How to Save Money When Gambling in the Casinos

Las Vegas Sign On Left Man With Head Down With Money Floating Away From Him On Right

Gambling at the casino should always remain, first and foremost, an outlet for entertainment and diversion. Unless you play full time as a working professional, winding up in the red or black doesn’t really need to be a major priority. Of course, we’d all prefer to walk away a winner by night’s end, and casinos can often bring out a competitive side many people never even knew they had.

Unfortunately, the corporatized casino industry of the modern age is designed to chip away at your bankroll in more ways than one. Every gambler knows that losing money on the tables and machines is a distinct possibility, but pay close attention to avoid these financial “leaks” that commonly afflict casino regulars.

1 – Tips and Tokes Handed Out to the Staff in Exchange for Great

Let me make one thing clear before proceeding with this initial entry: Tipping employees is a mandatory part of enjoying the casino experience.

Service industry staff—and that’s exactly what dealers, chip runners, and cocktail servers are—rely on tips (or “tokes” in gambling vernacular) to make ends meet. And indeed, when you find an employee who hustles to provide superior service, you’ll be happy to toss a few bucks their way.

With that said, keeping track of the chips and small bills you distribute during an average casino excursion is an extremely useful exercise.

First, you exchange $300 for chips at the cashier’s cage, sliding the attendant a white $1 chip for their trouble. After playing blackjack for a while and running up a nice $75 uptick, you leave a $5 “redbird” behind with a smile.

You don’t fare so well at the roulette table. But after watching the croupier run a crowded game smoothly, she gets the last crumbs of your $100 stake.

A trip to the sports bar for some wings and beer sends another $7 in gratuities to the house. And when the cocktail server brings you a complimentary rum and coke, he earns a couple bucks for making sure it’s still ice cold upon delivery.

Having decided to splash around at the real money Texas Hold’em tables, you discover the regulars have a longstanding tradition—win the pot, tip the dealer at least $1 (and more for larger hauls). Well, hot streaks abound in that game, so after scooping seven decent wins, you’ve siphoned off $10 in tokes.

Finally, when you head back to the cage to cash out, a final $1 goes from your wallet to the new attendant’s tip jar.

Casino Cashier's Cage

In this all too real example, you just dropped $31 at the very minimum in tips alone. Of course, when you’re winning early and often, tipping simply feels like the cost of doing business, with you as the benevolent boss treating your staff to some extra spending money.

But when you’re down on your luck, spending roughly 10% of your starting bankroll on tips can make it tough to climb back into the black.

2 – ATM Fees When You Feel Like “Reloading” Your Bankroll

Speaking of falling down on your luck, when that unfortunate fate inevitably befalls you, the next step is widely known as the “walk of shame.”

You’ll need more money to get back in the game. And unless you have a stash upstairs in the room safe, that means hitting up the dreaded ATM.

By now, everybody knows about the highway robbery style rates charged by Sin City ATMs, many of which tack on a hefty surcharge of $10 or more depending on the amount withdrawn.

Even worse, because these third-party machines are outside of your bank’s network, Chase, Wells Fargo, and the rest will add insult to injury by charging their own added fees.

Lo and behold, a simple $300 reload to start a fresh session somehow costs you $15 simply to process.

Experienced gamblers know to bring enough cash so that ATM trips are never necessary. And disciplined gamblers make a point to stop playing when their cash reserves are exhausted. check out our guide on how to professionally manage your bankroll.

But the average gambler doesn’t know any better, so while they might huff and puff in disgust, they eventually part ways with a significant sum just to access their own bank account.

3 – Diminished Payout Odds Designed to Fool Unsuspecting and Uninformed Players

Another insidious aspect of the casino industry most experienced players know well concerns inferior payout odds and pay tables.

Unfortunately, far too many tourists and one-off visitors just aren’t equipped to tell the difference…

Corporate casino management has worked tirelessly to improve the house’s edge on every conceivable bet and game.

