The 10 Best Casino Gambling Strategy Tips
A strategy is an approach to an activity that might help you achieve your goals. It’s good to know the difference between strategy and tactics when it comes to casino gambling. I’ve tried to keep that difference in mind while putting together this list of the 10 best casino gambling strategy tips ever.
If you’re new to casino gambling, don’t just show up at the casino and start putting down money. You’ll lose cash faster than you ever thought possible. You’ll also not understand what’s going on, which means you won’t even get to have a fair amount of fun in exchange for your money.
Your best bet as a new casino gambler is to study some information about how casino gambling works before you ever set foot in the casino.
This post is a good starting point.
1 – Understand Your Goals
You can’t have a strategy for anything until you understand what your goals are. For most casino gamblers (95+), the goal is to just have some light-hearted fun and maybe win a little money in the short term. You might like the excitement of competing for a huge jackpot, or you might enjoy the challenge of getting the best odds possible playing blackjack.
Understanding your goals starts with understanding your own personality. Are you a social gambler? Do you want to chat with other people while you’re gambling? Or are you an introvert who prefers to not be bothered during your gambling activities?
Will you be satisfied with a small win here and there? Or are you willing to risk lots of losing sessions if there’s a lot of upside?
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Do you prefer laid back, relaxing activities? Do you care whether your decisions matter to your odds?
Your choice of casino game will depend largely on these factors:
- Blackjack is a great game for people who want their decisions to matter. But you’re unlikely to win a huge jackpot while playing blackjack.
- Craps is a great game for sociable gamblers who get off on adrenaline. For my money, it’s the best game in the casino, even though it doesn’t have a skill element.
- Roulette is a great game for people who are looking for something more slow-paced and relaxed. It also requires no skill, and you only need to be sociable if you want to be.
- Slot machines are good for introverts who want to go after a big jackpot. The house edge for such games is high, though. And you’ll lose more money per hour on slot machines than any other casino game.
- Video poker has many of the advantages of slot machines, but these games include a skill element to go along with their much lower house edge.
2 – Learn How the House Edge Works
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve mentioned the expression “house edge” a couple of times now. If you want to make educated decisions as a casino gambler, you need to understand how the house edge works.
The house edge is a mathematical prediction of how much you’ll lose on average per bet. It’s expressed as a percentage. If a game has a 1% house edge, the odds are that you’ll eventually lose about $1 for every $100 bet you place on that game. If it has a 5% house edge, then you’re looking at an average $5 loss per $100 in action.
All casino games have a house edge. None of the bets offer you true even odds with the casino (with the exception of the odds bet in craps). This edge happens because of the discrepancy between your payoffs and the odds of winning.
Craps is a good example. A hard way bet on 8, for example, has 10 to 1 odds of winning. On average, you’ll lose 10 times for every time you win.
But the bet only pays off at 9 to 1 odds.
The difference is where the house edge comes from. And it’s usually easy to translate this into a percentage.
If you bet $100 on 11 rolls of the dice, you’d win that bet once for $900. You’d lose the other 10 times, for $1000 in losses. That’s a net loss of $1000 – $900, or $100.
You divided $100 by 11 to find out how much you lose on average per roll. That’s $9.09.
Since we assumed $100 for our bet sizes, this means the house edge is 9.09%.
That’s relatively high, by the way. Most bets on table games have a significantly lower house edge than that. Even roulette has a house edge of only 5.26%.
3 – Manage Your Casino Gambling Bankroll
Bankroll management is easier than it sounds. Some people act like it’s the end-all, be-all of casino gambling strategy. In a sense, that’s true, too. If you gamble with money you can’t afford to lose, you’re doomed.
So there’s your first rule of casino bankroll management—set aside money for gambling that you don’t need for any other purpose. Don’t use it for any other purpose, either. This is money set aside for your gambling hobby. It’s not there to pay for buffets or tickets to a show.
You should have separate budgets for those other entertainment interests, anyway.
Why is this important?
You want to take a disciplined approach to your gambling. This means having rules that you don’t break.
You should also make sure you have enough money to get a reasonable amount of action at the games you want to play. Here are some guidelines for how many bets you need of a certain size for a trip to the casino where you’re going to do a lot of gambling:
- Blackjack –700–800 units
- Craps – 100—200 units
- Roulette—10—20 units
Of course, you can change these guidelines based on what games you prefer to play. I think the high house edge at roulette means it should be an occasional indulgence, hence the small suggested bankroll. Craps, on the other hand, is always worth a shot because of the chance of getting on a hot streak.
