3 Card Counting Systems for Normal Blackjack Players

Normal People Playing Blackjack

If you play blackjack, why aren’t you counting cards? It’s a proven mathematical way to eliminate the house edge, and some players are so good at it that they make money in the long run. Is it because you think counting cards is too hard or you have to be a mathematician to do it?

I’ve got good news for everyone who plays blackjack that isn’t counting cards yet. The first thing is that the statement above about using card counting to break even or beat blackjack is true. You can use counting to win playing blackjack.

The next piece of good news is that it’s much easier to get started as a counter than almost everyone believes. You can use one of the simplest counting systems ever designed to break even or better, and I can teach you how to use it in just a few minutes. You don’t have to be a gifted math student or anywhere close to a genius.

If this sounds too good to be true, just take a few minutes to read the rest of this article. I’m getting ready to prove it to you.

The final piece of good news is that, once you start counting cards at any level, it’s easy to keep learning and working until you’re counting at an advanced level and beating blackjack on a regular basis. Everything you need to know to get started is included below.

1 – Ace Five Count

The ace five card counting system is as simple as a card counting system can get. Anyone can learn how to use it in just a few minutes, and once you start using it, you can eliminate the house edge every time you play. It’s easier to learn how to use than basic blackjack strategy.

You can use the ace five count in any blackjack game, but if you want to benefit from it as much as possible, you need to do two things. The first thing is either get a blackjack strategy card and use it or memorize basic strategy.

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You have to use the best strategy to start with the lowest house edge possible.

The other thing you have to do is find blackjack games with good rules. The best games have as many of the following rules as possible. You won’t find games with all of these rules often, but you want games that have most of them.

  • Surrender
  • Dealer stands on soft 17
  • Can double after splitting
  • Can split three or more times
  • Blackjack pays 3:2 (never play at a table that pays less than 3:2 for a natural blackjack)
  • Can double down on any two cards
  • Can double down on any hand even after hitting

The ace five blackjack system is based on the fact that the ace is the most valuable card for the player and the five is the worst card for the player. When a five is removed from a deck, it increases the player’s chance to win. This effectively lowers the house edge.

When an ace is removed from the deck of cards, it hurts the player’s chance to win and raises the house edge. Using these two pieces of information, you can track the aces and fives and use the information to alter your bet amounts. This can eliminate the house edge.

Here’s how the ace five card counting system works:

You start with a count of zero. If you don’t like to work with negative numbers, you can start with a count of 10, and adjust the count where you raise your bets by 10. Every time you see a five, you add one to your count, and every time you see an ace, you subtract one from your count.

Ace Five Card Counting System

It doesn’t matter if the ace or five is in your hand, another player’s hand, or in the dealer’s hand. You add or subtract for every five and ace that gets played.

You start with a base bet amount, and when the count reaches +2 (or 12 if you started at 10), you double your bet amount. Every time the count goes up, you double your bet again, and when it goes down, you reduce your bet accordingly. Any time the count is at +1 or below, you bet your base amount.

The only downside to the ace five card counting system is that it’s a relatively weak system compared to more advanced systems. It will help you overcome the house edge, but it’s not going to do much better than allow you to play a breakeven game. Of course, playing breakeven blackjack is better than losing.

2 – Speed Count

The next system is the speed count, which was developed by Frank Scoblete and is included in a couple of his blackjack books. The basic way to use the speed count is to track low cards and compare the volume of them to the number of hands that are dealt on each round.

The reason I include it in this article is because it’s an easy system to learn. It’s not quite as easy to learn as the ace five count, but it’s easier than most advanced counting systems.

I’m not going to spend a great deal of time with the speed count here, because it’s also a weak system compared to many others.

If you can learn how to use the ace five system and the speed count, you’re 100% capable of learning and using a better system.

In other words, most blackjack players should go directly from the ace five count system to a more advanced system like the KO, Red 7, or Hi Lo. I cover the KO in the next section.

If you want to learn more about the speed count system, you can follow this link. Here are the basics of the system before you move on to the next section.

You track all of the cards valued two to six that are dealt every round and subtract the number of hands that are dealt on the round. You then use this number to adjust your overall count and adjust your bet size based on the running count, just like in the ace five system.

3 – KO or Knock Out

If you understand how to use the ace five and speed count systems, you’re ready to learn the KO system. This isn’t a system you find on most pages designed for normal blackjack players, but it’s not much harder than learning how to use basic strategy. In my experience, most regular blackjack players can quickly learn how to use it.

KO Card Counting System

If you look over the KO system and don’t care for it, the Red 7 and Hi Lo systems are also good systems you can learn how to use. Any of these three systems teach you how to make money playing blackjack.

The difference between simple systems like the first two on this page and advanced systems is the number of cards you track. In the ace five system, you track two cards. In the speed count, you track five cards. In the KO system, you track 11 cards. Every time you see any card from a two to seven, you add one to your count and every time you see a 10 to ace, you subtract one from your count.

Once you learn how to track a few cards, it only takes a little bit of practice to learn how to track more. You don’t need to memorize the cards. You simply subtract or add one at a time to your count.

The main advantage that the KO system, and the Red 7 system, has over the popular Hi Lo system is you don’t have to calculate your count based on the number of decks remaining during play. This is handled by starting your count at a set number based on the number of decks before you start counting.

Don’t worry about all of this right now, because you don’t have to worry about it unless you learn how to use the Hi Lo system.

When you use the KO system, you start your count based on the number of decks.

In a single deck game, you start your count at 0. In a double deck game, you start your count at -4. In a six-deck shoe game, you start your count at -20, and in an eight-deck shoe game, you start at -28.

When the count is at 0 or negative, you make your minimum bet. When the count gets to +1, you double your bet. You keep doubling your bet as the count goes up until you reach your maximum bet amount.

Conclusion

You can start using the ace five system today. It’s an easy way to play a breakeven blackjack game against the casino, and anyone can learn how to use it. Once you’re comfortable using the ace five, start learning how to use the KO system. If you want to take it slow, you can learn the speed count before using the KO. But if you can use the speed count, you can use the KO, and it’s a better overall system.

How to Use Roulette Wheel Bias Today

Roulette Wheel Logo And Table

Roulette isn’t the first game that people come running to when they’re looking to beat the casino. After all, roulette doesn’t have a commonly-known advantage play technique, like blackjack (card counting).

Nevertheless, this game can be beaten through wheel bias. This advantage gambling method has helped some players win millions of dollars.

The catch, though, is that wheel bias isn’t as easy to pull off these days. In fact, some players don’t think that it’s possible at all.

But you actually can still use wheel bias to earn profits today. I’ll explain how after I discuss more on the technique itself.

How Does Wheel Bias Work?

Wheel bias involves looking for roulette wheels that favor certain pockets and sections. For example, you may discover a wheel that sees the ball go into the 16-4-23-35-14 section a disproportionate amount of times.

This bias occurs when wheels suffer wear and tear and aren’t as random as they’re supposed to be. This phenomenon can occur through a number of ways, including unequal pocket sizes, deformed balls, a shaky wheel shaft, or loose frets.

Roulette Wheel And Ball

Of course, the casino doesn’t put a blinking sign next to biased wheels. They normally don’t know about such wheels if they’re still on the floor.

Instead, you need to put the work into figuring out if a casino has one or more biased wheels. Some claim that you can even spot wheel imperfections with a trained eye.

But even if you do think you’ve found an imperfection, you must record results for a measurable amount of time. After all, it’s difficult to notice a deformed ball or shaky wheel shaft before the casino does.

The amount of data you need depends on whether you’re looking for bias towards specific pockets or sections. The latter doesn’t require as much data because it’s easier to spot a biased section than single pockets.

Here’s an example on how you can record data for section bias:

  • You track 1,000 spins.
  • You put the data into a spreadsheet.
  • You discover that a section of 10 numbers between 27 and 6 is biased.

You need to analyze the wheel a lot longer to find out if certain pockets are off. Some believe that you need anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 spins’ worth of data to discover pocket bias.

Of course, the benefit to looking for individual biased numbers is that you can make more money. Single bets pay out at 35 to 1 when you win.

Why Was Wheel Bias More Common Decades Ago?

As mentioned before, some people have become millionaires through wheel bias. However, these stories seem more like ancient legends than feats that can still be accomplished today.

For example, an English engineer named Joseph Jagger made a £65,000 profit (£7 million) while playing roulette in Monte Carlo. He took advantage of a biased wheel at the Beaux-Arts Casino before the employer switched around the wheels to throw him off.

In the 1990s, Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo made over €1.5 million at a combination of Spanish and Las Vegas casinos. His story was documented in a History Channel documentary called Breaking Vegas: The Roulette Assault.

Jagger and Pelayo aren’t the only players who’ve won big through roulette. But stories of heroic winners are becoming less common today.

What’s changed from the nineties and beforehand? The roulette wheels.

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Casinos used to feature wooden wheels that were more exploitable.

In recent years, they’ve rolled out Starburst wheels. Developed by John Huxley, the Starburst model features metal frets and shallower pockets. These two features help eliminate two of the main sources for bias.

British casinos were the first to roll out Starburst wheels. They did so after finding that they were losing a bunch of money to roulette players in the 1980s.

Atlantic City and Vegas casinos have since followed suit. Therefore, you’ll have a tougher time finding a beatable roulette game today than ever before.

Casinos Have Stepped up Their Game These Days

Starburst roulette wheels aren’t the only things that gambling establishments have changed. Nowadays, casinos run regular inspections on roulette wheels to ensure they’re running properly.

Staff members are trained to look at the wheel shaft, frets, pockets, balls, and more. They’re very good at identifying when one or more of these elements are out of whack.

They also electronically monitor results. You’ve probably noticed electronic boards near roulette wheels that display the last 10 or 20 numbers.

Arrow Pointing At Electronic Roulette Board

These boards serve two purposes:

  • To prevent wheel bias
  • To cater to players who like gambling based on past results

Between the combination of more frequent inspections and better equipment, casinos do a better job of stopping wheel bias than at any other point in history.

Finding Biased Roulette Wheels Today

TCS John Huxley provides revolutionary wheels and equipment that help casinos prevent advantage play. Nevertheless, modern technology hasn’t completely closed out the chance of bias.

This tech mainly concentrates on winning numbers over a long period of time. It doesn’t, however, keep track of various factors that can lead to biased numbers (e.g. ball, casino temperature, shaft).

Sometimes, casinos will still keep biased wheels on the floor even if they know about them.

They’d rather only take action if somebody exploits a wheel instead of adding an expensive replacement.

That said, wheel bias is still possible to some extent. Here’s a recap of certain factors that can lead to a biased wheel:

  • Bent frets — Over time, frets can become bent or suffer other damage.
  • Deformed balls — A ball can suffer nicks or even complete design flaws. Such balls make a rattling sound on the track.
  • Deformed ball track — Sometimes, the entire ball track will be messed up. In these cases, the ball will make a rattling sound at specific points on the wheel.
  • Flawed wheel shaft — The wheel shaft can become uneven over time and slightly shift the wheel toward a certain section.
  • Older wheels — Some casinos still opt for classic roulette wheels that aren’t as costly. These don’t have metal frets and shallow pockets, leaving them more susceptible to bias.

Conclusion

Roulette wheel bias certainly isn’t as easy to pull off as it was decades ago. Casinos have taken big steps to cut off this advantage play technique.

For starters, most gambling venues now employ Starburst wheels. These feature shallower pockets and metal frets in an effort to prevent wear and tear.

Casinos also perform regular inspections on their wheels. Staff members look for various flaws that could lead to wheel bias each day.

Gambling establishments also have electronic boards that track results. These boards feed the casino data, which they can use to figure out if any pockets or sections are biased.

These factors make it harder to earn money from wheel bias than in the past, when players like Joseph Jagger and Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo made fortunes. Nevertheless, this advantage play technique is still possible to some degree.

The key is to understand some of the factors that can cause wheel bias.

These include damaged frets, deformed balls, older wheels, flawed wheel shafts, and damaged ball tracks.

Assuming you can master spotting these imperfections, or perceived imperfections, then you can move on to recording results. The point of recording spins is to gather enough evidence to confirm the bias.

You’ll need at least 500 to 1,000 spins to find section bias with any degree of success. Anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 spins can provide you with pocket bias.

Unfortunately, finding such wheels is harder than ever before. But you can still do it by sticking to tried-and-true methods and putting enough work into the matter.

How to Play Keno Like an Expert

Online Keno Numbers, Keno Tickets on Table
Expertise in any game is based on a mastery of the rules and strategies used in that game. Like most casino gambling games, keno is designed to make money for the house. Players win their prizes from the pool of wagers they make.

No amount of expertise will help you beat the rules in keno. Playing like an expert means making the best possible choices. It also means maximizing your potential for winning.

The best poker player in the world can’t beat a bad deal. Where the poker player has an advantage over the keno player is in the fairness of the game. Keno is an unfair game by design.

Some would say that makes winning all that much sweeter. I once heard someone compare playing a game with a low return to player to playing the highest level in an online strategy game.

The analogy is flawed, in my opinion.

In an online strategy game, the computer makes it harder for the player to win by giving advantages to the computer opponents.

But the player can still win by adapting his strategy to compensate for those disadvantages.

Whether you’re playing slots, chuck-a-luck, or keno, there’s nothing you can do to compensate for the advantage the house gives itself. The smart money says don’t bet on keno. But if you’re going to bet on keno, then bet smartly.

Here are several ways to bet like a keno expert.

1 – Master the Basic Concepts

As everyone knows, keno is a lottery game. What most people don’t realize is that it’s the low-quality version of lottery games. In a massive game like Powerball or Mega Millions, you could theoretically win $100 million.

I’ve never seen any version of keno that pays that much money. The largest keno prize I ever heard about was less than $10 million. It was awarded in Australia in 2018.

Hats off to anyone crazy, brave, and lucky enough to wager on the Pick 10. Three people in Australia have won it.

Most of the large keno jackpots I’ve heard about were from Pick 7 and Pick 8 games, and the prizes were in the hundreds of thousands.

Do the math. You’d have to win an unbelievable amount of unlikely drawings to win $100 million in keno. But every year, a few lucky lottery players win $100 million or more in Powerball, Mega Millions, or Euro Millions.

Piles of Money, Two Keno Tickets

If you’re going to play keno games, you’re playing for less prize money. And the odds of winning are usually worse in keno than in other lottery games. The win may taste sweeter because of those disadvantages but you’re still winning less money.

Another thing most people don’t realize about keno is that there’s a multitude of keno games. Each game has its own rules, odds, and prize schedules.

They look very similar but, when you compare the details of keno games to each other, you find the differences. That means whatever strategy you think works best for one version of keno may not work as well for another version.

It’s similar to learning to sail in a dinghy versus learning to sail a catboat. Both types of sailboats will get you across a calm body of water despite their differences. And both will be swamped in a bad storm. But they’re still different types of sailboats.

2 – Study the Odds Carefully

There are three basic types of keno:

  1. Video keno
  2. Live drawings
  3. Scratch cards

The odds of winning keno differ from game to game. But the video keno machines can be programmed differently, too. Since more than one gaming company distributes keno, they don’t all use the same pay tables and random number algorithms.

Many video keno players prefer to play Pick 7 or Pick 8 games. They don’t win jackpots, but they do win smaller prizes.

The best odds fall somewhere in the mid-range picks.

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Pick 4, Pick 5, and Pick 6 are usually more likely to pay a prize. The prizes will be smaller, though.

Whatever keno game you choose to play, study the pay tables and odds for that game before you decide how many numbers to wager on.

If your best friend plays keno at a different location from you, on a different gaming platform, his favorite picks are probably not going to help you.

3 – Keno Demands Patience and Consistency

You’re wagering on random number drawings. Each drawing is a new game. The odds of winning don’t change no matter how many games you play.

One difference between keno and standard lottery games is that keno doesn’t duplicate numbers in a drawing. If the “1” is drawn in a keno game, it’s only drawn once.

When you compare a Pick 4 keno game to a typical four-ball live lottery game, those lottery games use four machines with the same number of balls. Daily drawings sometimes produce four duplicates in these games.

Numbers on Keno Ticket, Keno Casino Lounge

Many people do bet on 0-0-0-0 in their states’ daily four-ball games. Since keno doesn’t allow duplicate numbers, your chances of picking the right numbers are less than in any other lottery game. That means you’ll hit in a lower percentage of games.

The advantage of playing keno over a daily drawing game is that you can play video keno as often as you wish. Even live drawing keno is played several times per hour on state networks.

To compensate for keno’s poor odds, you must budget for as many games per day as you can. You’re making in volume what you lack in probabilities.

4 – Play Multiple Cards in Each Game

In my opinion, it’s best to make minimum wagers. Regardless of how many numbers you pick, you should play several cards per game.

This is sometimes called “pattern betting” because you’re spreading your picks across the multiple cards in patterns or spreads.

Wagering on spreads allows you to cover more numbers. You won’t be able to combine numbers from multiple cards but the idea is that you’re more likely to hit a winning combination by playing multiple cards.

