Almost all types of casino gambling result in losses for the player. Even players who use the best strategies lose a lot of the time. That’s because all casino games are mathematically designed to give the house an unassailable edge.
But if you use some basic rules of thumb, you can minimize the amount you lose over time. You can also increase the amount of fun you have at the tables (or in front of the machines). Some of these concepts aren’t immediately obvious, either.
The 11 ideas in this post, then, are meant to do 2 things:
Minimize your losses
Increase your fun (and potential profits)
If some of these ideas seem to suck the fun out of casino gambling, feel free to ignore them. It’s not my business to explain how you should gamble. I get a lot of pleasure from outsmarting the casino. You might just want to have fun.
And there’s nothing wrong with that attitude, either.
1 – Play the Right Games
If you don’t know what the house edge is, then you need to learn about it quickly. I’ll cover some of the basics for you, but a lot more study is required on your part if you’re going to choose the right games to play. The house edge is the percentage advantage that the casino has over you in respect to the games they offer.
Every game has a generalized house edge that you can find online. If you’re looking for the specific house edge of a game at a casino then you’ll need to do the calculations yourself as subtle rule differences impact the edge profoundly.
With all of this being said about the house edge, you’ll only find one game in the casino that is positive expectation. That is, if you play perfect strategy you can make money in the long run. That game is Deuces Wild video poker. And this is only true if you’re lucky enough to find the best pay table.
The reason casinos offer it is because it’s very difficult to implement perfect strategy and most players make mistakes that bring the edge back into the house’s favour.
After this video poker variant, you can play poker and bet on sports and horse racing if you hope to gamble with an edge. These are really the only other ways to make money in the long term.
Blackjack is also positive expectation if you use perfect basic strategy and count cards. But this is quite difficult to do these days and you’ll be evicted from most casinos for doing so. And in some cases you’ll be black listed for life.
If you must play casino table games, then stick to baccarat, craps, and blackjack. These offer the smallest possible house edge which means you’ll be able to push your dollars as far as possible. Remember to keep in mind that it’s impossible to win in the long term though.
By far the best game to play in the casino is poker. You can win in the long term in poker as the game is partially skill based and you face off against other players instead of the casino. The casino will make money from the games by charging a rake, both in tournaments and cash games. This is a small and insignificant amount though if you’re playing at even the lowest possible stakes.
After poker, stick with horse racing and sports betting. If you use the right strategies and methods you can win money in the long run betting on these.
It’s very difficult though, and even the professionals don’t make a lot of money. In recent times, daily fantasy sports have also risen to prominence and quite a few people have made decent money. It’s very difficult to do these days though so unless you’re going to put in a lot of hours you probably won’t do too well.
2- Don’t Play the Wrong Games
Knowing which games to play is just as important as knowing which games to avoid. In most casinos, you’ll come across a lot of these.
It goes without saying that lottery style games are the absolute worst for the player. This includes Keno, so if you regularly play this at the casino then consider switching to bingo instead.
It’s a similar game with slightly better odds and is a lot more socially engaging which makes up for the poor house edge. Now that you’re going to avoid lottery games, I’ll go into some more detail about other carnival games that you should skip.
First off, I call them carnival games because the odds are so massively stacked against you that you need to get very lucky to win. Much like the games you find at a carnival.
Casinos love these types of games because they’re quite often played very quickly, and have a huge house edge. Most important for them though is the fact they’re usually highly entertaining and thus, attract a lot of players.
Examples of some popular carnival games include Caribbean Stud, Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Texas Shootout, Ultimate Texas Holdem and Texas Holdem Bonus. These games all have a house edge above 2%, with Caribbean Stud hitting 5%. This just isn’t good for the player, so try to avoid these games.
Slots are a tricky one. While they’re technically a poor game choice, many people have a lot of fun playing them. If your main aim is to make money you should never play slots. They’re programmed to take a fixed percentage off players over a prolonged period. This coupled with the fact there’s no decision making makes them one to avoid.
However, if you love playing slots and have a lot of fun then consider moving across to video poker. Video poker offers solo play on a machine in much the same way slots do.
