I’ve been gambling in casinos for as long as I can remember, beginning with my very first trip at the tender age of 18 to the Morongo in Palm Springs, California. Today, I’m lucky enough to cover the casino industry for a living, so I spend most of my working hours exploring America’s mega-resorts and gambling halls.
Maybe that’s why I’ve forgotten how intimidating and confusing the casino floor can be when you’re entering for the first time. When I recently took my brother-in-law on his very first gambling excursion, teaching him the ropes reminded me that many people could use the same lessons.
Use Cash and Leave Your Bank Cards at Home
Before you hit the road and head out for a night on the town in Las Vegas, or at your local casino, be sure to hit the bank for a cash infusion.
Using your local bank branch beforehand cuts out these fees altogether, so you’ll essentially be up on the night without ever placing a bet.
You should also decide on a budget for the trip before walking through the door. The exact number obviously depends on your financial situation, but these funds should always be disposable income.
And I do mean “disposable” in the literal sense…
Casino games are expressly designed to give the house an inherent edge, so the odds are always in favor of the player losing over the long run. I don’t say that to dissuade you though, because plenty of players leave the casino with a wallet full of winnings. In a one-off session of slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, or any other casino game, you can definitely get lucky and beat the house at its own game.
With that said, you should only gamble with a reasonable amount of money that you can afford to lose. Personally, I opt for a nice round number like $500 or $1,000 which allows for a bit of flexibility on the gaming floor. I might lose a couple hundred playing slots, but I still have ammo left in the chamber to take a few more shots at the other games I enjoy.
One recommendation I can’t stress enough, however, is to leave your debit and credit cards at home. Far too many gambling beginners show up, lose a few bucks as they learn the ropes, and start “reloading” in hopes of winning it all back.
Problem gambling is a serious scourge within this industry, so ditching the cards altogether is the easiest way to avoid temptation. Stick with your set budget, try your best to stretch it out, and accept that the run is over if you do happen to hit the end of the road.
Sign up for a Player’s Club Card to Score Casino Comps
When you walk into a crowded casino for the first time, the electric vibe can be intoxicating to say the least. Folks are laughing it up, celebrating big wins, and generally having a blast as they try to build their bankroll.
Your first impulse will likely be to jump into the fray and join the fun, but it’s best to make a quick pit stop at the Player’s Club registration desk. Every casino runs a Player’s Club – under names like Caesars Rewards, M-Life, B-Connected, etc. – and while they might have different names, the concept remains the same across the board.
Gambling without a Player’s Club card in your pocket can be done, but you’re simply skipping over free money when you do so.
And when you sign up for a Player’s Club card for the first time, most casinos even give you your first taste of things to come on the house with a free spin on a special slot machine. Trust me, when a first time gambler watches the wheel click into place to unlock $50 – without even placing a bet mind you – the seeds of a lifelong passion are immediately planted.
Start Out on the Machines Before Playing Table Games
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet at the Player’s Club desk slot machine, it’s time to dive headlong into your casino adventure.
My advice is to start off playing real money slots or video poker, as these options allow players to fly solo, so to speak. Casino table games like blackjack, craps, and baccarat which involve other players can be a rough place to learn the ropes as a rookie. The regulars often lack patience for beginners, and while most gamblers are nice enough, you’ll eventually come across a few off-putting guys and gals at the tables.
To avoid an unpleasant experience that can leave a lasting impression, I suggest placing your first bets on a machine with your buddy one seat over guiding the way. They can show you how to choose your bet size, where to slide your Player’s Club card so your play earns points, and explains the rules of each game.
This introductory process is essential for newcomers because it lets you become comfortable with gambling at your own pace. You can ask questions, explore the machine’s menu, and try a few different games without worrying about anything else.
If you don’t like the idea of risking money on a pure game of chance like the slots, your best bet will be the video poker machines. Start out with the most basic game, 9/6 Jacks or Better, and run through a few dozen hands to get the hang of things. Video poker offers new players the perfect blend of chance and skill, because after five cards are randomly dealt, you get to decide which ones to hold and which ones to discard in hopes of improving your hand.
Video poker also carries one of the lowest house edge rates of any casino game, usually less than one percent, which allows you to stretch your starting bankroll out much further than the more volatile slots.
Find an Empty Table Game Where You Can Practice
When you’ve gotten over the jitters by playing machines, the next step in your casino gambling education is playing casino table games.
I like to bring beginners to an empty blackjack table where they can feel free to play slowly and take things in. With regulars ringing the table and playing at a fast pace, beginners can easily feel overwhelmed and out of the loop. At an empty table, however, you can happily make rookie mistakes and figure things out at your leisure.
In any event, don’t be afraid to ask the dealer any questions that might crop up – even the “dumb” ones. The dealer has been trained to hold a new player’s hand as they take the plunge, so they’ll typically be happy to teach you a thing or two.
Don’t Forget to Tip the Dealers and Other Staff Generously
Speaking of the dealers, one thing many casino beginners often overlook is tipping for a job well done.
Whether you win or lose, always have a few bucks stashed away to slide the dealer’s way once your time at the table is up.
Think About Money Lost as an Entertainment Cost
Grizzled gamblers who have been around the block a time or two have long since chalked up losses as a business expense.
But for a first time gambler, the thought of losing $10 in a few seconds because the dealer drew the perfect card can be tough to handle. Non-gamblers value their hard-earned money, which is a big reason why they’ve avoided gambling in the first place.
Nonetheless, these same folks have no problem whatsoever with dropping $10 on a movie ticket to see what winds up being a dud. After all, that’s the price of admission, and nobody expects a refund when they don’t enjoy the show.
As you place (and lose) your first wagers, just think of the cost of gambling as the price of admission you have to pay to enjoy the casino’s show. Sure, bad beats and losing streaks will certainly sting, but you can’t get attached to gambling money. This is why we set strict limits and always play within our financial means.
And hey, no movie theatre in the world will pay you for showing up, but plenty of players pocket extra dough when they beat the odds to beat the house.
Gambling in a casino for the first time can be a roller coaster ride for most new players, so I hope the tips above help you smooth things out. Bring a friend who knows the score and rely on them to show you the dos and don’ts.
Stick with the games you enjoy the most, and never feel pressure to place bets you don’t feel comfortable with. Wager within your means and enjoy the ride, win or lose. Of course, winning is always preferable to losing, so if you’d like to improve your knowledge on a specific gambling game, head here to our comprehensive instructional section.