8 ways to Gamble SmartI know, some people consider "gambling smart" to be an oxymoron. After all, wagering on games where you'll probably lose does sound kind of stupid. As one person told me, "If I ever feel like gambling, I just drive by the casino and throw some money at it." So if you don't want to gamble, I don't blame you. I even made a list of other things to do in Vegas.
On the other hand, with proper strategy, you can expect to lose less than $10/hour. That's about what you'd spend on a movie, and a lot less than many other forms of entertainment. For someone who can easily afford a $10 loss, I have a hard time calling that stupid.
So if you're intent on gambling, let's learn how to do it right.
1. Set a daily loss limit.
There's a sure-fire way to avoid losing too much: Set a daily limit for how much you're willing to lose, and when you lose it, stop playing. I know, you'll say that's either too obvious or no fun, and I'm trying to harsh your mellow. Whatever, but the fact remains, if you make a loss limit and stick to it, then you'll never get in over your head.
Don't set a trip limit, because you might lose it all on the first day of your trip. The daily limit is the way to go. Set it and respect it!
2. Quit while you're ahead.
You'll do this by setting a session win limit. Pick an amount that you'd be happy to win, say $50, $100, $300, whatever. If you get ahead by that much, then stop playing, at least for a while. If you keep playing, you're likely to just give your winnings back to the house. You will have blown not just your winnings but the opportunity to feel like a winner for more than a few minutes. So stop, and do anything besides gambling. Whatever it is you're doing, you'll feel like a winner while you're doing it. It beats feeling like a loser, which is how you feel if you turn around and give your winnings right back to the casino.
If you absolutely must continue to play, then set your winnings aside and never play them; play only your original bankroll.
3. Calculate your average loss.
Don't fly blind, get an idea for how much you'll lose on average. My Average Loss Calculator makes quick work of that:
|Average Loss Calculator|
|Game||Rounds / Rolls
|Bet per round||House Edge||
|Play online casino games with fake money! It's better than losing real money.|
4. Don't play slots.
Slots bleed you dry quickly. Check the average loss calculator above and see what I mean. If you must play slots, then see my page on slot strategies.
5. Play only Blackjack, Craps, or Baccarat.
As you'll see from the Average Loss Calculator above, these are the only games that won't bleed you dry. Video poker can be a good bet if (1) you can find a decent machine, like 9/6 Jacks or Better, but those are extremely rare on the strip, and (2) you use the proper strategy. If you just guess, your loss will be so high that you might as well be playing slots.
6. Use the proper strategy for whatever game you're playing.
The figures shown in the Average Loss Calculator assume
that you're making the best plays. If you make bad
bets or bad strategy, your loss will be much higher. For
What you probably saw from the test above is that between 1 and 100 times, anything could happen. You might even be ahead after 100 rounds. But the more rounds you play, the more likely you are to lose. And after 100,000 rounds your loss will be pretty close to the 5.26% house edge.
The casino doesn't have to beat every player every time. They just know that they'll win around 5.26% of the total of all roulette bets placed over the year.
So that's how the house edge works. The casino doesn't have to destroy you with terrible odds—they give you an almost even game and make just a few percent on each bet on average. And that's why they don't have to cheat: they have a built-in mathematical advantage on every game, so cheating is pointless. All the have to do is get you to play, and they'll win in the long run.
7. Bet small and play slowly.
The more you bet the more you'll lose. And the faster you play, the more you'll lose. So, bet small and play slowly. The best way to play slowly is to play at full tables. It's fun to play with other people, anyway.
8. Get a player's card and use it.
Every casino has a Player's Club desk where you can sign up for a Player's Card, and it's always free. This is absolutely the best deal in Vegas, for many reasons:
- You often get something good just for signing up, like a hat, a deck of cards, or valuable coupons that are actually worth using.
- Just by signing up for the card, there's a good chance you'll get mail offers for free or deeply discounted rooms. Even if you don't gamble at all.
- If you do gamble, you can get even more goodies like free meals, show tickets, and rooms. See my article on getting comps.