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There have been a fair few gambling songs down the years, Sinatras' "Luck be a Lady", Kenny Rogers "The Gambler" and if you sang yourself through the top ten, you'd probably feel like shooting yourself, as did the guy in the Allman Brothers song - "Gamblers Roll". But it's really not all doom and gloom down at the casino. You really can enjoy yourself if you just take a little care with how you go about playing the many different games on offer.

We get a lot of questions about various aspects of casino gambling, and here we try to address the most common ones, and some of the awkward ones too. It's by no means a difinitive list, but it should help you in some ways to be a sensible gambler. Maybe it could even help you towards winning ways. Roll on.

Beating the Casino - Truth or Myth?

True for the few who know the right game to play and can play it the right way. Myth for the rest of us who are prone to playing games that give the casino the edge. The reality is that it's the maths of the game that gets beat, and so in turn does the casino. But if you can play like an expert, it's good to know that you really can get the edge on games of blackjack, video, and regular poker.

What About the Maths?

With blackjack, assuming you're playing a game with good penetration and good rules and you have a talent for card-counting, you can get an edge of between 0.50 and 1.50%. Good shoe players are likely to be nearer to the 0.50% mark, whilst those who specialise in single-deck games will probably be closer to 1.50%. For a card counter to have the best advantage depends very much upon the amount of money they have on the table at the time when the game is going their way. It's a case of the more the merrier, so to speak. With regard to video poker machines, on select full-pay or more-than-full pay it's possible to break even. The best you're likely to achieve is an edge of around 2.00%.

On the other hand, to calculate an advantage on regular poker requires skill, and is much more difficult. Nevertheless, some people can do it. They even make a living out of it.

What Makes a Winner at Poker?

With poker, it's important to remember that you are not only competing against other players, but also against the house take on the pots. That said, to win at poker requires more than just seeing down the opposition. Whether intuitively or through study and practice, you need to know the probabilities inherent in the hand you're playing with.

Even then, an in-depth knowledge of technicalities is simply not enough. You have to know when to act. A winner must have the killer instinct. Without it you simply won't succeed. It's a rare individual who possesses the array of talents necessary to become a professional poker player or even a regular winner.

Can You Become a Blackjack Card Counter?

In a word, yes. Believe it or not, you don't need a massive IQ, although a modicum of intelligence is desirable. It might sound hard, but you'll be surprised how easy it is once you've mastered it. It's like learning to drive. Initially is seems daunting, and then you wonder what all the worry was about. Of course, you must put in the time and effort to learn, otherwise it simply won't happen. And although it's probably not as easy as your ABC, it's definitely not as difficult as those high school exams.

Can You Learn to Count Cards at Blackjack Overnight?

Highly unlikely unless you're Memory Man. Although the basics of counting should take little time at all, it will be several weeks before you are proficient enough to use the technique in a casino. However, before you even think about counting, you'll need to start studying. Get a good book on blackjack strategy and memorise it right down to the full stops. It's a challenge, but it's essential, and will probably take you a couple of weeks.

Next, memorise what to do with every hand you get against every dealer upcard. Don't attempt this in one sitting. Spread it over a few weeks. Once you've mastered it, go to a casino to practice. Don't go mad on your first outing - restrict yourself to small stakes. Once your decision making is perfect, you can then learn a count system. As I said. It will take time, so expect a couple of months in total, give or take.

Blackjack - One Strategy or More?

More. Different games have different basic strategies. For example, multiple-deck and single-deck games use slightly different strategies, and so the same applies across the board. I know what you're thinking. You've just perfected your card counting technique and now you've got to start memorising all over again. Fear not. The differences in strategy between each game are not great, and once you've become proficient in one, you can begin to incorporate those strategic differences necessary for each type of game. Expect to learn around 16 basic strategies based on the count, and invest in a good blackjack book or two. That way you will have all you need to be a successful player.

What's a Good Book for a Blackjack Beginner?

For beginners, try Henry Tambunn's Blackjack: Take the Money and Run, or Frank Scoblete's Best Blackjack. For those who have mastered counting, try Stanford Wong, Ken Uston, and Arnold Snyder. There is a wealth of literature out there, most of it good, although, as with all things, expect to find a few unworthy contenders. Other good writers include Fren Renzey, Bryce Carlson, Walter Thomason, and Lance Humble.

