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How much do you know about gambling?
It’s hard to enjoy a gambling vacation, if you’re always losing. Over the years we discovered how to play smart, and get the most enjoyment from our gambling bankroll. One key to this is knowledge. What you don’t know about gambling can hurt you!
I started writing a quiz, but then realized there must be several good gambling quizzes online. So I searched them out and came up with these. Each will open in a new window when you click it.
Wizard of Odds gambling quiz – this is a good quiz, and a nice web site too
FunTrivia.com – At this web site you can create a quiz and store it for other people to come along and take for fun. It’s really a cool site and I have links to three quizzes that I found there.
First of all, this is NOT a “get rich quick” scheme. It’s also not a “gambling system” like you see advertised for sale all over. I’m not selling this information; I’m giving it away.
I picked up this information over the years in books (I’ve read a lot of them), online, and through word-of-mouth. As you might expect, I’m giving you the short version, a summary.
There are times in many casinos where the player has an advantage, provided you know how to play them properly. I’ll separate this into “Advantage Situations” and “Advantage Games”.
Player Advantage Situations
A time when the player has an advantage, sometimes only for one bet. The specific game being played is often of no consequence.
Freerolls, Free Tournaments, etc. Any time a casino offers you a chance at winning something with no entry fee that’s a good wager to take. It doesn’t matter if it’s slots, blackjack, or even Keno. If you pay zero entry fee, and there’s a chance at a prize it may be worth checking it out. This is also sometimes true of tournaments with an entry fee, if the prize pool paid out is equal to the sum of all the entry fees, or when enough value is added from meals, drinks, room, etc.
One exception may be if you really hate playing the game in question and would get no fun from it, even with an advantage.Another exception is if your advantage is so small, or your probability of winning so remote, that you would do better at an advantage game that you normally play.
- Crap table. If you don’t play Craps, you might want to skip over this. Also, note that this may not be allowed in all casinos.
So, you’re playing craps, and someone is betting the dark side. You notice they are calling bets off when the roll is a 6 or an 8. They are giving up a 6 to 5 advantage! It’s one of the dumbest things a person can do in a casino, but if they want to do it you can profit from it.Say that person is betting a green chip on the Don’t. What you want to do is buy that bet from them when the roll is a 6 or 8. That way YOU now have a 6 to 5 (1.2 to 1) advantage over the casino! Here’s how you do it…
Say to them, “Hey buddy, I’ve noticed that you call off the 6 and 8. The horoscope for today said those were MY lucky numbers. Next time you have a 6 or 8, do you mind if I buy that bet from you?”. They’ll almost always agree, cause all they want is their green chip back. They don’t care if it comes from you or the casino. And you’ve got yourself a great bet! When the 7 rolls you win!
Bonus Chips. These are non-negotiable chips that you obtain from the casino as an incentive to play. Usually, they are for first time players club members. One well known promotion of this type is at the Sahara on the Las Vegas Strip. As a new players club member, you get a “Fun Book” that has a coupon inside for $50 in non-negotiable chips for $40. So have a 5/4 advantage over the casino on even money bets. I’d take them to the crap table and put the whole $50 on the pass line! You might also visit the Roulette wheel and put it on Black. If you prefer, bet $10 at a time instead of the whole $50.
Free Play. Similar to #3, but in this case the casino has sent you a promotional mailing, offering you free slot play. Depending on your level of play you might receive $5 to $500+. Typically, we get between $10 and $200 ourselves. While you’re playing on their money you have an advantage.
Match Play Coupons. Just like bonus chips and free play, match play coupons are free money from the casino. The catch is that you have to play it along with your own money before you can walk out with it. There are many sources for these coupons. Casino “fun books” given out at the slot club, the American Casino Guide, Las Vegas Advisor, and others. Most are $5 to $25 and may be used on even money bets only.
Imagine that you place a $10 bet at Blackjack, then you put a Match Play coupon down with it. You now have a $20 bet! If you win that hand they’re going to pay you $20. So in effect you’re betting $10 to win $20, and I’d do that all day long if they’d let me!
How long does your advantage last? Regarding items 3 through 5, some people would argue that you have an advantage (mathematically) for a specific period of time, often many hours. This is based on the long term statistical payback for the machine (or table game) that you’re playing. The topic requires a very long discussion, so I’ll only mention it here and let you do your own research.