If you play Powerball, you choose your numbers and buy your ticket. The basic price is $2. You can add up to $5 per ticket to maximize your non-jackpot prizes up to 10 times.

In keno, you simply wager a multiple of the basic bet.

In either style lottery game, you can increase the spread of numbers you cover by making only minimum bets on each card or ticket.

The idea is to use a pattern because the drawings rarely, if ever, result in more than two sequential numbers.

It’s less expensive to bet $1 on a keno card. Some keno games offer a “bonus” that costs extra, but in basic keno, there’s only one bet per card.

With a set of cards covering different spreads, you have better chances of winning a non-jackpot prize. This is true for any kind of lottery game, but it’s the most economical way to play keno.

Conclusion

Keno appeals to many people because it’s easy to get started with the game. After a while, people fall into a style or habit of play that makes them feel comfortable.

You’ll want to experiment with different picks and different patterns. Although there’s no way to guarantee you’ll win anything, you’ll find that some picks and spreads work better for you than others.

The effectiveness of your choices depends on where you play keno and how often you play.

10 of the Strangest Celebrity Restaurants in Las Vegas

Night View of the Las Vegas Strip, Friends Eating at Restaurant
Las Vegas has always had a love affair with food. Back in the day, Vegas was known for making cheap eats popular across the United States. When Vegas tried to go family-friendly, the trend of featuring food went right there with it.

Today’s Las Vegas is the more adult-oriented, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” version of itself. And it has continued to feature some of the best food in the world.

Unsurprisingly, in a town that attracts entertainment moguls, concerts, celebrity athletes, famous people, and Las Vegas visitors in general, a lot of this food is served up by restaurants bearing the names of world-renowned chefs.

Still, just because a chef has had success on food television or their restaurant has been successful somewhere else, doesn’t mean they’re going to be a natural fit for Sin City.

In fact, there are some restaurants that stick out like a sore thumb in the bright lights of Vegas. That doesn’t mean they’re bad. In fact, some are amazing. They’re just strange. Need an example? How about 10?

10 – The Giada Restaurant

With apologies to celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, having her restaurant in Las Vegas always seemed a bit incongruous if not exactly strange. Okay, it seems kind of strange.

Giada is everywhere and, as such, it makes sense that she would extend her culinary empire to Sin City. At the same time, she’s always had a squeaky clean image that just seemed strange being nestled in the heart of an adults-only playground.

With all that said, there’s nothing wrong with Giada in Las Vegas. In fact, it was voted best Power Lunch in Las Vegas (which is also strange… you don’t really associate power lunches and Vegas). Oh well, moving on.

9 – Rao’s Italian Las Vegas

For those of you who don’t know Rao’s, it is in itself a celebrity. Based out of New York City, Rao’s is famous for being the restaurant for which you can’t get a table. Every table is booked every day in perpetuity by the same crowd and unless you know someone, you’re probably not getting a seat. On top of that, the food is rumored to be amazing and the owner is often featured on Food Network.

Pasta and Breadsticks on Plate

With all that said, it kind of makes sense that a famous New York eatery made the journey to Las Vegas, just not Rao’s. First, for symmetry’s sake, I would have loved to see it in New York, New York, but that’s beside the point. Basically, this venue inside the Caesars Palace Casino does the original Rao’s no favors.

It ruins the mystique because suddenly it’s very easy to get a table in the Las Vegas venue (and frankly no place in Vegas should be easy to get a table at…) Secondly, the food suffers for not being located near home base. All in all, it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.

8 – El Burro Borracho

This will be the first time we hear from celebrity chef and Raiders superfan Guy Fieri. It won’t be the last.

El Burro Borracho, or the drunken donkey, is Fieri’s lower cost eatery located in the Rio.

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Low cost is sort of a relative term, as the menu features some plates in the $12-range or all-you-can-eat tacos, margaritas, and beer for $50 a person.

The menu looks much like his line of taco shops, which are tacky approximations of the way a donkey might decorate a low class cantina. El Burro Borracho steps up the class a bit, but the food remains largely average to poor in its rating. Given how good food can be in Las Vegas, it’s definitely strange this place was made.

7 – Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen, the restaurant, is strange, but for different reasons. If anyone has ever watched the show Hell’s Kitchen and secretly desired to eat there, walking into the Hell’s Kitchen will be the fulfilment of that particular culinary fantasy.

Scallops on Plate, Food From Hell's Kitchen

While the restaurant layout itself doesn’t exactly match what’s on the screen, the open air kitchen is divided into blue and red kitchens and serves all of the popular TV show favorites. You can order steaks, risotto, beef Wellington, and so on. Given the prices, it’s probably good that the food quality is absolutely through the roof.

It’s just strange there’s no one yelling.

6 – Burger Bar

If you spend any time watching food television, especially Iron Chef and Iron Chef Masters, then you have probably heard of Hubert Keller.

He’s a masterfully skilled, classically-trained French chef who radiates confidence in the kitchen while seeming like a pretty decent guy all in all.

So, of course he opens a burger bar. Because why not?

I’m not criticizing Keller or his restaurant. I respect him and his cooking far too much to do that. It’s just that he’s a world-class chef. He has a great restaurant known as Fleur, which is amazing. It’s just odd that on top of that, we have a burger place… An expensive, magnificent, ultra-chic burger place.

5 – Cabo Wabo Cantina

It’s probably just me, but the whole Cabo Wabo Cantina experience outside of Cabo San Lucas itself just seems out of place, being conveniently located just outside the Planet Hollywood Casino, which faces directly onto the Strip. Of course, owner Sammy Hagar didn’t consult with me before opening this location or the other one in Hollywood.

Las Vegas Cabo Wabo Cantina on The Strip

Instead, Hagar keeps the place rocking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, serving Americanized beach fare for prices that actually make you want to come back. The drink menu is also pretty decent, though its clear where Cabo Wabo Cantina makes its money.

Ultimately, what really makes Cabo Wabo strange is that it just feels like a Vegas spot. Vegas has lots of themed eateries where you can get a meal and an overpriced drink. If not for the name, Cabo Wabo would just be another restaurant.

4 – Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar

He’s back. I told you he’d be back.

What’s strange about Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar is how average it is. The models on its advertising page look like they came from a stock photo site, the décor lacks that “drunk donkey barfed Americana all over the place” feel of some of his other restaurants and the food is pretty average according to most reviews.

Guy Fieri is such a huge personality, it would be nice if this restaurant could show the same attention to the exceptional cooking that he did on his shows.

It’s strange that it doesn’t.

3 – Joel Robuchon

Copy everything I said about Hubert Keller and apply it to Joel Robuchon, the man for who the restaurant Joel Robuchon is aptly named. Well, that and the fact that Joel Robuchon isn’t a burger bar, it’s a really, really high class restaurant helmed by one of the best chefs in the world.

Joel Robuchon Restaurant in Las Vegas

It just seems strange that a man of his caliber would open his flagship in Vegas. It certainly has the Vegas price tag without the Vegas “devil may care” attitude. For some reason, that means if I am going to eat at one of his restaurants, I’d probably just travel to New York instead. It certainly feels more dignified.

2 – Robert Irvine’s Public House Restaurant

Public House has always been a bit of a head scratcher. It was opened in 2017, well after Irvine’s hype had faded, his controversy had come and gone, and he was generally banished from the public eye.

Then, all the sudden, his upper half is gracing the side of the Tropicana Hotel like the casino thinks his name alone is going to draw a crowd. It’s not that the gamble didn’t pay off, it’s just a strange thing to bet the farm on, even in a city known for big gambles.

1 – China Poblano by Jose Andres

I don’t know what to do with China Poblano by world-renowned chef (and one of the greatest humanitarians of our time) Jose Andres except go back there and eat again. And again.

Plate of Food From Las Vegas China Poblano

China Poblano is a Chinese-Mexican joint that features absolutely no fusion cuisine. I went in expecting General Tso’s tacos or stir-fried fajita egg rolls. Instead, I got a menu with two sides—one Mexican, one Chinese.

In the end, I had the best shumai of my life and lost a bet to my waiter that cactus tacos are disgusting (they’re not gross at China Poblano).

Still, who else but Jose Andres opens a restaurant that literally can’t decide what it is? That’s the kind of place Robert Irvine used to shut down on Restaurant: Impossible. Strange, but delicious.

Conclusion

And thus ends our tour of the strange establishments in the Las Vegas food scene. It covered some restaurants we’d love to go to again (China Poblano and Hell’s Kitchen) and some places we’d avoid when going to Sin City. All in all, there’s no awful food in Las Vegas, so even when a restaurant is strange, it’s probably still pretty good.

Why Teaching Is the Best Way to Improve Your Gambling Skills

Group of People Sitting Playing Poker Game, Poker Chips and Cards on Table
The saying goes that, ‘Those who can’t do, teach.” While I understand why so many people believe this statement, in my experience, it hasn’t always been true. In fact, every time I’ve taught something, it’s made me better at whatever the subject is.

When I started helping people learn how to be better gamblers, my gambling skills started improving faster than ever. Teaching and speaking turned out to be a great learning experience. Here are three reasons why teaching is the best way to improve your gambling skills.

1 – Forced Preparation

In all of my experience gambling with real money, the thing that has forced me to be at the top of my game and gather as much knowledge as possible was when I started teaching others and sharing what I know. I’ve taught classes and run seminars in many different subject areas, and every time I’ve done so, I spent a large amount of time preparing.

Because of all the effort and time I’ve spent teaching and speaking engagements, now, I don’t have to do as much preparation. When I give a speech nowadays, I often spend less than an hour doing any kind of prep, because I’m confident in my knowledge and abilities.

Even if you never plan to actually put on a class or seminar, you should still create an outline for one and prepare as if you had to do it.

You never know when you might have an opportunity to speak. But, more importantly, preparing to do one will force you to improve your gambling skills and knowledge.

2 – Fear of Being Shown Up

Years ago, I was attending a weekly class and the teacher decided to retire. He was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and his retirement was a big loss for everyone in the class. The age range within the class were young adults all the way up to people in their 60s, so there were experience and knowledge levels of all types.

I was in my early 20s and had quite a bit of knowledge, but I was learning something new every week. The group decided they wanted me to take over the class. I was resistant to the idea because I didn’t think I was qualified or ready. I also knew for a fact that I was nowhere close to as good as the current teacher.

The teacher was going to continue with the class as a student when he retired, and he told me he’d help me in any way he could. I finally agreed to take over and was scared to death. I taught the class for several years and it was a great experience. I still attend the class, but a new teacher took over a few years ago, and he’s doing a great job.

I also used to teach math and business courses at a small college. This was after I started with the class I mentioned above, but I had some of the same fears when I started doing the college classes. The first fear was that I wasn’t ready to do it. I overcame this fear with preparation, like I covered in the last section.

The other main fear was that I was going to be trying to teach or lead a class with people who knew more than I did. This was especially true in the class I took over. It was a fact that the retiring teacher and a few others knew more than I did.

King of Hearts and Ace Hearts Poker Cards, Woman in Background

The mistake I made was believing that the teacher needed to know everything and needed to know more than all of the students in every area. I knew more in some areas and added value to the class. Once I accepted that there were students that knew more than me and didn’t try to hide it, things became much easier.

The people who knew more than me didn’t want to lead the class, but they were always willing to share and help during class. Instead of trying to know everything, I learned my limitations and wasn’t ashamed to use the knowledge of the people in the class to help everyone else.

These fears did help me become a much better teacher and a better student. The fear of saying something wrong in class as the teacher drove me to learn more. I learned from every available resource, including the others in the class, and everyone gained from it.

i
I don’t suggest jumping in to teach a gambling class with a bunch of students that know more than you.

When you put together a class or seminar, just focus on a subject you know well and advertise it in a way that brings in people that don’t know as much as you.

But when you find yourself leading a seminar or class with someone in the audience that knows more, learn to use them as a resource instead of trying to cover up your shortcomings. Also, let this fear drive you to master your subject, which in turn improves your gambling skills and knowledge.

3 – New Challenges

If you want to learn something new, one of the best ways to do it is to challenge yourself in some way. Take a 30-day challenge and work on what you want to learn every day for a month. This helps you make consistent progress. And, by challenging your mind, you stay sharp and let your mind show you new ways to do things.

This is something I learned soon after I started teaching. Students ask questions and look at things in ways I’ve never even considered. Sometimes, they’re wrong in their way of thinking, but other times, they help me learn something new or understand a different perspective.

This is much like talking over a difficult problem with a child. The way a child views the world can be a great learning experience for us when we get older and get stuck in our ways.

When you accept and create new challenges, it helps keep your mind working and expands your knowledge. This can be particularly valuable as a gambler, because gamblers can fall into the same habits when they aren’t playing anything new.

Blackjack Cards and Casino Chips Spread Out on Table

A game like casino blackjack has been pretty much the same for 50 years. There are certain ways to play that lower the house edge, like basic strategy, and there are ways to beat it, like counting cards. But advantage players are constantly trying to come up with new ways to beat the game.

If advantage players blindly accepted that there are no new ways to win, they’d never come up with new ways to win. This is the trap that most gamblers fall into; they get stuck in a narrow way of thinking that doesn’t let them see when new opportunities are present.

By challenging yourself through teaching, preparing, and studying, you keep your mind open to new ideas and ways to tackle gambling.

I once read an interview with an advantage player and expected to find the usual information about card counting, hole carding, and possibly sports betting or horse racing.

But, instead, he talked about other ways he was able to get an edge over the years. If I hadn’t been working on building my knowledge by reading the interview, I’d have missed some important newfound strategies.

This is why teaching is such a powerful way to improve your gambling skills. It pushes you to new challenges and to constantly expand what you know.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you currently teach or if you never plan to teach anything. If you want a fast way to improve your gambling skills, prepare to teach a class or lead a seminar. Preparing an outline to teach forces you to do a lot of research, put together a plan, and face new challenges. It’s a great way to quickly improve upon your current knowledge.

You can also use the fear of not being prepared and of teaching something wrong to drive you to a new level of excellence. While there are other ways to improve your gambling skills, you should consider adding teaching to your tools.

6 Secrets on How to Win While Lazy Gambling

Hands on Poker Cards on Table
Everyone has a lazy gambling habit. Call it a bare bones strategy, or call it what it is—gambling without thinking too much.

You’re just in the game, not in it to win it. Maybe you need a break. Or maybe you’re teaching the game to someone new… But is lazy gambling always a bad thing?

In an ideal setting, you only gamble when you’re fully alert and feeling great. But expecting to stay that way in a casino is like expecting a tire with a slow leak to last you for the next 1000 miles.

People fall back on this way of gambling with real money the way they fall back on spare tires. It’ll carry the load for a while, but it won’t get you far.

The best lazy gamblers know when to leave the game or start paying full attention again.

I personally think of lazy gambling as a step down from being fully engaged. It would be equivalent to using the autoplay feature for slots.

But without the opportunity to apply strategy, it’s still not the ideal example. When you decide to be a lazy gambler, you shouldn’t just abdicate your options. You should still play strategically.

Lazy gambling is more of a style than a system. You pick and choose how you want to manage your game. And it isn’t a strategy that’s applicable for just any kind of game.

Keeping that in mind, there’s no need to go all in. This is simply a way to unwind without completely walking away. Here’s how to keep lazy gambling fun and prevent it from eating up your bankroll.

1 – Dial Down Your Wagers

If you need to coast for a while, there isn’t much point in betting the max. While it’s true the odds won’t change because you change your bet, I’m assuming you don’t want to put much thought into the game for a while.

Despite your lazy gambling strategy, your money won’t manage itself. Making minimum wagers is safer than dropping the max on every play.

Card counters do something like this anyway. If they believe the majority of cards left in the shoe are of low value, they cut back on their wagers.

If you’re explaining a game to someone new, it won’t matter if you lose with a minimum wager. Even new players feel comfortable with losing minimum bets.

2 – Only Make Safe Bets, With One Exception

If you tell your friend to put a bet on the pass line at the craps table, you can explain the game as it’s played. That bet usually won’t vanish right away. By the same token, you can explain how the don’t pass bets work on the next round.

The key to long-term success in blackjack is to know when to apply an exceptional rule. Bare bones strategy says you stand on 17 or higher and hit on 16 or lower.

Splitting aces should be obvious, but other opportunities require more thought. If you can’t let an opportunity to split pass you by, then you’re not in a lazy gambling mode.

Dealer and Player at Blackjack Table Playing

Baccarat is made for lazy gambling. You can bet on the bank or player and the odds are close. You can also keep putting money on a tie, but that won’t pay as often.

Lazy gambling in roulette favors the outside bets. The rule of thumb in lazy gambling is take as little risk as possible. But there is an exception to this rule of thumb.

If the game allows a player to make more than one wager at a time, adding a slightly less risky wager is okay. In roulette, that slightly less risky wager will be placed on one of the 12-number bets. In craps, you either take the odds or lay them.

Should you lay odds because you bet don’t pass? Decide ahead of time how you want to hedge your bets. Some players only bet pass/don’t pass and come/don’t come. They ignore the odds and riskier bets with higher payoffs.

