Casino gambling can be a fun and exciting hobby, or can be fraught with financial peril and disappointment.
Those in the greatest amount of danger are players who sit down at a table or machine with no semblance of a plan. On the other hand, players with an overall gambling strategy are in a much better position, as they’re doing everything possible to reduce the casino’s already sizable advantage.
This post details 10 of my favorite strategies for gamblers, and I think you’ll be amazed at how easy some of them are to use. Others take a fair amount of practice and repetition to employ, but anyone who’s serious about beating the casinos should be willing to put in the work.
Keep in mind, however, that even the best strategies and tactics are subject to the house edge, which means the casino still has the advantage in spite of your efforts. When you also factor blind luck into the equation, even the most prepared player can still suffer through losing streaks that would break a lesser individual.
The Definition of a Gambling Strategy
Since this post is about “gambling strategies,” I want to make sure from the beginning that my readers understand what I’m talking about. In this section, we’ll look at the rather large differences between a gambling strategy, gambling tactics, and even gambling systems. Here’s a brief definition of each:
- Gambling Strategy – This can be defined as a specific approach to any gambling activity, especially one that’s determined prior to your session. For example, deciding to learn how to count cards would be a strategy, and the same goes for making a conscious decision to play a certain denomination of game. A strategy can be good or bad, but it at least demonstrates that the player is putting some amount of thought into the process.
- Gambling Tactics – A strategy applies to the overall approach to an activity, while a tactic centers on an individual situation or decision. If, for example, you decide to split your cards during a hand of blackjack, then you are making a tactical move. The ability to employ different tactics varies with each game at the casino, and some offer little opportunity to do so.
- Gambling Systems – This isn’t a strategy or tactic, but rather an attempt to boost the player’s chances by varying the size of the wager for each hand or spin. Gambling systems don’t work, and they’re frequently sold online by unethical individuals looking to prey on the desperation of others. A prime example is the Martingale System, in which the player doubles their wager after each loss, with the idea being that they’ll recoup previous losses when they finally win. Avoid these systems like the plague.
The success or failure of a gambling strategy also has a lot to do with your expectations as a player. If you’re looking to make a profit, then certain strategies won’t be useful to you. If, however, you’re looking for a way to pass the time and adhere to a budget, then some of the more simplistic options should work just fine.
10 Winning Strategies for Casino Gamblers
While the casino almost always has an advantage over the player, that doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. Instead of just forking over money to the house with a look of resignation on your face, you can fight back by employing the following 10 strategies. They may not result in a win every time, but they’ll definitely give you an edge over the poor suckers who just cross their fingers and hope for the best.
- Choose Video Poker over Slots – The outcome of a slot machine is entirely random, while video poker machines allow players to utilize tactics after the cards are dealt. Under the right circumstances, you may even be able to turn the house edge against the casino, something which is never possible on a slot machine. While VP games may not have the glitz of their electronic cousins, they’re a much better bet for the serious gambler.
- Use Basic Strategy in Blackjack – By learning basic strategy, you’ll know what play to make no matter what cards are in your hand and on the table. Performing these moves gives you the best chance of winning a hand, and this makes a major difference over the course of hundreds or thousands of hands. When employing basic strategy, the house edge is usually lowered to the 0.5 to 1% range.
- Learn to Count Cards in Blackjack – While this strategy is useless online, it can have a significant effect at land-based casinos. The player keeps careful track of all cards that have been dealt from a shoe, assigning a numerical count to each as they become visible. When the count is in favor of the player, then the betting is increased. This practice can actually give players up to a 2% advantage over the house, and it’s been effective enough that some of the world’s best card counters have been barred from casinos around the globe.
- Play Slots with an Advertised High Payback Percentage – On occasion, you may find a casino that’s advertising a bank of slots with a high payout percentage. If they guarantee a specific percentage, then you’d be foolish to pass up the opportunity. Just make sure that the wording is definite, as selling points such as “loosest slots” and “up to 98%” are vague and often misleading. Of course, you’re not guaranteed to win even if you find slots with a 98% return, but it will enhance your overall chances.
- Stick with Table Games instead of Machines – While slot machines are a great amount of fun, they also drain your money quicker than other casino options. If you want to employ a shrewd strategy for your next gaming session, I suggest sticking with table games and staying away from slots entirely.
In order to prove my argument, let’s look at the losses that can be expected from a 10-hour session with a variety of games. While these are just estimates, they should get my point across.
