The 4 Levels of Casino Gambling


Enough people are critical of casino gambling that I don’t feel I need to discourage you from playing blackjack, craps, or slot machines.

If you enjoy casino games, you should play them. The trick is to become a better casino gambler over time.

I’ve read dozens (if not hundreds) of books about casino games and gambling. And the best thing you can do with any endeavor is become an expert at it as soon as possible.

Why? You enjoy what you’re good at, and you’re good at what you enjoy.

With casino gambling, it’s easier to become educated about how the games work by not putting any money into action. For most people, this means reading about the games or playing the free versions of the games.

That’s the starting point. In this post, I list the four stages of being a casino gambler along with advice about how to progress to a higher level.

1 – The Complete Newbie to Gambling

First of all, don’t make the mistake of thinking that by labeling casino gamblers I’m somehow judging the content of their character. What makes someone a complete newbie to gambling is simply inexperience.

In fact, everyone starts as a complete newbie to casino gambling. To progress beyond that, you should start by reading a couple of books about casino games and gambling. I can recommend any of the following books on the subject:

  1. Casino Gambling for Dummies by Kevin Blackwood
  2. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gambling Like a Pro by Stanford Wong
  3. Winning Ways: The American Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling by Andrew Brisman

Any of these are good enough to get you started. My suggestion is to pick one game that sounds fun, read the chapter on that game, then try it in its free version at an online casino.

Once you’re comfortable with the gameplay, try the real money version at a live casino or on your computer. Branch out into other games one at a time until you’ve decided which casino games you like and which ones you don’t.

If you’re like me, you’ll lean toward the games with the lowest house edge. I play a lot of blackjack and video poker, and I avoid games with a high house edge. You’ll rarely see me playing keno or sic bo, for example.

Once you’ve decided which games you enjoy, it’s time to move on to the next level.

2 – The Well-Informed Casino Gambler

A well-informed casino gambler has read a book or two about casino gambling in general and knows which games she likes to play. She also has a ballpark understanding of which games offer better odds than others.

A well-informed casino gambler can sit down at most casino games and play without having to ask a lot of questions. They might not make the correct strategy decisions all the time, but they don’t have to ask what insurance is in blackjack either.

A well-informed gambler also has a separate bankroll set aside for gambling, and that consists only of money she can afford to lose. She doesn’t have to worry about losing the rent money playing craps, for example.

Most well-informed gamblers are members of the players club at the casino, but they don’t pay too much attention to the details of the players club. They just enjoy the perks when they happen.

A casino gambler at this level is also smart enough to know that the house has an edge at all these games, and the probability of beating that edge is small. They also know that beating the house edge is mostly a matter of luck.

But with skill, some games can be beaten. The next level of gambler, the intermediate, is one who starts to get the hang of beating the casinos.

3 – The Intermediate Casino Gambler

An intermediate casino gambler has specific goals for gambling activities. She probably doesn’t make a living as a gambler, but she might make enough profit from the comps of the players’ club to afford a lot of free vacations.

An example of an intermediate casino gambler is an excellent video poker player. Not only can such a player identify the best pay tables, but she can play with close to optimal strategy. This minimizes the mathematical edge for the house.

When she combines that with the rewards from her slots club membership, she’s at least break-even. She might even be profitable, although not profitable enough to make a living playing video poker.

Another example is the so-called “comp wizard.” This is a gambler who uses perfect basic strategy in blackjack combined with some special techniques to maximize the amount of comps she gets from her play.

You can find blackjack games in Vegas with a house edge of 0.3%. The casino, though, awards comps based on the idea that you’re an average gambler. The average gambler doesn’t use basic strategy and faces a house edge of closer to 2.5%.

Since your casino comps are based on the casino’s estimate of your expected loss, it’s easy to see how you might come out ahead on such a deal.

You can also give the casino the impression that you’re playing more hands than you’re actually playing by taking frequent breaks or by sitting out some hands because of some pretend superstition.

You can give the casino the impression that you’re betting more than you actually are by betting big at first and scaling back over time.

They’ll estimate your comp rate based on an average number of hands per hour at an average bet per hand. Your job is to maximize what the casino thinks those numbers are while minimizing what those numbers are in actuality.

Intermediate gamblers usually avoid sucker bets and carnival games. A carnival game is any casino game with a huge house edge that would be better avoided.

4 – The Professional Casino Gambler

A professional casino gambler is the top tier of casino gambling expertise, and the vast majority of casino gamblers won’t achieve this. Even if you’re good enough to get an edge in the casino, the chances of making a living at it are slim to none.

A professional casino gambler makes his living playing casino games. This usually limits the casino games available to blackjack, which has the most opportunity for advantage play.

Some casino gamblers move on to sports betting or poker, both of which are different types of betting from casino games. They’re easier to get a long-term edge at, though.

Most professional casino gamblers use advantage play techniques in blackjack like card counting, shuffle tracking, and edge sorting. They also often work on a team which provides them with a bigger bankroll.

Some people might think that video poker is also an option for professional gambling, but you’d need higher stakes machines with a bigger edge to make a living playing such games. Sure, if you’re able to live on less than minimum wage, you might be able to become a professional video poker player.

But if you’re smart enough to pull that off, you’re also smart enough to realize you could do much better playing other games and making more money.


Casino gambling is more fun when you know what type of player you are. You can set goals for becoming a better player that way.

Even if you don’t want to climb the ranks, it’s a good idea to get past the complete newbie stage as soon as possible.

What level of casino gambler are you? Leave me a message in the comments and let me know.