3 – Counterintuitive Betting Is Okay When Done Safely

Since lazy gambling eschews the more complicated betting, your remaining leverage is in how much you wager. While dropping down to minimum bets is one way to ease up, it’s optional.

If you’re only playing safe bets, then you’re already playing the best probabilities and lowest odds. This is the time to ratchet up your wagers without having to think through every play.

The rule of thumb is simple. Safe bet + maximum wager = riskier bet + minimum wager.

All you’re doing is simplifying the game for a little while. It’s better to use the safe bet + maximum wager style. The house edge is at its lowest.

That’s admittedly a playing strategy. You can’t dispense with strategy 100%. Lazy gambling trades off complex strategy for simpler play.

In some games, it won’t matter much. In baccarat, it doesn’t make a big difference if you bet on the player rather than the banker. In casino blackjack games, many beginners stand and hit by simple rules anyway, so if you’re teaching the game to someone, you’ll probably start them out that way.

Once your friend is comfortable with the basics, you can dial it up again and start showing the more complex strategies.

4 – Only Play the Video Versions of Games

When there’s a crowd standing around the craps or roulette table, there’s sure to be fun. Sharing a blackjack or baccarat table with four or five other people is very entertaining.

But if you want a break from the crowd, head over to the video consoles. In online gambling, it’s as simple as changing which game you play.

Deuces Wild Video Poker Machine

You play the video versions of table games at your own pace. You could play 400 to 600 hands of video blackjack or video poker every hour, or you can play one hand per minute. It’s up to you.

Solo playing allows you to regain your focus. Some players favor the video versions of their favorite games to live groups. The gaming can be both relaxing and intense at the same time.

5 – Avoid the More Complicated Versions of Table Games

If the casino offers standard blackjack, sit at that table. If the casino offers European roulette, choose that variation.

The more rules and special features the casino adds to a game, the more likely they’re improving their edge.

If you haven’t studied the rule variations ahead of time, don’t play the games.

If you’re in a small casino and they don’t pay 3:2 for blackjack, see if they have a video console that pays standard odds. Always pick the odds you know if you’re going to gamble more passively.

6 – Study a New Game’s Rules Before Playing It

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can be a lazy gambler and try new games. Study the rules first. If you can decipher the rules quickly, it’s probably simple enough to play casually.

If you have to think about what you’re doing to get the best possible payout, the game probably isn’t a good match for lazy gambling.

Casino Roulette Wheel

In roulette, you only want to play a wheel with a single zero if you can get it. The fewer green slots, the better.

With blackjack, you’ll want the 3:2 table if there is one. I’ve played 6:5 blackjack but not happily. Simpler play is less likely to frustrate you if the odds are good.

If you’re going to play keno with real money, the lazy approach is to stick with the Pick 4 through Pick 7 games. I would choose Pick 5 or Pick 6 myself. The fewer numbers I have to match, the better. The higher the payout odds on any matches I make, the better.

Keno may have awful odds and probabilities, but some keno options are clearly better than others. And that’s true even if you don’t study the rules for whatever keno variant you’re playing.

Conclusion

Again, this is not a strategy guide. Lazy gambling is a style of play that allows you to relax and think less about the game you’re playing. You can continue to enjoy the game but also unwind a little.

I’ve never spent an entire evening in lazy gambling mode, but I’m sure some people do. There’s no shame in having a preferred style of play.

Following these rules for lazy gambling keeps the “oops” moments to a minimum, and you’re less likely to make a major mistake. Any friends you introduce to gambling will appreciate your choices.

The 10 Best States for Gamblers Outside of Nevada

United States Map, Hand Pushing Casino Chips on Table
It’s positively inconceivable that any state might one day unseat Nevada as the gambler’s capital of the United States (and arguably, the world). It’s just impossible that another place in the US could combine the mystique, the sense of lawlessness, and the impressive investments in technology that make up Nevada and Las Vegas in particular.

Don’t believe it? Keep in mind, Nevada is an immensely popular tourist attraction in the summer. The city is in the desert, which can sometimes reach 115-degree heat. And yet, the tourists still come.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no other place in America to gamble except Las Vegas. In fact, more states are legalizing gambling in some forms. And with legalization often comes increased taxes, more jobs, and destination casinos where those looking to “let it ride” can visit and have a little fun.

10 – South Dakota

A quick shout out to the state of South Dakota for being a pretty righteous place for video lotteries and, all things considered, a really good place to find a casino. First, if you want a casino, according to one source, there are 25 casinos in the Deadwood area (which is on the west side of the state). In addition, 11 trial casinos can be found throughout the state.

However, casinos aren’t the reason why South Dakota makes the list. Instead, it’s the over 1300 bars and locales that offer video lotteries just about anywhere one cares to go in the state.

In fact, in cities like Sioux Falls, you can’t go anywhere (including an Old Chicago restaurant) without being adjacent to a place to play the video lottery.

These video lotteries, which are specifically not slot machines, look and feel a lot like video slot machines. They offer completely electronic interfaces and allow you to play a number of different games for as little as 25 cents a round.

9 – Kansas

Kansas makes our list of the 10 best states by borrowing from Missouri ever so slightly. First, there are currently nine casinos in the state, most of which are on Indian tribal land, and they are scattered throughout the state. As most of the population of the state is in the eastern half, most of the casinos are also on the eastern side.

If you’re looking for a good Kansas casino, Prairie Band Casino in Topeka is clean and has nice accommodations. Still, the class of the Kansas casino is Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, a large casino built overlooking the Kansas Speedway racetrack. It offers all the poker and other real money gambling opportunities one would expect from a major casino.

Poker Cards and Poker Chips on Table, Kansas State Flag

Last, Kansas makes the list because if you happen to be near Kansas City, Kansas, you can quickly jaunt across the Missouri river and take advantage of all of Missouri’s riverboats. I will talk about Missouri in a moment.

8 – Iowa

The Hawkeye State, which continually produces exciting college football and corn is also home to nearly 20 casinos, riverboats, and racetrack casinos. These casinos are scattered throughout the state, though many appear to be in and around Des Moines.

Regardless of where you find yourself though, an Iowa casino offers an exciting range of gambling options with shockingly cheap rooms for resort casinos and food that’s as good as any you will find outside of Vegas. We’re not saying to drop everything you’re doing and fly to Des Moines, but if you do find yourself in Iowa, you’re in for some good gambling.

7 – Missouri

As promised, I said I’d get back to Missouri and its plethora of gambling options. If you can picture the state of Missouri, the entire eastern half of the state (which is home to St. Louis, Missouri’s largest city) is rimmed by casinos. Additionally, the I-70 corridor (which runs between Kansas City and St. Louis) also have several good casinos.

There are four casinos on the Missouri half of Kansas City while the St. Louis side adds another five all by itself.

All of the Missouri casinos are nice, clean, tend to have good specials to attract gamblers, and are vacation resorts for the local area.

The St. Louis casinos tend to be larger, glitzier, and appear closer to Las Vegas-style casinos.

The class of St. Louis casinos has caught on nationally as the World Series of Poker (WSOP) offers satellite tournaments there. The real surprise is the Isle of Capri in Boonville, MO, halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis. The Isle of Capri is very fancy with an amazing fare one does not expect in rural Missouri.

If you’re willing to travel just across St. Louis, another great option is the Ameristar St. Charles Casino in St. Charles, MO. Fully equipped with slot machines, blackjack, and even games like Pai Gow Poker and Let it Ride.

6 – Indiana

Indiana is home to 14 different casinos, riverboats, or racetracks where gambling can be placed. What’s even more impressive about the state is that the casinos are not concentrated in one area, meaning that when one travels to the Hoosier state, there’s bound to be a casino relatively close. Also, as of 2019, sports betting is legal in Indiana, giving the gambler more ways to win.

Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana

Really, though, the history of gambling in Indiana shows it’s getting more liberal and allowing more ways to engage in it. More casinos are opening, and there are also WSOP events being held on the southeastern side of the state in Elizabeth.

This, combined with the quality of the Indiana casinos, gives one a reason to go through Indiana other than when you’re trying to get to Chicago.

5 – Illinois

Speaking of getting to Chicago, Illinois is another great state for those who like to gamble. Not only are there several great casinos on the Indiana part of the Chicagoland area, the state of Illinois has recently passed sweeping legislation that will authorize six new casinos (including one in Chicago itself) and permits gambling now in the states’ many racetracks.

More than that, the new legislation will almost double the number of seats to place a sports bet. In other words, soon you will have another reason to head to the Windy City. There’s more than enough exciting gambling action to keep even the most professional player busy.

4 – Mississippi

Hold on to your hats because Mississippi is home to almost 40 casinos and areas to gamble within its borders.

Like other states, Mississippi’s casinos are spread out, though the greatest concentrations appear to be at the north end of the state and along the Gulf Coast.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this makes the Gulf area of Mississippi a nice place to visit. The Gulf area is pretty and you can stay get some gambling done.

3 – Louisiana

Like Mississippi, Louisiana has casinos scattered throughout the state, but it takes advantage of its Gulf Coast real estate to put up casinos. This includes no less than three casinos in New Orleans itself and a number of others along the southern coast.

While these casinos may not be as no-holds-barred as you might expect from the state that houses New Orleans, they’re still very nice casinos which offer a full suite of activities. Also, as you might expect, the casinos in New Orleans are very large and welcome significant numbers of gamblers each year.

2 – California

The road between San Diego and Las Vegas is one of the most densely-packed areas for those looking to play poker. While certainly not California’s most well-known claim to fame, for those who travel to areas in Southern California, it’s not hard to find a casino or a poker room with a seat waiting for you.

Money and Coins, California State Flag, Poker Cards, Dice

In the end, it’s another reason to visit the Sunshine State. However, keep in mind most of the hot gambling action is in the southern portion of the state. Options are far less dense in the north.

1 – New Jersey

What list of gambler states would be complete without the home of Atlantic City? Sure, the Atlantic City gambling scene has fallen on some hard times recently, but it’s still the place to go when you want to be in Vegas but can’t fly to Vegas (or don’t want to put up with the heat).

New Jersey has it all. It has the fancy casinos, the shopping, and even the family events. It also has the boardwalk, which is still a fun place to be despite its recent hard times.

Conclusion

You may never need to go anywhere but Nevada to do your gambling and you may never want to. Still, if you find yourself traveling around the United States, have no fear. Almost any state to which you travel is going to have a casino or two where you can get a game.

Even better, some states are going to have a lot of casinos, racetracks, and poker rooms, where you can stay, dine, and spend your time doing the things you love. Hopefully, you find yourself in one of these 10 states because they all have great accommodations and are just waiting to give you the chance to make some money.

Mississippi Gambling History – Casinos Built on Water

Mississippi Casino Riverboat, Craps Table, Casino Chips, Dice
Mississippi and the Gulf Coast in general have a long history of gambling traditions. Before Europeans settled in the area Native American tribes engaged in sports and gambling. Some of those gambling traditions are still observed today, protected by the Indian Gaming Act.

If you ever want to win an easy bar bet, ask someone to name all the casinos that have operated in Mississippi. Even seasoned gamblers can’t do that. You could allow your mark to use Wikipedia and they would still not list them all.

But why do people believe Mississippi casinos are all built on the water?

When you look closely at the history of gambling in the state, you’ll find that gambling was only restricted to floating casinos for a few decades. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Gulf Coast in 2005, the state modified its laws to allow casinos on land again.

This was deemed a necessary move to protect lives and property against future storms. It also heralded the end of a nostalgic period that, ironically, didn’t begin because of nostalgia.

US Riverboats Allowed Gambling from the Beginning

The history of riverboats is long and not very interesting, unless you just love learning about boat design. The most ancient riverboats known today were built in Egypt thousands of years ago. They were the precursors of Egypt’s famous reed ships.

Wherever people have settled by major rivers they built boats to carry goods, livestock, and people from one shore to another. But on fast-moving rivers it was impractical to use boats for 2-way navigation. They had to be pulled back upriver by animals or abandoned at their downstream destinations.

Green Casino Table, Poker Cards Spread Out, Red Casino Dice, Riverboat

When Americans think about riverboats today they imagine something more majestic than a small flat barge. They imagine the steamboats that once plied the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Movies and TV shows about the Old West created the iconic image of the steam-powered paddle wheel boats that people now associate with river gambling. Robert Fulton built the first American steam-powered riverboat in 1807. It launched the age of 2-way river travel in the United States.

The earliest steamboats quickly allowed gambling on board because there wasn’t much else to do. Passengers passed the time away playing cards. It was inevitable that money would be put on the table.

Slot Machines Were Introduced to Mississippi by Hotels

Land-based gambling was popular in cities like Natchez and Vicksburg before the Civil War (1861-1865). In addition to card games, gambling houses offered billiards and other types of betting games. Gamblers also wagered on horse races and cock fights.

No one knows when Charles Fey built the first practical slot machine. Gaming historians only agree it was sometime between 1887 and 1895.

By this time steam-powered riverboat travel was competing with railroads that ran up and down the rivers.

Mississippi’s hotels were the first businesses to introduce slot machines to their customers in the early 1900s. These hotels were all built on land.

The Gulf Coast Had Its Own Colorful History

While card players were gambling away fortunes on the Mississippi river throughout the 1800s, smugglers and pirates occasionally plied the Gulf of Mexico.

The smugglers proved useful to the South during the Civil War until the Union Navy shut them down, but they returned after the war. Other seaside activities including schooner races also became popular after the war.

By the late 1800s seafood factories stood all along the coast, and each factory had its own fleet of schooners. They harvested shrimp and oysters from the Gulf. The factories organized races during the summer months.

The schooner races and other attractions brought tourists and hotels and railways flourished along the southern coast. Lumber and shipbuilding became big industries for the region.

Mississippi State Flag, Casino Chips, Red Dice, Roulette Wheel, Money Spread

Prohibition changed many industries. Smuggling became popular again. Dog Key Island, popular with fishermen because of its artesian springs, became a haven for bootleggers.

In 1926 Colonel Jack W. Apperson and his partners built the Isle of Caprice Hotel and Resort on the key. The hotel’s casino offered dice games, roulette games, and more. Unfortunately tourists devastated the island’s foliage, which kept the sand in place.

By 1932 the resort was lost to the waters.

Gambling flourished on shore all along the coast. Hotels offered slot machines and other games to their guests. And gambling spread inland via “road houses”: honky tonks catered to caucasians and juke joints served African Americans.

Gambling was so popular it even brought out-of-state travelers to the Gulf Coast and it created jobs for locals during the Great Depression.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s big name entertainers including Hank Williams, Sr., Elvis Presley, and Jayne Mansfield were performing on The Strip. Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was the gambling heart of America.

Mississippi Got a Case of Religion

Concerned about the growth of the gambling industry and the inevitable crime that came with unregulated gambling, ministers began organizing in the early 1950s.

They formed the Group of Interested Laymen and the Biloxi Protestant Ministerial Association to lobby the state to forbid slot gambling in Harrison County.

Many gambling activities had been made illegal in the Mississippi Law Code of 1942 but no one was enforcing the laws. The U.S. Senate also opened an investigation into organized crime connections in Mississippi’s gambling industry.

Keesler Air Force Base also supported enforcement of the law. Like the ministers, the military believed the flourishing bars and gambling joints were exploiting their patrons, including thousands of service members.

Enforcement actions stepped up, forcing establishments to take gambling into the back rooms.

A Hurricane Killed Mississippi’s Gambling Industry

In 1969 Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast hard, ravaging towns. Hotels and gambling parlors were destroyed along with many homes and other businesses.

The state’s tourism industry died off and the gambling industry collapsed. By this time the city of Las Vegas had become the United States’ new gambling capital.

What ministers, sheriffs, and military police could not do in nearly 30 years Mother Nature take care of in a day.

Native Americans Revived the State’s Gambling Tradition

With legal victories in the 1970s and 1980s First Nations across the United States began building casinos that could not be regulated by the states. Thanks to the National Indian Gaming Act of 1988 the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians opened the Silver Star casino in 1994.

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian Logo, Casino Slots, Poker Cards, Casino Chip

Seeing opportunity to revive the state’s economy and bowing to the inevitable, the state legislature legalized dockside gambling in 1990. The state gave counties along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast the freedom to allow gambling if their voters approved.

By 2005 around 30 casinos had opened along the waterfronts.

Mississippi Gambling After Katrina

The pictures of the devastation in Biloxi and other Gulf towns stunned people around the world. The Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and other large casinos had been ripped apart by the storm.

Large boats had been pushed inland by the storm surge.

Casino owners and politicians alike realized that building casinos in the Gulf didn’t make sense. Operators claimed their resorts would have survived the storm better if they had been built on land.

The state amended its laws to allow the waterfront casinos to be built inland, within 800 feet of the water.

Even so, many people still picture casinos floating on the water when they talk about gambling in Mississippi.

Conclusion

Why were casinos built on the water? It was a compromise between long-standing concerns over the detrimental effects of unregulated gambling and the need to revive the regional economy.

