General Casino Gambling

General Casino Gambling – Articles, Strategy, Tips, Information and Reviews on all facets of gambling in casinos.
Learn how to be a better casino gambler. Discover the strategies for how some casino games can be beaten in the long run, while other games rely purely on luck and can’t be beaten consistently.

Video PodcastVideo Poker – how to win and how to play with Michael “Wizard of Odds” Shackleford
Audio PodcastHow to become a professional gambler with Arnold Snyder
Audio PodcastBeatable casino games with Michael “Wizard of Odds” Shackleford
Audio Podcast How to become a professional video poker player with Bob Dancer

Casino Gambling and Superstitions

By Bill BurtonTwo gamblers were talking. One turned to the other and asked, “Are you superstitious?”His friend replied, “I used [...]

Casino Gambling and Superstitions2018-03-16T19:07:57+00:00

Winning With Dumb Luck!

By Henry Tamburin   I’ve won a lot of money gambling in casinos over the past 30 years and I’ve [...]

Winning With Dumb Luck!2019-05-07T18:18:41+00:00

Cash Alternatives in The Casino

By Bill Burton It seems as if we are rapidly becoming a cashless society. Many businesses are encouraging/forcing their employees [...]

Cash Alternatives in The Casino2018-05-07T19:18:25+00:00

Relying on Lady Luck in the Casino

By Jean Scott I have long advocated choosing casino games that involve skill, such as blackjack and video poker, because [...]

Relying on Lady Luck in the Casino2009-07-07T08:44:50+00:00

A Casino Player’s Survival Kit

By John Grochowski

In the game of survival, casinos arm themselves well. The mathematical edge that’s built into each game is plenty of ammunition to make sure house bags its share of the wagers.

Players would do well to put together a little survival kit of their own. It can’t guarantee you’ll be a winner - only a handful of blackjack card counters, video poker pros and other advantage players are going to come out ahead in the long run. But you should have enough in your own bag of tricks to ensure the good times will be worth whatever you spend in pursuit of fun and jackpots.

There are a few tangible items in the smart player’s survival kit, but it must include a large dose of knowledge that you can’t reach out and touch any more than you can close your fist on the house edge. No matter. The knowledge you need is easily available.
Let’s open up the survival kit and see what’s inside.
CASH - No shock here. Any survival kit for a day, or even an hour, in the casino has to start with enough money to cover whatever games you plan to play.

The amount required depends on what you plan to play. If you’re just planning to pass an hour on the penny slots, betting one coin per line, a $20 bill will take you a long way. But on a nickel video slot or a quarter three-reel game, $20 can disappear in 10 minutes flat, and on dollar games, a $100 bill can be history just about that fast. The same goes for video poker - slots and video poker move so fast, with 500 or more plays per hour, that a cold streak can gobble up the cash almost as fast as you can get it out of your wallet.

Table games don’t move as fast - figure 50 or so hands per hour on a full blackjack table - but minimum bets are higher. Even at a $5 table, $100 can go fast in the bad times.

