Gambling isn’t for everyone. If you decide you want to try it, take some advice from an expert first. That’s the biggest mistake most new gamblers make. They don’t learn anything about what they’re up against before placing that first bet.
The gambling activity you choose will inform who you go to for tips, too. This post focuses on more general gambling tips from my favorite expert—me.
1- Manage Your Money Well
You’ll find plenty of opinions about gambling and money management or bankroll management. Some of these posts and articles say to pay no attention to any kind of money management principles because they have no effect on the odds of winning or losing.
They have a point. Raising and lowering your bets, or quitting once you’ve reached some arbitrary win goal or loss limit, has no long-term effect on whether you profit from gambling games. In the long run, the math behind the gambling activity will determine that for you.
And whatever you do, don’t add any money to this bankroll that you can’t afford to lose. Even advantage gamblers, who specialize in putting the odds in their favor, sometimes have losing sessions and losing trips. The next step in managing your bankroll is to decide whether the odds are in your favor or not. For 90% of the gamblers who read this, the odds are against you.
You’re probably playing casino games or betting on sports. With casino games, the house edge is insurmountable in the long run. When you’re betting on sports, the book takes a vig (or commission) by making you risk more money than you stand to win.
Even if you’re a poker player, you’re probably not the most skilled player at the table. This means that you’ll eventually lose all the money in your gambling bankroll. Your goal becomes extracting the most entertainment out of that activity that you can. This can mean placing smaller bets on games with a lower house edge. It can mean placing fewer large bets in the hopes of getting a big win and calling it a day. It’s up to you how to entertain yourself.
This means placing bets that are a small percentage of your bankroll so that you can avoid going broke. Big bets, even if you have an advantage, put your bankroll at risk. And when you’re broke, you can’t gamble, whether you have an edge or not.
2- Join the Slots Club
Joining the slots club, or the players club, at the casino is a no-brainer way of getting more entertainment for your money. Casinos use the slots club to incentivize gamblers to play more and spend more time at the casino. They do this by tracking how much money you put into action—NOT how much money you win or lose.
Contrary to what some people think, this has no effect on your odds. The casino has no incentive to make you lose more often just because you’re a member of the slots club. They WANT you to enjoy these perks, because it means you’ll gamble more.
As you gamble, you’ll accumulate points based on how much money you put into action. These points can then be converted into free stuff:
- Free play
- Entertainment tickets
If you’re going to be gambling anyway, you should at least get the perks associated with it. I’ve seen the argument that some gamblers value their privacy too much to join the slots club. Or they don’t want to receive advertisements from the casino in the mail. I think that’s silly, but if those issues are important to you, feel free to ignore this tip.
3- Learn the Rules before Playing the Games
It would be silly to place a bet at the roulette table if you didn’t know how the game worked. It would be even sillier to do this at the craps table. How do you know what the odds are or even if you’re winning or not?
The odds can be dramatically different from one bet to another at a casino game. Some of the bets at the craps table, for example, have a house edge of around 1%. Other bets at the same game have a house edge of well over 10%.
The house edge is just a measure of the predicted average win for the casino for that game. In other words, the casino predicts that every time you bet $100 on a game with a house edge of 5%, they’ll win $5 on average. But that’s a long-term average, not a short-term result. In fact, with most casino games, it’s impossible to lose exactly the house edge on a single bet. And a single bet, by definition, is the ultimate in short-term outcomes.
Also, don’t be shy about trying free versions of these games before playing them in a casino. Almost every casino game has a free version you can play online without risking any real money. Those are great opportunities to learn how to play the games before risking money on them in a real casino.
4- Stay Away from the Slot Machines
The most popular games in the casinos are the slot machines, but they’re also the hardest on your bankroll. The reason slot machines are so hard on your bankroll is because of the high speed of play. An average slot machine player makes 600 bets per hour. Even if you’re only betting $1.25 per spin, you’re putting $750 into action each hour. And slots usually have a high house edge—6% or more.
If you play blackjack with perfect basic strategy, you’re looking at a house edge of 1% at the most—it might even be lower. That’s an expected hourly loss of $4, which is a lot better than an expected loss of $45 per hour. And you get to play a game where your decisions matter.
If you’re an introvert and don’t like playing casino games with other people at the table, consider trying video poker instead of slot machines. If you find the right pay tables and play skillfully, you can enjoy a game much like slots but with a house edge of less than 1%.
5- Learn Hole Carding Strategies in Blackjack
Most lists of gambling tips point out the importance of basic strategy. They often mention counting cards as a means of getting an edge over the casino. But few pages mention hole carding as a legitimate advantage gambling strategy. And more should.
When you know what the dealer has in the hole, you can make REALLY good decisions about hitting and standing. In fact, the edge you can get from hole carding can be between 5% and 10%. It’s legal, too, as long as you’re not paying the dealer to show you her hole card on purpose. You’re also not allowed to use some kind of device, but as long as you’re seated normally at the table, anything you see is fair game.
