Recently, I read a blog post that suggested I write my posts to an imaginary avatar—an individual who needs my help and advice, and I should write to that person as if we were just shooting the breeze around a campfire.
I have an avatar in mind now. He visits the Winstar Casino in Oklahoma every Friday, and he usually takes one of his 2 girlfriends there.
He plays the slots, and he’s lost almost $7000 this year already. He’s obsessed with climbing the VIP club ladder, too.
Here’s my advice to this Oklahoma slot machine player:
1- Start Playing Poker Instead of Slot Machines, You Nitwit
The payback percentage on the slot machines in Oklahoma is awful.
We’re talking about games in a jurisdiction where the casinos aren’t even required to report their payback percentages.
In many jurisdictions, the payback percentages for slot machines must be above a certain number, and they must report their actual paybacks over time.
Neither of these rules apply to the casinos in Oklahoma, so you don’t have any way of knowing what the payback percentage on these games is.
My guess is that they’re only slightly better than the payback percentage you’d see playing scratch and win lottery tickets.
What does this translate to in terms of hourly expected losses?
I know that you play for at least $3 per spin, and you probably make an average number of spins per hour—600. You’re putting $1800 per hour into action.
At that 80% figure, you’re getting back just $1440 in winnings, which means you’re losing $360 per hour on average. It might be even more than that.
That’s expensive entertainment, man.
Seriously, how many movie tickets can you buy for $720—the predicted cost for 2 hours play on those machines?
But I know you want to keep gambling, so here’s my advice:
You like playing poker, and you enjoy socializing with the other players at the table. The only downside to poker for you is the slow action.
You’re probably never going to be a winning poker player, but you at least have a chance in poker.
And no way do you play so badly that you’re operating at a 20% disadvantage.
2- Stop Trying to Climb Higher on the VIP List for the Slots Club
I know you’re excited about the perks of being a high roller on the VIP list in the players club there. You only mention it every time we talk about the casino.
But don’t you realize that the amount of money it’s costing you to climb that VIP ladder far exceeds the amount of monetary value you’re getting in return?
The program has 3 tiers, and you’re already in the 2nd tier, trying to move up to the 3rd tier.
And what kind of perks do you get for that 3rd tier?
A 20% discount at the spa?
I don’t know what’s in the VIP gift packages, but whatever they include, I guarantee you could buy it cheaper if you stopped losing money playing the slots there.
Yeah, the free stuff is cool, and you feel like a VIP, but you can feel like a VIP just by spending money and come out ahead.
3- Host Your Own Poker Game Instead of Going to the Casino Every Weekend
I love playing in an actual cardroom in a casino, and you’ll find plenty of action at whatever stakes you prefer at the cardroom in the Winstar.
But even that’s not free.
The Winstar, like every other casino in the United States, charges a rake in exchange for hosting the poker game. This takes the form of 5% of each raked pot.
Even if you’re just as good as the other players at the table, you can’t break even when the casino is taking 5% out of every pot.
On the other hand, you know lots of poker players here in town. And I know you own a poker table and clay chips.
The only trick is finding poker players who want to play for the same stakes you do.
I know you enjoy cooking and playing the host, too. You can go to bed after everyone leaves without driving for 45 minutes to get home, too.
Most importantly, you stand a better chance of winning money in your home poker game because you’re not having to pay the 5% rake to the casino out of every pot.
4- Find Some Women to Hang Out with Who Don’t Like to Gamble
I know that part of the reason you visit the casino so often is because these 2 women you date both love to gamble.
I also know that they love gambling with your money, not theirs. After all, we’re talking about one woman who cleans the rooms at a nursing home for a living, and the other woman is a waitress.
Neither of them can afford to gamble at the levels you like to gamble.
I know how much money you’ve lost at the casino this year, but I wonder if that amount accounts for the money you’ve given these 2 girlfriends?
You have a few rational choices here:
You could try finding other activities to engage in with these women. They might like these activities, or they might not.
I doubt either of them would break up with you just because you stop taking them to the casino.
You could try getting these 2 women to learn how to play poker. I’ve met both of them, though, and I’m convinced that neither of them are going to be great at the game.
Finally, you could just dump both these gals and find new ladies to spend time with doing other stuff.
We live near Dallas. You can find plenty of educational and culturally things to do that don’t involve pouring money into gambling machines on the behalf of these women.
5- Quit Drinking and Doing Drugs
I know you struggle with dealing with life without using beer and marijuana as crutches.
But your lifestyle as a degenerate gambler all ties together.
No one—not even you—makes good decisions under the influence.
They especially make bad decision when it comes to gambling.
Losing as much money each year playing slot machines as you do is objectively a bad decision.
You have so many more fulfilling things you could be doing with your money than drinking, smoking, and gambling with it.
6- Start Your Own Business
If you enjoy the risk involved with gambling, you could try gambling at something that involves higher risks but potentially much higher rewards.
And you’ll have far more influence over your destiny gambling on an investment in your own business than you ever will playing slot machines at the Winstar Casino.
Any of these opportunities at least affords you the opportunity to succeed and win money. It’s also easier to write off your losses as a business owner than it is to write off your losses as a gambler.
In fact, the only way you get to write off your losses as a gambler is if you come home a winner.