The amount in your survival kit depends on your entertainment budget - no siphoning off funds needed for real-life, every day survival. And if you find the cash disappearing faster than you’d anticipated during a casino trip, be prepared to take time out from gaming or to switch to a less money-hungry game for a while. There’s nothing wrong with a dollar slot player on a cold streak who bides time on pennies for a while to preserve a little cushion in the survival kit.
PLAYER REWARDS CARD - Wherever you play, be sure to sign up for the player rewards card. It won’t bring you freebies every time out, but as you play, you’ll compile points that can bring cash back, free meals or discounts or other perks. In some casinos that charge admission, the cards can bring free or reduced admission, depending on your level of play. Some Native American casinos that don’t give cash back on their cards give complimentary sessions in their bingo halls - and if you’re a bingo player, that’s almost as good for cash. And some clubs give automatic discounts on meals or gift shop items just for having the cards. You may not get your lunch for free, but a discount of 10 or 15 percent off the price helps stretch the cash in your kit.
If you find yourself in a casino where you’ve never played, be sure to find out if there are bonuses for signing up. Some will give logo merchandise, others give buffet comps, still others have been known to reimburse losses in the first hour of play, just for signing up for their cards.
Do keep in mind that comps and perks are not worth digging beyond the budgeted amount of cash in your survival kit. Take what’s offered at your normal level of play, but increasing wagers in pursuit of comps can leave you wishing you’d bought your own lunch.
The benefits make the player rewards card a vital part of your survival kit. But there’s more. The reason casinos give out the perks and bonuses is to keep you coming back. They want your name and address and data base in their computers, so they can send you offers by direct mail to encourage you to return and play again, leading to our next survival kit item …
COUPONS - All that direct mail that results from your signing up for a rewards card brings offers and coupons. Refresh those in your survival kit each month. There are eight casinos on my regular rounds, and each sends me mail each month - some send more than one mailing a month. In those mailers are coupons for cash, 2-for-1 buffets, discounted hotel rooms, free admission, invitations to parties and tournaments, and more, all without using up whatever perks I’ve already compiled from previous trips. Each month, I weed out expired offers and replace them with the new ones. Then, when I’m off on a casino venture, I take along those that are valid where I’m playing.

If you have a coupon for a free buffet, use it instead of redeeming points from your rewards card account. Use the points for something else. You can have your points, and eat free too.
COMPUTER SOFTWARE - Blackjack and video poker are games at which your skill and knowledge of strategies make a difference. Software that will test that skill, warn you when you are making mistakes and help you take your game to a higher level definitely belongs in your survival kit. For video poker players, there are two outstanding programs: Frugal Video Poker, with tips from Queen of Comps Jean Scott, and Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker, by Dean Zamzone. Either one will correct your play as you practice, and both come loaded with games while enabling the player to change pay tables to match the ones they actually see in their local casinos. Frugal Video Poker, the more expensive of the two, has more extras - a comp calculator, a strategy generator that will produce printable strategy tables for any pay table, and an option for the user to choose to have play corrected for perfect play - as favored by WinPoker - or for play against a strategy table.
There is a good deal of instructional software available for blackjack players. One recent, inexpensive program that I really like is Blackjack 6-7-8 from StickySoft Corp. It’ll drill you on basic strategy and counting cards, will show the effect variations in rules have on the house edge, run high-speed simulations --- there are a host of extras. For survival purposes at blackjack, learning basic strategy is fundamental, so whatever software you choose, be sure basic strategy drills, with warnings for mistakes, are part of the package.

STRATEGY CARDS - Think you know your blackjack basic strategy, but are unclear on a few fine points? Or are you just a little fuzzy on how to play certain video poker hands? Maybe strategy cards should be part of your survival kit.

In some jurisdictions you can take your strategy card right to the blackjack table or video poker machine, and use it to help make your decisions. Some states - Illinois, for instance - do not permit you to use strategy cards while you play.

If you’re in an area where cards are permitted and would like a little “tip sheet” while you play, laminated, pocket-sized blackjack cards are readily available in casino gift shops. Nearly all inexpensive cards will show the same basic strategy. StickySoft’s Blackjack 6-7-8 cards are a bit pricier, but have some extras that make them worth considering if you don’t already have a strategy card. There are four cards in the series - one each for single-deck, double-deck and four-to-eight-deck games, and one with a four-to-eight-deck strategy adapted for card counters. Each is a tri-fold piece with six panels - four with basic strategies adapted for common rules variations, and two panels with discussions on playing decisions, basic strategy and the house edge.

Video poker strategy cards are a little less common - one won’t find them in every gift shop - but there are some good ones out there. Frugal Strategy Cards, by Skip Hughes, are easy to use. Five cards - one each for 9-6 Jacks or Better, full-pay Deuces Wild, 10-7 Double Bonus Poker, Kings or Better Joker Poker, and Pick-‘Em Poker - are available individually or as a set. Bob Dancer also has strategy cards developed with Liam W. Daily on nine different games. These are six-sided cards with strategies at four  skill levels, from beginner to advanced.