Stick with any of these authors and you won't go wrong.

Can You Beat Roulette?

Are you psychic? How are your telepathic powers? Can you move objects by sheer force of will? Could you stop the wheel? Or how fast can you roll your eyes? Fast enough to keep pace with the ball? Get the picture? So bet the least amount that will still make your heart race with excitement, but won't leave you gasping for breath.

Can You Beat Craps?

In a word, no. Even for you budding Einsteins out there, the maths is pretty much impenetrable.

It's all in the shooters roll. Some believe that the shooter can control the way the dice come out of the hand. So there's absolutely no way to "predict" the way they finally show on the table. So there you have it. Craps cannot be beaten. Not even in the long run.

Some Believe its Possible to Physicall Alter the Game of Craps. True?

Well, for some time now the 5 count system has made sense to many players. But most pros know that if you bet on every roll you will almost certainly lose out in the end. As long term players will know, crap shooters seven-out quicker than most. So which shooters should you bet on? The 5-count is the way.

Some shooters are called "rythmic rollers", because to some extent they can control the throw of the dice. The five count system eliminates the bad shooters, the ones you will lose money on. It will also put you in a position to play the rythmic rollers, thus giving you a better chance of getting a return on your bet.

So 5 Count Guarantees a Win?

Sorry no. As we said before, nothing can guarantee a win at Craps. But 5 count will help decrease your exposure and losses to the house edge. Use the 5-count and play the smallest house-edge bets. Then you might just go home with some money still in your pocket.

Can You Have a Mathematical Edge and Still Lose?

Try this. Flip a coin. You have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, right?

Similar to what blackjack card counters might have. So, every time you win the call, the 'casino' gives you a dollar and 2 cents. When you lose, you pay just one dollar. So after 200 flips you theoretically win 100 dollars and lose 100, yet still come out 200 cents the better.

Theoretically. Try flipping a coin for real, 200 times. Note down your wins and losses. 50/50 is actually a nonsense. You might get a winning streak or conversely a losing one.

There's no magic formula to all this. It's simply called luck.

If I Played Long Enough Would My Odds Increase?

Maybe. That is if you don't go bust in the process. Try the above scenario again, only this time imagine you have 4 dollars in your kitty and your opponent 4,000.

No sense getting out your calculator, now is there? Even with your 2 cent edge you're going to get wiped out first. That's because of the fluctuations of probability inherent in gambling. You may have a numerical advantage in the win versus loss ratio, but as we've said before, it's just luck. And the guy with the biggest pot will beat you any day.

Can You Beat the Slots?

Only with a blunt object.

Is Choice of Slot Machine Important?

Only in that some machines are better than others. And should you choose to play machines offering Megabucks be warned, the odds are probably 50 million to one. In addition, these progressive machines keep between 10 to 15% of the money put in them, so you're likely to lose almost every time you play.

How Regularly Do Progressives Pay Out?

How often do you see a dinosaur walking down the street? No, seriously, the closest answer to the question is once in a while.

Sometimes the jackpot can build for over a year. Sometimes nearer two. Can you wait that long or would you rather take some cash home now? If you would, then play the 'equal distribution' or 'straight multiplier' machines like Double Diamond. And play only one coin. There's no advantage in playing two. Who knows, on a given night there's a good possibility you might win something. And if you don't, at least you can go home without having lost too much.

Do Casinos Really Have Losse and Tight Machines?

Yes, as they do people.

Where Can I Find Them?

One place where they're not is near the tables. No self-respecting table-game player wants their concentration shot to pieces by punters feeding in coins, machines rattling them out, and the shrieks and screams of winners. So that begs the question where are they? Well, that very much depends on where the casino wants to put them. But as a general rule expect the loose machines in areas where the casino wants to encourage players to play, and tight ones in a place solitary punters are likely to frequent. You know, the sort of person who puts in a few coins then moves on.

Which Games Do Casinos Make the Most On?

Easily the slots. There are thousands of slots compared to craps or blackjack tables, the majority of which are played by tourists or visitors just for the fun of it, so they're happy to win a few bucks now and then.

Next up is the more serious blackjack, followed by craps and roulette. You can find out how much casinos make per game by their game per 100 dollar bet ratio - otherwise known as the win rate. And you can check the casino player slot charts for the returns on the machines.

