Before my wife learned to play poker, she was always looking for something to do while I was at the tables. She tried many different things to pass the time, but it was much better when she let me teach her how to play.
I put together this page for those spouses who find themselves in the same situation my wife used to face. The first several sections cover non-gambling things you can do, but you should also consider your gambling options if you’re going to be at the casino anyway.
You can learn about all of the easiest casino games to play and learn about a few gambling options that require a little more effort but give you the best chance to win.
Most of the games can be played with low stakes, so you don’t need to spend too much money to find out if you enjoy them.
Enjoy a Nice Meal
The people who run casinos know that people need to eat. Every big casino has numerous options for food, and it can be a good way to kill some time while you’re waiting for your spouse. You usually can pick from options ranging from fast food to a gourmet meal.
Many casinos have a buffet available, and they’re usually pretty good. The casino buffets I eat at all have options for any type of diet. They have good salad bars and other healthy options if you’re watching your weight and a wide range of desserts if you’re not.
If you plan to enjoy a meal at one of the nicer places to eat in the casino, call before you go to the casino to see if you need a reservation.
Visit the Spa
Not every casino has a spa, but larger ones do. The services available in the spa differ from casino to casino, ranging from a simple massage all the way up to mud baths and manicures. The only downside to the spa is that it’s easy to spend a lot of money if you’re not careful.
My wife and I were in Las Vegas, and I was playing poker. I suggested she go to the spa, and she had a great time. This was several years ago, and she ended up spending close to $500.
This was when I really started pushing for her to learn how to play poker. Even as she was learning how to play, it ended up being cheaper than a day at the spa.
Still, if you’re looking for a non-gambling option and a way to unwind, the spa might be an enjoyable choice.
Take a Walk
It depends on where you play and the weather outside, but instead of being stuck in the casino, why not take a walk? Many casinos have other things than gambling going on, so you can explore inside and outside the casino.
Even in a city filled with casinos and concrete like Las Vegas, you can find all kinds of interesting things to do once you start looking around.
Sometimes there’s nothing like spending some money to show your spouse how much you appreciate getting abandoned while they gamble. Most casinos have a gift shop, and many of the larger ones have a variety of shops.
If the casino doesn’t have many options, look on your phone to find the closest shopping mall. You can drop your spouse off at the casino and go shopping to pass some time.
Read a Book
If you like to read, you can pass the time getting lost in a good book. A casino can be noisy and is filled with distractions, but you can usually find a quiet corner where you can read. The sportsbook area usually has a place to sit, or you can grab a seat in one of the restaurants and enjoy a cup of coffee with your book.
You can also take a book with you even if you plan to play a few games, like the slot machines or video poker games. Keno is a slow game also, so you have plenty of time to read between drawings.
See a Movie or a Show
Casinos don’t usually have a movie theater on the property, but many have a place to watch movies close by. Casinos also have shows, including singing, magicians, and bigger attractions like the Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil.
Plan your trip ahead of time to see where you can catch a movie or see what shows are available in the casino.
The Best Games to Play
All of the things listed above are good options for any spouse stuck waiting on their significant other, but have you ever considered joining the action at the gaming tables or on the machines?
Some spouses simply aren’t interested in gambling, but some don’t play because they either don’t know what to play or are worried that they’ll make a mistake.
In this section, I cover the best games for you to try. I also explain how easy or hard each game is to learn and cover a few basic strategy things that can help you get started.
The casino offers a few games that are extremely simple to play, and you can even play a couple games where you don’t even need to interact with a dealer or anyone else.
The next time you’re stuck at the casino waiting on your spouse to finish gambling, try out as many of the games listed below as you can. You don’t need a big bankroll to see if you like playing. Once you find a game or two that you enjoy, then you can learn how to improve your skills.
Before you start trying out the casino games, make sure you sign up for a player’s club card. These are called different things at different casinos, but they basically let you earn points that you can use towards rewards like free meals and merchandise.
When you start looking into playing casino games, you should set a strict budget. It’s easy to forget about the time and how much you’re risking when you start enjoying a game.