The proponents say that your advantage starts with the first play, and extends even after you lose the casino’s money, until you have played long enough for your theoretical loss to equal the amount of the free play. Although the math seems to work, I believe that it’s dangerous to think of things in this way, especially if it causes you to exceed your normal level of play (i.e. exceed your loss limit).
Player Advantage Games
The last section talked about specific times when you have the advantage over the casino, if only for one bet. In this section, we’re talking about having a long-term advantage over the casino. Often, this is a slight advantage, but a slight advantage is all that it takes over the long run.
Video Poker. When you consider the amount of advantage possible, and the effort required to exploit it, the most logical choice for an advantage game is Video Poker. Video poker is a unique game, because you can tell exactly what the programmed payout is by simply reading and interpreting the machine’s pay table. For example, a Full Pay Deuces Wild (FPDW) machine has a long-term payout of 100.7% with basic strategy play. Perfect strategy gets you another .07% making it a 100.77% machine. Add comps, cashback, and free play to this, and you’re looking at a substantial advantage play.
But wait a minute you say, a 100.7% payback sounds too good to be true. How can the casino stay in business and pay out like that? Good thinking on your part but consider this; the vast majority of gamblers don’t play anywhere close to correct strategy. Played incorrectly, a FPDW machine is probably worse than playing Wheel of Fortune! What does it take to do well at Video Poker? Three things, knowledge, practice, and patience. You have to know the pay back schedules, you have to practice basic strategy play, and you have to be patient to see the results in the long run. You don’t need special aptitude, you don’t have to do math, and you don’t have to cheat. It’s just a matter of memorizing strategy and doing it. Many books have been written on this subject. There’s also lots of information on the web, and several good training programs for your computer. You can also buy, or print out, strategy cards that tell you exactly how to play any hand. You can carry these strategy cards with you to the casino and refer to them when playing.
Live Poker. This is not actually gambling; poker is a game of skill. Playing live poker, you’re not competing against the casino, but against the other players. Texas Hold’em has exploded in popularity and there are a lot of weak players in every poker room in the country. If you’re a good player, you can really clean up. However, becoming a good player isn’t as easy as you may think, and some people just don’t have the aptitude for it. So even though this IS a potential money maker, it doesn’t qualify as an “advantage play” for the average person.
Blackjack. Most everyone has heard about card counting. Many casinos have blackjack games with conditions that create an advantage for a good card counter. Counting accurately can give you an advantage up to 1.5% (equivalent to 101.5% payback). Some expert counters, against a single deck game with the right conditions, can get a 2% advantage. On the other hand, the typical advantage that normal, accurate counters enjoy on a multi-deck game is less than 1%. Learning to count blackjack is difficult. It requires aptitude, dedication, and concentration. Then, after you learn to count, you need to be able to do it in front of the casino staff without them knowing that you’re doing it. This itself is a stumbling block to otherwise excellent counters. Team play can greatly improve the odds, and help overcome some of these problems, but that’s a whole different story. Also remember, the casino can kick you out if they think you’re counting, and that’s no fun at all.
Sports Betting. As with live poker this is a game of skill. There are professional sports betters who make a good living. They live, sleep, eat, and breath sports betting. They don’t just know sports; they know the sports book system. Becoming a great sport bettor is like becoming a great stock trader, and few achieve greatness.
Craps. Bring this subject up in a group of serious gamblers and you’ll get several different opinions and maybe a lively argument. Craps is one game where the casino has only a small advantage, in some cases under 1%. Some people claim that by arranging the dice in a particular way, and throwing them so they will land and roll without turning sideways, they can have a small influence on the outcome of the roll and therefore influence the success of their bets. They say, correctly, that the casino’s advantage is so small they would only need to successfully influence the dice once in many rolls for their strategy to work. This is known by several names, “controlled rolling”, “precision shooting”, “dice setting”, etc.Is this “real” or folly? I can only give you my opinion, and my personal experience. Short story, I’ve seen it done and it’s real. The longer story is to ask; what does it take to achieve this level of dice control? And can the average person, do it? I’ve read the books, joined the web forums, and attended the classes where I received instruction. I personally don’t have the skill required. However, as I said, I’ve seen it done. My bottom-line assessment. Have you ever seen Tiger Woods do tricks with the golf ball? He’ll bounce the ball in the air 20 times off a wedge, then hit it in the air, and put it on the green. He can also drive the ball about 350 yards with accuracy. Can you do either of these feats? How much practice would it take? How much skill? I rest my case. For further research visit http://www.dicesetter.com/
For the typical gambler, your logical choice of advantage games is Video Poker. It’s the one game where any average person can, with study and practice, become good enough to have a small edge over the house.