AN INSTINCT FOR SURVIVAL - Here come those intangibles mentioned earlier. Part of the instinct for survival is taking the information in the magazines, books, software and strategy cards, learning the strategies and applying it to your play. Part of it is having the discipline to stick with your survival plan, sticking to the games for which you’re prepared and not overbetting your bankroll. Another part is knowing yourself well enough to know what you want out of your trip to the casino. Your goals and expectations make a difference in your game choice. For instance:
** The house edge at table games tends to be lower than the house edge on the slots. In the Midwest, where I’m based, we’re seeing casinos keep about 5 to 7 percent of everything wagered on dollar slots, 7 to 10 percent on quarters, and 10 percent or more on nickels. A “loose” slot is still keeping $5 per $100 wagered. That puts the house edge on slots on a par with or higher than the table games with the highest fixed house edges - the 5.26 percent house edge at roulette, for instance, where the casino keeps an average of $5.26 per $100 wagered.. There are table games wagers with even higher house edges, such as the one-roll propositions at craps and the tie bet at baccarat, but both craps and baccarats also offer wagers with very low house edges.
House edges at table games can be much lower - a half percent or so, depending on house rules, against a basic strategy player at blackjack, or 2 to 2.5 percent against an average player; 1.41 percent on pass and come and 1.4 percent on don’t pass and don’t come at craps, and even lower if you take advantage of free odds; 1.17 percent on banker and 1.36 percent on player in baccarat.
The combination of high house edge and rapid speed of play on the slots means that the house can expect to win more money per hour from a quarter slot player wagering 75 cents a spin than from a $5-a-hand blackjack basic strategy player.
That doesn’t mean you should never play the slots. If chasing the jackpots, watching the reels and playing the bonus rounds is your idea of casino entertainment, then let ‘em spin. Just have your bankroll and your expectations in order.
**  Different types of slot machines will give you a different experience. Video games with second-screen bonuses are designed to give players extended “time on device,” with long bonus rounds and frequent “winning” spins with paybacks less than the amount wagered. Big winning sessions on these games are rare, with few jackpots large enough to insure walking away with a profit - the paybacks are tied up in the bonuses and small wins rather than jackpots. Traditional three-reel slots, on the other hand, will pay out more big hits, but also will have more long cold streaks that’ll eat into that cash in your survival kit a lot faster than the video games will. Deciding what you want - a chance at a big jackpot with a high risk of rapid losses, or extended play with less chance of a big hit - is one of the keys to a slot player’s survival.
** Likewise, different table games will provide different experiences. Craps is the ultimate social casino games, with most players betting on the same side and winning or losing together. Blackjack is a quieter game, with a very low house edge if you play basic strategy. It’s a even-keel game, with wins or losses mounting slowly. Newer table games such as Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride and Three Card Poker are decidedly not even-keel games. Winning hands are less frequent than in blackjack. The potential is there for bigger one-hand wins, but also for faster losses. Just as on the slots, you have to decide what you want out of the game.

** Understand that the majority of gambling sessions will result in losses for the players. The games are designed to make money for the house. Even blackjack card counters who have a mathematical edge on the game have losing sessions, and the majority of sessions are losers for video poker pros who can gain small edges in the long run. Enjoy the wins when they come, but be prepared for the losses. With preparation and a little discipline, you can do more than survive in the casino. You can have a whole lot of fun.

John is the author of six books on casino games, including
"The Slot Machine Answer Book."
You can find his weekly column at


A Casino Player’s Survival Kit2008-12-14T07:32:34+00:00

Using Common Sense in a Casino

By Jean Scott   Playing smarter in a casino does not necessarily require a lot of math knowledge and special [...]

Using Common Sense in a Casino2008-09-18T06:24:37+00:00

Casino Q & A with John Grochowski


QUESTION: I was playing a slot machine, and I had to go to the bathroom. Usually, I put a coin cup on the machine, and people leave it alone. This time I couldn’t find any coin cups around, so I just left my players card in the machine and hoped that would signal people I was still playing. I couldn’t have been gone five minutes, and when I came back, someone else was playing the machine. Not only that, my player card was gone. The other player had put it on top of the machine, and a slot attendant had taken it away. I had to go to the players club booth to get a new card.