Mississippi allowed land-based gambling throughout most of its history. While towns and counties turned a blind eye to illegal gambling for many years, enforcement became simple after Camille.

The change in law allowed Mississippi to rejuvenate its Gulf Coast towns and industry. But the iconic floating casino was only destined to last for a few years. Mother Nature made sure of that.

The Top 5 Pro Poker Players to Ever Call Las Vegas Home

Table with Poker Cards and Casino Chips, Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
For most poker players around the world, setting up shop in Las Vegas represents reaching the pinnacle of their profession. And it’s been that way through several generations, too, with serious poker pros settling in Sin City since the 1970s.

Before that, the best players in America were typically based in either Texas or New York City, but everything changed in 1970, when infamous casino owner Benny Binion invited the game’s greatest figures to an event which he dubbed the “Texas Gamblers Reunion.”

By 1972, Binion shifted gears to host the event, which he rebranded as the World Series of Poker (WSOP), as a $10,000 buy-in, freezeout format No Limit Hold’em tournament. The field grew in size every year afterward, and just like that, Las Vegas became what the 1998 movie Rounders proclaimed to be “the center of the poker universe.”

From then on, any poker player worth their salt simply had to pick up stakes and relocate to Las Vegas, either permanently or as a second home to ply their trade during WSOP season.

As a passionate poker fan, it’s my honor to present the top five best pro poker players to ever call this one of a kind city their home.

1 – Doyle Brunson

Picture if you will, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan suiting up in 2019 to take on pro basketball’s modern crop of superstars in a legitimate NBA game.

Obviously, those Hall of Famers’ advancing age would quickly turn such an affair into a farce. With that in mind, what Doyle Brunson continues to accomplish at the age of 86 is truly mind-boggling to behold.

Doyle Brunson Playing Poker, Two Blue Casino Chips

Sure enough, Brunson continues to play the biggest poker game in Las Vegas even as he’s approaching his 90th birthday. Between taking part in the original World Series of Poker (WSOP), winning the WSOP Main Event in 1976 and 1977, and continuing to grind locally some 50 years later, Brunson obviously takes the top spot on this list.

Brunson was born in Longworth, Texas, but he’s called Las Vegas home ever since those halcyon days in the 1970s. Over that span, he’s captured an astounding 10 gold bracelets at the WSOP here in Vegas, while recording a 3rd place run at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Five Diamond World Poker Classic in 2005. That tournament has since been named the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, a fitting tribute to the game’s founding father.

All told, Brunson has accumulated over $6.1 million in live tournament earnings over his storied career. And of his 87 live cashes, 79 of them have come in his adopted home of Las Vegas.

2 – Daniel Negreanu

Brunson was the man for poker enthusiasts in the 1970s and beyond, but he has since passed the proverbial torch to Daniel Negreanu.

Known affectionately as “Kid Poker,” the Toronto-born Negreanu arrived in Las Vegas as a fresh-faced 22-year-old back in 1996, looking to take his game to the next level. Predictably, the local hustlers quickly beat Negreanu for his entire bankroll, but his persistence paid off in a big way.

Daniel Negreanu Playing Poker Tournament, Money Spread Out

After returning home to hustle up another bankroll playing poker and pool, Negreanu returned two years later to compete in the 1998 WSOP at Binion’s Horseshoe.

In his very first gold bracelet event on the WSOP felt, Negreanu outlasted the 229-player field to claim victory in the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em tournament.

That first-place finish was worth $169,460 in prize money, and from that launching pad, Kid Poker never looked back.

Since that breakthrough win, Negreanu has captured six gold bracelets at the WSOP, along with an absurd $41.8 million in live tournament earnings. That haul, which for over a decade put Negreanu at the top of the Hendon Mob’s all-time tournament earnings list, includes an $8 million score from a single tournament, the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop at the 2014 WSOP.

Now 45 years young, Negreanu is still going strong. He regularly plays in the Big Game at Bobby’s Room, while also appearing in the highest-stakes tournaments held at the WSOP and the Aria.

And he’s become a fixture in the Las Vegas philanthropical scene as well, hosting the “Big Swing” charity golf event at Harrah’s Golf Course since 2009 among other contributions.

3 – Phil Ivey

Originally born in Riverside, California, in 1977, a young Phil Ivey made his way to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he discovered Seven Card Stud Poker cash games in the 1990s.

Phil Ivey Sitting at Poker Table with Casino Chips, Poker Cards Spread

Despite being underage at the time, Ivey procured a fake ID which he used to enter local casinos like the Taj Mahal and sit in small-stakes Seven Card Stud games. Because he wasn’t based in Atlantic City, on losing nights, Ivey would simply sleep under the famous Boardwalk before returning to grind the next morning.

This habit led fellow players to nickname Ivey “No Home Jerome,” a play on the faux first name labeled his fake ID.

Ivey eventually found a true home in Las Vegas, building a multimillion-dollar mansion estate in the upscale suburb of Summerlin. That home has since been put on the market, but while he spends much of his time at the tables grinding ultra high-stakes cash games in Macau, Ivey still has property in Sin City.

Ivey’s greatest exploits in poker have taken place here too, as he’s racked up 10 gold bracelets to match Brunson and former two-time WSOP Main Event champ Johnny Chan for second place on the all-time leaderboard. With over $26.3 million in live tournament earnings to his credit, Ivey currently holds the 14th position on Hendon Mob’s all-time tournament leaderboard.

4 – David “Chip” Reese

The first player on the list who is unfortunately no longer with us, David “Chip” Reese flew under the radar for most recreational poker fans.

But during his lifetime, Reese impressed fellow pros to such a degree that even Brunson himself once called his best friend “certainly the best poker player who ever lived.”

David Chip Reese Poker Player Sitting with Stacks of Money, Two Poker Chips

Reese was born in Centerville, Ohio, in 1951 and went on to attend Dartmouth University after turning down an offer from Harvard.

Despite his affinity for card games, the economics major seemed like a shoo-in for the academic or corporate life, especially when Stanford Law School invited him to make the cross-country trip to California.

On his way there, however, Reese took a pit stop in Las Vegas and found his way into a poker game. Having started with just $400 on the table, Reese walked away from the game up $66,000. One day later, his bankroll had been built to over $100,000, prompting Reese to abandon his law school plans in favor of a career as a poker pro.

As a member of the Beta Theta Phi fraternity, Reese schooled his brothers in bridge, poker, and other games to pass the time. Today, the den within the frat’s Dartmouth chapter is officially known as the “David E. Reese Memorial Card Room.”

Reese won two gold bracelets (1978 and 1982) at the WSOP in the series’ early days, but he preferred to grind the biggest cash games in town while avoiding the limelight. But, in 2006, prompted by an urge to play on TV so his children could see him in action, Reese entered the inaugural $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. tournament at the WSOP.

In what was the largest tournament ever held at the time, in terms of buy-in, Reese defeated the 139-player field to earn $1.7 million and his third career gold bracelet.

Less than two years later, Reese passed away in his sleep due to complications from pneumonia and blood clots. He was only 56 years old when he died, but as this moving obituary makes clear, Reese left a lasting legacy in both Las Vegas and the wider world of poker.

After his death, WSOP organizers began awarding winners of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Poker Player’s Championship with the David “Chip” Reese Memorial Trophy in honor of the late legend.

5 – Stu Ungar

Despite his youth, Stu Ungar dropped out of school in the 10th grade to pursue gin rummy in his native New York City.

Ungar was born in 1953, and by the 1960s, the precocious player was winning gin rummy tournaments all over the Big Apple by virtue of a photographic memory and a preternatural card sense. Eventually, his prowess in that card game led to fellow pros refusing to give him action, so Ungar took up poker as a fallback.

Poker Player Stu Ungar, Colored Stacked of Casino Chips

He arrived in Las Vegas in 1977, whereupon Ungar immediately began relentlessly beating the local gin rummy players like he did back home. Once again, however, his action dried up, forcing Ungar to take his bankroll to the local poker tables over the next few years.

Like clockwork, “The Kid” dispatched Las Vegas poker legend Billy Baxter for $40,000 in a heads-up game. Rather than hold a grudge, Baxter saw an opportunity and offered Ungar a staking deal in the upcoming 1980 WSOP Main Event.

Playing the game of No Limit Texas Hold’em for the first time, Ungar easily won every chip in play, beating Brunson heads-up for the title of poker’s World Champion.

He returned one year later to successfully defend his title, one of his five career WSOP gold bracelets.

Unfortunately, a hard-partying lifestyle and cocaine addiction caused Ungar to focus on all the wrong things. He never fully realized his potential, choosing instead to hang out in seedy Las Vegas motels to indulge his bad habits.

Ungar sobered up in 1997 at the behest of Baxter, who once again entered “The Kid” in that year’s WSOP Main Event. Only 34 at the time, Ungar’s years of drug abuse had clearly taken their toll, but he was still an almost supernatural talent at the poker table.

Ungar wound up winning it all for the third time, an unprecedented feat in modern poker.

One year later, a debilitated Ungar couldn’t even make it to the WSOP to defend his title, and November of 1998 he was found dead of a drug overdose.

Before he passed on, however, Ungar made it clear in an interview that he believed himself to be the best card player to ever walk Las Vegas’ streets:

“Someday, I suppose it’s possible for someone to be a better No Limit Hold’em player than me. I doubt it, but it could happen. But, I swear to you, I don’t see how anyone could ever play gin better than me.”

Conclusion

Las Vegas has served as the focal point for professional poker players for five decades and counting, and for good reason. Dozens of world-class card rooms combined with a steady stream of tourists serving as the game’s “fish” combine to create an oasis of poker in all of its forms.

And as the five legendary Las Vegas poker figures listed here prove, the best place on the planet to play naturally attracts the best players on the planet.

How to Become a Better Video Poker Player

Video Poker Logo on Red Poker Backdrop

Video poker isn’t one of the most popular casino games. Even though it’s a machine-based game like slot machines, it isn’t anywhere close in popularity to slots. In fact, in land-based casinos, video poker seems to be dying out.

Most video poker machines are now being replaced with new slot machines, because slots are more profitable for the casinos.

From a gambler’s perspective, it’s hard for me to understand why slot machines are so much more popular than video poker machines. The house edge on the average slot machine is over 5% and the house edge on the average video poker machine is around 2%.

If you play the right video poker machines using the best strategies, you can play video poker with a house edge of less than .5%.

You don’t have to be a math genius to understand that a house edge of a half percent is much better than a 5% house edge. In fact, it’s 10 times better.

This means your bankroll lasts 10 times longer when you make the same size bets, and it also means you have a better chance to win every time you play.

I put together this article for two types of gamblers. The first type is a slot machine player. If you play slots and want to switch to playing video poker, follow the simple steps on this page. Your gambling results are going to improve, and none of these steps are difficult to do.

The second type of gambler this page will appeal to is a video poker player who isn’t getting the results they want. You can quickly start seeing improved results when you adjust your video poker play based on what you’re getting ready to learn.

1 – Strategy Is Your Friend

Video poker games are based on old draw poker games. Most start with a five-card hand and you choose which cards to hold and which ones to exchange for new cards. Some games use a standard 52 card deck and others use a standard deck plus a joker. Some games have wild cards and some don’t.

The most popular variation of video poker is Jacks or Better, and it uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards. Deuces Wild, another popular video poker version, uses a standard 52-card deck and all of the deuces, or twos, are wild.

This might not seem like it’s important, but the fact that you know the value of all the cards in the deck used for the game is a big deal. Knowing the value of all of the cards means every starting hand has a most profitable way to play.

Here’s an example of using strategy in video poker:

Jacks Or Better Video Poker Strategy

You’re playing Jacks or Better and your first five cards are the ace of clubs, king of clubs, jack of clubs, 10 of clubs, and the six of diamonds. The correct play is to keep everything except the six of diamonds.

If you draw the queen of clubs you complete a royal flush, which is the highest paying hand in the game. If you draw any of the three remaining aces, three remaining kings, or three remaining jacks, you have a pair of jacks or better, another paying hand.

Finally, if you draw one of the three queens that isn’t a club, you complete a straight. When you average the return for all of these winning combinations, it’s higher than playing the hand any other way.

You can determine the best possible play for every possible starting hand in video poker based on the game and pay table.

This can get complicated, but there’s good news. People have already used computers to run all of the possible combinations and produced the best strategy.

This means you can find a strategy chart or video poker strategy card that already has all of the best plays listed. You don’t have to do any of the hard work or guess the next time you have a hand that’s difficult to figure out.

When you use a video poker strategy chart or card, it keeps the house edge as low as you can possibly get it. Before you play another hand of video poker, get a strategy chart or card for your game and use it on every hand. Different video poker variations use different charts, so make sure you’re using the one designed for your machine.

2 – Check Pay Tables Online

Video poker machines come with different pay tables. Even the same game often has several different pay tables. Many video poker players don’t understand the importance of pay tables, but they’re just as important as using the correct strategy.

The pay table is the thing that determines the house edge. When you play Jacks or Better using a 9/6 pay table combined with perfect strategy, the house edge is .46%. But if you play Jacks or Better with a different pay table, even when you use the correct strategy, the house edge can be 2% or higher.

Online Video Poker Paytable

Good pay tables on video poker machines are getting harder and harder to find in land-based casinos. The casinos are trying to keep their profit from video poker machines up so they can still offer a few, and the main way to do this is offer machines with worse pay tables.

The easiest way to find video poker machines offering decent pay tables is to play poker online. Many online casinos offer 9/6 Jacks or Better and Not So Ugly Ducks Deuces Wild, which are two of the better games as far as pay tables you can find. Both of these games also have strategy charts that are easy to find.

You really need to become a student of video poker pay tables if you want to improve your results.

Learn the best pay tables for each game you enjoy playing, find the best strategy for these games, and only play when the best pay tables are available.

If you play video poker in land-based casinos, start a list of locations with good pay tables. As you find good machines, add them to your list, and eventually, you’ll be able to plan your trip based on where you can play with the best pay tables.

3 – Comps, Bonuses, and Promotions

I mentioned one of the best ways to play video poker is in online casinos in the last section. This is even better when you find an online casino that offers a sign up bonus you can use for video poker. It’s important to understand that not all online casino bonuses are designed for video poker play. Many online casino bonuses are only for slot machine play.

A video poker bonus is one of the best ways to increase your bankroll, and they give you more opportunities to hit a royal flush, which is the top payout in most games. A bonus doesn’t make your percentage chance of hitting a royal flush go up, but it gives you extra hands to try to hit one because your bankroll is bigger.

As a video poker player, whether you play in land-based casinos or online, you should always sign up for the player’s or comp club where you play. If the casino doesn’t offer some kind of a reward’s club, try to find a different place to play that does offer one.

Any time you earn comps, whether it’s a free meal or free play, it offsets your losses. You usually won’t earn enough in comps to break even on your play, but it still effectively lowers the house edge because you’re receiving something of value.

The other thing you need to look for is promotions. Casinos run a wide range of marketing programs and promotions to try to get new players. Sometimes, promotions offer free spins or a certain amount of free play.

You can look for promotions in gambling publications, local media close to casinos, and online.

It’s also a good idea to ask the player’s desk in the casino if they have any promotions. You should also ask them to put you on their mailing list for future promotions.

Conclusion

When you find video poker machines with good pay tables, use the correct playing strategy and get all of the bonuses, comps, and promotions you can find. Your results are going to get better.

If you’re currently a slot machine player, switching to video poker is going to help you immediately. Any time you can play with a house edge that’s 10 times lower, if it does nothing else, it’s going to let you play much longer on the same size bankroll.

It’s easy to find and use a video poker strategy chart, so there’s never a good reason not to use one. It also doesn’t take long to find the best pay tables, so I recommend doing that right away. When you play video poker at online casinos, read the terms for the available bonuses so you can start with a bigger bankroll.

Improve Your Poker Results – 3 Easy and Simple Steps

Poker-Winner
All forms of poker offer something you don’t find in most casino games. Normal casino games are built so casinos can take a percentage of the money wagered and keep it for profit.

In some games, you can alter this percentage by using poker strategy. In others, the percentage is set and can’t be altered.

Poker makes money for the casino, too, but it does it in a different way. Instead of having a built-in percentage advantage, casinos and poker rooms take a small cut off the top of each pot as profit. On the surface, this might seem like the same thing as normal casino games, but the big difference is that you play against other people in poker.

If you can outplay most of your opponents, you’ll make enough money to cover the small charge the casino or poker room takes. When you learn how to do this, it leaves a good amount of profit for you.

All three steps I cover in this article are designed to either lower your cost of play or improve your results against your opponents. Accomplishing either one improves your results. When you can do both at the same time, it improves your results even more.

The best thing about the three easy steps discussed below is that it doesn’t matter if you play Texas holdem, Omaha, or another variation of poker; your play in all of them will be improved. You don’t have to study new strategies and spend weeks improving. You can get started right now, so there’s no reason to wait.

