Make sure to always wager five coins and learn basic strategy.
Casino Games with the Highest House Edge
Some casino games should never be played. This is due to the massive house edge or speed of the game. The games below are among the worst in any casino.
Big Six Wheel
The Big Six Wheel is the worst table game in a casino. The best bet has a house edge of 11%. The worst long-shot bets have a 24% edge. This game is often found at the entrance of the casino. Keep walking past it.
Double Zero Roulette
Double Zero Roulette is often referred to as American Roulette. That is because you will not find the game in most other countries. The game has a 5.26% house edge on all but one bet on the wheel. The other bet, one that is impossible on a single zero wheel, has a 7.89% edge. A player that wagers $10 per spin will lose $31 an hour on average.
The house edge on Casino War is 2.9%. That is not terrible by itself. The problem lies in that over 500 hands per hour can be played. This means that players can lose 15 bets per hour at the Casino War table. The house edge on the tie side bet is nearly 20%. If you must play this game, make sure to at least avoid that sucker bet.
Slots are the most popular game in the casino. The edge on most penny slots is 10%. Considering the hundreds of spins a player can make per game, this adds up fast. If you must play slots, choose the old reel-style games for $1 or higher. It will cut the house edge by at least half.
Mississippi Stud and Caribbean Stud
Mississippi Stud is a newer carnival game. It requires players to place as many as four bets. The edge on this game is 5% with wild variance. Caribbean Stud deserves an honorable mention as its edge and variance are nearly identical. Players looking to play poker table games should learn Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
5. Pace yourself
Keep in mind that gambling can be exhausting because of the mental effort of following the game and playing your strategy. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that most gamblers play about four hours a day, and then enjoy other attractions, such as sports, shows, shopping, and other pursuits.
6. Whether you’re winning or losing, increase or decrease your bets gradually
Unless you have a near-unlimited bankroll, increasing or decreasing bets drastically only increases short-term variance and your odds of going bust, which isn’t good if you want to play a long session.
7. Limit how much you drink and never play when you are tired
There’s a reason why those drinks are free and keep coming. The casino knows that alcohol impairs people’s judgment and makes them take more risks. Have fun, but don’t get too crazy or you might end up putting more money at risk than you’re comfortable with. Similarly, playing casino games when you’re tired impairs your judgment and makes you more error-prone.
8. Avoid gimmicks and betting systems (they don’t work!)
No matter what your high-rolling friend from work or your relative says, there’s no betting system that will guarantee you win or even increase your odds of winning. I’ll be honest, it can be fun to use the Martingale in blackjack, but it definitely increases your risk of losing your bankroll. So if you do decide to try a betting system, do it just for fun.
9. Don’t chase your loses
Chasing your losses is a phrase that means trying to recoup the money you’ve lost, either by increasing your bet sizes or taking bigger risks, usually with money that you can’t afford to lose. Gamblers are known for trying to “get back to even”. But as any true gambler knows, if you play negative expectation games long enough the house always wins. So don’t fall into the trap of chasing your losses with money you didn’t budget for gambling, or can’t afford to lose.
10. Quit when you’re ahead
It’s every player’s dream – to leave the casino with the house’s money. There’s no downside to quitting early while you’re ahead, no matter how the other players may razz you. Smart gamblers know that setting and keeping limits lets them play on other days. Know your limit. If you quit while you are ahead, you can afford to play another day.
Casino Etiquette (dos and don’ts)
With casinos becoming increasingly common around the world, it’s important to maintain a level of casino etiquette. There’s an almost astonishing lack of etiquette in most casinos even as they become more popular, providing colorful local entertainment every hour of the day. Let’s go over some of the etiquette basics you should adhere to while enjoying a night of gambling.
Casinos offer all kinds of entertainment for all kinds of people from all walks of life. Most casino visitors end up at the slots and video poker machines. Some people gravitate to table games. Still, others just wander around, taking in the atmosphere.
It can be less difficult reading a book in a crowded train station than finding the right zone for yourself in a packed casino, even for serious gamblers. An obnoxious player can ruin even the most fun games!
Money is what most casino patrons are after. There are certain rules of etiquette you should follow whether you’ve got a small fortune to lay down or just a few extra dollars. Simply act responsibly; you don’t have to pretend you’re in a church. Respect the time and space of the other players, and remember that the house tries to keep a watchful eye on the safety of everyone in the casino.
Table game etiquette
There are standard house rules that must be adhered to at gaming tables, in addition to the normal courtesy of everyday life. We’ve covered most of these rules as we discussed the various games available in casinos, but he’s a little refresher for you, all in one place:
- Join a table only after the currently running game or hand has ended.