The main difference is that video poker is going to soften the blow in relation to how much you lose. The game is a lot slower than most slots and the house edge is drastically smaller. On top of this you have decisions to make in video poker so you can use strategy to improve your chances.
Another game that’s the wrong game, is any one that you don’t know how to play and implement perfect strategy. I’ll cover more on this below, but a general rule to follow is never to play a game for real money that you aren’t familiar with.
3 – Manage Your Bankroll
If you’re going to take your gambling seriously and would like to do as well as possible, then you need to manage your bankroll. All too often you’ll hear stories of people losing everything at the casino or track. While this is tragic it can be easily avoided with some discipline and a sound bankroll management strategy.
To start with, you should set aside a fixed amount of money you’re going to use for gambling purposes. This should be separate from money you use in everyday life. If you wish to add or subtract from this you can do so, but it should be only in certain situations and based on time, not on the amount of money you have in your bankroll.
Once you’ve done this, you can then start to think about how much of your bankroll you’re willing to risk each session or game. For those who are keen poker players, you may have heard that 5% is the key percentage when it comes to game cost to bankroll ratio.
That is, you should never risk more than 5% of your bankroll in a single game. This is a good rule to live by and should ensure that you never go truly broke. This is if you’re playing poker, betting on horses or sports, or playing daily fantasy sports, and that you’re implementing solid and successful strategies in doing so. This is the key.
If you play a negative expectation game your bankroll will slowly diminish over time, and eventually you’ll have to re-fill it from other areas of income. This is fine, provided you’re playing for entertainments sake and understand that you’ll lose in the long run.
One more key thing you’ll need to do when managing your bankroll is keeping track of everything. You can do this through a spreadsheet on your computer, or even a diary. It’s basically like keeping a budget on what you’ve spent money on, where you’ve made money, and where you’ve lost it.
This way you’ll be able to better track your spending patterns and manage your bankroll more effectively.
Finally, if you’re a recreational gambler and head to Las Vegas or Atlantic City once a year, then you can also implement some bankroll management tactics. The best one to use on short trips is to identify in advance how much money you’re going to gamble.
Then you can divide this up by the number of days you’re in town to work out your daily allowance. Once you’ve done this place each day’s amount in its own envelope. When you arrive in Las Vegas or wherever you may be, place the envelopes in the safe and then use each one on the relevant day.
Once you’ve spent all of the day’s money then that’s it; no more gambling. If you stick to this method you’ll never spend more than you’re meant to and quite often you’ll end up winning each day, which makes things even nicer.
4 – Don’t Drink While You Gamble
While this may seem like a no brainer, it’s amazing how often people drink far too much alcohol while they’re gambling.
The result is always the same; they lose far more money and make much riskier bets because their usually sound decision making is influenced negatively by the drinks. Casinos know and understand this. That’s why you’ll get free drinks while you gamble in Las Vegas, and in some other casinos around the United States. Free drinks while gaming is much less common in other areas in the world.
I just want to be clear here; there’s nothing wrong in my opinion in having a few drinks while you play. It’s even OK to get seriously drunk and have a lot of fun from time to time.
The main thing you need to do is control your losses. If you’re going to drink a lot you need to set up a system, while sober, to protect yourself, from yourself.
Some strategies to do this include leaving your wallet and credit cards in the room safe and only taking a set amount of money out with you, or you could also give these to a trustworthy friend to look after for the evening. They must be able to resist your efforts to get them back later, because trust me; more often than not you’ll try.
Obviously if you only have a few drinks and have some good self control you should be able to still stay with it enough to not risk too much money and stay within your pre-prescribed parameters. If you want to become a good gambler then this is as far as you should go. If you want to drink and have fun, then leave the tables and do so in the bar or restaurant, and have your fun socializing with friends and family instead of through gambling.
Casinos in Las Vegas are starting to crack down on free loaders betting the minimum amount to get free drinks. Unfortunately this is starting to disengage some of their keen gamblers and drinkers. It’s a real shame they’re going down this path, for a variety of reasons. But it should help you to not get as intoxicated and lose as much at the tables.