I should point out, too, that hole carding isn’t exclusive to blackjack. It’s a technique that could theoretically be used in a number of casino table games, including Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
6- Avoid Games like Keno and the Lottery
I understand the allure of playing a game where you might win a jackpot that could change your life. The problem is that this particular “might” has such small odds that it might as well not be a possibility at all.
Keno is just a lottery game run by a casino. The house edge for keno isn’t as bad as the house edge for most state-run lottery games, but it’s still ridiculously high—like 35% or so. I don’t know about you, but I don’t understand the attraction of trading a dollar bill for 65 cents repeatedly. If you play keno or the lottery long enough, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.
7- Be Careful if You’re Thinking about Using a Tout Service
Most of these tips so far have been related to casino games. But sports bettors need expert gambling tips, too.
Here’s one of the best tips I can offer a new sports bettor:
Don’t use a tout service. A tout service is a service that picks winners for various sporting events in exchange for a fee. For example, you might spend $1795 to get a full year’s worth of picks from an “expert handicapper.”
Here’s the problem with these services:
They’re often not as good at picking winners as you are. They make big claims about their winning percentages, but those claims are often lies. I visited a tout site while researching this post. One of the handicappers claimed to have been correct about 10 of his last 13 picks. That’s a winning percentage of 77%.
Another trick tout services use is to have multiple “levels” of picks. They might have 10 dime picks, 20 dime picks, and 50 dime picks. This gives them the opportunity to pick and choose which set of results to share with their potential clients.They might only be winning 38% of the time with their 50 dime picks, 49% of the time with their 20 dime picks, but might be winning 65% of the time with their 10 dime picks.
He explained to me how that worked:
They would take half the people in the room and have them pick one side of the game. The other half of the room took the other side of the game. This meant that 50% of their customers got a winning pick.They would then call the 50% of their clients who had a losing pick and offer to give them a free pick for the Monday night football game. They divided that game into halves, too.
Half those customers got one side, while the other got the other side. Half the losing customers got a free winning pick. This motivated these customers to keep buying picks, even though the tout service wasn’t really doing anything to help these sports bettors. There might be some legitimate tout services out there, but it’s more fun and profitable to learn how to handicap sporting events yourself. Don’t buy picks.
8- Don’t Believe Anyone Who Tells You that You Can Win Roulette Using a System
Sure, you CAN win at roulette. Someone wins at roulette every day. It’s a game of chance. But there’s no betting system that can change the odds of the game in your favor. Anyone telling you different is lying to you in service of some kind of agenda.
You’ll find 2 schools of thought about beating roulette:
- You can beat the game by raising and lowering the size of your bets based on the results of previous spins. This doesn’t work, and I’ll explain why in a minute.
- You can beat the game by finding a wheel that has a bias toward certain numbers and taking advantage of that. This doesn’t work anymore, either, and I’ll have more to say about that, too.
The most common way folks try to beat roulette these days is by using some kind of classic betting system. These betting systems all work the same way. You raise or lower your bets based on some kind of arbitrary rule. The most common of these systems is the Martingale, where you double the size of your next bet when you lose the previous bet. This recoups your losses and nets you a one-unit profit.
The problem is that modern casinos use state of the art equipment and replace it when it starts to wear out. Finding a roulette wheel with an actual bias is unlikely in today’s casino environment. To find a biased wheel, you have to clock the results at a wheel for hundreds of spins and look for a pattern to the results.
You run into 2 problems with this strategy: The first is that you might spend hours or even days clocking a wheel only to learn that it has no bias. The second is that you can’t watch a roulette wheel 24 hours a day. Casinos regularly rotate wheels’ locations from one place to another on the casino floor. The best way to win big at roulette is to place a single large bet on an even money proposition. Then walk away if you win.
9- Quit if You Have a Problem
I’m not going to say much about addictive gambling or problem gambling. I’m not an expert, although I do have experience with recovery from alcoholism. I know this in general about addiction and compulsive behavior: If you get no pleasure from gambling, it might be a problem.I used to think that things like gambling and sex weren’t addictive because they didn’t involve substances that you abused. I was misguided.
Read some of the research for yourself about the effects of gambling on the human brain. It’s compelling and overwhelming. Most gamblers don’t develop a problem, but for those who do, it’s a life-threatening problem. Get help sooner rather than later.
10- Commit Yourself to Being as Educated about Your Gambling as Possible
It doesn’t matter whether you play casino games, bet on sports, or play poker—you owe it to yourself to learn as much about the activity as you possibly can. Even if you’re a committed recreational gambler with the understanding that you’re going to lose money in the long run, you should try to get the best bang for your buck. And to do that, you have to understand what it is you’re doing, why, and how to do it better.
An even better strategy is to become an advantage gambler. Only make bets with a positive expectation. Learn to play poker at an expert level. Count cards and use hole carding techniques in blackjack. Learn to identify profitable opportunities in sports betting. Gambling is more fun when you play to win. And playing to win is easier when you understand what’s going on.
The best gambling tip from any expert is this:
Don’t gamble unless you plan to become an expert yourself. That means reading books and websites. It means talking to other gamblers. And it requires a commitment to the activity. If you want to be just another slots zombie, that’s okay, but I think you can (and should) do better.