They want to take all your money away from you.
And they have lots of experience and expertise at separating casino gamblers from their cash.
So if you want to get serious about your gambling, you need to develop some attitudes that you might find uncomfortable or different from the way you approach the rest of your life.
This post provides you with 7 attitudes that you can start working on today. Master these, and you’ll be a more successful casino gambler immediately.
1- I’m Going to Understand the Games I Play, the Math Behind Them, and the Best Strategies for Playing Them
The simplest casino games are the games where the casinos have the highest mathematical edge over the player.
The most complicated casino games are the games where the casinos have the lowest mathematical edge over the player.
And it doesn’t matter which you choose; you’ll enjoy your gambling more if you understand what you’re doing better.
Take slot machines for example. These games have the highest edge in the casino, and they’re also the easiest to play. You insert your money, press a button or pull a lever, and collect your winnings (if any).
But even slots are more interesting if you understand how the symbols and bonus features work. Some slot machines even have skill elements to them, like old-school video game aspects like the new-ish Space Invaders slot machine.
If you can’t read a payline, it’s hard to understand why the machine’s doing what it does. And where’s the fun in that?
On the other hand, blackjack is one of the more complex games in the casino—at least if you want to play well. You must master basic strategy if you want to play blackjack, and when you do, you face the one game in the house with the lowest house edge.
You can even get an edge over the casino if you learn how to count cards effectively.
Understanding the games well also helps you avoid mistakes that cost you money. Start by learning one game well before moving on to the next one. And don’t play any casino game you don’t understand.
2- I’m Going to Understand the Psychological Tricks that the Casinos Use to Separate Me from My Money
The casino wants you to believe all kinds of stuff to make it easier for them to take your money. It’s up to you to understand their psychological tricks so you can keep your money longer and maybe once in a while go home a winner.
Any bet the casino encourages you to make isn’t in your best interest. One of the best examples of this is at the craps table. On a craps table, you have betting areas that are identical on either side of the table. There’s another betting area in the middle of the table.
The betting area in the middle of the table is managed by the stickman, who will entertain you with constant patter encouraging you to place those bets in the center of the table.
But the best bets are the bets you can place yourself at the ends of the table. The worst bets—the proposition bets—are the ones in the middle of the table.
When we talk about the mathematical edge that the casino has over the player, we call it “the house edge.” It’s the percentage of each bet the casino expects to keep on average over a long period of time.
In fact, the best bet at the craps table—the free odds bet—isn’t even labeled on the table. Some novices don’t even know about it.
The casinos mostly want to sell you on the idea that you can get rich quick and get something for nothing. If you keep that in mind, you’ll start becoming immune to all the ploys they use to get you to gamble and lose more money than you want to.
3- I’m a Realist, and I Base My Gambling Activities around Reality, Not Fantasy or Superstition
Here’s the reality of casino gambling games:
The house has an unassailable edge against the player on every bet in every game based on the math behind the game.
This edge comes from the fact that the casino never pays out bets at the same odds of winning those bets.
Here’s an example that’s easily understood:
A roulette wheel has 38 numbers, 18 of them are red, and 18 of them are black. But 2 of them are green. The odds of winning that bet are 10 to 9, but the payoff is 1 to 1. That’s where the casino makes its money.
In blackjack, the casino has an even simpler way of getting an edge over the player. You have to play your hand before the dealer plays hers. If you bust, you lose your money—even if the dealer busts when it’s her turn to act.
That simple element of gameplay is what gives the casino its edge in the game of blackjack.
No amount of hope, chicanery, witchcraft, astrology, or psychic powers changes the math behind these games. Disavow yourself of that notion right now, and you’ll be so much better off.
The best gamblers are hard-nosed, tough-minded realists.
4- I Keep Careful Records of Everything Related to My Gambling Activities
I see this advice given to poker players more often than to casino gamblers, but let me ask you a question:
How serious a gambler are you if you don’t know how much money you win or lose when gambling?
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they were about even when gambling on the slots at Winstar, I wouldn’t have to write gambling blog posts for a living. I also hear this a lot—I win more often than I lose there.
I’ve played the slots at Winstar. They’re some of the tightest I’ve ever seen. There’s no way this could be true for even a small percentage of the people who’ve told me this.
That’s information worth having. It can inform your choice of games, for one thing.
For another, if you are a big winner on one of your trips to the casino, your winnings will be reported to the IRS.