Otherwise, your losses are just an entertainment expense, which is not generally a tax deductible expenditure.
You could even combine your love of gambling with a new business. I don’t recommend starting your own underground cardroom, as tempting as that is in this area.
It’s a felony to run a gambling hall in Texas, after all.
But you could open a store in the mall selling poker equipment and do quite well with it.
Poker tables, poker chips, and playing cards are all available wholesale and you can make big profits re-selling such items.
You could even expand your inventory to include things like dart boards, pool tables, and jukeboxes.
You could even sell gambling books and DVDs.
7- Travel to Vegas a Couple Times a Year Instead of Going to Oklahoma Every Weekend
Sure, traveling to Las Vegas a couple times a year might cost a little more than visiting Oklahoma every weekend, but I think you can still come out way ahead—even with the travel costs.
Let’s look at the numbers again. We already figured out that you lose an average of $360 per hour playing slots in Oklahoma.
And you go every weekend, so let’s be generous and say you only spend an hour playing each weekend.
That’s 52 hours at $360 per hour, or over $18,000 per year in gambling losses.
I know, you’ve only lost $6000 or $7000 this year, but if you keep playing, the Law of Large Numbers will ensure that your actual results will eventually start to look like the expected results.
Now let’s say you decide to go to Vegas twice a year instead. We’ll assume you’re going to spend $2000 on flights, and another $1000 on your rooms.
Let’s call it another $1000 for meals and entertainment.
That’s $4000 for the travel expenses to Vegas, including entertainment and food. Your total might be different depending on when you go and where you cut corners.
I know you can fly out there for a lot less than that, but I’m assuming you’re flying first class or something.
Now let’s assume you’re going to spend 3 days in Vegas on each trip, and you’re going to spend 2 hours per day gambling. That’s 12 hours total.
The slot machines in Vegas have a payback percentage of closer to 92%, so the house edge is about 8%–give or take.
If you spend 12 hours putting $1800 into action, you’ll put a total of $21,600 into action.
Your expected loss on that kind of action is $1728.
So you’re looking at $6000 or so in total expenses traveling to Vegas to gamble twice a year, compared to $18,000 if you travel to the Winstar every weekend.
You’ll enjoy the Vegas trips more, too, I promise you.
8- Go Ahead and Open that Online Sportsbook Account You Keep Talking About
I know you watch football every weekend, and I know you participate in the betting pools at work. I also know you’ve been thinking about signing up for an online sportsbook like 5Dimes.
You should go for it.
You don’t have to limit yourself to 5Dimes, but they’re rated 4 stars on our site, and they’re happy to accept action from United States bettors.
You could get some money into action every weekend during football season, and maybe that would satisfy your gambling urges as well as or better than playing slot machines in Oklahoma.
I’d much rather see you risking your money this way than playing slots or even the lottery.
9- Don’t Worry about Using Up the Rest of Your Player Points this Year
That’s how they get you, man.
If you don’t visit the casino, you can’t lose money on their slot machines.
And the only way you can redeem those player points for something of any value is to visit the casino.
By buying into this incentivized gambling scheme that the casino has going, you’re just keeping that monkey on your back.
If you do decide that you’ve earned so much incentives that you just can’t forgo using them, at least limit yourself to the poker games when you visit.
If you’re not sure you have the self-discipline or self-control to do that, skip it.
Or call someone who’s willing to hold you accountable before, during, and after you visit to the Winstar.
Even better, take someone with you and explain to them what you’re trying to do on your way there.
Those incentives are worth FAR less than the amount of money you’re losing on the slot machines there.
10- Read Some Good Books about How Gambling Actually Works
For most gamblers who want to become better educated about how gambling actually works, I suggest reading Winning Ways: The American MENSA Guide to Casino Gambling by Andrew Brisman.
It’s a great book, and you should definitely find a used copy of it and read it.
But I have another book you should start with:
Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas
This is one of the most eye-opening books you’ll ever read about how slot machine gambling works in any casino, even though it specifies Las Vegas in the title.
Natasha Dow Schüll wrote this one.
Some people consider me a gambling expert, and I know a lot about slot machines and how they work.
But Addiction by Design STILL made my jaw drop with surprise at how nefarious the design and implementation of slot machines works.
Once you’ve read those 2 books, in either order, you should move on to some more general gambling thinking books like Getting the Best of It by David Sklansky.
You should also read books about winning at poker, like The Theory of Poker (also by Sklansky).
And if you decide to follow up on my sports betting suggestions, pick up Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong.
You can find a lot of great information about gambling on the internet for free, but you have to wade through a lot of junk to find informative and educational pages like the ones I write on the internet.
When you’re reading gambling books—especially the ones I recommended above—you can be confident that you’re getting accurate information that might actually help you win some money over the course of your gambling career.
I might sound really negative about Oklahoma slot machines, but I don’t mean to.
I’ve written this post with a specific audience in mind—the guy who spends too much money gambling on the slots in Oklahoma.
If you’re like me, and you only visit Oklahoma casinos 3 or 4 times a year, much of this advice doesn’t apply.
You’re a recreational gambler paying reasonable amounts for your entertainment.
What advice would you give someone who’s playing too many slot machines in Oklahoma?