UNVEILING THE CASINO ROUTINE
How experienced players navigate games, strategies and house edge
By Frank Scoblete
People who rarely go to casinos probably do not get themselves into a true routine. They go into the casinos, head for the slot machines or stand near a table game to see what’s going on. They could play a slot here, a video poker game there or hit a blackjack or craps game or any one of the numerous machine games that now proliferate in the casinos.
The casino is just a hazy visit for them, a by-the-tail adventure, not ﬁnanced by very much money, a quirk in an otherwise sedate life. Yes, some players might go a little crazy and play recklessly, but since they probably don’t know much about the games or how to play them or money-manage them, they just don’t have a grasp of what they are doing right or wrong.
But such an attitude is not to be found in most experienced casino players. Although some might indeed play foolishly, using poor strategy at blackjack or craps or roulette or a host of games where a player’s decisions actually have a positive or negative eﬀect on the outcome, the majority of players have created a routine of play—mostly to save them the horror of being hammered unmercifully by the house edge.
There are three main ingredients in creating a satisfying routine for casino play:
- What games you enjoy playing
- What strategies you use to play them
- How much money you set aside for casino play
No experienced casino player is under any illusions about the games; they are structured to give the casino the edge either because the casino wins more decisions at the game or takes a slice of a winning bet. For example, a great bet at craps, the Pass Line, wins 251 decisions for the casino but only wins 244 decisions for the players. That gives the casino a 1.41 percentage edge. On another bet, the casino takes a “tax” out of the win. If you Place bet the 5 (or 9) the casino pays you $14 for a $5 bet. The true payment should be $15— the casino keeps a dollar for itself. This translates into a four percent edge for the house.
Those two methods of structuring the edge can be found at all casino games. Slot machines operate the same way. They return less money than the amount of money players put into the machines. Of course, few players notice how the casino edge works as they play since the statistics are long range. In short play, you win some, you lose some, but over time, you lose more or do not get paid the true amount for a winning bet.
What Games You Enjoy Playing
Most regular casino players have one or two games they enjoy playing. Yes, there are some players who like to play multiple games and that’s ﬁne. Never play a game or be forced to play a game you really don’t like. “Hey, James, come on, play some blackjack with me.” If you don’t like blackjack, just say “no.” Your money is too precious to be wasted on a game that is not enjoyable to play.
What Strategies to Use at the Games
There are plenty of games where the decisions that the player makes determines the outcome. In blackjack all players should use “basic strategy,” which is the computer-derived play for every player hand against every dealer up-card. That can keep the casino edge around one-half percent. Playing a diﬀerent way, say, using your intuition, is a recipe for disaster. The casino can get an edge of around two percent in such cases.
Only make the very best bets at games that oﬀer you multiple bets. Generally a good rule of thumb to follow is this: If a game oﬀers a large payout for a rather small bet then that game’s bet is probably a bad one. The more the return, the higher the house edge—let that be your motto.
When playing slot machines, give yourself a set amount of time to play and stop playing at the end of that time. This is called a session. Always have enough money to play for that amount of time.
How Much Money You Set Aside for Casino Play
Money is real. There is no such thing as fake money when playing casino games. The money you put down on a bet is the same money you use in your non-casino life. You do not want to play with scared money; for example, money reserved for your heart surgery.
Money management is an important element in controlling losses. You can’t beat games with money management but you can keep your losses contained by handling your money thoughtfully. If you gave yourself $100 to play and you lose it, then your play is over for that session. Stick to that and you will rarely go so deeply into the tank that you say the next morning, “What the heck did I do last night?”
For experienced casino gamblers a regular routine is probably the best thing. Most of our days are ﬁlled with routines; we get up at the same time, brush our teeth at the same time, eat at the same times and go to sleep at the same time. That makes life less strenuous because at least we don’t have to constantly ask ourselves, “What should I do now?”
So my last word is simple: Enjoy the casino experience by making what you do routine.