Call the 800-522-4700 hotline, and read this.
Also, know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.
But even you play the best games, you still have to know the proper strategy. If you play craps but make the sucker bets, or make lots of bets at once, you might as well be playing a slot machine. And with blackjack, you need to know whether to hit, stand, split, or double down on each hand, not to mention how to identify the best games. (For the strategy, you can see my blackjack strategy table, or buy a similar one at any Vegas gift shop for $1.50.)
The difference between playing smart and playing on a whim is staggering. Play craps, blackjack, or baccarat for $5/hand with proper strategy and you'll lose only around $8/hr. on average. On a $0.25 slot machine you'll lose $36 -- and have a much lower chance of winning overall. Heck, even a nickel slot machine loses twice as much per hour as one of the $5 table games I recommend.
Moral of the story: If you're going to play, then
pick the right games, and learn the proper strategy (available on this
site). Don't put a dime on the table until you know what you're doing. If you want to practice, you can use Bodog's free online practice games.
A betting system is a specific plan of betting more or less depending on prior wins or losses, to increase your chances of winning in the short term. No betting system works in the long term, which is another way of saying that no betting system can overcome the house edge. The fact that you're more likely to win in the short term is balanced by the fact that when you do lose, you'll lose big -- bigger than if you hadn't used a betting system.
Here are two examples. The Martingale has you double your bet after a loss. Say you bet $5 and lose. Next time you bet $10. If you lose you bet $20. If you lose you bet $40. At the end of the sequence when you finally win, you'll show a $5 profit. The main problem with this system is that if you lose a bunch of bets in a row you won't be able to afford to make the next bet. The other problem is that even if you could, the casino will limit how much you can wager.
A less dangerous system is to increase your bet by 50% every time you win. Say you bet $8. If you win then you'll increase your bet by half that ($4), so next time you'll bet $12. If you win that then you'll add $6, so you'll bet $18. If you win that then you add $9 so you're betting $27. Whenever you lose you start over with $8. This is safer than the Martingale because you bet more when you're winning, not when you're losing.
Betting systems are fun, but they never tilt the odds in your favor. In fact they don't even decrease the odds. They do make it more likely that you'll win in the short term, with the tradeoff being that when you do lose, your loss will be large. For more, see my separate article on betting systems.
If you're playing roulette and red has just come up ten times in a row, should you bet on red or black for the next spin? The answer is that it doesn't matter. Each result is equally likely. Past results do not influence future results. Many a gambler's downfall has been the mistaken belief that you can discern any kind of pattern in the results. It simply doesn't work that way. If it did, the casinos would not be standing. But in reality, the casinos are happy to encourage people's delusions by providing pads of paper for them to keep track of previous spins, and they even have a marquee at the table which shows the results of the last several spins. The casinos have no fear in providing this because they know there's absolutely no benefit to you in having that information. This is not a gray area, and it's not something that the experts disagree on: Every single mathematician on the planet will tell you the exact same thing, that each spin is absolutely random. For more, see my separate article on the gambler's fallacy.
If you want to gamble $1000 or less, then just carry it. A money belt is a good idea. If it would devastate you to lose that sum to a pickpocket or other random mishap -- you shouldn't be gambling that amount anyway.
For larger amounts, you have two options:
- Get a cashier's check from the bank and bring it to the casino's cashier ("the cage").
- Apply for a line of credit at the casino.
For cashier's checks, be sure to fax a copy of the check to the cage at least a day before you arrive. You'll want to give them time to verify that it's good. If you arrive in the evening, they won't be able to verify the check with your bank until the bank opens in the morning. Note that if you're staying in the hotel, you can deposit that money at the cage so you don't have to carry it around with you all the time.
For a line of credit, call the casino and apply ahead of time. If approved, then when you sit down at the tables or the machines you can ask for a "marker", which is a draw on your line of credit. If you're in the red at the end of your trip (and you probably will be), the casino generally gives you 30 days to send them a check to settle up.
Using a debit card tied to your checking account in an ATM is okay, but your bank probably limits the amount you can withdraw per day to $500 to $1000, and the casino ATM will charge you at least $4 on top of what your bank charges you.
What you absolutely should not do is to get a cash advance on your credit card, whether with a live teller or with a machine. First off, they'll start charging you interest from the millisecond they give you the cash, and most credit cards charge 20% per month or more. And if you get the advance from one of the machines in the casino, they'll tack on a whopping fee of their own, a minimum of 2% of the total. Ouch.
Just sit down at the table and lay your cash down. It has to be cash, they don't take credit cards at the table. If you have a line of credit as mentioned above, then you can ask for a marker, and they'll give you chips as a loan. You don't have to draw your full line of credit, of course. If you have $10k of credit, you can draw a $1k marker, for example. The dealer handles cash, but if you're drawing a marker then you'll need to ask one of the people roaming around in suits to handle the marker for you.
After you've laid your cash down you might have to wait while the dealer finishes dealing the current hand. After that, she'll count out your money, and count out some chips, and slide them over to you. The denominations are $5 (red), $25 (green), $100 (black), $500 (purple), and $1000 (yellow). She may ask you "How do you want that?", meaning do you want all green chips, all red chips, or a mix? Dealers don't make change, so 100% of any money you put on the table will be changed into chips. Of course, you don't have to bet all of them, and you can turn your chips into cash when you're done playing.
When you're done playing you'll "color up", which is to turn your chips into higher denominations so you have fewer chips to carry to the cashier. Just push your chips towards the dealer and say, "Color up, please." She'll change your chips and give you the larger denominations. If you're not going to gamble any more then walk your chips over to the cashier (the "cage") to cash them in. You can't cash your chips in at the table.
All the games use the same chips, except roulette. With roulette each player uses a different color, so it's easy to see who bet on what. You can buy roulette chips with regular chips or with cash.
Studies show that men gamble more for the adrenaline rush, or to bolster their masculinity, while women gamble more to be part of an escapist fantasy, or to be sociable. (Journal of Gambling Studies, Electronic Journal of Gambling Issues, NZ Herald)
And of course, some people gamble because of a compulsive addiction that is not easy to control. The good news there is that it's definitely possible for individuals who gamble compulsively to stop. (Kansas City Star)
One of the more interesting findings from psychological research is that we're more interested in something when the rewards are inconsistent. If a test animal gets a reward every time it presses a lever, it quickly loses interest in the lever. But if it only sometimes gets a reward and sometimes doesn't, then suddenly the lever becomes fascinating. Slot machines have tapped into that concept perfectly: They give inconsistent rewards, and keep us trying to chase the next win.
Here's something that's crazy to me: When someone wins a huge jackpot, say $1 million or more, what do they do next? Many people go right back to playing slots! I don't mean the next day or the next week, but just minutes later, like the person who won $2.9 million on the Wizard of Oz slot in December 2010. (LV Review-Journal) What exactly is the point? What do they hope to get out of continuing to play? In my mind, when you hit a jumbo jackpot, you won. You beat the house. You achieved that ultra-rare event. Congratulations. You can stop playing now, because there's nothing more to gain by continuing. Yet many jackpot winners keep going.
It depends on how you define it. Yes, both gambling and investing means putting your capital at risk for the chance of getting more capital. (And I've certainly lost more money in the stock market than I ever have at the casino!) The reason we don't usually consider investing to be gambling is that with most forms of investing you'll probably win, while in the casino you'll probably lose. InvestorGuide has a good article about investing vs. gambling.
Help me improve this article by letting me know what else I should include here.
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