How to Become a Better Gambler Than Any of Your Friends

Man Standing Before Silhouette Figures in a Casino

Most of the posts I write here focus on casino gambling. And I think I have a simple enough approach to the subject. My goal is for you to get the most entertainment value for your money.

I can write about how to count cards in blackjack (and have), and I can write about how to become a professional gambler (and have).

But what I really like to write about is how the average recreational gambler can lose and spend less money and get more fun from it.

And if you follow my advice on that subject, you will be, in my opinion anyway, a better gambler than 90% of your friends.

1- There Are No Sure Things in Casino Gambling

The first step in gambling better than your friends in the casino is to understand from the outset that you’re not going to figure out a sure thing. The number of people who are temperamentally able to beat the casinos are a tiny percentage indeed.

I’ve seen estimates of the number of poker players who are actually playing with a long-term profit, and it’s less than 5%.

And making money at poker is easier than making money at casino gambling. Sure, you could do it, but most people don’t want to do it badly enough.

Most of the tips in this post are going to seem obvious, but even though they seem obvious, most people don’t gamble this way.

2- It’s All About Entertainment and Money

It would be easy to say that gambling in a casino doesn’t have much to do with money, but that would be obtuse. Let’s face it. When it comes to casino gambling, money is the whole point.

Well, that and the entertainment value that you get in exchange for your money.

Too many casino gamblers take a lackadaisical attitude toward their money. That’s not a recipe for success in any casino, no matter how you define “success.”

When you’re playing a casino game – unless you’re an advantage gambler – you’re going to be facing a game with a mathematical edge. And that edge favors the casino – not you.

No matter how well you play, you’ll eventually lose all your money playing casino games – if you play long enough.

Casino Front Entrance Sign

It doesn’t matter if the house edge is 0.5%, 5%, or 50%.

The only difference is how long it will take to go broke.

And even with the highest house edge, you might lose your money faster on a game with a lower house edge if the game runs fast enough that you’re having to put a lot of money into action in a short period of time.

Your goal should be to compare the amount of money you’re expected to lose playing a game with the amount of entertainment value you’re getting from that game. If you’ve decided that you’re not having enough fun, it’s time to move on to another game that’s either more fun or has a lower house edge or rate of play.

3- Which Bets Are Better than Which Other Bets

One rough way to measure a good bet versus a bad bet is to look at the house edge. Everything else being equal, the higher the house edge is, the worse the bet is for you.

For example, if you’re playing blackjack with perfect basic strategy, the house edge is probably less than 0.5%.

This means that in the long run, if you bet $100 per hand on blackjack, you’ll lose an average of 50 cents per hand. That’s the AVERAGE, though. In the short run, you’ll be up some of the time and down some of the time.

Compare that with the house edge in a standard American roulette game. The house edge is 5.26%, which means you’ll lose an average of $5.26 per $100 bet on that game.

If you’re only going to place a single bet, the bet on blackjack is clearly the better choice.

4- The Projected Hourly Loss Rate Is More Important than the House Edge, Though

To project how much it’s going to cost you to play a specific casino game, you need more information than just the house edge. You also need to know how many bets you’re going to place per hour and how much you’re going to risk on each bet.

For example, when playing blackjack at a table with a couple of other players, you might see 90 hands per hour.

A roulette table might play much more slowly, though – you might only see 45 hands per hour.

To project your hourly loss, you multiply the house edge by the amount you’re betting on each outcome and multiply that by the number of bets you place per hour.

If you’re betting $5 per hand at a 90-hand-per-hour blackjack table, you’re putting $450 per hour into action. If you’re projecting a 0.5% loss, you’re looking at an hourly loss rate of $2.25.

If you’re betting that same $5 per spin on the roulette wheel and getting 45 bets in per hour, you’re only putting $225 into action per hour. With a 5.26% house edge, you’re looking at an hourly loss rate of $11.84.

That’s still a significant difference, but it’s not 10X as bad – the rate at which you play has a major effect on your hourly loss rate.

Another good example is keno. You might buy 5 keno tickets for a dollar each every time you play, but there will only be 6 drawings per hour. That’s $30 per hour in action.

With a house edge of 35%, this is one of the worst games in the casino.

But your expected hourly loss for keno is only $10.50.

You’ll lose less money playing keno with its sky-high house edge than you will playing roulette.

That’s an important distinction to be able to make.

5- What You Find Fun Might Not Be What I Find Fun

Since the whole point is to have fun, you need to get in touch with what you think is fun. I don’t like mindless entertainment, so I hate slot machines. I like making decisions that count, so I stick with blackjack and video poker.

I play blackjack when I feel like interacting with other people, and I play video poker when I feel like playing by myself.

I do get some enjoyment out of roulette, even though it’s mindless, too. I even like to use different betting systems on the game, even though I know that none of them work in the long run.

6- Betting Systems Don’t Work in the Long Run

Here’s an example of a betting system:

The Martingale System is a betting system where you double the size of your next bet based on how much you lost on your last bet. It’s designed to be used on games with even-money payouts.

Let’s say you’re betting on black at the roulette table. You bet $5 and lose. On your next bet, you bet $10, and you win. You got back your $5 loss and you’re up $5.

What if you lose twice in a row?

You bet $5, lose, then bet $10, and you lose again.

You have to bet $20 on the next bet. If you win, you recoup the $15 you lost on the 2 previous hands. And you’re up $5.

Smart gamblers will notice that the profit you’ll eventually see is small compared to the size of the money you’re having to risk on each subsequent bet.

And that’s the problem with a betting system like this – eventually you’ll hit a long enough losing streak that you won’t be able to recoup your losses.

7- That Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Have Fun Using a Betting System

I read a blog once where the author had tried every betting system in a book about slot machines written by John Patrick. It was endlessly entertaining, even though the guy writing the blog was losing almost constantly.

The betting systems presented in the book were as dumb as they could be. The author suggested things like quitting any slot machine once you’ve had 7 spins in a row without a winner.

Closeup of a Bet on a Roulette Table

Most of his advice had to do with setting stop loss limits and win goals.

A stop loss limit is an amount that you lose which signals that it’s time to quit. It’s usually expressed as a percentage of your starting bankroll. If you have a bankroll of $250 and a stop loss limit of 20%, you’ll quit gambling when your bankroll drops to $200.

A lot of times (but not always), your win goal might be the same percentage as the stop loss limit. If your win goal in that situation is also 20%, you’d quit when your bankroll hit $300.

If you’re playing something as mindless as slot machines, you might as well come up with some way to make it more fun. Stop loss limits and win goals can help you do that.

And if they slow down the rate at which you play, you’ll lose less money per hour, which is also a good thing.

Conclusion

I have no magic formula for being a winner in the casino. A lot of the time, it’s just dumb luck.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be smarter about your gambling than the other friends of yours in the casino. You just need to pay attention to your money and how much entertainment you’re getting in exchange for it.