No matter where or what you play, whether it be craps or slots or whatever, the percentage will vary from casino to casino. It can be as low as 12% at one place and as high as 45% somewhere else. What the percentages are really telling you is the player loss rate. The numbers can be scary!

It's Been Told That Vegas Has the Best Games & the Biggest Losers?

True. Take blackjack for example. The Vegas versus Atlantic City casino win rate is 14.2% and 12% respectively, so play Atlantic if you can. On the other hand, in Vegas you'll find single and double deck blackjack, 100X odds at craps and the best variety of video poker machines on earth. It's paradise for the gambler.

And as the figures don't relate to the amount of visitors to the relative casinos, it might just be that at any one time, gamblers in Vegas are just less skilled. Whatever, you win some, you lose some.

What About Win Percentages? Which Games Give Players the Highest Ratio?

Let's start at the bottom and work our way up. Even money bets at roulette - for example red/black, odd/even, high/low - give a 47.4% player win ratio. Next up is blackjack. Excluding ties, expect around a 48% win rate. With baccarat, again, excluding ties, most of the time the bank will win about 50.5%. Craps is the game that gives players the highest win percentage. For instance, laying against the 4 or 10 can give around a 66% win ratio, whilst laying against the 5 or 9 it's nearer 60%.

But remember. As you put up more money than the bet is worth, you'll still lose regardless of the win rate.

How Much Money Should I Take to the Casino?

Well, unless you're planning to emulate 'The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo', don't take any more than you can afford to lose. Plan the time you are going play, and break it into sessions. To play blackjack, it's normal to have at least 40 times your bet. So if you're a 5 dollar better, you'll need 200 dollars.

Craps? You'll need 10 times your bet. For roulette follow the blackjack rule.

Never, ever use a win or left over cash from one session to top up the next. It's a win. Keep it. That way you'll go home without a hole in your pocket. There really is no such thing as a beautiful loser.

Should I Hedge My Bets at Craps?

Definitely not. You will most certainly lose more money by, say, betting Any Seven on every come-out roll than you'll save attempting to protect your pass line on the come-out. Every bet you make can and must be calculated independently.

Are 'Comps' Important?

That's entirely up to personal choice. Complimentary drinks, rooms, meals or 'comps' as they're called, are handed out to virtually every gambler. So when you're offered them, you might as well take them. The more you play, the more they'll pay.

Some people equate getting 'comps' with their self-worth and you don't have to start playing high stakes to get them. But don't get taken in by the casino personnel calling you Sir. They're simply trying to make you feel good about losing your money.

Who's the Worlds Biggest Gambler?

That title used to belong to the late Australian media mogul and billionaire, Kerry Packer. Known as a 'whale', (casinospeak for the highest rollers) Packer was known to table 250,000 dollars on a round of blackjack, and to have lost upwards of 40 million dollars in a single casino stay.

He was also a very generous tipper. Rumours have it that he tipped one dealer a house! And you can bet he got very generous 'comps' in return too.

What's the Longest Dice Roll in History?

About fifteen inches. Seriously though, we're talking time here. And although there are no official records, it is widely believed that a certain Hawaiian guy had a three and a half hour roll at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

Is There Such a Thing as Luck?

Yes. Put simply, there is good luck and there is bad luck. There's nothing in between. You either win or you don't. End of story. Most mathematicians don't figure luck as part of a win/lose equation. To them it's all down to 'fluctuations in probability'. So that's cleared that up then.

What About the Most Important Books Written About Casino Gambling?

Probably the most important books were Beat the Dealer by Edward O. Thorp, Ken Uston's The Big Player, and The Casino Gambler's Guide by Allan N. Wilson.

Thorp's book was the first to be written about card counting. Although now a little out of date, at its time it was extremely influential and posed a real challenge to the hitherto seemingly impregnable sanctity of the casinos coffers. Uston's book on the other hand made the game of blackjack sound better than it really is. What the film The Colour of Money did for the pool hall hustler, Uston's book did for the blackjack player. He romanticised them and the game they played. In contrast, Wilson's book provided a mathematical analysis of modern casino games that the man in the street could understand. It might sound exceedingly dull, but it was not only extremely informative, it was a surprisingly fun book to read too.

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