First, they bastardized blackjack by downgrading the original 3:2 payoff on natural blackjacks to 6:5. As a result, every $5 wager and win which should bring back $7.50 to the player now produces a paltry $6 instead. Over time, all of those $1.50 rebates given back to the house really do add up.

Multiple Blackjack Hands on a Table

The same holds true for video poker, where “full pay” tables like 9/6 in Jacks or Better have slowly been replaced by slightly smaller payout ratios for premium hands.

And don’t even get me started on the absurdity of Triple Zero Roulette, an invention favored by the late Venetian and Sands mogul Sheldon Adelson. Simply by adding a third green “000” space to the wheel, double-zero roulette (5.26% house edge), which is already a bad impression of the single-zero (2.70%) game, becomes almost unbeatable (7.89%) over the long run.

When in doubt, consult trusted resources like the site your reading now to learn about the optimal payouts and pay tables for your favorite casino offerings.

4 – Massages, Cigarettes, and Other Optional Additions to the Experience

These financial leaks are purely optional, so I won’t devote as much time to them, but enjoying a massage or a pack of smokes is cost prohibitive at the casino.

The masseuses who stroll through the table game pits and poker rooms these days typically charge $1 per minute. That may seem cheap at first glance, but a half-hour can fly by when a pro is working the stress out one knot at a time.

And if you thought a pack of Marlboro Reds cost a fortune at the local gas station, try* spending $20 to get your fix on the gaming floor.

*Or better yet, do your lungs a favor and DON’T try.

5 – Hidden Fees and Charges Attached to the Bill for Lodging and/or Amenities

Thankfully, the arrival of operators like Virgin Hotels—pioneer of the “No Nickel and Diming” policy—is leading to a shift in the resort fee culture that currently plagues Las Vegas.

Nonetheless, the city has undergone a radical shift from its glory days. Gone are the free valet parking and transparent room rates of old.

In their place are strictly timed self-serve parking lots equipped with cameras to ding you for a few minutes of unpaid time. Resort fees which are conveniently never mentioned while you book, only to be tacked on upon checkout.

Chairmans Lounge at Bellagio

The worst of the worst is “surge pricing,” in which a bottle of water at the gift shop suddenly goes from $7 to $11 just because the place is busier than normal.

If you can help it, check out the new Mohegan Sun at Virgin Hotels, which has replaced the old Hard Rock on The Strip. They’ve made a pledge to restore Las Vegas’ heritage of treating customers right, so hopefully competing properties follow in their footsteps.

6 – Having Chips or Credit Vouchers Stolen, Misplacing Them, or Leaving Them Behind

The ultimate bummer for a gambler involves losing chips or machine credit vouchers without ever placing a bet.

A stranger might surreptitiously lift them when you’re distracted, or you could simply drop them while changing tables. Many visitors hide a handful of chips upstairs for safekeeping, only to forget altogether when the sun comes up.

And if you head back home with a pocketful of casino chips, good luck getting your bank to convert them back into cash.

To avoid this tragic fate, keep diligent track of chips while playing, and make a habit of cashing out at the end of every session. This can be inconvenient, but it definitely beats having a pile of useless chips on your office desk all year while you anxiously await next year’s return trip.

7 – Paying “Juice” on a Loan Given by a Fellow Gambler

If the time has come to seek a loan that involves the words “juice” or “vig,” get out of dodge and don’t look back.

Paying extra for the privilege of holding a few bucks is a telltale sign of compulsive gambling, so nip that bad habit in the bud before it blossoms into a bigger problem.


Losing money at the casino is part and parcel of the gambler’s lifestyle, but that maxim usually applies to playing the games.

When you’re winning the majority of your wagers during a given session, but still seem to be leaking funds, remember this list and set to work plugging the holes in your game.

Don’t stop tipping, of course, as that initial entry up above represents the only acceptable extra cost at the casino. In every other case, do your due diligence and try your best to save on unnecessary expenses.