Gambling Explained – How Casino Games Work

Royal Flush Hand With Slot Machine Wires in Background

I’ve had a fascination with gambling and more precisely casino gambling since I watched the mobster movie Casino as a teenager.

While there were definitely some aspects of the movie I wanted NO part of, other parts stirred something in my imagination.

After all, owning a casino is basically a license to print money. Right?

So, by that logic everyone in the casino, dressed to the 9s, bourbon in hand and a mountain of chips in front of them, must be the pinnacle of opulence.

It was about 2 hours into my first casino trip, I had this crushing realization of how woefully unprepared I was.

How in the world could this happen?

It happened because I had no clue as to what I was doing or how the games even worked.

I never want a first timer or any novice gambler to have the experience I had 2 decades ago. So, I’m here to help.

To understand how casino games work, we have to know the different types of games.

There are more or less 3 categories of casino games. Go into just about any casino and you’ll find table games, electronic gaming machines, and random number ticket games.

Table Games

Table games are where the action is at any casino. Dealers paying out bets, players bustling around, dice bouncing, and cards being dealt. Spend any time on a casino floor with some high stakes table games and it will be an experience you’re sure to remember.

1 – Baccarat

Baccarat is perhaps the lesser known or understood table game of the 4 mainstays in most casinos. Once you grasp how hand values are formulated, you will find the enigma of Baccarat strategy has been lifted. Baccarat then becomes one of the most transparent casino games around.

I’ll give you a little head start, “Baccarat” is derived from old European dialects and means “zero”. So, just think of baccarat as playing “zero”.

We call it zero because face cards and the 10s which are typically valued at 10 become worth 0 in Baccarat. Meanwhile, number cards are worth face value and Aces are worth 1.

For baccarat, the objective is to predict if the banker or player will have a higher score. You may also bet for a tie if both hands finish with the same total tie bets win.

2 – Roulette

Roulette is perhaps the most recognizable and straightforward casino table game. Roulette comes to us from the French word for “little wheel”.

There are a plethora of bets available for the player to make, so many in fact hundreds of articles have been written solely on that topic. So, let’s stick to basic game play.

Roulette begins with players making bets. The dealer then throws the ball into the Roulette wheel and players may continue making bets. While the ball is still in motion the dealer announces “no more bets” and betting is over. After the ball comes to rest, winning bets are placed and the next round begins.

3 – Craps

Ooohhh craps.

If you’re looking for a fun time and some true comradery hit the craps table. Standing around the table, slinging around high-fives, laying bets and throwing dice combine to assemble my favorite casino nights.

Craps may be the most complex table game at the casino, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Let’s cover some basics and you’ll be right at home rubbing elbows with the avid players.

To pass or not to pass?

Long View of a Blue Craps Table

Ignore the side bets for the moment and focus on the main game. This is the “Pass Line” or “Don’t Pass” line. Pass Line bets are on the shooter to win.

So, if the shooter rolls a 7 or 11 the bet wins. However, if the come out roll is a 2, 3, or 12 the bet loses. If the come out is any other number that becomes the point. The shooter is then trying to hit that point before rolling a 7. If the player rolls a 7 before hitting the point they “seven out” and the bet loses.

A “Don’t Pass” bet essentially works juxtaposed to a “Pass Line” bet. Again, the “Don’t Pass” bet is a bet against the shooter.

“Don’t Pass” bets win if the come out roll is 2 or 3 and the bet is pushed if 12 is rolled. A come out of 7 or 11 is a loser. If any other number is rolled it, establishes the point and if a 7 is rolled before the point is hit the bet pays

This is an abridged overview, but it gives you a basis on how craps works. You’ll surely pick up the rest at the table.

Whatever you do remember this; never say the word seven at the table. And when you are throwing the dice please make sure the dice hit the back wall.

4 – Blackjack

Blackjack is my go-to casino game. You don’t have to be as uniquely intelligent as Raymond Babbit to thoroughly enjoy yourself.

Blackjack gained its soaring popularity in part by being incredibly easy to learn. The experienced and novice gambler alike can’t seem to get enough of the fast-paced action of real money blackjack.

The object of the game is to reach 21, without going over, before the dealer hits 17. If you don’t bust,and your total is higher than the dealer’s you win. Hitting 21 or blackjack usually means even bigger winnings.

Electronic Gaming Machines

Now, there seems to be a stigma regarding these casino games. I must admit that when someone mentions slots to me, I envision grandma with a cigarette hanging loosely from her lips and an oxygen tank strapped to the back of her mobility scooter.

This is an unfair characterization that likely stems from too much time looking at memes on Facebook. In fact, the first time I remember leaving a casino with house money was a birthday night of years back spent at the penny slots.

There is no question that slots have a special place in casino gaming. Simple to play, smaller minimum bets, bright flashing lights and loud noises draw in the masses.

Slot Machine Bonus Wheel

Did you know that while slots absolutely take a lion’s share of the EGM pie, they don’t have a monopoly?

Playing video poker wasn’t just for passing hours in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In fact, video poker started making its way into casinos back in the 1970s.

Modeled after 5 card draw the object is easy. Build your best poker hand by holding your best hand from the deal and drawing in hopes of completing your hand.

Unlike poker at a table, you aren’t competing with an opponent. You are simply trying to build the best hand possible. Usually a pair of jacks or better will pay and the better your hand the higher the payout.

Random Number Ticket Games

Keno is by far the most popular game in this genre. Rumor has it the game saved an ancient city during war time and that keno helped fund the Great Wall of China. If you can count to 80, congratulations — you already know everything you need for Keno.

Each casino has their own pay tables and variations of rules. The standard seems to be 80 numbers on the board. You then select 20 numbers from those 80. The more numbers you match, the higher the payout.

If you’ve ever played Powerball or your state’s lottery, you’ll immediately recognize how to play Keno


I hope you’ve gained some understanding of how casino games work. Casino gambling may seem overwhelming, but as you see, it doesn’t have to be.

The most important thing is to remember to have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I have found time and again that any casino personnel are always happy to show a newbie the ropes. These days most casinos even offer “classes” on popular games for beginners.

How nice of the casino to show patrons how to win their money.

Other players can also be a wealth of great information. It usually isn’t too hard to spot the rookie at a table and most are glad to offer a lending hand. Be aware that this will not work at the poker table. I repeat you are on your own there.

When it comes to the casino games we reviewed, it’s us against them.

And them has been rarely defeated for a very long time.