- $1 Slots (2 coins) – The expected loss after 10 hours is $800.
- $0.25 Slots (3 coins) – The expected loss after 10 hours is $360.
- $0.25 Video Poker (5 coins) – The expected loss after 10 hours is $125.
- $5 per hand Mini Baccarat – The expected loss after 10 hours is $80.
- $5 per spin Roulette –The expected loss after 10 hours is $79.
- $5 per hand Blackjack – The expected loss after 10 hours is $25.
- $10 per round Craps – The expected loss after 10 hours is $25.
Would you rather play for 10 hours and lose $800, or would you rather hand over $25 to the casino during the same period of time? Granted, the allure of the progressive jackpots is enough to keep people planted in front of the slots, but the lower expense should also be factored into the equation.
- Join the Slots Club – Known as a slots or players card, these freebies are handed out by casinos just for signing up and giving them your email and home address. The cards are then stuck into the machines each time you play, allowing the casino to monitor how much money you spend. Some of your losses may be refunded in the form of free meals and hotels, and grabbing as many comps as possible can turn an otherwise losing trip into a winner. Just remember to always insert your card when you play, otherwise the casino won’t be able to keep track of your playing habits.
- Search for the Best Places to Play – Whether you’re playing at a virtual casino or brick-and-mortar establishment, it pays to perform a methodical search to find the best odds and bonus amounts. This can be more difficult online, as a lot of the top sites use the same software and often feature the same payouts and bonuses. The playthrough requirements for bonus money can sometimes vary, however, and this is a good way to make up the difference.
Land-based casinos are a different matter, however, especially when you consider that games of chance are available all over the city of Las Vegas. For example, a 2014 USA Today article cited The Alamo as the best place in the city to play blackjack. Never heard of it? That’s because it’s located in a truck stop. While that might sound like a lot of trouble to go to, The Alamo’s 0.14% house edge on blackjack (when using basic strategy) makes it worth the effort for a lot of players.
- Play Lower Denomination Machines – If your goal is to play slots for as long as possible and stay within a certain budget, a sure-fire strategy is to play on the lowest denomination machines that you feel comfortable with. While these games tend of have lower payout percentages, you’ll also lose less money per hour due to the less demanding cost per spin. While $10 per hour might not sound like a big difference, that adds up to $100 during a 10-hour session.
- Don’t be Superstitious – Whether you’re playing slots, roulette, or craps, there are a number of superstitions that have sprung up over the centuries regarding various games. If you want to give yourself the best chance of winning, I suggest disregarding all of these. After all, the random number generator doesn’t care whether or not you’re wearing your lucky shirt, and it’s equally apathetic about coin temperature and other factors.
You’ll pick up a number of these superstitions by just hanging around the casino, but here are some of the more popular ones associated with slots. Once again for clarity: these are all utter nonsense.
- Hot coins give you a better chance of winning.
- Inserting a slot card increases your odds of winning, as the casino favors these players.
- When a machine hasn’t paid a jackpot in a while, it’s due to hit in the immediate future.
- Casinos change the return percentage depending on the day of the week.
- If the slot also has a lever on the side, pulling it gives you an advantage over those who just press the spin button.
- Set Aside Money for Slots – Each week, take $50 out of your earnings and set it aside for slots. At the end of the month, you’ll have a $200 bankroll to play with. If you lose that amount during your next casino trip, then you’ll need to wait until the end of the following month to try again. If you wind up with a surplus, you can spend the extra cash and then reload again in 30 days.
While it’s simple to execute, this is known as a negative expectation strategy. That’s because it cannot overcome the built-in house edge, although that’s not always what the player was looking to do in the first place.
A Final Thought about Beating the Casino
If you’re setting out to beat the casino on a consistent basis, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Between the house edge and the general luck factor, even the most serious player can have a difficult time breaking even over the long haul. After all, that’s why the selections on the casino floor are referred to as “games of chance.”
Despite this fact, a gambler can still arm themselves with various tricks and techniques, forcing the casino to fight tooth and nail for every dollar they take away. And thanks to progressive jackpots and hot streaks, the possibility for a life-changing amount of money is always just around the corner.
I’m not trying to sound like a broken record by talking about the house advantage, but I do want to hammer it into your head so you don’t enter the gaming establishment with unrealistic expectations. As long as you approach gambling with the proper attitude and preparation, you should come away just fine regardless of the outcome.