One other thing I would note, is that if you do end up drinking a lot and losing far too much money, don’t beat yourself up about it. That won’t help anything and in all likelihood, it will take you even further down a bad path. If you try to take the fun out of it, and learn from the experience, you’ll be much better off in the future.
5 – Learn How to Play and Win at Poker
By far, the best game to play in any casino is poker and therefore most casinos only offer it as almost an amenity and not a money making game.
They do make money on poker but it’s only a small amount. Poker is the best game to play because you can win in the long term and you aren’t battling against the house in a game that’s designed to slowly take all your money.
In poker, and I’m mostly talking about Texas holdem, you play against other people and battle it out across the felt to take each other’s money. As a result, you can win in the long term if you have a solid strategy and continuously make positive expectation plays. I’ll go into detail on this a bit more later.
Because poker is largely skill based, you can ride out the good and bad luck that you’ll encounter in the short term to make money in the long term. Many thousands of people in the United States and across the world make money player poker.
The key of course, is to be better than other players so you must continuously be learning and training to have a sufficient edge over others so that you can win.
This is where positive expectation comes into it. To win in the long term every decision you make at the table must be made so that it results in profits and winning in the long term.
You can learn one of two strategies to do this. These are game theory optimal and exploitation. I’m not going to go into these here, but now you know them you can learn more. You can find literally thousands of poker books out there, but ultimately you need to log hours at the table and play thousands of hands to become better. Over time you’ll start winning and will come out on top in the long run, if you’re willing to put in the effort and have some natural people reading talent.
If you live in the United States you won’t be able to play poker online, unless you’re in one of the singular states that offers restricted poker rooms. If you are then you should try to hone your skills in small games online first. This way you can learn the game and will be much more confident the first time you sit down at the real felt.
6 – Practice Before You Play for Real
One of the most important things you can do in respect to becoming a better gambler is to practice the games you’re going to play before you get to the casino and start risking your cash. By playing in a risk free environment you can learn the best strategies and skills so the house edge is as low as possible. Obviously, this doesn’t apply in games where no decision making is required, like slots.
Practicing is easy to do, with most online casinos offering free to play games. On top of this you can also find live casinos that offer tutorials, usually early in the morning, on some of their games. This way you can learn in the real environment. Finally, you can just get a deck of cards or a few dice and practice with your friends and family at home.
While you may think practicing is limited to casino based games, you can also practice betting on sports, horse racing, and in daily fantasy sports. Many web sites allow you to practice with a set amount of money on these which you can use as play money.
Online poker sites also offer games for free, with play money. You should take advantage of these methods to improve your game so that when you’re risking money you increase your chances as much as possible.
Recently, apps have been released that work on Android and Apple devices that train you as you practice. If you get a video poker app, when you play and make an incorrect decision the game will alert you to this fact and help you in choosing the right play to make. These are great and are an excellent way to not only improve your experience in playing the game but also to advance your knowledge of optimal strategy.
7 – Keep a Log Book
This piece of advice goes hand in hand with bankroll management, but it also has more benefits. The main one being that by keeping a log book of everything you’ve done in relation to your gambling you’ll be able to identify your leaks and your cash cows.
Your leaks will be games and bet types where you often lose, and your cash cows are the bets that you make that result in consistent wins. From this information, you can then plug your leaks by stopping making those bets, and you can divert your attention to the games and bets where you make the most money.
This way you’ll lose less and win more. Which is certainly an effective way to become a better gambler.
Your log book should also contain qualitative information and data such as where you gambled, what you did that day, people you were with, what you ate and drank, and what the weather was like. This way you can factor in all these things when you make future selections. This will help mostly in sports betting and horse racing, but it will also provide you with valuable insights in relation to other forms of gambling.
Over time you’ll learn what works best for you and what information you find most valuable in your log book. So, make sure you tinker often and keep track of everything, as it could help you save a lot of money and win a lot of money down the track.
8 – Think Long Term
If you follow all the proven advice that I’ve given you above, then one thing you must do is think long term.
