Helping First-Time Gamblers and Beginners

Aerial View of Casino Floor
My wife was on a business trip and called to let me know they were going to stop at a casino. She asked me what she should play. She’s had some gambling experience, but it’s been over 10 years since she’s gambled.

This made me think about how I’d handle this situation with someone who’s never gambled before online or at a land-based casino. The challenge is recommending a game that a beginner can understand while also giving them a strategy that’s easy enough to use that they can learn it within a few minutes. You also need to consider the budget the first-time gambler has.

Once I thought about this some more, I was surprised at how many options there are if you ever find yourself in this situation. Here’s a list of helpful advice that may be perfect for a first-time gambler.

Baccarat

Baccarat is easy to play because the dealer takes care of everything after you place a bet.

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To be clear, the version of baccarat I’m speaking of here is mini or midi-baccarat, played at a table that looks like a blackjack table.

Traditional baccarat plays the same, but the dealing procedure is different, and I wouldn’t want to stick a new gambler in that situation.

When you’re helping a new gambler at a distance, all you need to explain about baccarat is that they need to place the table’s minimum bet at all times, and always bet on the banker. It’s helpful if you explain the commission on the bet so they aren’t confused, but the casino people running that baccarat game take care of everything once a bet is made.

Craps

Craps can be a bit intimidating for new gamblers because of all of the betting options and enthusiasm surrounding most tables. But once you understand how to play, it’s simple. The best bet on the craps table is the don’t pass line, but I recommend telling a new gambler to start with the pass line. The house edge is only slightly higher on the pass line, and most craps players make it.

Craps Table Layout, Two Red Dice

The pass line is the only bet a new player needs to make, and the casino personnel run the game after a bet is placed, so nothing else needs to be done. But you can also explain the odds bet to a new player to help keep the house edge as low as possible.

Just like baccarat, I recommend making the table minimum bet when you play craps. If you have a large bankroll to work with, backing full odds is the best play. But with a smaller bankroll, you can make a small odds bet or skip it altogether.

Roulette

Roulette is a good game for a new gambler, because every bet on the table has the same house edge. I suggest starting with one of the even money bets with the table minimum, but players can make any bet they want.

The most important thing to tell a new gambler is they should find a wheel that doesn’t have a double zero space. A wheel with only a single zero space offers a much lower house edge than a double zero or triple zero wheel.

Roulette is also slower than some other games, so even with a higher house edge than some games, you still can lose less per hour played than when you play other games.

Blackjack

Blackjack isn’t the easiest game to play in the casino. You have to make decisions on every hand, and the rules differ from table to table. But blackjack usually has a lower house edge than any of the other games on this list. And it offers one other advantage that the other games don’t have.

Pile of Blackjack Cards, Blackjack Table Layout

You can use strategy when playing blackjack to alter the house edge. If you had to teach a new player the correct strategy at a distance, it’d be too difficult. But there’s a trick. Most casinos have a gift shop of some kind, and you can usually find a blackjack strategy card there. If a new blackjack gambler can get a strategy card, they can easily use perfect strategy when they play.

Here’s a list to use when you’re helping a new gambler play blackjack:

  1. Always make the table minimum bet.
  2. Never take insurance.
  3. Tell the dealer you’ve never played before and ask her or him to help you avoid big mistakes.
  4. Use your strategy card for every decision.
  5. Don’t make any side bets.
  6. Explain splitting, doubling down, and insurance.
  7. Never play at a table that pays worse than 3:2 for a natural blackjack.

It might be uncomfortable to admit to the dealer that it’s your first time playing blackjack, but almost every dealer I’ve seen over the years is more than willing to help new players.

Most blackjack dealers have a good idea of the best plays, and they can help a new player avoid making an embarrassing mistake during the game.

All of this might be too much for some first-time gamblers. If it is, stick with one of the other games on the list. But if a new player can handle the list above and isn’t uncomfortable using a strategy card, blackjack is the best option on this list for having a chance to actually win a few dollars.

The odds are still against turning a profit, but you do win while playing blackjack more often than any other game on this page.

Slot Machines

Experienced gamblers, especially those who focus on low house edge games, might be surprised to find slot machines on this list. But remember that in this situation, the goal isn’t to find a low house edge, it’s to find a game that’s easy to play and fits in a particular budget.

Gambling on slot machines are as easy to play as any game offered in the casino. Once you figure out how to put your money into the machine, you just find the spin button and push it. This takes care of the easy to play section, and you can’t teach strategy here because one doesn’t exist.

Here’s what you could instruct a new gambler to do. Find a slot machine with the lowest amount required to bet per spin. Warn them that penny slots aren’t really penny slots. Their best bet is finding a machine that has a minimum bet of a quarter.

Casino Slot Machine Floor

This is all you really need to know, but I recommend taking your instructions a little deeper. I suggest taking half or less of the total amount you’re willing to lose and loading it into the machine when you first start playing.

The next piece of advice is to play as slow as you can. The urge to push the spin button as fast as possible is costly, so if you take fewer spins, you can play longer. Shoot for 200 spins or less per hour.

If you’re playing for a quarter per spin, this means you only risk $50 per hour at 200 spins. Even with a house edge of 10%, your expected loss rate is only $5 an hour.

You might lose more than that on a single visit, but this gives you plenty of playing time for a low investment.

Keno

Keno has an insanely high house edge, but it has two great things going for it for inexperienced gamblers.

You can make low bets, usually $1 minimum, and there are a limited number of draws every hour.

You can pick the numbers yourself, or have the casino automatically generate your numbers, so keno is easy to play.

If you play 10 keno draws per hour at $1 per draw, you’re only risking $10 an hour. The downside is that you’re probably going to lose $3 or $4 of this $10 every hour. But the upside is that if you’re lucky, you can win thousands of dollars.

Conclusion

My wife ended up playing 1/3 no limit Texas holdem and blackjack. She lost on the night, but she kept her losses within her comfort zone and had a great time. She used to play holdem, so she wasn’t completely out of her element. I’d never try to instruct a new player on playing Texas holdem in the situation I discussed above.

Of all the options listed above, I recommend baccarat as the first choice. Blackjack is a close second, if a strategy card can be picked up at the casino. Both of these games have a low house edge and are fairly easy to play. Baccarat is easier than blackjack, but often, the blackjack dealers are quite helpful with new players.