And of course, smart gamblers should spend most of their time playing at the blackjack tables because the odds for the player are so much better with that game than any other.
4 – Quit While You’re Ahead
You’ll find plenty of money management advice about stop loss limits and win goals. You should always remember that these kinds of arbitrary stopping points in your gambling do nothing to improve your probability of winning.
In fact, with a game where the house has an edge over you, the appropriate sized bankroll is infinite.
But if you want to walk away a winner one in a while, you should set a win goal that signals you when it’s time to quit. Depending on the size of your bankroll, this win goal might be small.
I played video poker one night and wound up winning about $40 in 15 minutes. My win goal was to double that $40 at the roulette table, and I thought since it was “house money,” I’d just bet it on black. I won and walked away from the table. I was with my dad, and he seemed impressed.
He shouldn’t have been, though, for 2 reasons:
- That wasn’t the house’s money anymore. Once you win it, it’s your money. Gambling away all your winnings because you think the money doesn’t really belong to you is just foolish.
- I wagered that money on some of the worst odds in the casino. I’d have been far better off putting it on a hand of blackjack or even a roll of the dice at the craps table.
5 – Leave Your Superstitions Behind
“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.”
-Michael Scott, The Office
If people’s hunches had any bearing on how games of chance played out, the casinos would go out of business—especially with the large number of so-called psychics in business today. Understand that casino gambling is a game of math and random chance. Don’t be superstitious. Your lucky ballcap has no effect on the outcomes at the roulette wheel.
The probability of winning an even-money bet on a standard American roulette wheel is always the same. There are 38 possible outcomes, and 18 of them are winning outcomes. The probability that you’ll win that bet is 18/38, which is the same thing as 9/19, which is also the same thing as 47.37%.
That number doesn’t change based on what happened on the previous spin, your gut feeling, or whether you use your left or right hand to place the bet on the table.
Any superstition you have about luck or winning at gambling should be discarded in favor of reality immediately.
If you want to win at casino gambling, find a way to get a mathematical edge over the house.
6 – Avoid the Slot Machines
The worst games in any casino are the slot machines. They have a higher house edge than any other game. They also encourage you (in dramatic fashion) to place more bets per hour than any other game. Look at the expected hourly loss for an average slot machine player:
The house edge is probably 8%–although we don’t really know what the house edge. (This is the only game in the casino where you cannot calculate the house edge.)
The number of bets per hour for the average player is 600 spins per hour.
Assume you’re betting $3/spin, and you’re putting $1800 per hour into action. If you expect to lose 8% of that, your expected hourly loss is $144.
Now let’s look at roulette, which has a house edge of 5.26%. The average number of bets you’ll place per hour at a roulette table is 100 or so, and that’s at a table that’s not busy. At a busy roulette table, you might be lucky to place 60 bets per hour.
If you’re betting $5 per spin, that’s $500 in action per hour. With a house edge of 5.26%, your expected hourly loss is only $26.30.
That’s a huge difference, and you might find that you enjoy roulette more than slot machines anyway.
Of course, the truly savvy gamblers will play blackjack and use perfect basic strategy while they do so. This reduces their house edge to just 1%. At a slow blackjack table, where you’re the only player, you’ll probably see 200 hands per hour. At $5 per hand, that’s $1000/hour in action. With a 1% house edge, you’re expected to lose $10/hour.
Finally, keep this in mind:
The house edge on slot machines might be higher than 8%. That’s just an example. Some games have a house edge of 12%, 16%, or 20%+.
Your expected hourly loss on those machines, respectively, is $216, $288, and $360.
7 – Develop Your Powers of Discernment
Some casino games offer better odds than others. Some casino games offer multiple bets, and usually, some of those bets are better than others. It’s your job as an intelligent gambler to be able to discern between good games and bad games, and to discern between good bets and bad bets.
American roulette has a house edge of 5.26%, but you can play European style roulette with a house edge of 2.70%–often at the same casino. You just need to be able to discern the difference between the 2 games.
Craps offers bets with a house edge as low as 1.41%, but it also offers bets with a house edge as high as 16.67%. You should know which bets offer reasonable or better odds and which bets offer outrageous odds.