The list below includes options for just about any budget, so you never have to lose more than you’re willing to. Even with a budget of $20, you can play a game like keno for several hours.
If you’re willing to risk more, I still suggest using a budget the first few times you play. Set a budget of $100 or $200 and stop playing if you lose it. With a budget of a couple hundred, you should be able to try all of the games listed below so that you can find the ones you like the best.
Slot machines are a good choice for anyone who doesn’t regularly gamble. You don’t have to worry about making a mistake in front of a dealer or other players, and you don’t have to worry about strategy.
To play slots, find a machine, put some money in, and push the spin button to see if you win. The slot machine takes care of everything except pushing the button, so all you have to do is watch for the big win.
Slot machines come in a wide range of varieties, and it’s easy to spend more money than you planned if you’re not careful. I recommend finding a machine that lets you bet a quarter or less per spin. You might need to find a machine that lets you choose how many lines you want to activate.
When you’re first starting, only activate one line and play for the lowest coin value possible. You can skip the penny slots, because all of those machines force you to play with many lines activated.
The only other thing you need to know about slots is that the machines are designed so you can play almost as fast as you can push the spin button. If you’re not careful, you can make 400 or 500 spins per hour. This can make your losses add up fast and drain your bankroll quickly. Take some time between spins, and you’ll be able to play longer.
Baccarat can look complicated the first time you see it, but it’s just as easy to play as the slot machines. Some casinos have two different types of baccarat. They both have the same rules, but one passes the deal around the table to the players and the other has a full-time dealer who takes care of everything.
You want to play at a table with a dealer who does everything. This version is sometimes called mini baccarat or midi baccarat.
When you start playing baccarat, you can see that there are only three betting options. You can bet on a tie, the player hand, or the dealer hand. When you bet on the dealer hand, all wins have a 5% commission deducted.
You should always bet on the dealer hand. This is the best bet at the table, even after paying the commission on your wins. On average, you’re only going to lose a little over $1 of every $100 you bet on the banker.
Find the baccarat table with the lowest minimum bet, and never bet more than that. With just a little bit of luck, you can walk away a winner sometimes, and even when you don’t, you should be able to play for several hours on a small bankroll.
I mentioned that baccarat can look confusing if you’ve never played, but it doesn’t hold a candle to craps. The first time you watch a craps table, you might be overwhelmed by all of the possible bets and all of the players throwing the dice and cheering for each other. Don’t let this stop you from giving craps a try.
You only need to know how to make one bet at the craps table. The best bet at the table is the don’t pass line, but most players prefer the pass line bet.
It’s up to you, but the first time you play, I recommend placing a pass line bet.
Make the table minimum bet on the pass line and let the casino personnel running the game take care of everything else. You can only place a pass line bet on a come out roll, so the best thing to do when you join the table is tell the person running the game that you’ve never played before and ask if they’ll let you know when you can place a pass line bet.
Once you place your bet, it might take several rolls for it to resolve. This is good because it means you aren’t risking as much every hour. You can learn the basics of craps with one of our great guides.
The other thing to know is you don’t have to roll the dice if you don’t want to. Players take turns throwing the dice, but when it’s your turn, you can pass the roll to the next player.
I recommend rolling when it’s your turn because it can be fun, but it’s up to you.
Roulette is another easy casino game to play, and you don’t have to worry about strategy. All of the bets available on the roulette table have the same edge for the casino, so you can’t make a mistake.
When you join the table, one of the casino personnel running the game will sell you chips of a certain color in exchange for your regular casino chips.
Each player has their own color chips so that it’s easier for the dealer making the payouts to make sure the right player gets paid. This is the normal procedure, but there are some casinos that let you bet with normal chips.
Like the other games on this list, I suggest making table minimum bets when you play roulette. The best bets to start with are the even money bets that pay 1 to 1 when you win. You can bet on red or black or even or odd.
Once you see how easy roulette is to play, you can try some of the other available wagers. Different bets pay different returns, with the highest return available for single-number bets. Bets on a single number pay 35 to 1.