If you enjoy slots or video poker already then it’s a natural for you. If you really don’t enjoy it you’ll need to find games that you do enjoy, with only a slight casino advantage. Gambling 101 addresses this. And don’t forget comps! they enter the picture as well.
So, you want to learn Video Poker? Here’s a recommended study list:
- http://wizardofodds.com/videopoker This is a good starting place on the web for VP and most other games
- Frugal Video Poker – book and software by Jean Scott. HIGHLY recommended. If you buy only one VP resource this is the one to get. http://queenofcomps.com/
- Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker version 6.0 (training software for your computer
- vpFREE is a Yahoo group, and one of the best sources of free video poker information on the web. I link to their database for all my state by state casino reviews in this web site. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vpFREE/
- http://www.advantageplayer.com/videopoker/index.html Advantage Player web site, a great general resource for advantage play of all kinds
- http://www.vpinsider.com/ This is a pay site, but has some good free stuff too. I was a paying member for several years. If you get serious about VP it’s probably a good investment for at least one year.
- I mentioned comps above. They help offset your losses, and can turn a slight disadvantage into a break even situation. If you want to all about comps, and other ways to get the most out of a casino, then read two books by Jean Scott. The Frugal Gambler, and More Frugal Gambling.
What you Play Makes A Difference
Game Selection and Strategy
What do you enjoy playing? Slots, Keno, Blackjack, Craps, Video Poker? I’m going to tell you about the best plays in the casino. I’ll be very brief, but I’ll provide links so you can do more reading and research if you’d like.
In most casinos (not all) there are some good plays, games where the casino has a 1.5% edge or less (98.5% payback or better). These include (in alphabetical order) Baccarat, Blackjack, Craps, Pai Gow Poker, Roulette (European Rules), Spanish 21, Super Fun 21, and Video Poker. Occasionally, you’ll also find other good games, but these are the most common. Slots can “occasionally” be counted in this group.
Basic Rule #1: Know what you’re playing! The player return on these games of 98.5% or better assumes two things:
- You play the correct version of the game, and…
- You play correct basic strategy.
This can’t be over emphasized. One of the worst plays in a casino is to play a game that you don’t understand. For example, Blackjack can easily return 99.5% or better, but if you fail to play correct basic strategy you can reduce that to 96% or worse. Craps can be played at under 1% casino advantage, but it also has bets with a double digit house edge! Yep, 11% or even worse.
Basic Rule #2: No matter what game you choose to play, be sure you always use your players club card so you will earn comps! However, note that some casinos won’t comp you for playing very low limit table games.
Basic Rule #3: Set a budget and stick to it. Read my section on Money Management for more details.
I’ve included a session bankroll guide below. For each game it indicates a minimum recommended buy-in to enjoy the game with a low risk of going broke quickly. If this is too much for your bankroll you should pick another game. You’ll rarely have any fun sitting down at a $10 BJ table with $30 in your hand
Most large Baccarat tables are high stakes, the minimum bet is often $100. “Mini-Bac” sometimes is offered with minimum stakes in the $25 range. The house advantage is under 1.5%, and the best bet (Banker) gives you a 98.94% payback.
I don’t personally play Baccarat because I find it boring. However, if you have a couple thousand dollars to play with, and you want to experience one of the “high class” games at a casino, then you might give it a try. The dealer does everything for you, and you can’t make a mistake as long as you remember to bet on the Banker. Just let the dealer know it’s your first time playing and they’ll help you out.
Recommended Buy-in: Ten to fifteen times the table minimum, or your initial bet if higher.
Click this link for More info on Baccarat
It’s the most popular table game in the casino, and one of the best bets for the player. House edge varies but is typically 0.37% to 0.9%. Blackjack is a fun game! Some skill is required to learn basic strategy, but it’s not really that tough, and you can carry a cheat sheet to the table – no kidding! It’s also a very social game, where you can have a good time. If you find yourself at a “serious” table with grouchy people MOVE. This is supposed to be fun!
You don’t need to be a high-roller to play Blackjack. You can usually find a table with $5 minimum bet, and some as low as $1. However, on Friday or Saturday, at any major property on the Las Vegas Strip, you’ll be challenged to find an open seat at a table that’s $10 or less.