- Buy in your chips, if you don’t already have any, as soon as you join the table. The dealer will exchange your cash for chips after you place your money on the table.
- Casinos and their employees are always on the watch for cheating, so never place both of your hands on your cards or the table. Use only one hand to avoid making the dealers and pit bosses nervous.
- Another sign of cheating is marking the cards in some way, so do not scratch, bend or nick the cards in any way as you play.
- Don’t touch your cards at all if they’re dealt face up during the game.
- In a game of craps, only the shooter may touch the dice.
- Once the cards have been dealt, do not touch your bet. Touching your bet is another thing that can make employees very nervous.
- Learn the correct hand gestures for the game you’re playing. The way to let the dealer know what you want to do is with gestures, so get to know the signals that go with each game.
- Before you join the table, be sure you know all the rules for the game you want to play.
- Other players can become annoyed if someone slows the game by asking lots of questions and interrupting the game’s pace. You can learn by playing; it’s just a better idea to do it when the casino isn’t very busy.
- If you have questions, ask the dealer. Asking another player may decrease their enjoyment of the game.
- The dealer doesn’t want any responsibility in your playing decisions. Feel free to ask them the mechanics of the game, but how you play your hand is completely your decision.
- Keep your advice to yourself. If someone loses because of your advice, you may feel responsible, and you certainly don’t want that.
- Practice good sportsmanship; if another player gets the card you wanted, don’t get upset. Just play it cool.
- Place your cards face down on the table when the game is over. Let the dealer pick up your cards, don’t hand them across the table.
- Always keep your head. Don’t blame the dealer if you lose. The dealers don’t affect your hand; they simply dealt the cards. Don’t forget gambling has ups and downs.
- People take casinos seriously: money is lost and won with each and every game. Don’t get drunk or act obnoxiously.
- Only sit down at a table if you’re planning on playing the game. The seats are provided for players. If the table isn’t crowded and you’d like to watch, ask the dealer if it’s okay for you to sit.
- Sit at either end of the table if you plan on smoking while playing. This can help prevent your smoke from bothering the other people participating.
Slot Machine and Video Poker Machine Etiquette
Nothing quite gets the blood pumping like an exciting game of slots. Who knew one little machine could be equal parts frustrating, emotional and exciting! Here are a few rules to keep in mind so you and other players can get as much fun out a slot machine or video poker machine as possible.
- Always check for warnings on the machine before you play. Some warnings you might see include one machine per player, malfunction voids all play, or progressive jackpot paid out in 20 annual payments.
- During peak times, don’t play minimum bets at a slot machine. There are plenty of other players that would gladly play the max bet on that machine, so move down to a lower denomination and let those players have their fun. It’s only polite!
- Treat the machines with respect, don’t bang or hammer the keys. All that noise could distract other players. Besides, if you’re loudly punching the keys, that might indicate you’ve got anger that needs to be worked off, preferably outside the casino.
- Also, don’t tap or stroke the screen. It may a superstitious practice of yours, but it won’t bring a jackpot any more quickly and probably will annoy the players around you.
- Do not, under any circumstances, do either of the two above things when sitting next to a calm and collected player. You wouldn’t want someone doing those things next to you while you’re enjoying your game.
- Players will sometimes leave a cup on the handle of their machine when they take a restroom. While there’s no surefire way to indicate a machine is in use, if you see the chair tucked in, a cup on the handle, or a play card left in the slot don’t play that machine. A slot machine with any of those things means the game is probably in use by someone else.
- Be friendly. If a player returns to a machine, first attempt to establish that they were using the machine before they left. If they were, offer to give the machine back to them.
- Ask a floor person to stand by your machine if you need a bathroom break. Some casinos even offer “Reserved” signs. You can always try to cup-and-seat trick if nothing else is available.
- If you ask the players next to your machine to watch your machine during a restroom break, don’t assume they will. Leave some kind of indication for others that your machine is occupied.
- If another player wins, be happy for them! Don’t get jealous, you may just be the next winner!
- Play quietly. Playing against a machine is a great way for a little alone time, even in a crowded room.
Maintain personal space when watching others
There’s a unique breed of people watcher at casinos. These wanderers will travel around the casino floor, soaking up the atmosphere and participating vicariously through other players. It’s not too bad, so long as you don’t mind being watched while you play.
Some people find it incredibly annoying, however. They don’t like the feeling of a person constantly peering over their shoulder. They may even find it an invasion of privacy.
If you’d like to people-watch, be sure to keep it moving. Most people will know you’re there and more than likely dislike it. Don’t stop and stare because you may be making them nervous.
