Good gambling is supposed to be fun. It’s hard to get to specific about how to make good gambling better, though, because your idea of fun and mine might be different. You might love to play slot machines. I might be content to grind it away at the poker table.
But we can agree on a few things when it comes to gambling. It’s almost always more fun to go home a winner. It’s also more fun if you know what you’re doing.
My goal with this post was to come up with some ideas about how to make good gambling even better. You probably already have a favorite gambling activity or game. You might even have a favorite gambling destination or casino. You might even have some buddies you play with.
All of that stuff can be taken up a notch. This post explains in some detail how to do just that.
1. Quit While You’re Ahead
The 1st point I made in the introduction to this post is an important one:
Some people can quit while they’re ahead no problem. My ex-wife once put a dollar (of the $100 I gave her) in a slot machine. She won $2 or $3, then she cashed out and went shopping. She had a good time at the casino that day.
Other people, like me, need rules of behavior to follow to make sure they sometimes get to walk away a winner. These are often called “bankroll management techniques” or “money management techniques.” A lot of gambling writers are down on these techniques, and understandably so—other gambling writers give the false impression that money management techniques can change the probability of winning a game.
Here’s an example of a money management technique that can help you walk away a winner, at least some of the time:
It’s called a “win goal.”
The idea is that you sit down to a gambling session with a goal for how much money you’re going to win. Once you’ve won that amount, you have to quit.
In this context, a gambling session can be an hour spent in front of the slot machines or an entire weekend in Vegas. It doesn’t matter. Once you’ve achieved your win goal, it’s quitting time.
Usually, a win goal is based on a percentage of your gambling bankroll. Some money management types divide their gambling bankroll into mini session bankrolls. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
A common win goal might be to quit once you’re ahead by 20%. So if you sat down to play the slots with a $100 bankroll for the session, you’d quit once you were up to $120. Your goal was to win $20.
In the long run, you’ll still lose all your money on casino games if you’re playing at a mathematical disadvantage. But in the short run, you’ll sometimes walk away a winner.
Another way of walking away a winner some of the time is to be willing to place a single big bet and walk away afterward. This was my strategy last time I visited the WInstar in Las Vegas. My plan was to bet $100 on odd and walk away, win or lose.
I had a 47.37% chance of walking away the winner of $100.
Of course, it was a Saturday night, and the Winstar just got real roulette wheels. You couldn’t get anywhere near the table to place a bet.
Still, it was a good plan, and it will probably work in Vegas in November.
2. If You like a Game, Try to Find an Even Better Version of It
Most gambling games are available in multiple versions. Some versions are better than others. A good example is roulette.
When you’re measuring how much the odds favor the casino over the player, you talk about something called “the house edge.” That’s the percentage of each bet that you can expect to lose on average over the long run based on the discrepancy between the odds of winning and the payout odds. It’s expressed as a percentage.
The house edge for a standard American roulette game is 5.26%. This means that every time you bet $100, the casino expects to win an average of $5.26.
But you can find a version of roulette called European roulette which has a house edge of 2.70%. The difference is that one of the games has a 0 and a 00, while the other just has a 0. The version with only a single version is a much better game. Instead of losing an average of $5.26 on every $100 bet, you’ll only lose $2.70 on average per every $100 bet.
Video poker is another good example. The pay tables for these games determine how much the payback percentage is. The most basic kind of video poker is Jacks or Better, and the payback percentage can be as high as 99.54%. (This means the house edge is just 0.46%.)
Most Jacks or Better games, though, offer inferior pay tables, so it makes a lot of sense to learn the difference and choose the better pay table. Of course, you also have to learn how to play with the correct strategy. You can find Jacks or Better games with an expected return as low as 94%. Finding the better games is worth the effort.
3. Find a Bookmaker You Really Enjoy Dealing With
Most sports bettors in the United States use a neighborhood bookie, an offshore bookmaking company, or both. That’s because it’s still illegal in most states to run a bookmaking business. That’s changing rapidly, but for now, most of my readers are stuck with those 2 options.
If you’re going to use a neighborhood bookie, try to find someone you trust and enjoy dealing with. You want someone who’s going to pay you your winnings consistently and on time. Referrals from other gamblers at your local bar can be worth their weight in gold.
By the same token, you’ll have a lot better experience with a neighborhood bookie if you pay your gambling debts on time.
The same advice holds true to an extent with online bookmakers. You should find a company you enjoy dealing with and can trust. Recommendations from reputable gambling information sites like this one can be a great starting point.
Try contacting the customer service team at an online sports book before actually depositing money or making bets there. Ask a question or 2, even if you already know the answers. If the customer service team is rude or shady before you have an account, you’ll know already that you don’t want to gamble there.
You should also shop for the lowest possible vig or juice. And that’s true regardless of which type of bookmaker you’re going through.
4. Start a Home Poker Game If You like Poker
Poker at the casino cardroom is fun, but poker with your buddies at home is usually even more fun. If you’re hosting the game yourself, you can have some control over who’s been invited. You can also make sure that your favorite drinks and snacks are easily available.
