How to Get Started as a Casino Gambler (A Beginner’s Guide)

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Gambling is easy. Even winning can be easy at times. The hard part is learning to be a seasoned, serious gambler.

Sure, you don’t need to become a professional. But if you’ve never gambled before, you should at least try to learn the right way. Good gamblers know when to take larger risks and how to manage those risks.

Casino gambling can truly be a lot of fun. There are people, bright lights, loud music, and money moving back and forth. How can it not be exciting?

Here are a few things every new gambler should know before visiting their first casino.

Practice Before You Go to a Casino

Casino Front Desk

Many gambling writers advise you to play free online games before you visit a casino. That’s a worthy idea, but the online casinos want your money as much as the land-based ones. Until you’re ready to start playing for money, try an alternative.

I’ve seen low-priced CDs loaded with games for sale in stores. Some of them include basic slots, blackjack, and baccarat games. For $5, you can practice all you need to without being nagged to make a deposit.

You’ll always have the option of signing up for an online casino membership. You can play for real money online any time you feel ready.

But learn the rules of the game first. Become comfortable playing a casino-style game.

Join the Rewards Club

As soon as you walk in the door, sign up for the rewards program. Don’t bother to think about whether you’ll ever come back again. Just go get the members card!

If you’re lucky, the casino is offering a small signup bonus. It might be a discount on a meal, extra points, or something else.

When you start playing games, use your card. If you play enough, you’ll earn enough points for a free or low-cost meal. Larger casinos tend to have nice restaurants.

As you’re signing up for the rewards club, ask the casino staff if there is anything you should know. They may have a tournament scheduled or a special promotion. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Watch Others Play First

This is hard to do on a first visit to a casino. Most people get caught up in all the excitement. But experienced players eventually start watching others play first.

Taking your time and being patient helps you become acclimated to the sights and sounds of the casino.

Watching others play the table games also gives you a chance to notice things you won’t see in practice games. The casino posts rules by the table games. Read the rules and watch how the players and dealers abide by them.

You may have to wait for a seat at a game anyway. You might as well put the time to good use. Learn as much as possible before you sit down and start playing.

When you do get a seat at a table, don’t be embarrassed to ask the dealer questions.

Be a Penny-Pincher

If you’re no good at managing your personal budget, you’ll be bad at managing a bankroll in a casino. Money management doesn’t change when you’re gaming. I recommend to always play with a budget.

Also, never expect to win and never gamble with money you need for something else. I’ve walked past many people in casinos who were obviously devastated by the realization they had just thrown away their rent checks.

The old adage “a fool and his money soon part ways” is truer in a casino than anywhere else in life. You’re paying for entertainment, not a trip around the world.

You shouldn’t enter a casino expecting to lose everything. That mindset won’t help either. Be ready to accept what happens and have a plan for where to go and what to do next.

Make a gambling budget and stick to it. If you lose your entire bankroll, you’ll still be able to eat and pay your bills.

Go Easy on the Big Bets

You will see other people lay down $100 to $1000 on a table if the casino allows it. Those people might know what they are doing. They might even be rich.

If you don’t know how the game works and don’t have an endless supply of money, stick to the table minimums throughout your first experience.

Winning changes everything. The first time you make a bet that pays off big, you’ll feel giddy. Enjoy the moment. But keep your feet on the ground.

Everyone’s first experience is a little different. It helps if you go with friends or family. It’s more fun to gamble together than alone.

Making small prudent bets also gives you time to get a feel for the casino environment.

Wear a Watch With an Alarm

You’ll lose track of time in a casino. If you use the alarm setting on your smartphone, use that to buzz after one to two hours. Otherwise, set an alarm on your watch.

Get up and walk around. Go eat. Go take a restroom break.

Casinos don’t help you keep track of the time. In fact, gambling experts like to tell people how casinos are designed to lull you into a kind of zombie state of mind. It’s almost like taking drugs.

And if you drink alcohol, that helps you relax and lose track of everything that much sooner.

Don’t Take Any Bank Cards Into a Casino

You’ll see at least one ATM machine in every casino. The cashiers will also gladly take cash advances off your credit cards.

But the last thing you want to do on your first trip is start borrowing money from a credit card to gamble. You should only play with cash that you saved up.

You may think you can resist the temptation, but take it from someone who didn’t. It’s easier to rationalize taking $1000 out of a credit card than you might think.

When you run out of money, it’s either time to go home or cash in your members rewards club points.

Bring a Strategy Card for Blackjack

Strategy cards come in many sizes, but most are designed to be held in the hand. Don’t rely on a smartphone to look up anything. The casino can ask you to leave if they see you using a smartphone.

Although you should practice blackjack before playing for real money, it takes a lot of in-casino practice to become confident in your decisions. Casinos don’t care if you use a strategy card.

Don’t try to count cards at first. Instead, concentrate on playing strategic blackjack. The pressure can be intense if the table is full.

Some writers advise new players to sit at the left-most seat if they can. This gives you time to watch how other people play their hands and you won’t feel as pressured into making a fast decision if you’re the last player to go.

Use These Slot Machine Tips

Wheel of Fortune Slot Games

A small number of games have interactive elements. Unless you’re playing pachinko, don’t count on skill helping you play the slots.

Don’t play “Max Bet” unless you’re comfortable with doing so. Watch your credits closely because slot games take money away very quickly.

New players should start out on the least expensive slot machines. These are the games where you bet in denominations of a penny or nickel.

Just be careful of games labeled “penny slot machines.” Their minimum bets may be $1 or more, because you’ll often be required to bet multiple pennies on multiple paylines.

Look at how much you’re actually wagering when you spin. The machine usually displays two or three amounts. Find the one that tells you exactly what your bet is.


You only enter a casino for the first time once. Hollywood movies tend to pitch two stereotypes at audiences. You either go rolling in with $200 in your pocket and come out totally depressed 20 minutes later, or you find yourself caught up in world-changing drama.

Real life is less dramatic. But you can lose all your money in your first hour. Set reasonable expectations and learn good habits.

It’s a lot of fun to win, but you can have fun without needing to win. Good luck!

Michael Stevens

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 since early 2016. ...

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