1 – Play Against Bad Players

If there’s a single thing that any poker player can do right now to improve their results it’s playing against bad players. When you play poker, you have quite a bit of choice about who you play against. Yet most poker players never consider the ability of their competition and take the first available seat.

This is the worst way to pick your opponents, and the example below demonstrates why it’s bad:

You take a trip to your local poker room and two tables are running. Each has an open seat, and both tables are no limit Texas holdem played at the same stakes. The first table is filled with players who you’re familiar with, and they’re all bad players. They seem more interested in drinking and telling jokes than playing good poker.

The second table is filled with professional poker players who seem to be concentrating on the game, and you know that all of them are better than you. Which table do you have a better chance of winning at when you take a seat?

Of course, the answer is obvious. You have a much better chance of winning by taking a seat at the table filled with bad players. Unless you’re also a great poker player, your chances of winning at the table with professionals is almost zero. And even if you’re a great player, it’s going to be hard to play above a breakeven game against poker pros.

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The truth is that most poker tables have a mix of good and bad players. Unless you’re a top player, the odds are strong that any table you sit at will have a couple that are at least as good as you, if not better.

But it’s important to understand that the tables available to you with the worst players are the most profitable. This means you need to start paying attention and learning which players are good and which ones are bad, so you can make better decisions in the future.

This is harder to do when you play online poker, but there are a couple things you can do. If the online poker room where you play lists the percentage of players who see the flop, the tables with the higher percentages are usually filled with poor players. I cover this in the third section below, but the best players don’t see as many flops as bad players on average.

Another option you can use to play against bad players is to start your own private game. I cover this in the next section, but the idea is that you only invite players who are worse than you.

When you play against bad players, it almost guarantees long term profits for you. Of course, you want to continue learning and improving your skills, but there’s no reason to lose while you’re doing it. Target bad players and make money on a consistent basis.

2 – Eliminate the Cost

In the opening section, I explained that poker rooms and casinos offering poker tables take a cut off the top of each pot for their profit. This is called the rake, and the amount varies from room to room and is sometimes based on the limit of the game. The common rake is around $5 per hand.

In order to be a winning poker player, you have to win enough to cover the rake, which you do by playing better than the majority of your opponents. If your results are average, you still lose in the long run because of the rake. If you didn’t have to pay the rake, you’d break even with average play.

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Is there any way to play poker without paying rake? If there is a way to play without rake, it’s going to instantly improve your results.

The good news is that you can play in poker games that don’t have a rake. These are known as private or home poker games. Before I continue, you need to know that in some areas, private games are illegal. I don’t offer legal advice and neither does this website, so you need to learn the local laws where you live before you join or start a home game.

You can find private poker games by asking other poker players you know. I play in a private local game from time to time and have friends who play in a couple of other local games. Most communities have private games if you know how to find them.

The other option, and the one I prefer, is to start your own private game. When you run a game, you get to pick the players you invite to play. As you learned in the last section, if you start a game and fill it with bad poker players, it increases your chances of winning.

When you combine a game filled with bad players and eliminate the rake, you’re doing two things that instantly increase your profits.

The main thing you need to consider other than the legal aspects of private poker games is safety. When there’s a lot of cash in one place, it can open up the danger of someone trying to rob the game. Make sure you consider your safety by being smart. Never put yourself in a potentially bad situation.

3 – Play Tighter Than Normal

The poker player who enters the pot with the best starting hand wins more often than the player who enters the pot with a weaker hand. Of course, the flop, turn, and river change the values of your starting hand, but in the long run, you win more with better starting hands.

The main way to improve the average value of your starting hands is to play fewer hands. You fold bad and marginal hands, so the average value of the hands you do play increases. This is one of the big things that most losing poker players don’t seem to grasp.

Yes, you can win with any starting hand, but just because you can win with 2-7 doesn’t mean it’s profitable in the long run to play. Most poker players see 30% to 50% of the flops and majority of poker players lose money in the long run.

While there isn’t an exact percentage of hands you should see the flop with, the fact is that 30% to 50% is too high. You should try to reduce the number of flops you see to somewhere around 20%. This forces you to fold marginal hands and saves your resources for when you have a good or great hand. Your poker results are going to instantly improve when you play fewer hands.

Conclusion

Nothing on this page is hard to do. These are three easy steps you can take to make more money playing poker, and you can start using all of them right now. These three steps are so strong that if you’re currently a losing poker player, you can quickly change to a winning player.

Even if you only use one of these steps, it’s going to make a big difference in your results. But if you use two or all three of them, you’re going to start seeing bigger results faster.

7 Sucker Bets Most Gamblers Make

Casino Craps Table, Red Dice, Man With Hand Over Face Disappointed
No one likes to be a sucker. Yet the casino industry thrives on players making sucker bets. The problem is that most players don’t know which bets are sucker bets and which ones offer a fairer proposition.

I’ve put together a list of the seven sucker bets that are the most common in casinos. While I don’t spend much time in this article explaining the best bets in the casino, I do include a short list of the best games you can play in the conclusion section.

1 – Insurance

One of the most common bets that blackjack players make that can be considered a sucker bet is insurance. When the dealer has an ace as their up card they offer insurance to all of the players. Insurance pays 2 to 1 and you can bet up to half the value of your bet on your hand.

If you bet $20 on your hand and the dealer has an ace showing, you can make a $10 insurance bet, which is also called even money by some dealers and players, and if the dealer has a natural blackjack you lose your original $20 wager and win $20 on the insurance bet. This means that when the dealer has a natural blackjack you break even on the hand.

But when the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack you lose the insurance wager and play the original bet out. On the surface this might look like a good bet because you break even when the dealer has a natural.

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The reason why it isn’t a good bet is because it’s actually a side bet that you need to look at by itself. It really doesn’t have anything to do with your original bet.

When the dealer has an ace showing, when their down card is a ten through king they have a blackjack. With any other down card they don’t have a blackjack. This is a ratio of nine cards that don’t make a blackjack to four that do, or 9 to 4. The bet only pays 2 to 1, which is worse than 9 to 4. This means that it just makes you lose more in the long run. So, blackjack insurance betting is bad betting.

2 – Inside Craps Bets

Craps has three bets that offer a decent house edge. Some players argue that there are four decent craps bets based on house edge. The three best bets are the don’t pass, pass, and odds. The fourth bet that’s sometimes included is the place six and eight.

Here are the house edge numbers in these four wagers:

WAGERS HOUSE EDGE PERCENTAGE
Odds bets 0%
Don’t pass 1.36%
Pass 1.41%
Place six eight 1.52%

All of the other bets offered at the craps table have a higher house edge, with most of them between 4% and 13.9%. All of the bets other than the four mentioned above at the craps table are bad bets.

3 – Baccarat Tie Bet

When you play baccarat you have three betting options. You can bet on the banker hand, the player hand, or a tie. Both the banker and player hands have a low house edge of 1.06% and 1.24% respectively.

The tie wager has a house edge over 14%. It’s one of the worst sucker bets in the casino and you should never make it.

When you make a wager on the banker hand and win the casino charges a commission. The house edge of 1.06% is the actual edge after the commission, so it’s still the best bet.

4 – Slot Machines

This might come as a surprise because slot machines are the most popular games in the casino, but they’re also one of the worst sucker bets available. Slot machines combine two elements that are bad for gamblers.

The house edge varies from slot machine to slot machine, but almost all of them fall somewhere between 2% and 12%. This alone makes them a bad bet, but when you consider how fast you can play them it makes playing slots even worse.

Row of Slot Machines in Casino, Red Icon with Thumbs Down

Most table games play between 50 and 80 hands per hour, but you can take 600 or more spins per hour on most slot machines. The combination of a high house edge and hundreds of spins per hour drains you bankroll faster than most casino games, and reduces your chance to win any particular slots session a great deal.

If you enjoy playing slot machine based games, you’re much better off playing a video poker machine with a good pay table and a strategy card. Some video poker games have a house edge under a half percent.

5 – Poor Pay Table Video Poker

I mentioned video poker in the last section as a good alternative to slot machines. But you need to find machines with good pay tables and use good strategy. You can’t use strategy to lower the house edge on slot machines, but every video poker machines let’s you use strategy to play with a lower edge.

Playing a video poker machine without a good pay table and strategy card is just as bad as playing slot machines. Bad video poker pay tables have a house edge running from 2% to over 5%.

My favorite video poker game is Jacks or Better. I like it because it’s easy to play and it’s usually easy to find a machine with a good pay table.

The best pay table in most casinos for Jacks or Better is called a 9/6 and pays nine coins for a full house and six coins for a flush. Just make sure you always wager five coins to unlock the bonus when you hit a royal flush.

You can find other video poker variations with good pay tables as well. Follow the link above to see some of the best video poker pay tables in existence. The machines offering over 100% pay back are rare, but a few exist.

Remember that you need to use the best strategy in addition to finding machines with a good pay table. This is easy if you use a video poker strategy card or chart designed for the game you’re playing.

6 – American Roulette

While there are many candidates for the worst sucker bet in the casino on this page, I think that American roulette is the king. The house advantage for roulette isn’t as bad as some slot machines or keno, but the thing that makes it so bad is that many places that offer American roulette also offer European roulette.

Roulette Table Layout, American Roulette Wheel, European Roulette Wheel

The house edge on an American wheel is almost two times as much as a European wheel, so no one should ever play the American version. The easiest way to tell if a wheel is American or European is the American wheel has a double zero space and a zero space and the European wheel just has a single zero space.

Most online casinos offer both types of roulette wheels, so if you play online always pick the single zero wheel. If the casino where you play doesn’t have a European wheel, simply play somewhere else. This is true whether you play in land based casinos or online.

7 – Keno and the Lottery

Games of keno draws players in much the same way the lottery does. You can win a big prize, often $10,000 to $100,000, for a small bet. The minimum keno bet is usually $1, so it’s cheap to play. As a matter of fact, if you’re goal is to make a small bankroll last as long as possible, keno is a good option.

The thing that makes keno a sucker bet is the huge house edge. The edge varies based on how many numbers you pick and the available pay outs, but the normal keno game has a house edge over 25%. This is absolutely terrible, and only a few gambling activities are worse.

The only one that’s worse that comes immediately to mind is the lottery. While you can win millions on a bet of $2 or $3, the edge is often 40% or higher. This makes keno and the lottery sucker bets every time.

Conclusion

The gambling industry makes a great deal of profit from players making sucker bets. Now you know the worst sucker bets you can make, so you can avoid them. I offered a few pieces of advice for making bets with a lower house edge above, but here are some other options.

  • Blackjack
  • Video poker machines with good pay tables
  • Poker
  • Baccarat banker bet
  • Craps pass, don’t pass, and odds bets

You can also do a few other things to help offset the house edge like earning comps on your play. You should also always use the best available strategy on the games where strategy can alter the house edge.

5 Ways to Gamble for Fun With Your Friends

Group of People Gathered at Poker Table, Casino Chips and Poker Cards
If you’ve been reading my articles for long, you probably already know that I love gambling. I enjoy games of chance and games where you can use strategy to improve your chances to win. Most of the time I write about playing casino games, poker, and sports betting, because these are the most common forms of gambling.

While many people play in casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks, they’re not your only options. Sometimes I just want to put a few dollars on something and have some fun with my friends. So I put together a list of things I’ve bet on with friends over the years.

The best thing about all of the gambling activities that you can enjoy with friends is that you and your friends get to set the stakes. You can make the stakes low enough that everyone can enjoy the activity without stressing about losing too much money.

1 – Bet On Individual Sporting Events

One of the easiest ways to gamble for fun with your friends is to bet on upcoming sporting events. Most of my friends are sports fans, and it’s always more fun for me to watch a game if I have a few bucks on it.

The best thing about betting on sports with your friends is you can play for any stakes you want.

Even a small bet of $5 or $10 makes a game more interesting, and you can make sure that all the bets are low enough that no one stresses about losing too much money.

We always use the lines posted by a popular sportsbook so things are fair, and usually we bet on games that we’re planning to watch anyway. The main advantage of betting with your friends when you bet on sports is that you aren’t charge vig like you get charged when betting with a sportsbook.

While it’s easiest to use against the spread betting, you can also make over/under wagers on games.

2 – Put Together a Friendly Poker Game

I occasionally play in a home poker game that a friend of mine puts together. We play spread limit Texas holdem with everyone anteing $1 before the deal and every bet is between $1 and $5 on each round. Everyone by sin for $50 or $100, and we have a good time playing. No one has to worry about losing too much money, and when players bust out they can buy in again or stop playing.

Like the other fun gambling activities on this list, you can play for smaller stakes and it doesn’t reduce the fun of the game. You can play for pennies, quarters, or dollars.

At Home Poker Game, Poker Cards and Casino Chips on Table, Three Poker Cards Icon

You can play with coins or cash, but we prefer playing with poker chips. We use $1 and $5 chips because they match the stakes we play for. But you can use chips and have all of them worth the same amount, based on your stakes. If you’re playing for quarters, just make all the chips worth a quarter, no matter what color they are.

I recommend starting with Texas holdem because most people have seen it played on television, but you can play any form of poker everyone agrees to play. I’ve played five card draw, seven card stud, and Omaha in private games. And even though it isn’t poker, I’ve also played in a few home blackjack games for low stakes.

3 – Weekly Pool of Games

This is one of the simplest ways to gamble with friends. It doesn’t require any skill or knowledge so it’s fun for everyone involved. And it doesn’t have to cost much to play. You can use any stakes that everyone agrees to, but somewhere between $1 and $20 is common.

Icon Displaying Variety of Sports, Hand Holding CashYou put together a group of games in the upcoming week that’s evenly divisible by the number of people in the pool. If you have four people in the pool, you pick eight, 12, or 16 games. Each bettor pays the same fee and everyone receives the same number of teams from a blind draw.

At the end of the week the player with the most wins gets the pot. If two bettors have the same number of wins they split the pot.

You can have as many people in the pool as you want, and as I mentioned above you can play for any stakes. The simplest way is to just assign teams and if the team wins the bettor wins the game, but you can also use point spreads published by a popular sportsbook.

This works years round, because there’s always sporting events running. You can go throughout the year using the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA football, and NCAA basketball.

4 – Euchre

Euchre is a game where four players split into two teams of two and compete for tricks. It’s a trump based game, and only takes a few minutes to learn. It’s not usually associated with gambling.

In high school I played euchre for money a great deal. The stakes are up to the players, and I usually played for $10 a game plus $5 a euchre or $20 a game and $10 a euchre.

Even if you only play for $2 a game and $1 a euchre, it adds a little more fun to the game without anyone worrying about going broke.

I rarely play euchre anymore because my wife insists on being my partner when we play and I’m very competitive. It drives me nuts when she doesn’t use proper strategy, so for the sake of our marriage we don’t play often.

5 – High Low

When I started in college the opportunity to lay euchre for money started drying up. But I found a group of guys playing a new game to me. They called it acey deucy, and this is how it’s played. You can play for any stakes, but we played for quarters. But don’t let the small stakes fool you; I often won $50 or more in a playing session.

Everyone who was playing put a quarter in the pot. Whoever is dealing shuffles a standard deck of cards and places two cards face up in the center of the table. Play goes around the table to the left. Players can bet any amount from a quarter up to the amount in the pot.

Hands Shuffling Poker Cards, Quarter

You have to bet at least a quarter when it’s your turn to play. You win the bet if the next card falls between the two cards on the table. When you win a bet you take the amount you bet out of the pot. When the third card falls outside the two cards you lose, and put you bet in the pot. If the third card matches one of the first two cards you have to put double your bet into the pot.

Here’s an example of how the game works.

The dealer places a six and a jack on the table. You bet $1 into a pot with $3 in it. If a seven through 10 is the third card, you take back your $1 and collect $1 from the pot. If a two to five or queen to ace is the third card you put you $1 in the pot. If the third card is a six or a jack you put $2 in the pot.

After each hand, the three cards are placed in a discard pile and two more cards are dealt and the next layer to the left bets. This continues until someone wins the entire pot. Then everyone antes again, the deck is shuffled, and play starts with the next player to the left.

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If no one wins the pot before the deck is depleted, simply shuffle again and continue playing.

We always had two decks of cards, with one in play and the other being shuffled by a second player.

This is a fun game you can play when you have four or more people who want to play, and you don’t have to play for high stakes. You can even play for pennies.

Conclusion

The nest time you get together with a group of friends, try one of the fun gambling activities listed on this page. Make sure everyone understands the rules before you start playing, set the stakes at a level where everyone can play, and have some fun.

Some of these games you can play when you get together, and others you can play on a schedule. It doesn’t matter which game you play or how often you play, as long as everyone has fun and has a chance to win.

A couple of the games listed on this page involve strategy, like euchre, poker, and high low, but betting on sports and doing a weekly betting pool don’t require any skill. A few people are able to bet on sports better than others, but when you use the point spreads it’s usually a break even activity in the long run.

Poker Games Through the Ages

Poker Cards, Casino Chips, Poker Gold Text
As you’re sitting at the table, drawing to an inside straight with half your pot pushed to the middle of the table, have you stopped to wonder how the great game of poker was started? Hopefully not, because that’s really no time to lose your focus.