In all forms of gambling you’re going to experience natural variance. This is the swings up and down. One day you may be lucky and win a lot of money without even trying, and another day you may lose every single penny even when you make all the right decisions and implement perfect strategies. This is just the nature of gambling, and therefore you must always think long term.
It’s easy when it comes to money for emotions to cloud your judgment. This happens all the time and if you think short term and punish yourself when you lose, then you’ll end up going on tilt and probably losing even more in a reckless way.
You need to always remind yourself that what you’re doing should be measured over several years and thousands of instances; otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy.
Now, it’s very east to write this and preach that you must think long term, and it’s a lot harder to do. However, never fear, there are some great strategies to help you to keep your focus on the bigger picture.
Remember when I covered bankroll management and log books earlier. These are the keys in keeping you focused. By keeping track of everything and having a live profit and loss statement you’ll be able to allay any concerns you have and bring yourself back from the brink.
If you sit down at a poker table and lose every hand because of variance and not poor play or weak strategy, then you’ll undoubtedly feel like you’re doing something wrong. But if you go back to your log book and see that the dollars you lost are insignificant in relation to the many dollars you’ve made in the long run, you’ll feel a lot better about things. Your bankroll management techniques will also ensure that your bankroll weathers the storm of variance that has been unleashed upon you.
By using these strategies and techniques you’ll stay happy and sane, and be able to continue to improve and get better as a gambler. Remember, you want to reward yourself and be happy with your gambling for making the right decisions and the right moves, not based on the outcome.
9 – Never Listen to Your Heart
If you’re a Broncos fan like me, you want to get behind them with every fiber of your being. This also extends to your betting.
But, if you want to become a better gambler you should always listen to your head and not your heart. So, don’t bet on your favorite teams or colors, or anything else that you can relate to on a personal level. You should always make decisions based on all the information available to you, and the best possible strategies that are at your disposal.
While this is far more common in horse racing and sports betting, it’s also a big problem in daily fantasy sports and casino games. Everyone has a favorite number or color, and a machine that they feel pays out to them more often than not. This is all nonsense though, and you’ll just end up losing more money if you abide by these types of superstitious factors.
Remember, this piece of advice is relevant to you if you want to become a better gambler. It’s not meant to take away all the fun that you experience while gambling.
So, if you’re a social gambler and don’t mind losing a bit, provided you’re entertained while you do so, then bet on that horse that has a funny name, or on the sports team that you’ve loved since day one. If you aren’t risking a lot and it’s all in the name of fun, then go for it.
One extra little piece of advice that I’ll give you in this respect is that public teams quite often get inaccurate odds in pari-mutuel betting pools. So, you can use this to your advantage by finding big public teams and betting against them when the odds don’t reflect the better side. This is a fantastic way to find value in sports betting.
10 – Take a Break
This one is kind of self explanatory, but you must take a break from gambling every now and then. It’s not doing you any favours to grind it out at the race track or poker table 12 hours a day for 30 days straight.
You’ll just burn out and start making poor decisions and choices which will result in big losses. If you want to take your gambling seriously, and even become a professional, you need balance in your life.
Make sure that you keep doing the things you love, that sit outside of gambling. As I touched on earlier, you’re going to go through some tough patches from time to time due to the natural variance that occurs in almost every form of gambling. Even with a strong mindset and a solid long term view, you’ll be seriously tested when this happens.
So, when the going gets tough, take a break and do something you enjoy. Go and play a round of golf or watch a movie. The tables, horse races, and sports aren’t going anywhere, nor are the casinos. When you’re ready to return, you’ll be back at your best, refreshed and more likely to make sound decisions that are in line with optimal strategies for the game that you’re playing.
11 – Have fun
As always, you should be having fun when you’re gambling. If you’re happy and enjoying what you’re doing you’ll be a lot better at it. Therefore, it’s pretty much non-negotiable that you must be having fun while you play in order to become and be a better gambler.
Use these 11 proven ways to become a better gambler starting today to lose less, win more, and have fun. The only way to become a better gambler is to develop a plan and start working on it. These tips are a great way to start.
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