Blackjack comes with multiple rules variations, but the biggest is the payout for a “natural.” The standard payout for a 2-card hand totaling 21 is 3 to 2. But some casinos offer a 6 to 5 payout on this hand.
And with their usual chutzpah, the casinos try to make this sound like a good deal. But if you place a $100 bet, the payout at a 3 to 2 game is $150, compared to a payout of $120 on the same bet at a 6 to 5 table.
This requires a little bit of study before visiting the casino, but frankly, it doesn’t require much.
8 – Ask for and Get the Comps You Deserve
Some people eschew the players club card. That’s a mistake. The players club card is the tool the casino uses to award you rebates and comps.
Of course, the most basic comps at most casinos is the free drink. You don’t need a players club for that.
But for all the other perks that gamblers get in exchange for their action, you need to be a member of the club. You also need to use your membership card when you’re playing.
These perks can include cash rebates, travel benefits, free hotel stays, free meals, and free show tickets.
Why do people turn down the players club card?
A lot of players are superstitious slot machine players who think that the game’s odds change when you insert the players club card.
That’s a fallacy for multiple reasons:
- The casino has no incentive to change the odds on their slots games. They WANT you to play more. Giving you comps is how they accomplish this goal.
- The casino knows that the best correlation to their profits is the time spent on their machines. If they can get you to spend more time on the machines trying to move up a notch on the players club hierarchy, they’re going to do it.
- The random number generator and the payouts are what determine the payback percentage and house edge for a slot machine. The players club card doesn’t do anything for you besides track how many bets you make and at what amounts. The 2 mechanisms are entirely separate.
Most people can’t get an edge over the casino by taking advantage of the comps available. But some people (so-called “comp wizards”) do. Read Comp City by Max Rubin for an example of that kind of mindset.
9 – Learn Basic Strategy in Blackjack (And Maybe Learn to Count Cards, Too)
If you can play blackjack with perfect basic strategy, the house edge is between 0.5% and 1% at most casinos. If you just play your hunches or try to use your “card sense” to make decisions, the house edge is probably closer to 4% or 5%.
What’s basic strategy?
It’s the mathematically optimal play in every possible situation at the blackjack table. It factors in your total and the dealer’s face-up card to choose the decision that will have the highest expected value for the player. You can get a basic strategy chart in any casino gift shop.
NEVER deviate from basic strategy unless you’re counting cards and the results of that count indicate a change in strategy.
Which brings me to point #2 in this tip:
You can and should learn how to count cards in blackjack.
It’s easier than you think.
Counting cards has less to do with memorizing the deck than it does paying attention to the cards and adding 1 or subtracting 1 from a number in your head. As the big cards (the 10s and aces) get dealt, the probability of being dealt a blackjack goes down. As the small cards (the 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s) get dealt, the probability of being dealt a blackjack goes up.
Since a blackjack pays off at 3 to 2, you want to raise the size of your bets when your probability of getting that hand improves. You want to lower the size of your bets at other times.
To keep up with this ratio, all you do is add 1 to the count every time you see a small card and subtract 1 from the count every time you see a big card. A lot of hands will cancel each other out by having a small card and a large card in the same hand.
Then just raise your bet corresponding to how high the count is.
There’s a little more to it than this, but not much.
Becoming an expert blackjack player can lead to a lot of entertainment at the casino at a very low price. You might even be able to get an edge over the casino and become a long-term winner.
10 – Learn to Play Video Poker
Video poker is a FAR better game than slot machines, even though the games resemble each other a lot. You’ll need your discernment skills again, though, because not every video poker game offers the same odds.
If you learn how to spot the “full-pay” video poker games, you can get the house edge to less than 0.5% at video poker. Of course, you also must be able to choose the optimal holding and discarding decisions on each hand.
Best of all, you can use your slot machine club card to get rebates on the money you’re wagering.
Don’t go into the casino without a plan—especially if you’re a beginner to casino gambling. Instead, go in with a strategy.
This means having a bankroll along with a plan for managing that bankroll. It also means learning to choose the right games for your personality. Being able to choose the right bets at the right games to minimize your losses compared to the time you play is also a crucial skill.
Your best bet in the casino is to learn how to play blackjack and/or video poker at an expert level. You can get the house edge well below 1% at either of those games. If you want to learn card counting, you can even get an edge over the casino.
And that’s a worthwhile goal for any casino gambling strategist.