Still, there are lots of good times when you can pause for a moment to wonder about the origin of poker and how it became the phenomenon that it is today. Unfortunately, the exact beginnings of poker are up to some amount of debate before it arrives on the shores on the US. After that, things are a lot more clear in how it progresses from a 20 card game to the 52 card game we know and love today.

Poker’s Clouded Origins

As I said, the seed that grows into poker is unclear. Most scholars believe that the game made it to Europe from Persia.

However, how the game got to Persia is still up for some debate. Frankly, how poker grew once it hit American shores is also up for debate.

Still, to understand the full history of poker, one must pay homage to the Chinese empire. Let’s start our exploration of the history of poker in China about 1100 years ago.

Chinese Dominos

One of the earliest references to a game that resembles our poker comes from 10th century China. In China, the Emperor would play a domino game with his concubines that used dominoes as playing pieces. This game may have been similar to today’s Mahjong.

Chinese Dominos, Emperor Muzong of Tang

Also of note, as early as the 7th century, the Chinese invented card games, though it would not be for another 200 years before we have recorded history of a card player going on a bender and playing a marathon card game set (read about emperor Muzong for more details).

Last, and interestingly enough, by the 7th century card games were known as “leaf games.” Some have suggested that this is because Chinese cards were printed onto leaves. Whether or not this is true is up to some debate.

As-Nas

Either way, by the 10th century card and domino games were being played in China. At the same time, the Silk Road connected the Chinese empire to Persian empire and it appears likely that traders brought leaf games along with their silk and other trade goods.

That last part is up for debate, though what is certain is that by the 16th century, Persian literature is making references to a card game called Ganjifa. Some have suggested that Ganjifa may be derived from the Chinese word for playing cards. Either way, if you look at a set of Ganjifa cards, you don’t have to squint too hard to see modern day playing cards.

Still, Ganjifa was incredibly popular in India and Persia, both of which had at least some cultural exchange routes with parts of Europe.

Ganjifa decks were actively printed until recently, but most importantly, the game spawned a number of variants.

This includes the game As-Nas, a more modern variant of Ganjifa (by 17th century Persian standards anyway), which uses decks of twenty or twenty-five cards. While As-Nas is never played in the United States, its effects will be felt by modern gamblers everywhere, but we’re still stuck in the 17th century. But hey, we’re having fun.

Primero (or Maybe Poque or Even Pochen)

Around the 16th century, a game called primero appears in Spain which is a three-card game of bluffing using a forty-card deck. Primero spreads across Europe and it’s at this point, that we can start to see more games that may well establish a family tree for games that will turn into poker.

Flag of Spain, 16th Century Photo of Group Playing Poker

Primero gives birth to the French game poque (which sounds like poker, doesn’t) and the German game pochen (which sort of sounds like poker.) Both games use decks of cards and involve skill and bluffing to win the game. Still, despite the similar sounding name, we don’t have a game that quite resembles the modern game.

Don’t Forget John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich

Since we’re talking about the history of poker, I wanted to stop for a moment and give thanks to John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. A fair amount about the Earl has been recorded in history including the fact that he was an avid (some would say degenerate) gambler who did not like to be bothered when the chips were on the table (or however they kept score.)

For the most part, it appears to be historically accurate that Montagu did, in fact, ask for slices of meat to be served between slices of bread so that he could eat and not make a mess while gambling. Some believe this was merely a story made up by his enemies, but it appeared to have backfired.

We know this because today we still call things “sandwiches” while referring to those would discredit him merely as “his enemies.” Anyway, hooray for gambling. It brings such wonderful unintended benefits sometimes.

The 18th Century

Sadly, the exact roots of poker are still a little unclear at this point. According to some sources, the first game to be played in America was none other than As-Nas, our Persian game that’s been flourishing half a world away. Other sources claim that someone took the principals of primero (or poque or pochen), mixed in some betting and thus begins poker.

Poker Cards Spread OutA third school of thought is that along with McDonalds and democracy, poker may well be an American import. This school argues that what makes poker unique is the betting, not the cards or bluffing. This would mean that we didn’t have poker until we had betting and we don’t get that until the mid-1700s.

Either way, it’s clear that we can thank the riverboat crews for spreading the game far and wide. No matter how the game was invented. It’s also during this time that poker becomes a business.

In other words, the city of Las Vegas owes a big debt to the 1700s and to riverboats, too, because they sowed the seeds for what would become the casino.

52 Card Decks, and Betting, and the Flush

One argument for the influence of As-Nas if nothing else is that it’s not until 1834 that American poker deck goes from twenty cards per deck to fifty-two, the number used today.

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Also, strangely enough, it’s not until we get fifty-two card decks that we introduce the flush as a possible hand.

Five-Card Stud Poker and the Straight

The American Civil War changed a lot about America in a few short years. During this time, poker also changed. Draw variants (in other words, games where a hand is improved by drawing additional cards) started to become popular around 1850 and it wasn’t until the Civil War that we saw the introduction of five-card stud and the straight being a winning hand.

Can you imagine what poker would be like without a straight? There’d be almost no good bad beat stories.

Texas Holdem Was Born

Anyway, by the 1900s, the nation is starting to come together and most of the modern games of poker we know and play today are around in some form. While poker and gambling continued to evolve and will continue to adapt to modern times, one of the more recent major changes to the game happens at the turn of the 20th century.

Casino Table with Poker Cards and Casino Chips, Texas Holdem Text

One of the most notable changes is the introduction of community card poker games like Texas Holdem, Omaha Holdem and Pineapple. Really, the community card style of poker game is introduced in the 1900s, but the game of Texas Holdem doesn’t come into existence until the 1920s and doesn’t gain popularity for some time.

Conclusion

At some level, it feels a little strange to end our tour of poker in the 1920s. There were other games introduced to casinos (like pai gow poker in the late 1980s). Then again, ending on a game like Texas Holdem doesn’t seem so bad, either. Texas Holdem is by far and away the most popular poker game played today, but it wouldn’t exist or have a place to play if not for all of the games that came before it.

It is strange how something with worldwide appeal like poker has a history that is shrouded in mystery. Still, whether the game was created by Chinese leaf game player or emperors, Persian and Indian card players, European bluff-game-players, or American gamblers looking to bet, it has still turned into the pastime we know and love today.

One does not need to know the history of the game to enjoy it. Still, it does make one wonder if today’s Texas Holdem is tomorrow’s primero or As-Nas and what the future holds for this incredibly popular game.

3 Ways You Can Benefit from Gambling Math

Two People Playing Casino Slot Machine, Math Problem on Chalkboard
Over the years I’ve shared advice about gambling with hundreds of thousands of people through my writing and in person. I’ve also spent time teaching freshmen level math in college. One thing I run into over and over is most people don’t like math and aren’t interested in learning much about it.

The problem with this is if you want to be a successful gambler you have to understand and use math. This doesn’t mean you have to have a degree in math or love it, but you have to be able to use it to reduce the house edge as much as possible, especially if you’re doing real money gambling.

It doesn’t matter how much you know about math, or how much you like it, because you can start using it right away with the three tips I cover below. Once you start using these three things, hopefully you can continue learning more about how math works in gambling and continue improving your results.

1 – Strategy Cards

Some gambling activities involve strategy, while others are designed in a way that it doesn’t matter how you play. The games that let you use strategy to alter the house edge run from complicated to easy. The best strategy when you play baccarat is to always bet on the banker hand. The best strategy when you play craps is to always bet on the don’t pass line and back it with full odds. These are easy strategies.

On the other end of the strategy list are games like video poker, blackjack, and poker. Poker, consisting of games like Texas holdem and Omaha, involve many layers of strategy that can’t be contained in a single book. But games like video poker and blackjack have strategies that can be contained on a single card or chart.

In blackjack, every combination of your cards and the dealer’s up card has a single best strategic way to play. The only way to keep the blackjack house edge as low as possible is to make the best play on every hand.

Here’s an example of a blackjack strategy play.

When you receive a pair of eights, the best strategy is to split them. This is because two eights form a hard total of 16, which is the worst possible total.

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When you split the eights, any two, three, nine, ten, jack, queen, king, or ace you receive on one of the eights creates a much better hand.

This particular hand is pretty easy to understand. It’s easy to see why splitting eights is the best play. But many hands are more difficult to understand. The way to learn the best play in every situation is to determine every possible outcome for every possible card you can draw.

Blackjack Strategy Chart, Ace of Diamonds Card

This is time consuming, but there’s good news. People have already used computer programs to handle all of the difficult mathematical work and created strategy cards and charts you can use. You don’t have to know the math behind the strategy; you just need to take advantage of someone else’s work and use the strategy card.

The same thing is true for video poker. Each starting hand, when compared to the pay table and the mathematical possibilities, has a single best way to play. The good news is that just like blackjack strategy cards, someone has already run all of the mathematical possibilities, and put them on a single card or chart.

In both blackjack and video poker, you need to play games with good rules or find machines with good pay tables. The rules and pay tables change the house edge, but when you find good games the way to keep the house edge as low as possible is to use strategy cards or strategy charts.

2 – The House Edge

I mentioned the house edge in the last section. The house edge, usually stated as a percentage, is the amount the casino keeps from all of your wagers on average in the long run. Games with a higher house edge take your money faster than ones with a low house edge. Low house edge games also give you a better chance to win any particular playing session.

People Gathered Around Casino Blackjack Table, Icon with Money Speech Bubble

So how do you know the house edge for individual casino games?

It takes quite a bit of mathematical work to determine the house edge for casino games. But just like the strategy cards I mentioned in the last section, someone else has already done the hard work. You can find a list of casino games with the house edge already figured out.

All you have to do is go down the list and find games with a low house edge and avoid playing games with a high house edge.

The games with the best house edge in most casinos are blackjack games with good rules, video poker machines with good pay tables, and baccarat. The worst games in most casinos are the slot machines and table games other than blackjack.

3 – Reduced Vig

Sports betting is one of the most popular forms of gambling. Billions of dollars are wagered with sportsbooks around the world every year, and billions more are wagered with bookies, in office pools, and between friends and co-workers as well.

While many bettors feel safer placing their wagers with sportsbooks, the ones betting off book benefit in a mathematical way. When you bet at a sportsbook you pay a small fee. You can’t bet $75 to win $75 like you can when you bet with a friend or someone else you know.

Instead, you have to risk $82.50 for the chance to win $75 when you bet at the sportsbook. If you win your bet you receive your $82.50 back and get $75 in winnings. But when you lose, you lose $82.50.

The sportsbook prefers to have an equal handle on each side of a game, so when they take your bet on the home team they hope to take a bet of equal size on the road team.

What actually happens is they end up with more money on one side of a game than the other, but over time and thousands of games the money they take on both sides of games evens out.

This is how sportsbooks make money.

Here’s what happens when they have the same amount bet on each side of a game. Using your bet of $82.50 to win $75, they take the same sized bet on the other side. One bettor wins the bet and gets their $82.50 back and receives a win of $75. The $75 win comes from the bettor on the losing side. This leaves $7.50 in profit for the sportsbook.

Crowd at Sportsbook, Money Falling Down

When the sportsbook has an equal handle on both sides of a game they lock in a guaranteed profit. The extra amount you have to wager beyond what you can win is called the vig.

If you bet on 100 games and win 50 of them, if you don’t have to pay the vig you break even. But because of the vig, if you win half your bets you still lose money.

Here’s how the vig hurts you.

If you make 100 bets risking $82.50 to win $75 and win 50 bets, here’s how the numbers work out. Your total cost to make 100 wagers is $8,250. When you win you get back $157.50, which is your bet of $82.50 plus a $75 win. The 50 games you win times $157.50 is $7,875.

The total amount wagered of $8,250 minus your return of $7,875 is $375.00. This means that you lose $375 when you win half the games you bet on. This is an average of $3.75 a game.

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Notice that $3.75 is exactly half the vig. When you place bets with vig and win 50% of the time your average loss is half the vig.

Compare this to placing all of your bets without vig. You make 100 bets of $75 to win $75. The total cost of placing 100 bets is $7,500. The 50 times you win you get back $150. This is a total return of $7,500 on the 50 games you win. In other words, you break even.

Here’s what all of this means.

You don’t have to know anything about math to use it to your advantage in sports betting. Placing bets with vig costs you every time you do it. The way to avoid this cost is to place as many bets as possible without the vig.

If you bet a large number of games, you might not always be able to find other people to place bets with on all of your games. When you have to place bets with a sportsbook, look for ones offering reduced vig wagers. Some books regularly offer smaller vig, and others run specials from time to time. Every time you can place bets with no vig and reduced vig you save money.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be a mathematician to benefit from math while you gamble. You don’t even need to like math. You simply need to use the work that others have already done. Use strategy cards, understand the house edge, and make as many bets as possible with reduced vig.

9 Gambling Tips to Help You Get Lucky

Group of People Playing Casino Craps, Money Pile Wallpaper
Do you remember the last time you caught a lucky break at the casino? Most people get lucky from time to time, but wouldn’t it be great if you could figure out a way to get lucky more often?

Here are nine gambling tips that can help you get lucky more often. They aren’t going to turn the tables on the casino in the long run, but they’re still worth checking out.

1 – Only Make One Bet

This is one of my favorite gambling strategies, but I have to warn you that it’s one of the most boring ways to gamble. This is also one of the few strategies that let you double your money almost half the time.

Most forms of gambling are designed to slowly take your money. You make a lot of wagers. You win some and lose some, but over time, you lose a little bit more than you win. When this happens, you’re basically exchanging money for entertainment. It locks most gamblers into a lifetime of losing.

Group of People with Casino Dealer Playing Roulette, One Bet Green Icon

What I recommend is only making one bet every time you gamble. In the long run you’re still going to lose more than you win, but almost half the time, you’re going to double your money. You can pick from several bets, but the one I recommend is one of the even money roulette bets on a single zero, or European, wheel.

A European roulette wheel has 37 spaces and an even money bet wins on 18 of them. This means that you win 48.65% of the time. You place your entire trip bankroll on red and either double up or lose everything.

Over 48 times out of 100, you double your money. If you do this 10,000 times, you double your money 4,865 times. When you play casino games like roulette for smaller bets over a number of hours, you slowly lose money. Your chances of doubling your money making smaller bets over time is almost zero.

In the long run, you’re still going to lose, but when you double up almost half the time, it feels great.

2 – The Easy Baccarat Bet

Every casino game has a different house edge and different games are harder than others to play. If you’re looking for an easy casino game to play that also has a small house edge, baccarat is a good choice.

Here’s how easy baccarat is to play. Exchange your cash for chips, take a seat at the baccarat table, and place a small bet on the banker hand. This is all you have to do. The casino personnel will deal the cards, collect losing wagers, and pay out the winners.

The banker bet has a low house edge of only 1.06%, so if you make table minimum bets you can play for a long time. 

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With such a small house edge, you also have a better chance to get lucky and walk away from the table as a winner sometimes.

If you decide to play baccarat, you’ll want to play the mini or midi version, which is played on a table that looks like a blackjack table. The banker bet also pays a commission on winning bets, but the house edge of 1.06% takes this into account, so it’s still the best bet on the table.

3 – The Simple Craps Wager

Craps looks complicated if you’ve never played before. But it’s really a simple game, and it offers a few bets with a low house edge. Another good thing about craps is some bets take several rolls to resolve, so you end up making fewer bets per hour than in most games.

Illustration of People Surrounding Craps Table, Man Pointing Down Table, Pass Or Dont Pass Text

The best you want to make is either a pass line bet or a don’t pass line bet. Most craps players prefer to make a pass line bet, but the don’t pass line has a slightly lower house edge. The pass line house edge is 1.41% and the don’t pass is 1.36%.

When you play a game of craps for the first time and want to make a bet, ask one of the people running the game to tell you when you can make a pass or don’t pass wager. They’ll tell you when you can place a bet and they take care of everything else. Your bet might not win or lose on the first roll, called a come out roll. It might set a point, then you wait until the point or a seven gets rolled for the bet to resolve.

4 – Sports Betting Secret

Do you know how sportsbooks make money? It’s not by taking more losing bets than winning bets. Sportsbooks make money by collecting a small charge on all losing bets. When you have to bet $22 to win $20, the extra $2 they collect when you lose is profit.

One way to avoid paying this small charge is to place bets in a way where it isn’t charged.

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How can you do this? The easiest way is to find someone else, possibly a friend, coworker or family member, and place a bet with them.

You can still use the lines published by the sportsbooks if you want, but you never have to pay the vig. Betting on sports is a fun way to put a few dollars down without needing a big bankroll. I find it just as much fun to watch a game I have $10 on with a friend as I do watching a game that I have $100 on with a sportsbook.

5 – Home Poker Games

Poker rooms make money by taking a rake from each pot. The size of the rake depends on the stakes, but it’s usually something like 10% of the pot up to $5. But if you play in a home poker game, you can play without paying rake.

