Casinos win enough of your money even when you do everything right. They make even more money when you make consistent mistakes.
The purpose of this post is to point out the seven biggest casino gambling mistakes you can make and provide you with tips for avoiding them.
Your goal when visiting a casino should be to lose as little money as possible while having as much fun as possible. Making fewer mistakes is one way to accomplish this goal.
1 – Playing Slot Machines
Slot machines are the most popular game in the casino, which is one of the reasons why it’s at the top of the list of casino gambling mistakes. Here’s why I think playing slot machines is a mistake.
Other Games Are More Fun
Slot machines involve putting money into a machine, pressing a button, and watching some reels spin around. You hope they land on something that will win. You have no influence over the outcome with a slot machine game, though, and frankly, the slots are boring as a result.
Other Games Offer Better Odds
Any table game in the casino will offer you better odds than the slots, especially if you stick with the right bets.
Video Poker Is Much Better
A video poker game looks like a slot machine but has significant advantages. One of those is that you actually know what you’re getting into, odds-wise, because you know the odds of getting a specific card in a poker game. The odds of getting a specific symbol on a slot machine could be anything.
Slot Machines Are the Fastest Games in the Casino
Not only are the odds on the slot machine games worse than the odds on any other game, but you’ll lose more money on them because of their rate of play. The average slot machine player makes 60 spins per hour, while the average roulette player might only place 40 bets per hour. Guess who’s going to lose more money in that comparison?
2 – Ignoring Basic Strategy in Blackjack
Blackjack has a reputation for offering the savvy casino gambler the best odds in the casino. The game deserves this reputation, because it does indeed offer great odds.
But you only realize those odds by making the optimal decision in every situation. And that optimal decision isn’t always intuitive. In fact, it’s often counterintuitive. You face 10 possible dealer up-cards, and you have only a handful of totals to compare those up-cards to when you’re deciding whether to hit or stand.
If you make the mathematically optimal option in every one of those situations, you’re a basic strategy player, and the house edge for the game is probably well under 1%.
The house edge, by the way, is how you measure how big an advantage the casino has over you, mathematically. The casino doesn’t cheat. They just maintain a mathematical edge.
In casino blackjack, they do this by making you play your hand before the dealer plays his. If you go bust, you lose immediately, even if the dealer busts later in the hand.
If you try to just wing it instead of memorizing basic strategy or using a chart, you’ll give the casino another 2% or 3%, depending on close you get to the real basic strategy. Playing blackjack without basic strategy is a huge mistake that’s easy to avoid.
3 – Drinking Too Much
My niece recently took her driver’s license written exam. One of the questions was a multiple-choice question asking what alcohol affects first. The correct answer was “judgment.”
The last thing a casino gambler needs is impaired judgment. You have all these flashing lights and exciting sounds going on around you. People are winning money left and right. Women are prancing around offering you free drinks, and they’re half-dressed.
And even if you’re a hardened heavy drinker, if you’re new to the casino, alcohol will impair your judgment and cause you to lose money you don’t need to lose.
My advice to the casino gambler is to abstain completely from alcohol while gambling.
4 – Playing With Scared Money
Gamblers have a saying: “Scared money always loses.” What’s scared money?
In the context of gambling, it’s money you can’t afford to lose. The only money you should be gambling with at the casino is money you don’t need for other purposes.
Don’t be like those knuckleheads in Indecent Proposal who try to win enough money to save their real estate by playing roulette and/or craps. Sure, you might win, but the odds are against you.
And the odds get worse when you’re playing with money you can’t afford to lose. This is especially true if you’re playing blackjack. You might make a decision that isn’t mathematically optimal because you’re playing too conservatively and you’re scared of losing.
Budget for your gambling and stay within that budget. Know how much you’re willing to lose during a period of time. And don’t use money you’ve set aside for other purposes to gamble with. Always practice proper bankroll management.
I have a buddy who went to Vegas one time who lost all his money on his first day, including his food budget. He spent the next four days in his hotel room eating potato chips and watching movies because he needed to hang on to just enough money to catch the cab to the airport.
Don’t gamble with scared money. You’ll regret it if you do.
5 – Playing for Comps
Don’t misinterpret this mistake. I’m not saying you should ignore the player’s club. You absolutely get comps for your action. That’s part of the deal in the casino.
A friend of mine visits a relatively local casino at least once a week. He gambles so much that he has his own casino host. He explained to me that the rewards program at the casino has three tiers, and he was in the second tier and wanted to move into the top tier.
THAT is an example of playing for comps. He was gambling more than he would have normally just to get more free stuff. That’s playing right into the casino’s hand. You should avoid that if you can, because the casino has one goal—to separate you from your money as fast as possible.
Get your casino comps, but don’t let it be an incentive to gamble more than you would have otherwise.
6 – Trying to Cheat
I’m not talking about counting cards, here. That’s not really cheating. After all, counting cards is just using your mind to think about the game you’re playing so that you can make mathematically optimal decisions. There’s nothing illegal or unethical about counting cards in blackjack.
When I say that trying to cheat is a mistake, I mean things like stealing chips or trying to befriend a dealer as a confederate to collude at a specific game. Trying to change the size of your bet after the outcome has been determined is cheating, too.
The main reason I’m opposed to these “techniques” is because they can get you arrested and you might even have to serve time.
You’ll read interesting and colorful stories about slot machine cheats like Tommy Glenn Carmichael, too, and you might even think that sounds pretty cool. The reality of his situation is that he’s spent a lot of time behind bars.
Winning a few bucks at a gambling game isn’t worth even a few weeks of your life behind bars, much less months or years. And cheating at gambling games in Nevada is a felony.
7 – Playing 6/5 Blackjack
In a standard blackjack game, a blackjack (or a “natural”) pays off at 3:2 odds.
This means that for every dollar you bet, you get 1.5x that in winnings when you get a natural. A natural is just a two-card hand that totals 21. In other words, it’s a hand that consists of an ace and a 10.
And some casinos even have the chutzpah to try to spin this as a bonus for the player, because a six is bigger than a three. And some casino gamblers’ math skills are bad enough to fall for that.
But a 3:2 payout on a $5 bet is $7.50. A 6:5 payout on a $5 bet, though, is $6. One is obviously better than the other. How much better? The house edge increases by over 2% when you’re playing in a 6:5 game.
Just don’t ever play such a game. You’re better off playing almost any other game in the casino, besides slots, of course.
Those are the seven biggest casino gambling mistakes I see most often. And if you’re looking to become a profitable gambler, you should definitely steer clear of them. Did I leave anything out?
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in a casino?