Beat The Casino Every Time

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You can always walk away a winner after a trip to the casino if you keep your wits about you and think of your excursion as low-cost, quality entertainment rather than a moneymaking opportunity.

The gaming industry has provided long term growth for shareholders, employment for hundreds of thousands, a solid source of tax revenues few complain about paying and some degree of reparations for Native Americas. Though a small percentage of gamblers abandon reason and turn their play into a personal financial problem, no other form of entertainment contributes as many domestic social benefits.

The built-in house edge makes it less likely you will leave with more money than you had when you arrived but what other form of entertainment or vacation even offers that potential?

So, the odds are always stacked against you in the casino, especially if you are too lazy to memorize probability tables. Does that mean you should get too drunk to put up a decent fight? No, the struggle is part of the fun. Though you’ll probably lose at the tables, the way to always win in Vegas is to take advantage of every single thing the casinos offer for free.

I’m no high-roller but I never pay for my room in Vegas. I also get free meals and drinks, free admission to clubs, free slot play and sometimes even a free pool cabana and spa treatments. Do I know someone who knows someone? Yes I do, but that’s not it. The best deal in the casino can be found at the player’s club window. Every casino has one.

I use the Harrah’s Player’s Card because they have so many places I like to stay including Harrah’s Lake Tahoe as well as multiple hotels in Las Vegas. They also have many casinos within driving distance of where you live but comps are less useful there. Besides, it’s not really a vacation to go to the local casino. It’s an AARP day trip.

Here’s the deal. You don’t even need to be a guest of the hotel. Next time you are in Vegas, sign up for the player’s club card at any of the Harrah’s hotels, The Palms, Hard Rock, MGM, wherever and they will find you. All you need to do is spend some time playing the slot machines. You don’t have to play big money. Pick out your favorite penny machine, play forty lines for a couple hours and a few weeks after you return home, you’ll receive an invitation to come back to the hotel (or the whole portfolio of hotels for Harrah’s) for free or for next to free. I usually stay three nights at the Rio or Planet Hollywood (I just like the food, the comfortable casinos, the entertainment and the informality). Since I pay nothing for the room, that’s like being $300 ahead before I make my first bet.

Now, how to make the most of your gaming opportunities. The slots are not the sucker bet most people assume they are. Video poker is almost an even-odds bet if you stay sober and make the right moves. You can play for hours on fifty bucks, build up player points that can be used to buy a meal at a fine restaurant and you may even hit a big hand. Movie theaters won’t even give you free popcorn.

The best table games, blackjack and baccarat, offer the player nearly even odds. Blackjack is almost automatic if you follow the probabilities and baccarat is totally automatic. It was invented to be comprehensible to the dumbest king to ever sit on the throne of France.

Craps is also a game that plays pretty even with the casino but you need to be ready to put more money at risk. Craps table minimums tend to be higher and when you lose a hand of blackjack, you lose one bet but when you seven out at craps you could be losing lots of bets. Also, craps can have you making some strange moves. Do you hedge a pass line bet by betting the come? How many times? Should I place bet the numbers? Are all the proposition bets for idiots? (yes). One strategy is to make bets all over the table and hope a shooter has a long roll. When you’ve covered the numbers, you can win on nearly every throw of the dice, but when you seven out, you lose all your bets. When I play craps, I keep it simple. I bet the pass line and back the point up with the best bet on the table, the odds bet. Let the other guy bet big money with reckless abandon and provide the show. He’s the guy who’s paying for your free room at an opulent resort. Still, best not to thank him when he sevens out.

So what is the dumbest table bet? That would be roulette. The European roulette wheel has only a single “O” to give the house it’s 1/36th edge. The Vegas casinos have an “0” and a “00”, doubling the house advantage. Do the math and don’t play roulette.

You’re up the cost of the room. You’ve gotten free slot play. You’ve enjoyed free food, drinks and entertainment. You’ve hung out at the pool, spa or dance club for free. If you play smart and stay within your gaming budget, you can’t lose.