Friends at Home Playing Poker, Holding Poker Cards and Casino Chips, Money

Some private and home games are run with a rake, so they aren’t really any different than the games offered in a poker room. If you can’t find a home poker game, consider organizing one. Ask your coworkers, friends, and family if they’re interested in playing in a game.

6 – Slow Play Jacks or Better

Jacks or Better is one of the most popular forms of video poker, and machines with good pay tables are fairly easy to find. Look for a machine that pays nine coins for a full house and six coins for a flush. You should use a strategy chart for Jacks or Better.

When you play using a strategy chart or card on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine, as long as you bet maximum coins on every hand, the house edge is less than .5%.

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This is one of the lowest house edges available in the casino, but you can play hundreds of hands every hour.

But you don’t have to play that fast. You can play as fast or as slow as you want, so slow down and your bankroll will last longer. When you combine a low house edge and slow play, you increase your chances of winning your playing session and reduce the amount you lose per hour on average.

7 – Low-Cost, Big-Reward Lottery

The lottery has a higher edge than any game you can play in the casino, but it offers one thing that you can’t find in casinos. You can win millions for a low cost of only a few dollars.

Lottery Numbered Balls, Three Lottery Ticket Icons

I don’t recommend spending too much on the lottery because of the poor odds, but it’s the ultimate low-risk, high-reward game that many gamblers like. You can even join a lottery syndicate to increase your odds.

8 – Let It Ride Strategy

This strategy applies to Let It Ride poker and it is when you break your bankroll into many small parts and use each small part to start a series of bets.

You keep betting your wins on each series until you achieve a big win or lose. When you lose one series, you start a new one with another small wager.

You can begin with a $10 bet, and when you win, you’ll have $20. You now bet the $20, and if you win, you have $40. You keep doing this until you reach your win target or lose. You can set your win target at any amount, but the lower the win target, the better your odds of reaching it.

9 – The Keno Strategy

The keno strategy combines the best of a couple of different tips above. Traditional keno games are slow, with fewer than 15 draws every hour in most casinos. It also only costs a small amount to play, with many places only charging $1 to play.

It depends on how many numbers you play, but some keno jackpots are worth over $10,000. The odds are stacked against you, but you can have a shot at $10,000 or more for less than $20 an hour.

Conclusion

Every gambler wants to leave the casino with more money in their pocket than when they entered. Most gamblers aren’t this lucky, but you can use the tips and strategies on this page to improve your luck.

How to Improve Your Slot Game with a Twist

Black and White Spiral Background, Slot Machine Icon
It’s hard for me to feel much loyalty to any slot machine game. I’ve played quite a few of them and few gave me much reason to be excited.

Not many slot games allow you to improvise a strategy.

Should you bet the minimum or the max?

Should you pick a bonus game with 25 free spins or the 10 free spins with a X3 multiplier?

I watched a woman playing a slot game one called Great Wall. The bonus round picks from 15 spinning gold balls. She mentioned casually that she never picked the same positions that were awarded big prizes in the previous round.

That’s a strategy but I don’t see how it matters. The prize positions are determined randomly for each bonus round.

Gamblers love to share their tips for winning. Slot machine players have their playbooks of tips and strategies just like everyone else. Most of the tips are routine.

As long as you take any slot game strategy with a grain of salt a lot of them are worth trying at least once. You’ll laugh when you see the reason why I say that.

I’ll explain what makes this worthwhile at the end. Meanwhile, here are some of the more unusual tips I’ve come across that make a little bit of sense.

I’m not saying these strategies work. I’m just saying they are worth trying.

Only Play Progressive Games with Large Jackpots

I first heard this tip from a person I’ll call a lifelong player. If you’re feeling skeptical right away you have good reason to be.

Every spin is resolved independently of all the others. There is no point where a slot game is “due to pay off”. It doesn’t become more likely to pay just because the game hasn’t hit the jackpot in a long time.

Even so, sooner or later a progressive game should pay a jackpot. Given a choice between a slot machine with a $1000 jackpot and a slot machine with a $10,000 jackpot (same game, different machines), you should always pick the machine with the higher jackpot.

Your chances of winning are equal but if you’re going to win why not win the larger prize?

Jackpot Text with Cherries, Stacks of MoneyI’ve heard people talk about buying jackpots. That is where you sit at the machine and keep putting money in until it pays off. This is an expensive way to play slots.

There is a story on Quora about a team of gamblers who took over a bank of networked progressive slot games at a casino in Australia. They spent $11 million to win (buy) an $8 million jackpot.

I don’t recommend trying to buy a jackpot but if you want to go for a jackpot, pick the largest one relative to the game you’re playing. If the progressive jackpot on a $1 machine is $3000 and the progressive jackpot on the $5 version is $12,000 then go for the $1 game.

Not everyone agrees with that strategy. Some players argue that the higher value machines are programmed to pay more often. If you believe that, then go for the jackpot on the highest denomination machine you can afford to play.

Watch the Credits

This is one of the crazier strategies I’ve ever seen a player use. The guy sat staring at the credits displayed on the game he was playing. He reminded me of the movie “Men Who Stare at Goats”.

Was he trying to drive the credits up with mental telepathy?

I had to say something to him so I sat down casually started a conversation with him. He responded with “yes” and “no” to my questions about the game. He wasn’t rude and seemed willing to talk.

I finally said, if you don’t mind my saying, you seem very focused. Am I bothering you?

He said he was just watching the credits.

He explained he never played a game that took more than 15-20% of his money. I don’t remember the exact figure.

He wasn’t trying to drive the credits up. He was just watching for the balance to hit his loss limit.

I asked him what he did if he kept winning. In that case he raised his loss limit. So if he started with $100 and won another $100 he would leave the machine if the new $200 balance dropped to $160.

He also said he felt less anxious when he watched the credits rather than the reels. It had something to do with a mesmerizing pattern in the game.

I thanked him for his time and walked away. A few weeks later I thought, why not try it?

I don’t know about mesmerizing patterns but I did win money on the slots that night.

It just seems a very boring way to play a slot machine game. And I thought there wasn’t anything that could make them more boring.

Leave Any Machine That Doesn’t Pay a Big Win in 10 Spins

Why 10 spins?

I never could get anyone to explain the magic number to me but I’ve seen people use this strategy many times.

The idea is as simple as any slot gaming strategy gets. You spin the reels 10 times. If a Big Win appears you keep playing the game. You stop when you go for 10 spins without a Big Win.

What’s a Big Win?

Obviously on some games the machine tells you “Big Win!” What really matters is if you win enough to boost your balance well above where you started.

Slot Machine Showing Reels Spinning, Hand Holding Cash Out

I think 10 spins is setting a very high expectation. You could lose 10 spins in a row and that would be perfectly normal. But people who play by this strategy won’t hang around a machine that keeps taking their money.

I guess that’s good advice if you’re spending time with toxic people. But in slots every spin is treated as equally likely as the last.

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I know the random numbers are supposed to change constantly. This strategy isn’t based on a loss limit. It’s based on an unpaying spin limit.

Adjust your limit up or down as you see fit. I don’t know any reason why it must be 10 spins.

Always Choose Left or Right

My mom – of all people – taught me this strategy. I’m ashamed to say it took 2 lessons for me to figure it out.

We treated my parents to a night at the casino. Mom loves to play the slots and she has her favorite games. She invited me to watch her play one.

The bonus round prompts the player to choose an avatar or something on the left or right side of the screen. After the 3rd bonus round I realized Mom always chose the left side.

When I asked her why she did this she said – literally – always choose left or right.

Casino Slot Machine, Green Arrow Going Left and Right

I couldn’t see that it made any difference but she said he didn’t like the way the right side of the game plays. I wasn’t taking her seriously and I should have listened.

I found another machine with that game and started playing it. When I finally got to the bonus round I picked the right side just so I could see how it looked. It was a little different from the left side game Mom preferred.

As I sat there playing the game Mom came over. I won another bonus round and picked Right again. Don’t do that, she said. The Left game pays better.

So we got into an argument about how slot games work. To shut me up Mom brought up the help screen and showed me how the two sides of the game have different rules.

This is why I like to playing blackjack games. Slot games are just crazy.

Conclusion

I’ve only barely scratched the surface of all the crazy slot game strategies people use.

Do they really make a difference?

If it feels good do it. But here is why I say it’s worthwhile to try these different strategies. It makes slot gaming more interesting.

If you’re like me you think most slot machine games are kind of monotonous. If it’s not wolves howling at the moon it’s coyotes. Or buffalo are stampeding across the plains or something.

Spaceships, aliens, monsters, gerbils, and every creature imaginable will charge at you, jump off cliffs, fish for prizes, and repeat the process endlessly.

If you add the experience of testing different strategies just to see what happens you won’t miss playing your favorite game quite as much. And it gave me a reason to talk to my Mom about something other than my baby pictures and embarrassing moments I’d rather forget.

How to Host a Casino Party in Your Home

Friends at Poker Table, Woman Holding Poker Card, Casino Night Logo
You don’t have to run one of the top gambling sites to create an online casino experience for your friends. You can rally the troops and have a fun casino night at home with just a few easy arrangements.

Casino nights are popular fund-raising ideas for schools and other organizations. I haven’t heard that people run them out of their homes but you could even do that.

Rather than discuss the pros and cons of running the games in your living room or hosting online play, I’ll explain how you can do it both ways. That way you’ll be able to choose what works best for you.

And I’m not suggesting anyone gamble with real money. This is about creating a family-friendly event for your friends, not inviting a raid from the local vice squad.

Things You Need to Create Your Own Casino

If you want to offer table games you’ll need some tables and space for them. You can buy cheap equipment online including blackjack tables, poker tables, roulette wheels, and craps tables.

Buying full tables and gear is a hefty expense but for a casino night party you can get by with some folding tables, inexpensive black table cloths, and table top layouts for craps, roulette, and blackjack. These layouts are easily stored mats.

Roulette Wheel and Two Red DiceIf you plan to offer fun craps games, be sure to buy several sets of dice. Just assume someone is going to lose a die every now and then. Don’t let the party slow down while people search for it.

To provide your guests with slot games all you need is a few computers. You can connect to free online slot games at various sites. Aristocrat Gaming released some of their older slot games online so people can even play legitimate Vegas slot games.

I recommend you invite people to bring their laptops and ask them to let you know. You can set up a couple of tables with black table cloths and be sure you’ve got good power connections.

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Rather than overload a single outlet with multiple surge protectors, think about positioning slot game tables around the room so no outlet is overloaded.

Finally, you’ll want your own casino cafe. Obviously the food will be prepped in the kitchen. But instead of recreating a chef-quality buffet go for the sandwich shop motif.

Stock up on the meats, breads, condiments, and sides you’ll need to satisfy the hearty appetites.

The Logistics Will Be the Most Challenging Part

Where will everyone park?

Whether you have your own house or live in a condo or apartment, your neighbors won’t appreciate having to maneuver around a lot of strange cars and trucks.

Instead, think of ways people can car pool. Also, check out what it will cost for people to use services like Lyft, Uber, or a local taxicab company.

Is there a bus line that runs close to your home?

If there’s a safe place where people can park close by and you ferry them in your own vehicle, try that. Just don’t get anyone towed or leave vehicles where they might be broken into.

If you live in a community with a club house see if you can book that clubhouse for your party.

If have a friend with a local business like a dojo, see if you can rent or borrow the space for the evening. I’ve attended parties in both kinds of locations. It never hurts to ask.

Two People Looking at Computer Displaying Online Slot Game

Depending on how many online slot games you’ll have going, you’ll want to check your Internet account’s bandwidth limits.

If you know how to configure a wi-fi router and firewalll, set up a guest network so people have reliable Internet access. It would be a good idea to set the firewall to only allow access to a small number of sites where you know people can safely play free slot games.

I’m assuming you wouldn’t have more than a handful of computers connecting to the Internet, maybe 5 or 6 at most.

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Remember that if your top single machine speed is in the 25Mbps range (the minimum for “broadband access” in the United States) you won’t be able to run many games at the same time.

Not to worry – you can buy slot games for your PCs from IGT and WMS. Just check Amazon. The games are pretty inexpensive. I’ve played the original games in casinos but not on PCs so I can’t promise anything.

Clear the Gaming Rooms of Clutter

A typical home-based party usually includes the living room, dining room, and kitchen. I would move everything that can be easily knocked to the floor or broken out of the way. You may have to clear some chairs to make room for folding tables.

However you decide to organize your gaming, keep people together but give them clear paths of movement.

The laptops’ power cords should be kept under their tables and close to the walls as much as possible. You don’t want people tripping over any cords.

Recruit Your Dealers and Host a Practice Party

You’ll want your dealers and croupiers to be comfortable with their duties. So invite them over for an informal training session or two before the party.

Casino Dealer Shuffling Cards, Casino Chips and Dice

Keep it as simple as possible. Train them no more than a week in advance of the party. You might be able to invite them over early to run through the games and help set up casino.

Print out cheat sheets for them to refer to during the evening in case anyone has questions.

If You’re Feeling Generous Add Some Gifts

As most parties are held on the weekend, you might buy everyone who attends the party a lottery ticket. The gaming stops when it’s time for the drawing.

You can offer scratch off tickets for door prizes, too.

Hosting party usually costs some money but you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on games and gaming paraphernalia. Be creative.

By the time everyone leaves they should have had a chance to play each of the games you provided.

Conclusion

Themed parties are fun to attend and to stage. If you’ve never done it before but know someone who has, ask for their help. They’ll probably have some tips to share not mentioned above.

Try to keep things as simple as possible. The most important thing is that people have fun. You don’t want the games to end too quickly.

And you don’t want to overwhelm your guests with too many choices. Just because you can set up roulette, blackjack, poker, and craps all at once doesn’t mean you should.

A themed party is more elaborate than a weekly poker game. Make it something to remember fondly, not something people hope they’ll never be invited to again.

History of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship

Aussie Millions Poker Championship Logo, Casino Chips Floating
2020 will mark the 23rd year of the largest poker tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. While the name has changed over the years, the tournament is the Australian equivalent of the World Series of Poker.

The tournament is currently called the Aussie Millions Poker Championship (or just Aussie Millions) but has been known in the past as:

  • The Crown Australian Poker Championship
  • The Australian Poker Championship
The tournament was the brainchild of the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia as a way to promote their (at the time) new poker rooms.

The tournament gained momentum in 2005 when Joe Hachem traveled to the City of Las Vegas and became the first Aussie to win the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. The popularity of casino poker gaming and Texas hold’em is often attributed to Hachem, who’s considered among the best high-stakes cash game players in Australia.

Below, I’ll cover each of the previous editions of the event as we gear up for the 2020 Aussie Millions Poker Championship.

The 1998 Australian Poker Championship

The first Australian Poker Championship was held on July 26, 1998. It was a relatively small affair compared to future Aussie Millions events.

The tournament consisted of a $1,000 tournament buy-in. The game was a limit Texas hold’em tournament.

The games, unlike most tournaments in poker gaming, only sat eight players per table instead of the usual nine. This remains the same until the field is reduced to 36 players, at which point all tables are six-handed. This difference would remain throughout the years of the tournament as the tables at the Crown Melbourne are designed for eight players.

The event had 74 participants and a prize pool of 74,000 Australian dollars (about USD $53,000 at the time).

Despite being the first tournament of its kind in Australia, the event attracted international attention. Players from Australia, the United States, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom participated.

Stacks of Money, Casino Poker Cards Spread Out

The event was won by Aussie native Alex Horowitz. The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Alex Horowitz – $25,900
  • 2nd Place: Ken Eastwood – $14,800
  • 3rd Place: David Gorr – $7,400

The 1999 Australian Poker Championship

The second year of the event saw a marked increase in participants. The tournament saw 109 buy-ins.

The game changed in 1999. The 1998 game was a limit Texas hold’em game, but in 1999, it was changed to pot-limit Texas hold’em.

The tournament had a total prize pool of $109,000.

The first-place winner was Milo Nadalin of Australia.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Milo Nadalin – $38,150
  • 2nd Place: Adam Haman – $21,800
  • 3rd Place: Joe Meissner – $10,900

The 2000 Australian Poker Championship

The third annual event saw more changes that were meant to increase interest in the event.

The game was changed to no-limit Texas hold’em, and the buy-in was increased from $1,000 to $1,500.

Despite the attempt to increase the participation, it would take more time, as the number of buy-ins from the year before stayed the same in 2000. That total was 109.

The increase in the buy-in did dramatically increase the prize pool. The total prize pool in 2000 was $173,500.

The winner of the event was Australian Leo Boxell.

The top three finishers of the event and the prizes they won were:

  • 1st Place: Leo Boxell – $65,225
  • 2nd Place: Gerry Fitt – $32,700
  • 3rd Place: Gary Benson – $16,350

2001 Australian Poker Championship

In the fourth installment of the Aussie Millions, the event didn’t see any changes for the first time in its history. The event took place on August 24, 2001.

Poker Table with Casino Chips and Poker Cards, Gold Trophy, Stack of Money with Bills Flying Up

The game was no-limit Texas hold’em. It saw 101 buy-ins (down slightly from the previous year).