You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to host a home poker game. You need clay poker chips, decent playing cards, a table, and chairs. It’s customary to provide some kind of snacks or sandwiches for your guests, too.
Most home poker games don’t charge any kind of rake, which means that if you’re a better poker player than your buddies, you’re more likely to win money. (“The rake” is the percentage of each pot that the casino cardroom takes in exchange for hosting the game.)
Poker Night by John Vorhaus is a great resource for people who want to start their own home poker games. It’s a book with lots of advice on the logistics of setting up such a game.
Be careful, though. If you are charging a rake, you can be running afoul of some pretty serious laws in some states. Operating a gambling business without a license can be a felony depending on where you live.
5. Master the Math
I’ve spent some time talking about expected value, the house edge, and payback percentages. These are all terms that are related to probability and gambling. Understanding how the math behind these concepts works can help you to enjoy gambling all the better.
Probability is actually a simple enough concept at its most basic. It’s just a mathematical way to measure the likelihood that something will happen. An event’s probability is a number between 0 and 1. The closer to 1 and event’s probability is, the likelier it is to happen.
Most people are more used to seeing probabilities expressed as percentages. They know that something that’s going to happen 50% of the time on average will happen roughly half the time. They also know that something with a probability of 80% is more likely than something with a probability of 60%.
You can also express probabilities as odds. You normally compare the number of ways something can’t happen with the number of ways it can happen. For example, something with 4 to 1 odds has a 20% chance of happening.
Once you understand that, you can compare the odds of something happening with the payout odds for the bet to determine if it’s a good or bad bet. You can also “grok” the way the casino gets its edge better.
The better you understand something, the more you’ll enjoy it. Gambling is all about uncertainty and risk, and the way to understand that uncertainty and risk is via the math.
6. Journal About It
I’m a firm believer that a life worth living is worth recording. I also believe that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. One of the best ways to record and examine your life is via journaling.
If you’re trying to be some kind of professional gambler, keeping records is even more important. You need to know how much money you’re winning or losing and on which activities. You need to know how much money you’re making per hour, if any.
But even recreational gamblers should keep records. For one thing, you get to enjoy the events of your life in 3 ways:
- You can look forward to them beforehand, which is a certain kind of pleasure.
- You can enjoy them while they’re happening by being fully present.
- You can enjoy them in retrospect by remembering them. A journal or dairy can help you with this one.
Of course, in modern society, a lot of people take photographs constantly. You’ll see people mock diners who take pictures of their food, but I think that’s a good thing. If you enjoy dining out and great meals, why shouldn’t you come up with a way to record the memory of it?
I take pictures of slot machines when I hit jackpots. I don’t take pictures at the poker table of the other players, but if I’m doing well, I might take a surreptitious photo of my chip stack. (I texted it to some friends to brag recently.)
A journal doesn’t just have to be a written record. It can be a photographic record or even a verbal record if you’re the type that likes speaking into a tape recorder.
7. Find a Gambling Buddy
Any kind of experience you enjoy is more fun when you can enjoy it with someone else. For years, I played poker with a buddy of mine named Todd. We weren’t close friends in college, but we knew each other. We didn’t get super close when we played poker together, but it was always fun to have someone to compare notes with after a night at the poker tables.
My wife used to go to Vegas with me. Those are some of the better memories I have of our marriage. I think she would have enjoyed the experience more if she’d been willing to gamble with me, but she just wasn’t interested.
I have a handful of friends I gamble with now. Usually we get together to visit the Winstar on the weekend. Some of them play poker. Others just like the slots. I tend to get along better with the poker players. Slot machine players don’t make a lot of sense to me, although I did love playing The Big Lebowski slots last time I was there.
Even if you’re a sports bettor, you can have more fun by finding someone to bet with and watch games with. Most people already know other sports fans, but if you don’t, get to know the folks at your local cigar shop. Those guys love to watch sports on television. Or if you hate the smell of tobacco, you can always hang out at a neighborhood bar.
Gambling is fun, but I think part of having a successful life is learning how to take good things up a notch and making them even better. There’s no reason you can’t follow all of these 7 steps to make good gambling even better. After all, most of them are easy.
Finding a buddy to gamble with shouldn’t be hard for most people. If you’re so painfully shy and introverted that you don’t WANT a gambling buddy, that’s okay. Just skip that one.
Keeping a journal is easy, too. You can buy a nice pen and a beautiful book to write in if that will motivate you to use it. If not, a spiral notebook will work just as well.
The math behind gambling and probability isn’t that hard. The better you understand the math, the better you understand gambling. Take a class if you need to, but you can probably just read some web pages and some books and learn what you need to know.
Finding buddies who are willing to come to poker night at your house is a great way to have even more fun playing poker, and you can eliminate the rake. Finding a bookmaker you like makes betting on sports more fun, too. Don’t forget to try to get as low a vig as you can.
Finding a better game usually takes a little research at 1st. You need to know what makes one version of a game better than another. Then it’s time to do the legwork required to find such games.
Quitting winners is easier if you have some discipline and some guidelines to stick with.