8 for '12: Tips for a prosperous new year in casinos

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


By John G

Casinos are filled with temptations. They’re fantasy zones, where most of the time we don’t bet with actual money. We play with chips, or credits on a meter.

Those chips and credits are bought with money, and can be exchanged for the real thing, but while we’re playing it sometimes doesn’t feel like we’re spending money. For some, it’s easy to get carried away and overbet until it’s all gone. They’re only chips, right?

That’s why once a year I like to urge a little caution, and ask that you consider these resolutions as you head into a new year of gaming.

1. Resolve to stay within your bankroll: Before you play, take stock of how much you’re willing to spend on your entertainment for the day. If you have a winning session, great! If not, stick to your limit. If losses approach the amount you’re willing to spend, slow down. Take a timeout, get a snack, watch the roulette wheel for a while. If you hit your limit, quit. Period.

2. Resolve to learn the games before you play: A little homework goes a long way in helping to cut the odds against you at casino games. Learn basic strategy in blackjack and for each video poker game you play. Know the rules and best bets in craps. No matter your game of choice, buy a good book and read about the best methods of play.

It makes a huge difference. Average blackjack players face house edges of 2 to 2.5 percent. Those who take the time to learn basic strategy cut that to half a percent or so, a few tenths more or less depending on house rules. You can face a house edge in craps of 1.41 percent on pass or come, and less if you take free odds, or you can buck the 16.67 percent edge on any 7 or other high edges on one-roll propositions.

A little learning is a good thing for slot players, too. You might not be able to reduce the house edge, but you can learn to tell the games designed for extended play from the ones that offset jackpots with fast losses, and use the information to choose the games that best fit your goals and style of play.

3. Resolve to keep part of your winnings: Your winnings aren’t “their money.” As soon as you’ve won it, it’s yours, and you don’t have to give it back. On any sizable win, put at least half of it away. You can buy yourself a treat, go out for an evening on the town, put a little away for the kids’ or grandkids’ educations, pay bills - whatever you want.

4. Resolve to play only with money you can afford to lose: When the losses come, make sure you don’t have money earmarked for food, clothing, school, the rent or mortgage on the line. Play with money budgeted for entertainment, not for life’s necessities.

5. Resolve never to chase losses: What’s worse than losing money? Losing even more in a desperate attempt to win it back. You’re never “due” to win, and wins and losses don’t have to even out in the time we play. A losing streak means it’s time to ease back or quit, not bet more.

6. Resolve never to use credit card cash advances for gambling money: Think the house edge is high on some games? Try comparing it to credit card interest rates. The house edge added to interest on borrowed money and ATM fees – that’s a tough combination to overcome.

7. Resolve to go easy on the alcohol: If you want to have a drink while you play, that’s your business. You don’t want your judgment impaired with money on the line. Have a good time, but keep a clear head, too.

8. Resolve to keep perspective and play for fun: Resolve to keep perspective and play for fun: Gambling in a casino is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Only a handful of blackjack and video poker players have the skill, discipline and bankroll to enable them to make money in the long run. Most of us will lose more than we win at any game.

Most players are best off to treat losses as the price of admission for a day’s entertainment. Casino gambling is a form of entertainment, a way to have a good time. On those days when we take a little extra cash home, so much the better. But even a losing day can be fun if you keep your expectations realistic.

May you have a happy 2012, and may you keep your bankroll healthy.

John Grochowski has covered the casino industry for 15 years in newspapers and magazines, and is the author of six books on casino games. Readers can email him at casinoanswerman@casinoanswerman.com.

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