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Five Easy Pieces

A newbie’s guide to table games

By Frank Scoblete


Many new casino players approach the casino experience with a dash, dab or cartload of anxiety while brand new players can be frozen with terror.

Newbies have fears: How are these games played? How do I get chips? How do I bet? Will other players yell at me for being unaware of how things go? What to do? What to do? The heck with it, I’ll head over to the slots. No one will see me play and I can relax.

This is true; slot machines do not scold you, smirk at you, nod deprecatingly at you or snicker. If slots appeal to the newbie then fine but for many new players, the tables hold an allure that they just don’t find with the machines.

So let me help you newbies understand the five table games that I would recommend you taste-test: blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and pai gow poker (this last being the dark horse of casino games). I will not go into depth on these games (heck I’ve written books about them) but I will give you an overview of how the games are played and what strategy that you, as a brand new player, can utilize without being cowed.

For all games, you put your money on the layout. The dealer will count your money and then give you that amount in chips. The dealers usually have a set way of giving chips.


Of all the games, this will be the toughest because you have to make decisions on how to play your hand. The object is to beat the dealer without going over 21 points. The ace is worth 1 or 11; the picture cards are worth 10 and all the other cards are worth their face value. You add the cards together to figure out what your hand is worth.

The dealer gets two cards and the player gets two cards. One of the dealer’s cards is face up and you make your decision on how to play your hand based on that card.

Now you have certain choices you can make on your hand. You can take an extra card (or a few without going over 21); you can split a pair of cards such as 2:2 by putting up an extra bet; you can double the amount of your bet and take just one card. Intimidating?

You are in luck. Almost all casino stationary or sundry shops sell “basic strategy charts” which tell you exactly how to play your hand versus every dealer up card. And here is some more good news; you can ask the dealer what you should do with your hand. Most dealers have a good grasp of “basic strategy” so if the strategy card is confusing you; just tell the dealer you need some help.


The most exciting game in the casino, craps has a multitude of bets—most of them bad. The shooter gets the dice. He has a bet on the Pass Line, which is the line that goes all around the table. He wants to roll a 7 or 11 then he wins; if he rolls a 2, 3 or 12, he loses. If he rolls a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 that becomes his Point. He now must make this number again before a 7 is rolled in order to win. If a 7 is rolled he loses his Pass Line bet and everyone who bet with him also lose their Pass Line bets.

You can simply put a bet down on the Pass Line when the shooter first gets the dice. If that makes you nervous just put $6 or $12 on the layout and say “Place the six.” Now you are rooting for the 6 to appear before the 7. If you win on the 6 you will receive a $7 payment for your $6 bet; $14 for your $12 bet.


This game needs little explaining. Just choose a number or proposition (such as red or black; odd or even) on which to wager. The dealer will give you time to do this and then she will call “no more bets” and spin the wheel. If the number or proposition hits, you will win. If you bet straight up on a number you will be paid $35 for every $1 you wagered. If you put a bet on the red or black; odd or even; high or low you will win even money. You bet $5, you win $5.


You bet on either “player” or “banker.” Do not bet tie. If the “player” bet wins; you get even money ($1 for $1); if the “bank” wins you get 95 cents for $1. You have no decisions to make except what to bet on.


You get seven cards. You must make a five card hand which is higher than a two card hand that you make. To win, both your five-card hand and your two-card hand must beat the dealer’s five- and two-card hands. You simply ask the dealer how to make the hands and he will show you the “house way.”

There you have it, a short explanation of five games and what to do at them. Now get in there and give ‘em hell!

Frank Scoblete’s latest books are I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. Both available from, Barnes and Noble, Kindle and at your local bookstore. To celebrate his quarter century of casino playing Frank will send you a free copy of his book The Virgin Kiss. Just email him at with your address.

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