There are many variations of blackjack “rules”. For example, how many decks are used, does the dealer stand or hit “soft 17” (Ace-6), can you split any pair, can you double on any two cards, etc.? These rule variations can favor the player, or the house, so you need to learn which are best for you so you can pick a table that will give you a high return. One thing to avoid like the plague is any table that pays 6 to 5 on a Blackjack. The standard payoff is 3 to 2, and a 6 to 5 game is a rip-off by comparison. However, if you find yourself in a small casino with nothing but 6 to 5 Blackjack and slots, you’re still better off playing Blackjack. The link below will give you more details.
Recommended Buyin: 15 times the table minimum wager or your initial bet if higher. So, buy in for $75 on a $5 table, $375 on a $25 table, etc.
More Info on Blackjack This link takes you to the Wizard of Odds web site. One of the best for learning about Blackjack.
If you walk into a casino and hear a bunch of people shouting and cheering it’s a good bet it’s coming from the Crap table. Craps is an exciting game; however, it’s also somewhat complicated and that often keeps people from playing. The crap table contains some of the best and worst bets in the casino, so you do need to have some basic knowledge before you walk up. Finally, there is a unique etiquette at the crap table, much of which is based on the numerous superstitions of crap players.
In my personal opinion, craps is fun, and it’s worth taking the time to learn. It also offers you a basic bet with a house advantage of only 1.41%, and you can often improve this to under 1/2 of one percent, a better than 99.5% payback.
Concerning superstitions at the crap table, some players take these very seriously, so it’s wise to be aware of them. Here are a few that will keep you from making enemies:
- NEVER say the number “Seven” at a crap table after the point is established (large white button is placed on a point number). The superstition is that saying the number will cause it to appear on the dice, and when it does just about everyone will lose!
- Keep your hands up, out of the way, after the dice are out (passed to the thrower by the stick man). The superstition; if the dice hit your hands they will land on Seven.
- Don’t touch, or talk to, the shooter (person throwing the dice), especially if they’re on a good roll, and especially after they pick up the dice. It’s bad luck to do so.
- If you’re a man, and have never played Craps before, don’t tell the table this. A “virgin” male player is considered bad luck, especially when you’re throwing the dice. On the other hand, if you’re a female “virgin” that’s good luck, and it’s OK to announce it when you start to play. I’ve even seen a high roller place a $25 bet for the rookie female on her first roll.
More info on Craps This link takes you to the Wizard of Odds web site. You may have recognized a trend here. In my opinion, this is one of the best sites on the web for good, reliable gambling information without any scams or useless “systems” for sale.
More info on Craps About.com also has some good information, but I’ll warn you that there’s a lot of advertising. Don’t be suckered in to paying anyone for a “winning craps system”. It doesn’t exist.
Recommended Buy-in: Ten times your initial bets. On a $5 table, if you play the pass line and 2x odds that’s $15 so you should buy in for $150. If you intend to place multiple bets, buy in for ten times the total of your initial bets. For example, if you plan to bet $5 pass line with 2x odds, and two come bets with 2x odds, that’s $45, so you should buy in for $450.
Pai Gow Poker
If you’re looking for a game that’s a little more relaxed and easy-going than Blackjack or Craps then Pai Gow Poker may be your choice. It’s a variation on the Chinese tile game of Pai Gow, and is played with a 53 card deck (one joker). The overall house advantage if you play correct basic strategy is 1.46%, and sometimes better
I don’t play Pai Gow Poker myself, so I won’t try to give you any advice other than this: learn basic strategy! (Do I sound like a broken record). Here’s a link to more information on Pai Gow Poker.
Roulette is an old, classic casino game. It’s simple, sometimes interesting, sometimes boring (to be honest) and often gives you a really nice payout when you win. It’s a social game, and you have time to talk with the other players, enjoy your cocktail, flirt with the pretty girls (handsome boys), etc.
You’ll also enjoy a house edge of only 1.35% if you search and find a single zero wheel with European Rules. Otherwise, you’re giving up 2.7% on an American single zero wheel, or a whopping 5.26% on a double zero wheel. The only problem is, most of these European wheels are in high-roller areas on the strip where the lowest table minimum you’ll find is likely to be $25 or more. However, if your bankroll allows you to budget for a $250 session, it may be fun to waltz into the highroller area of Mirage and plop down at the roulette table. Or take $1000 to the Bellagio as the minimum bet was $100 there when this was written.
