Millions of visitors from every corner of the globe visit Las Vegas each year. And for the vast majority of them, losing a little money is all part of the package. These gamblers define the word, happily putting their dough on the line in hopes of getting lucky and beating the house.
And when the odds against success inevitably catch up to them, “such is life,” as the old saying goes. Other players take their craft more seriously, studying the strategies and honing their skills in search of that elusive edge. Nonetheless, most head home with a dent in their wallet anyway, and all because they fall for these six tricks of the trade that all casinos rely on to boost their bottom line.
1 – Casinos Know Casual Players Won’t Look at the Odds
For decades after the game was introduced in Old West gambling halls, blackjack paid out at 3:2 odds when the player was dealt a natural 21 (any 10-value card plus any ace).
This payout ratio of 1.5 times the player’s bet remained the gold standard for blackjack, providing a premium for landing the game’s top hand. The minimum $5 bet brought back $7.50, a $10 wager earned a $15 return, and so on up the ladder.
But when casinos were forced to contend with card counters —following Edward O. Thorp’s publication of Beat the Dealer in 1962—table game managers started tinkering with the rules to combat the counter’s increased edge. The shoe was increased from two decks to four decks, then up to the six- and eight-deck varieties that are standard today. Even so, the counters still proved proficient enough at their craft to consistently make Thorp’s book title a reality.
By 1999, a former counter-turned-table-game-inventor by the name of Howard Grossman patented a new version of blackjack called Super Fun 21. The appeal of Super Fun 21 was that recreational players could earn a variety of bonus payouts for landing superior hands, while enjoying extremely liberal rules regarding their actions.
But when players landed a blackjack in Super Fun 21, they only received an even money payout, thereby preserving the house’s precious edge. Super Fun 21 wound up becoming a novelty game enjoyed largely by tourists, while blackjack purists stuck with the real thing.
Unfortunately, a pair of Las Vegas casino managers saw Super Fun 21 and had the proverbial lightbulb go off over their heads. They decided to borrow the reduced payouts on blackjack, tweaking the ratio to 6:5 instead of 3:2, while keeping the rest of the game’s rules and structure the same.
And for the last 21 years, blackjack players have watched helplessly as casinos all over the world eagerly adopted the 6:5 payout scheme. Just like that, your $5 bet brought back just $6 instead of $7.50, while a $10 bet was worth only $12 instead of $15.
As you can imagine, the casino keeping $3 on every $10 bet that hit blackjack was a veritable goldmine for the house. In fact, the house’s edge over players—even those who have mastered basic strategy—ballooned by 1.4%.
The reason casinos were able to get away with such a nakedly greedy change to a classic game’s rules is quite simple – most players never bother to examine the odds.
Similar “bait and switch” tactics have been used to dilute the player’s expected return on other table games too. Roulette wheels with a single green “0” space offered a house edge of 2.70%, but casinos nearly doubled that to 5.26% by adding a second “00” space. And in an especially galling change over the last few years, some Las Vegas roulette wheels even added a third “000” space to push the house edge all the way to 7.69%.
A sharp gambler might question who exactly would pay their hard-earned money to play games with such poor odds. But on your next trip to the casino, keep an eye out for 6:5 blackjack and Triple Zero Roulette. I’m willing to bet that those tables will be packed with customers who simply don’t know any better.
Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and real money casinos count on crowds of ignorant players to pad their profit margins.
2 – Casinos Make Sure You Have Access to Alcoholic Beverages
I can think of one good reason why so many players simply ignore the awful odds against them on certain games—the army of cocktail servers every casino employs.
Billion-dollar casino resorts have long since calculated one simple equation. However much money they pay to provide players with complimentary alcohol, it’s an investment that will always pay dividends.
Whether you’re just a little tipsy or three sheets to the wind, gambling while intoxicated is almost always a mistake. Sure, you’ll enjoy more small talk and smiles, but you’re decision-making ability will be severely diminished. Logical thinking, rational judgment, and discipline—all hallmarks of a successful gambler—go right out the window when you’re sipping on that sixth ice-cold Corona.
3 – Casinos Use Friendly Dealers as Distractions
Speaking of small talk and smiles, do you ever wonder why the dealers working table games tend to be attractive?
The answer isn’t exactly rocket science; the casinos just know how human nature works. Back in the ‘70s, almost every casino in town employed gruff male dealers to man the tables. But when Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal began running the ship at the Stardust, the mob affiliated figure quickly realized that men don’t exactly like losing to other men.
Soon enough, the Stardust was known all over the Silver State for beautiful dealers in the box. Men lined up and plunked their dough down to take a shot at the game, happily accepting a bad beat or two as long as the dealer kept batting her eyelashes.
These days, you’ll find a healthy level of gender equality, but most dealers are typically young and attractive to increase their appeal to drawn in more players. So, the next time you’re losing your shirt, ask yourself if you’ve been distracted by a dealer.
4 – Casinos Tout Huge Jackpots and Payouts
Every time a slot player spikes the perfect spin to win a six- or seven-figure jackpot, the casinos call local newspapers to publicize the big score. Sportsbooks and online betting sites have beat writers who track all of the “Bloody Sundays” that see the public clean up on parlays tied to favorites.
But oddly enough, the same casinos don’t put nearly as much energy into letting the world know how much players lose.
Casinos use images of beaming jackpot winners holding giant checks to make it seem as though these life-changing hits happen every day. For the casual gambler, stories centered massive payouts prompt them to feel a fierce case of FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” Soon enough, they’re out there on the floor, dropping three bucks per spin to chase the fabled Megabucks slot jackpot.
Next time you see a story about the latest Megabucks jackpot though, read it all the way through and see if the “reporter” mentions those pesky 1 in 49,836,032 odds against.
5 – Casinos Attach the Best Comps to the Worst Games
If you’re willing to grind for a couple hours playing a highly volatile, high house edge slot like Megabucks, you’ll likely receive a complimentary offer to come back anytime.
Keno players earn a ton of points on their players club card, because they’re the only ones around gambling against a 27% house edge. Hit that Triple Zero Roulette table mentioned earlier, and you’ll probably be handed a few buffet tickets on the house.
Casinos know how they’re bread is buttered, so to speak, and that’s via games with the highest house edge and worst odds. To get you interested in those bad games, the house is all too happy to spend a few bucks on comps and rewards. That money is nothing more than an investment, one they’re sure to recoup the minute you sit down to play games that heavily favor the house.
6 – Casinos Post Results to Trap Streak Chasers
This one bothers me more than most, because it relies on the human urge to believe in streaks, luck, and other superstitions.
Check out any roulette or baccarat table on your next trip and you’ll inevitably find players staring in awe at the display board above them. These boards show the last 10 or 20 outcomes—think red, red, black, black, black, black on roulette—to give superstitious players “data” to base their next bet around.
The only thing is, that data is completely meaningless because every hand, spin, or roll represents a completely independent event. Don’t forget! The coin might come up tails five times in a row, but on that sixth flip, heads always has the same 50/50 odds.
Here’s the thing about losing money in a casino, it doesn’t matter a lick if you enjoyed the ride. Casinos are built to provide players with instant entertainment and lasting camaraderie, not a steady source of secure cash flow. With that said, we all hit the machines or tables with dreams of beating the odds and bringing home a piece of the house’s bankroll.
To do so successfully, it’s imperative to take note of the seven Aces every casino has up its proverbial sleeve. Enjoy yourself, have a blast, and don’t take things too seriously. But always remain cognizant of the casino’s subtle temptations and trickery.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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