You’re allowed to deduct your losses, but if you’re not keeping records, you have no way of knowing what those losses are.
It doesn’t take much to keep these records, either. Just by a spiral notebook and start writing down the times and dates you visit the casinos. Write down what games you play and at what times. Write down the amount of money in your bankroll before and after your gambling sessions.
This kind of exercise will keep you in the real world instead of in some fantasy land where you think you’re a break even slot machine player.
5- I Want to Get My Hands on Every Freebie from the Casino that I Possibly Can
Here’s the thing about freebies from the casino:
- They’re not really free at all.
- All freebies are rewarded to players based on how much the casino estimates that they will gamble (or have gambled). They attach a tiny percentage to that as a budget for how much to reward that amount of play.
- These freebies or “comps” are based on the mathematically expected loss rather than on the actual loss. You can win a lot of money at the casino and still earn comps on your action.
The way most casinos track and award comps nowadays is via a players’ club card. Some superstitious players forget to insert their card when they’re gambling. They think having the card inserted affects their chances of winning.
What they don’t understand is that the casino doesn’t need to change your chances of winning to afford the freebies. What the casino hopes to do is encourage you to play more often.
Time on machine is the #1 signal that corresponds to the amount of money a casino wins from a player.
All that being said, you should still take advantage of these freebies. If the house edge on a video poker game is 1%, and you get 0.4% back in comps, you’ve changed the house edge from 1% to 0.6%. That’s worth real money and should be treated with respect.
You should also never be shy about asking for a free meal based on the amount of gambling you’ve been doing. Ask every time, regardless of how much time you’ve spent at the table, how much money you’ve won, or how much money you’ve lost.
Don’t be rude about it, but get everything you can from these casinos and their personnel.
Believe me, they’re using every trick in their book to get everything they can from you. Stop making it easier for them by skipping the freebies.
6- I’m Not There to Help the Casino Take My Money
What does this mean?
It means that if the casino makes a mistake in my favor, it’s not my job to point out their error. Stop thinking that this makes you dishonest or a cheater. You could argue that the math behind these games makes the casinos the cheaters, but that argument doesn’t hold water, either.
Also, if a dealer makes a mistake in your favor, you’re NOT helping him out by letting him know. He’ll risk looking like a liability to his boss.
And let’s face it. If you make a mistake like betting more money than you meant to, is the casino going to return your money? Not likely.
I don’t advocate cheating, because that’s a negative expectation activity. The risks outweigh the rewards.
But don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. If the casino makes a mistake in your favor, shut up about it. And maybe give your dealer a little extra toke.
7- I Only Play Games Where I Have a Sufficient Bankroll to Achieve My Goals
My friend Steve Badger once explained to me that if I’m playing a negative expectation game, I need an infinite sized bankroll to avoid going broke in the long run. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)
With casino games, you’re making negative expectation bets repeatedly. You need to choose goals that don’t involve staying in action forever. You need to choose goals that don’t include being a long term winner. It’s not possible with casino games.
Unless, of course, you’re willing to put in the effort to become an advantage player. Card counters do work at a positive expectation against the casino, but the percentage of blackjack players who can transition successfully to that status is small.
I’ve seen estimates that only 10% of poker players win money consistently. My guess is that the number of winning blackjack players is even smaller.
In either case, if you don’t have enough money to gamble with, you can’t win. In blackjack, you’ll go broke before your long term edge can kick in.
With other casino games, you might just want to book a few solid hours of entertainment. If you don’t have enough money to last for that many hours, you’ve failed to achieve your goal.
The basics apply here, too. Don’t gamble with the rent money. Don’t borrow money to gamble with. Simple stuff that should be a no-brainer should become ironclad law in your mind.
Being realistic, savvy, and hard-nosed will help you lose less money at the casino. Of course, refusing to visit or play at the casino will help you lose even less money, but where’s the fun in that?
This post is aimed at people who want to get more enjoyment out of their casino gambling hobby and improve their chances of winning. The advice is meant to be practical in the extreme.
The main thing is that you need to adopt the attitude of a serious, winning casino gambler. The only way to pull that off is to start doing the things that serious winning gamblers do.
This includes keeping records, asking for comps, and making sure you have a big enough bankroll. It also includes changing your mindset about certain aspects of casino gambling. For example, pointing out the casino’s mistake might SEEM like a good idea, but you’re not doing anybody who matters any favors when you do that.
You’ll have more fun if you get more serious about your casino gambling hobby and take it to the next level.