PLEASE, PLEASE, whatever you do. DON’T pay anyone for a Roulette “system”. None of them are winners, you can’t beat this game. The link I provide below will help you understand the game and learn basic .
Recommended Buy-in: Ten times your total bets for one spin.
Here’s a link to more information on Roulette.
If you enjoy blackjack, but are getting bored with it, I highly recommend trying Spanish 21. Even if you’ve never played a table game this might be fun, especially since you can carry your basic strategy “cheat sheet” to the table with you (in most casinos).
After all the tightening of rules for traditional Blackjack, you’ll find some casinos where the Spanish 21 odds are better for the player (most Atlantic City casinos for example). The house edge is only 0.76% when the dealer hits soft 17 and redoubling isn’t allowed. This improves to 0.38% if redoubling IS allowed. The house edge is only 0.40% when the dealer stands on soft 17.
This link will tell you all about the game and give you good basic strategy guidelines.
Recommended Buy-in: 15 times your initial bet.
Super Fun 21
This is another blackjack variation, and the house has an edge of about 0.95% to 1.15%. Some scoff at this game and say it’s “Super Fun” for the house, because the edge is so much better than some traditional blackjack games. I think it depends on what’s being offered at the casino you’re at. Remember the old song “if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with”? Ok, so I’m showing my age.
Given a choice, I’d rather play a good traditional Blackjack game with half of one percent house edge, but in some casinos Super Fun 21 is the best game available, and at least it’s fun!
Click here to get more info and basic strategy.
I could write a book on Video Poker, but that’s already been done a few dozen times. So I’ll keep this brief and give you several links to more info.
VP is the only game where a person with average skills and average dedication can teach themselves a basic strategy that actually has an advantage over the casino. Yep, a slight statistical advantage of under 1%. But think about it, one percent is all the casino needs to clean you out over time! So having that edge over them is a good thing.
But don’t rush out and drop a grand into the nearest Video Poker machine! First you need to learn to differentiate the GOOD machines, (and the GREAT ones) from the mediocre and lousy ones. Then, you need to take the time to study basic strategy and be able to play perfectly. Only then can you storm the walls of the casino castle!
Yes, I know, some people find Video Poker boring. If you’re one of those, then I recommend picking from the better table games listed above.
Free Online Resources
- First, as with the other games on the page, I’ll refer you to the Wizard of Odds site
- vpFREE is one of the best sources of free video poker information on the web. I link to their database for all my casino reviews in this web site. They have an extensive listing of links to additional information too. In addition, they have a very active Yahoo! group. Jean Scott, Skip Hughes, Bob Dancer, and other top VP writers hang out here to answer questions and socialize with the masses. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vpFREE/
- 5-Card’s video poker pages give you a wealth of information about the odds and costs of playing specific games. http://videopoker.fws1.com/index.html
Recommended books, software, and subscription web sites
- Jean Scott’s Frugal Video Poker is a complete video poker learning system in two parts. Each of them is good alone, but I recommend having both. 1) The FVP software will let you learn to play video poker on your home computer. It also includes a valuable feature — you can create and print strategy cards for any game and carry these with you to the casino. 2) Jean also has a book out by the same name Frugal Video Poker, and it’s an excellent video poker textbook for both new players and experienced alike.
- WinPoker version 6.0 This is another training software for your computer, the one we started out using many years ago and still have and use often. It has an attractive video interface, and you can customize the machine payouts. However, it doesn’t have a feature to print out strategy cards, so you’ll need to purchase that separately.
- http://www.vpinsider.com/ This is a paid membership site, but has some good free stuff too. I was a paying member for several years. If you get serious about VP it’s probably a good investment for at least one year.
- Comps are also an important part of any strategy. They help offset your losses, and can turn a slight disadvantage into a break even situation. If you want to learn about comps, and other ways to get the most out of a casino, then read two books by Jean Scott. The Frugal Gambler, and More Frugal Gambling. You’ll find these and more information on her web site: http://queenofcomps.com
What about live Poker?
Poker isn’t gambling. It’s a game of skill, and you’re competing against other players, not the house.
General Gambling Information
For any and all general subjects related to gambling and Las Vegas the “Master Site” in my opinion is www.lasvegasadvisor.com. Some content is free, and membership is only $39/yr. You get an excellent coupon book that will more than pay for the cost of membership with just one coupon used! Check the LVA out free for 5 days. Click on the following link: http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/free5day.cfm FYI, I have no financial ties to the LVA, I’ve been a member since 2000 and it’s a great deal.