Also, try to keep any loud conversations away from other players. Those players may be trying to concentrate on a big bet they’ve got riding, so try to keep it down. For some, the anticipation is half the fun. Don’t spoil it!
Tipping Casino Employees
There are no hard and fast rules for tipping. The rules of your local casino, if you have one, may not apply in Las Vegas.
It’s a good idea to tip when you know the employees of the casino, especially if they’re constantly nice to you. If you hit a jackpot that has to be written up, it can be nice to give a small tip to the floor or change person on duty at the time. If you’re somewhere new, like on a trip to Vegas where you don’t know the staff, you don’t have to tip. On the other hand, even a change person you don’t know could lead you to a winning machine, so if you hit a jackpot go ahead and spread a bit of the wealth!
Let’s say the dealer at the table game you’re playing has been nice to you the entire time and you’ve had a good run. Feel free to tip them. It’s a good way to show your appreciation for their service. The only truly solid rule for tipping is always to tip your beverage server. Tipping them can help keep you in a steady stream of refreshments.
You’re out to have a good time when gambling, so don’t try to put on a false personality; just be yourself. Follow your own judgment when it comes to showing your appreciation to casino staff. No one is going to stop you from spreading your good fortune — except, of course, those few employees that can’t accept tips, like pit bosses, hosts, and hostesses.
The Casino Rankings Gambling Guide consists of many quality articles written by authoritative authors which cover a number of different topics from history pieces to learning tools, tips, and tricks. The function of our Gaming Guide is to help gamblers and players of all types learn their way around the casino world as a whole. We are looking forward to adding more unique and appealing articles to this section of Casino Rankings, so feel free to get in touch with any feedback or suggestions you have.
Comps and Rewards
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Getting the Most Out of Your Casino Visit
Make no mistake about it, whether you are visiting a small local casino or an entire city built around gambling, the casinos will be out to nickel and dime you each and every step of the way. Part of the focus of this guide is to help casino visitors to avoid traps and to save as much time and money wherever possible. You might not have known that you were paying 2x more for your cab fare than you should be, or that you were tipping too much (or maybe too little) to dealers. The articles in this guide are focused on gamblers of all experience levels, with the intent of offering useful advice for every type of player imaginable.
Sometimes in gambling, it is more about trying to consolidate or minimize risk than it is about simply going for the big win. This is even truer in games with big-time variance and infrequent payouts. Some of the articles in this section will help you to reduce the house edge that you are giving up when playing your favorite games. On that same note, you may find out about new ways to get more bang for your player’s card buck. There are many casinos that will go out of their way to offer you free play, free rooms, and other promotional offers, but you are only going to be privy to these if you take advantage of their player’s reward programs.
Choosing the Best Casino
Every casino is different. Sometimes the differences are small and sometimes they are big, but there will always be subtle (and not so subtle) differences between all of the different gaming destinations in the world. When you have many options available to you, it only makes sense to determine which one is going to offer you the most value. If one casino is paying 99% on video poker and another is paying 98%, for example, this may seem like a very small difference, but in reality, this 1% will add up big time in the long run. This is yet another example of the sort of veteran secrets that we hope to teach players with our comprehensive gambling guide.
Education is key to becoming a well aware and informed gambler. The more you know, the more pennies you are going to squeeze out of your gaming dollar, and in the end, the more fun that you are going to be able to have. Don’t be fooled by promotions or gimmicks from the casinos. There is usually a way to get ahead of your fellow gamblers and to help make your experiences that much more enjoyable. We hope that you browse all of our articles and that our advice and information is truly useful to you. We have taken years of real casino and gambling experience to help compile this dynamic guide and we want to share it with everyone who wants to have a good time playing at their favorite casinos.
About Our Gambling Articles
All of the authors of our gaming guide are respected and known authorities within the gaming industry. Whether the topic relates to online play, brick and mortar casinos, or a combination of the two, we have made sure that each topic is written by a credible and reputable source.
Learn How to Play Casino Games
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- Gambling Strategy – How to Gamble and Win
- Casino Bankroll & Money Management Strategies
- Casino Etiquette – Casino Dos and Don’ts
- Casino Comps – How to Get Comped with Free Play, Rooms, & Meals
- The World’s Greatest Casino Cheat
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To be a winner in a casino, you must make only bets with the lowest casino advantage using proper betting techniques and money management. Gamble with the proper attitude. You are gambling to win as well as to have a good time. You intend to give the casinos a fair fight for their money using all the playing and betting skills available to you. Your biggest advantage is the fact that you can quit playing anytime you want. Therefore, try to discipline yourself to quit a session a winner. Winning a small amount is a lot better than losing or breaking even. Just remember that you can’t be a winner until you learn to quit a winner.
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