Keno is one of the worst games in the casino when it comes to the edge, but it has a couple benefits that make it a good choice for recreational players.
To get started, you either pick numbers from a pool of 80 or let the casino randomly assign you numbers. Once you get your ticket, the casino draws 20 numbers from the pool, and you win if you match some or all of your numbers.
The best things about playing keno are you can make small bets, often as low as $1, you can win up to $10,000 or more if you match all of your numbers, and there aren’t many draws every hour.
This makes keno one of the cheapest ways to gamble while still having a chance to hit a big win. Because there are only a few draws per hour and the minimum bet is so low, you can play keno for hours without risking much money.
All of the games listed above are simple to play, but they all have a built-in house edge. This doesn’t make them any different than all the other games in the casino, but a few games are designed so that you can use more strategy to lower the edge.
The next three games on the list give you the opportunity to use strategy, so if you’re interested in having the lowest edge and best chance to win, consider learning how to play them.
Video poker machines look like slot machines, but instead of using symbols and reels, video poker games use playing cards. You can see what each hand pays by looking at the pay table, and most games give you a starting five-card hand. You pick which cards you want to hold, and the machine replaces the others with new cards from the deck.
Where strategy comes in is how you play the hands. The best strategy might seem like it’s complicated, but you can get a strategy card for the game you want to play that lists the best way to play every starting hand. You can find strategy cards in most casino gift shops, or you can print a chart out from the internet.
Video poker machines are available with different bet sizes, called coin size. You can bet from one to five coins per hand. It might seem like betting one coin per hand is best, but most machines unlock a bonus on the top hand if you bet five coins per hand.
When you play video poker the first time, you can bet one coin per hand, but the best way to play is to find a machine with a low coin value so that you can bet five coins per hand.
Video poker machines are available with coin values of $.05, $.25, $1, $5, and higher. A five-coin bet on a nickel machine is 25 cents. A five-coin wager on a quarter machine is $1.25.
The best games to learn how to play are Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better. With a good pay table and the proper strategy, the house edge is less than a half percent on these games.
The best Jacks or Better pay table is one that pays nine coins for a full house and six coins for a flush, called a 9/6 machine. Any other pay table, like 8/5, has a higher house edge.
The best Deuces Wild pay table in most casinos is called the Not So Ugly Ducks table. The pay table for this game, reading from the bottom up, is 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 4 – 10 – 16 – 25 – 200. When you bet five coins, the natural royal flush pays a total of 4,000 coins.
Video poker does have one thing in common with slot machines. You can play hundreds of hands every hour. Try to play slower to make your bankroll stretch as far as possible.
Blackjack is fairly easy to learn, and it’s one of the most popular games in the casino. Like video poker, you can use a strategy card to help you make the best plays. When you use a strategy card, the house edge is usually less than 1%, and some games have an edge of less than a half percent.
If you want to play blackjack, look for a table with a low minimum bet and use a strategy card. Never take insurance or even money when the dealer offers it, and don’t take any advice from other players that don’t agree with your strategy card.
If it’s your first time playing blackjack, tell the dealer when you sit down and ask if they can help you so you don’t make any mistakes. Dealers are usually happy to help new players.
Poker is quite a bit more complicated than the other games on this list, at least if you want to have a chance to win. But it’s also the game that gives you the best chance to win if you learn how to play well.
Limit Texas hold’em has strict bet amount limits, so it’s the best place to start.
If you plan to play poker, you need to spend quite a bit of time learning the best strategies. It’s easy to learn how to play, but it’s hard to become a winning player. Pick up a few books to get started, and keep learning as you play.
The best book to get started with is Winning Low Limit Hold’em by Lee Jones.
The next time you’re stuck waiting on your spouse at the casino, use one or more of the suggestions on this page to help pass the time. You can visit the spa or take in a movie, but why not try your luck at the tables or on the slot or video poker machines?
It’s easy to get started playing most games, and you might even get lucky and win some money. Try your luck at all of the games listed above to see which ones you enjoy playing.
You might get on a roll, and your spouse might end up waiting on you to get finished.