Do you think that was all kind of rude? Shouldn’t the other player have left my machine alone? I complained to a casino manager, but she didn’t seem to think it was any big deal.


ANSWER: If I were a slot machine designer, I’d program a “machine in use” feature that would light up and lock the machine when a player wanted to take a bathroom break or get a drink. Perhaps unlocking it would be keyed to re-entry of your players club card. It would all be on a timer, of course --- holding a machine for 10 minutes to go to the bathroom is reasonable; holding it for an hour while you go to lunch isn’t.


Some international slots have such a feature, but U.S. casinos prefer to deactivate it. So we need to devise signals that we’ve just stepped away for a minute. Leaving a player rating card in a machine is not a strong enough signal. People forget to take their cards when they leave machines all the time. It’s no breach of etiquette for another player to assume some other forgetful soul has left without his or her card.


It’s more effective to lean a chair forward against the machine, and to ask other players to watch it for you while you make a quick trip. Do not leave anything of value behind. I see eyeglasses and cigarettes and lighters left to save machines all the time, but the worst I ever saw was a wallet, obviously loaded with cash. I was just passing when I saw it, but alerted a slot attendant to keep an eye out until the owner returned.


With TITO taking over slot floors --- before long, coins and tokens will disappear from the slot universe altogether --- there are fewer and fewer coin cups to act as place holders. Even they weren’t perfect, of course. I once saw a man turn a coin upside down on a the screen of a nickel game where he had more than 2,000 credits. A short time after he walked a way, a woman a few seats away cashed out and looked for a coin cup, and the only one nearby was the one on the man’s screen. She took it.


Now THAT was a breach of etiquette. Playing a machine where someone else has left a players card is just business as usual.


QUESTION: How is it that a casino can afford to pay you 800 coins for four Aces on some games, 2,000 on some others, but only 125 on Jacks or Better? On the games that pay more, are they programmed so the Aces come up less often?


ANSWER: On the contrary. We hit four Aces more often, not less, on games such as Double Bonus Poker (800 coins for a five-coin bet), Double Double Bonus Poker (800 coins most of the time, but 2,000 if the four Aces are accompanied by a 2, 3 or 4) or Super Aces (2,000 coins) than we do on Jacks or Better (125 coins). That’s because we adjust our playing strategy to account for the bigger payoffs on those Aces. The prime example is a full house that includes three Aces. On Jacks or Better, we just take the full house payoff. On the other games mentioned, we hold the three Aces and discard the other pair, hoping for the fourth Ace.


So how can games such as Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus and Super Aces pay us so much more than Jacks or Better does on Ace quads? Because what they give you on four of a kind, they take away elsewhere on the pay table. One thing all those big Ace games have in common is that they pay only 1-for-1 on two pair, instead of the 2-for-1 you get on Jacks or Better. The drop in the two-pair payoff costs us about 12 percent of our return in the long run, giving game designers plenty of leeway to give us bigger bonuses elsewhere on the pay table.


QUESTION: Whenever I've won a hand-paid jackpot (no matter how large or how small), the attendant paying the jackpot has asked me to "spin-off" the winning combination.  It seems that the "request" to spin-off a winning combination is tantamount to "requiring" me to make a bet that I otherwise might not make.  I don't mind doing it, but what if a player refused to make that one, last, final bet to "spin-off" a winning combination?  Does the player still get paid?  Does the casino employee do it?  What happens?


ANSWER: The casino still has to pay you if you refuse to spin off the winner. Usually, a slot attendant, in the presence of a security guard, will take a coin out of the machine hopper and spin off the winner. It has to be reported, and it’s a bit of a hassle for them, so I spin off the winner --- with one exception. On multiline video machines, a hand-pay may be triggered just because you’ve accumulated a large number of credits on the machine. I’ve hit the cashout button with a losing combination on the screen, and have been asked, “I don’t suppose you’ll spin that off?” In that situation, my answer is, “No, sorry.”


John is the author of six books on casino games, including "The Slot Machine Answer Book." You can find his weekly column at

Casino Q & A with John Grochowski2008-07-14T08:49:23+00:00