A Beginners Guide to Navigating the Casino Without Losing Your Shirt

Slots can account for 70 percent or more of the money casinos make from gambling.

Slot machines appeal to people looking for a pressure-free way to pass the time. The vast majority won’t. They’re generally easy to learn and play.

The challenge for bettors is to find a game that they enjoy and that has a house edge they’re comfortable with.

Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, the most important fact about a casino is this: The house always has the edge, no matter what game you play. So if the dealer’s up-card is weak — especially a Four, Five or Six — it’s better for a player to stand on a “stiff” hand of 12 through 16 than trying to hit and get closer to 21.

A penny machine is a misnomer. Some casinos offer games that pay 6-to-5 for a blackjack. The RNG’s sole function is to spit out groups of numbers. Take what you are comfortable spending. The machine itself is the entertainment.  

Finding yourself amid the thousands of games, dealing with the noise, lights and other casino distractions, and ogling the vast amounts of money and chips can intimidate anyone.

Blackjack, if you take a few minutes to learn the basic strategy of when to hit or stand.

Video Poker, if you make the effort to look for good pay tables and learn simple guidelines for which cards to keep and throw away.

Baccarat, including the “mini” form found on the main casino form.

Craps, a game that looks more complicated than it actually is.

If you find yourself ahead after a couple of hours of fun, then remember the dealer’s advice for the nervous blackjack player: Run for the hills!

Casinos also offer a variety of “carnival games” that are variations of poker and blackjack. The answer depends on your own assessment of how much you’re willing to spend for a night at a casino. Some machines let you choose the value of a credit, such as 25 cents, 50 cents, $1 or $2. It’s all pure luck, as opposed to skill games such as blackjack and poker. With slots, the outcome is determined by a computer program called a random number generator, or RNG. About 27 percent of Americans visit a casino at least once a year, according to the American Gaming Association, and that number grows as legalized gambling continues to expand beyond the traditional centers of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In some games, all the players on a group, or “bank” of machines might share in a bonus round. Although each credit is worth only one cent, players can wager as much as $3 a spin by playing multiple pay lines and more than one credit per line.

“No problem,” he assured her. Casinos make more money from slots than from any other game. Some games have surround-sound chairs for what manufacturers call “immersion” gaming.

Games with a low house edge include:        

Blackjack is the most popular card game by far. Slot players don’t have to worry about making the “right play” or doing something that could affect other gamblers. Slot manufacturers spend millions of dollars to make machines that entice people play longer. Some folks are comfortable eating at a chain restaurant and catching a matinee. Use your players club card whenever you gamble there. Over the long run, the casino will win because of how the games are structured.

Casinos offer a variety of games to entice everyone from those dreaming of a life-changing jackpot to people simply enjoying a night out.

Many books and Web sites teach basic strategy for blackjack. At that game, the player with a blackjack gets paid only $12 for a $10 bet. In the short run, anything can happen. The process is simple: Push a button; win or lose; repeat. That’s not right. A cynical adage holds that casino executives figure that whatever you bring through the door is theirs – you just happen to be holding it for the moment. The card makes you eligible for offers of discounted or free food, hotel rooms or other amenities based on the amount of your play. Those include Three Card Poker, Let It Ride Blackjack Switch and Spanish 21. The casino gets its cut by collecting a “rake,” typically $4 or $5, out of every pot.

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Before you put money into a slot, check the machine’s display to see how much one credit is worth. Each number corresponds to a specific symbol on the display. This was a friendly table, he said, and he or the other players would be happy to help a novice. If you “bust” by going over 21, you lose even when the dealer also busts, because the dealer is the last to act. She put out the $10 minimum bet and was dealt a two-card 20 for her first hand. If you go out for dinner and a show, you know how much that’s worth to you. Casinos have evolved into one of the country’s premiere entertainment options. The goal is to beat the dealer. Dollar machines pay out more than quarter machines, and quarter machines pay out more than nickel machines.. Those who follow basic strategy can reduce the house edge to 0.5 percent or less, making it the closest thing to an even-money game the casino offers. Slot players put their cards into the machine; table game players present their cards to the dealer.

The house advantage on slots can vary by casino, but typically it’s about 10 percent. Never play them. You could hit a big jackpot or you could lose your buy-in within a few minutes.

One question all casino visitors ask themselves is how much money to take. Smart gamblers find a game they enjoy and learn the strategies that reduce the house edge as much as possible.

One of the built-in advantages for a player is that blackjacks traditionally pay 3-to-2, or $15 for a $10 bet. “Run! Run for the hills while you’re ahead!”

Just bear in mind that you’re there to have fun. Some want a four-star restaurant and a live musical.

However, that doesn’t mean you should just throw your money away on long shots. In other words, for every $100 put into machines throughout the casino, the machines return an average of about $90 over the long run. Players have the option of hitting or standing, while the dealer must follow specific rules — generally, he must hit if the total is 16 or less and stand with a total of 17 through 21. Never bet with money you need for the mortgage or medical bills. The number combination generated at the instant you hit the spin button determines what symbols will be displayed and whether you win or lose.

When you enter any casino for the first time, head to the players club booth and join. Many players mistakenly think the object of blackjack is to get a hand as close as possible to a total of 21 without going over. Sure, some players will win big. Her blackjack fling started with a victory.

“You know what you should do now?” the dealer asked, barely suppressing a smile as he prepared to deliver the punch line. As a rule of thumb, the easier a game is to play, the higher the house edge.

The black-haired woman nervously thumbed through her purse as she took the end seat at the blackjack table. She pulled out three $20 bills and gingerly placed them on the felt, confessing to the dealer this was her first time playing the game.

Poker is popular, but it differs from all other games because you play against other gamblers rather than against the house. That can range from a penny to several hundred dollars. A few favorites: www.WizardOfOdds.com, www.bj21.com, www.BJInsider.com, and authors Stanford Wong, Henry Tamburin and Arnold Snyder.

When you plan a casino trip, figure out how much you’re willing to spend for that night’s entertainment. Many are tied to popular movies, TV shows or musical artists – think “Lord of the Rings” or “Pawn Stars” or Dolly Parton – or even games such as Wheel of Fortune, Monopoly and Battleship. They want to gamble but they’re not exactly sure what to do.

Slot machines are the easiest and most popular form of casino gambling. You should be mentally prepared to lose it all.

Regardless of what you might hear elsewhere, there is no strategy for winning at a slot machine. Since blackjacks will come at the same rate at each type of game — once in about every 21 hands — playing at 6-to-5 table costs you about $6 an hour.

Many people making their first casino trip or trying out a new game are like that uneasy blackjack player. A rule of thumb is that the higher the base denomination, the less the house advantage

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