With a total prize pool of $151,500, Australian Sam Korman took the top prize.

The final top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Sam Korman – $53,025
  • 2nd Place: Eric Sclavos – $30,300
  • 3rd Place: James Potter – $15,150

2002 Australian Poker Championship

For the first time in the five-year history of the championship, the Crown Melbourne moved the event from its traditional July/August spot to January.

The reasoning behind this was to attract a larger international audience. The organizers received feedback that players felt that the World Series of Poker and the Australian Poker Championships were too close together.

With the collapse of Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker a decade before, it left an opening in the late January/early February timeframe that hadn’t been filled by another tournament.

The event was held on January 11th and 12th, 2002.

With the date change came other changes too. The buy-in for the event was raised to $5,000.

The rise in the buy-in led to fewer competitors. Only 66 people competed for the record prize pool of $330,000.

The tournament was won by Australian John Maver.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: John Maver – $150,000
  • 2nd Place: John Homann – $63,000
  • 3rd Place: David Szetho – $35,000

2003 Crown Australian Poker Championship

In 2003, the tournament continued to evolve. First, the name of the event was slightly tweaked, adding the Crown branding.

The next change was in the marketing of the tournament. The process started the previous year with the date change, but the marketing goal was to get more international players to increase the prestige and the prize pools. The date change helped with this, moving it several months prior to the World Series of Poker as opposed to a month or two after.

2003 Australian Millions Poker Winner Peter Costa, Winner Gold Sticker

Another change was that the buy-in was increased from $5,000 to $10,000.

The event took place on January 12, 2003.

The changes paid off as the participants almost doubled with 122 buy-ins.

The prize pool for the event broke the million-dollar mark for the first time and reached $1,220,000.

Players from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Austria, among other countries, participated.

For the first time in the history of the event, less than half of the top nine finishers were from Australia.

Another first involved the winner. For the first time in the history of the tournament, the winner was not Australian. Peter Costa from the UK won the event.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Peter Costa – $394,870
  • 2nd Place: Leo Boxell – $225,640
  • 3rd Place: Harry Demetriou – $124,102

2004 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The success of the 2003 event led the Crown Melbourne to refrain from making any changes to the 2004 tournament.

It took place on January 15, 2004, and consisted of 133 buy-ins.

The total prize pool of the event was $1,330,000, and the tournament was won by Tony Bloom of the United Kingdom.

None of the top three finishers were from Australia, which was another first for the event.

The top three finishers and the prizes won were:

  • 1st Place: Tony Bloom – $426,500
  • 2nd Place: Jesse Jones – $243,700
  • 3rd Place: Kenna James – $134,000

2005 Crown Australian Poker Championship

2005 was a banner year for the event. More than half of all the players came from the northern hemisphere. Players from England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, and Lebanon participated.

The event took place over three days, from January 18th through the 20th, 2005.

263 players paid the $10,000 buy-in to create the largest prize pool in the tournament’s history. The players vied for a pool of $2,630,000.

Poker Player Jamil Dia Sitting With Casino Chips in Front of Him, 1,000,000 Text

Australian Jamil Dia won the first prize. For the first time in the event’s history, the winner took home a seven-figure prize.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Jamil Dia – $1,000,000
  • 2nd Place: Nike Simkin – $465,000
  • 3rd Place: George Mamacas – $250,000

2006 Crown Australian Poker Championship

With the explosive growth of the tournament and the success of Australia’s first WSOP winner Joe Hachem, Crown made some additions to the event. In addition to the Main Event, a second part of the tournament was introduced, the $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge. This was winner take all and continues to be held each year with the Main Event. This was a turning point in the championship’s history as the event gained a reputation internationally as a “high roller” event.

The winner of the $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge was Indonesia’s John Juanda. He took home $1 million for his efforts.

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The tournament increased from three to six days and was held from January 14th to January 19th, 2006.

The Main Event saw a record-smashing 418 entries to make for a $4,180,000 prize pool.

The winner of the Main Event was Australia’s Lee Nelson.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Lee Nelson – $1,295,800
  • 2nd Place: Robert Neary – $689,700
  • 3rd Place: Nenad Medic – $376,200

2007 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The tenth Aussie Millions was held from January 14th to January 19th, 2007.

The $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge saw American Erick Lindgren win the $1.8 million prize.

The Main Event saw another record-smashing 747 buy-ins for the event, bringing that year’s prize pool to $7,470,000.

Denmark’s Gus Hanson won the Main Event in a year that saw only one Australian finish in the top seven. It also marked the highest finish of a woman in the history of the event.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Prize: Gus Hansen – $1,500,000
  • 2nd Prize: Jimmy Fricke – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Prize: Andy Black – $700,000

2008 Crown Australian Poker Championship

From January 14th to January 19th, 2008, Crown held its eleventh Aussie Millions.

In the $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge, American Howard Lederer beat out 25 other players to win the $2.5 million prize.

Poker Player Alexander Kostritsyn, Black Casino Poker Chips Stacked

In the Main Event, Russian Alexander Kostritsyn beat out the field of 780 players to win his portion of the $7,758,500 prize pool.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Alexander Kostritsyn – $1,650,000
  • 2nd Place: Erik Seidel – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Michael Chrisanthopoulos – $700,000

2009 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The 2009 event was held from January 19th through the 23rd.

The $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge saw an Australian win for the first time. David Steicke defeated 23 others to win the $2.3 million prize.

681 players competed in the Main Event and generated a prize pool of $6,810,000.

Scott Stewart of Australia won the event.

The top money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Stewart Scott – $2,000,000
  • 2nd Place: Peter Rho – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Elliot Smith – $700,000

2010 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The 2010 event saw the tournament increase to seven days. It was held from January 24th to the 30th.

American Daniel Shak won the $100,000 Hold’Em tournament, outlasting 24 other players to win $2,400,000.

A prize pool of $7,460,000 was generated by the 746 entrants for the Main Event. Australian Tyron Krost won.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Prize: Tyron Krost – $2,000,000
  • 2nd Prize: Frederik Jensen – $1,100,000
  • 3rd Prize: Sorel Mizzi – $715,000

2011 Crown Australian Poker Championship

In 2011, Crown added a third event to the tournament — the $250,000 Super High Roller No-Limit Texas Hold’Em Tournament. Like the $100,000, this was a winner take all event.

The winner of the $250,000 event was American Erik Seidel. He beat 20 other players to win $5 million.

The $100,000 tournament winner was the United Kingdom’s Sam Trickett. He outlasted the 38 other participants to win $3,800,000.

2011 Crown Australian Poker Champion, Confetti

The Main Event saw Australian David Gorr face a field of 721 and win his part of the $7,210,000 prize pool during the tournament held from January 23rd through the 29th.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: David Gorr – $2,000,000
  • 2nd Place: James Keys – $1,035,000
  • 3rd Place: Jeff Rossiter – $700,000

2012 Crown Australian Poker Championship

Poker Hall of Famer Phil Ivey won the 2012 $250,000 Hold’Em tournament. His win over 16 others yielded him a $4 million prize.

American Dan Smith won the $100,000 event where 21 others failed to beat him for the $2,200,000 prize.

A $6,590,000 in prize pool was at stake in the Main Event. The 659 participants were outlasted by Aussie Oliver Speidel during the January 22nd through 28th event.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Oliver Speidel – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Kenneth Wong – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Mile Krstanoski – $610,000

2013 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The UK’s Sam Trickett beat out 17 others to win the $4,500,000 prize in the $250,000 buy-in tournament.

Andrew Robl of the US won the $2,200,000 at stake in the 22-player, $100,000 tournament.

The Main Event fielded 629 players over the January 27th through February 2nd event. Malaysia’s Mervin Chan took the top prize in the event boasting a prize pool of $6,290,000.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Mervin Chan – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Joseph Cabret – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Patrik Antonius – $600,000

2014 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

After years of the nickname “Aussie Millions,” Crown gave in and officially changed the name of the event.

The name change was in part due to the feeling that it reflected the high roller aspects of the event.

The tournament took place from February 2nd to February 9th.

Phil Ivey won his second $250,000 buy-in event at the tournament. He beat 30 players to win $11,270,000. This was the first time rebuys were allowed.

The $100,000 saw Yevgeniy Timoshenko of Ukraine win $7,486,000 from the field of 47 competing in the event.

2014 Aussie Millions Poker Champion Ami Barer, Canadian Flag

Canadian Ami Barer won his first Aussie Millions Main Event. The tournament saw 668 players compete for a prize pool of $6,680,000. The buy-in was increased from $10,000 to $10,600.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Ami Barer – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Sorel Mizzi – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Jake Balsiger – $650,000

2015 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

2015 would see Phil Ivey win his second consecutive and third overall $250,000 buy-in event at the Aussie Millions.

He won $6,105,000 from the pool of 25 players. Not too bad for a second win.

The $100,000 challenge was won by Malaysia’s Richard Yong. He outlasted 70 others to win $6,860,000.

Australia’s Manny Stavropoulos took the Main Event pot. The prize pool was $6,480,000 and generated by 648 players.

The event took place from January 25th to February 1st.

Those who finished in the top three were:

  • 1st Place: Manny Stavropoulos – $1,385,500
  • 2nd Place: Lennart Uphoff – $1,214,500
  • 3rd Place: Joel Douaglin – $630,000

2016 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

The 2016 event took place from January 25th to 31st.

The $250,000 buy-in challenge was won by Steve O’Dwyer from the US. He beat 15 others to win the $3,920,000 prize.

The $100,000 buy-in event was won by Germany’s Fabian Quoss. He topped the field of 41 to win $4,018,000.

The Main Event saw Canadian Ari Engel edge out the 732 contestants. The prize pool was $7,320,000. For the first time, a woman finished in the top three.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Prize: Ari Engel – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Prize: Tony Dunst – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Prize: Samantha Abernathy – $624,000

2017 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

A major change was made to the January 22nd through January 30th event in 2017. Due to the lack of interest in the $250,000 challenge, it was dropped from the event.

The $100,000 buy-in challenge was won by American Nick Petrangelo. 18 players vied for the $1,764,000 prize.

2017 Aussie Millions Poker Champion Shurane Vijayaram, 1st Place Ribbon

The Main Event saw 725 players try and win a piece of the $7,685,000 prize pool. Australian Shurane Vijayaram took the top prize.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Shurane Vijayaram – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Ben Heath – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Tobias Hausen – $620,000

2018 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

The event took place from January 28th through February 4th.

The winner of the $100,000 buy-in challenge was Malaysia’s Michael Lim. He outlasted the field of 19 to win $1,862,000.

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The Main Event in 2018 was the largest field ever with 800 buy-ins. The prize pool was $8,000,000.

The winner was the UK’s Toby Lewis. He won $1,458,198.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Toby Lewis – $1,458,198
  • 2nd Place: Stefan Huber – $909,699
  • 3rd Place: Espen Solaas – $1,177,103

2019 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

2019 saw Aussie Millions run from January 28th through February 3rd.

The $100,000 buy-in tournament saw the second-highest participation ever with 42 buy-ins and a prize of $4,116,000. Cary Katz of the US won the tournament.

2019 Aussie Millions Poker Champion Bryn Kenney, Bag of Money

The Main Event broke a record in 2019. 822 buy-ins generated a prize pool of $8,220,000. The winner of the event was Bryn Kenney of the US.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Bryn Kenney – $1,272,598
  • 2nd Place: Mike Del Vecchio – $1,272,162
  • 3rd Place: Andrew Hinrichsen – $1,097,739

The 2019 event didn’t come down to a last-man-standing situation as is the case in most tournaments. After playing 109 hands, Kenney, Del Vecchio, and Hinrichsen made a deal to end play.

When the deal was made, Del Vecchio had more chips, but Kenney would only agree to the deal if he was declared the winner. Del Vecchio agreed if Kenney took a lower payout than the champion was entitled to, so it was agreed that Kenney would get the win and only $436 would divide the two’s purses.

Conclusion

The Aussie Millions Poker Championship has the sixth-largest prize pool in the world and is the largest south of the equator.

Among players, it has taken over the spot that Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker once held.

In addition to the $100,000 challenge and the Main Event, the competition has 25 additional lower buy-in events.

The event attracts the high rollers of poker and the poker elite and shows no signs of slowing down. The players from the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the January/February timeframe as it is summertime in the Southern hemisphere and makes for a great break from the Northern hemisphere’s wintery weather.

It’s also a nice warm-up for the upcoming World Series of Poker that takes place each May, giving players enough time to come back and play to win satellite games to win a spot in the Main Event.

I hope this history of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship has gotten you excited about 2020’s event, which runs from January 4 to January 24. The 2020 Aussie Millions promises to be even more thrilling and prestigious than ever!

How the Internet Changed the Gambling Industry

Computer Code Wallpaper, Laptop Displaying Poker Cards
People have gambled since before the dawn of modern civilization. In fact, the oldest known gambling device was the astragal. You’re probably more familiar with its more well-known name, “knuckle bones.” Archaeologists have found astragals dating back to 3000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia.

The Egyptians played at least five games we know of that may have been used for gambling:

  1. Aseb, aka Twenty Squares
  2. Mehen, aka Coiled One (played on a circular board)
  3. Tjau, aka The Game of Thieves
  4. Bowling
  5. Seega or Senet (precursor of Draughts, an ancestor of Checkers and Go)

They most likely had many more games and wagered on anything that came to mind. The Ancient Egyptians may have even organized the first sports betting pools. We’ll never know for sure, as they borrowed some games and sports from other civilizations. But one thing they didn’t have were real money casino sites (atleast not yet).

What remained consistent throughout the ages until very recently was that anyone who wanted to gamble had to be there in person or send an agent.

Another that only changed in recent history was the design and manufacturing process for gambling games.

Until gaming regulations addressed manufacturing standards in the mid-20th century, anyone anywhere could make a set of dice, a roulette wheel, cards, or whatever else.

Regulated, standardized game design and play made gambling much more fair than it had been. I would even say it became more predictable and respectable. But everyone still had to sit or stand around the table or sit in front of the slot machine.

Gambling was a very personal, social experience for thousands of years.

Computers Began to Change Everything

At the very beginning of modern electronic computing in the 1940s, programmers began coding simulators for blackjack and slot machines. It was too strong a temptation.

Eventually, game manufacturers brought out the first video slot machines in the 1970s. When the personal computer revolution began in the late 1970s, it didn’t take long for software companies to start selling slot machine and card game simulators. Although they were only played for fun by most people, they heralded the dawn of a new era in games of risk.

No one knows exactly where or when the first online gambling game was launched. It’s speculated that there were illegal dial-up bulletin board systems in the 1980s.

Computerworld mentioned a dial-up bulletin board gaming system in 1983, but it wasn’t associated with gambling.

Old Desktop ComputerIn the 1960s, time-sharing computers were built. These were mainframes allowed remote users to connect via teletype terminals. Universities, governments, and large corporations leased time on the mainframes and some early programming books explained how to create simple gambling games for time-shared systems, but they were all text-based.

In my opinion, illegal lotteries were probably the first games to fully transition online. Players likely dialed into secret bulletin boards to check their results. In the 1990s, legal lottery game results began appearing on dial-up bulletin boards and the internet.

As soon as enough people were an;e connect to the web in the mid- to late 1990s, online slot machine games and card gaming rooms appeared. They were unregulated, but curious players found them one by one.

The Internet Proved Online Gaming Was Viable

Although early adopters loved their dial-up bulletin board systems, such games weren’t really profitable enough to attract corporate investment. Too few people could connect to the BBS computers at any one time, they were slow, the interfaces were text-based, and the games were not in real-time.

The internet made it possible for game designers to experiment. First, they created chatroom based card games and simple slot machine simulators. They eventually integrated a fuller graphic interface for gamers.

While the land-based casinos bought more exciting video-based games and user account software, the online casinos were investing in similar technologies.

In land-based casinos, players could not see records of their activity. Online casinos gradually gave players the ability to do this. Even online card gaming can generate history reports.

By the mid-2000s, millions of people were gambling online.

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It was a booming business that led land-based casino owners like Sheldon Adelson to start lobbying for laws against online gambling.

The first big market to be targeted in the United States was poker. In 2011, the FBI shut down popular poker rooms like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. Their operators were charged with bank fraud.

Although the online poker history took a major dive in the United States, it still continued to flourish everywhere else.

Another Revolution Helped Modernize Land-Based Casinos

Although many corporations were skeptical of ecommerce in the 1990s, by 2005, the classic business brochure website was being replaced by interactive business sites.

Any company that could benefit from keeping customers informed of news and deals began soliciting email addresses. Land-based casinos quickly set up sites in the 1990s, but they were mostly informational.

In 1996, the Caesars site’s most interactive feature was a calendar. Visitors were expected to call an 800 number if they wanted to ask questions or make reservations. Within a few years, players could begin creating accounts.

Hotel Clerk Looking at Computer, Las Vegas Caesars Palace Casino

Online reservations, interactive chats, players reward system reports, personal calendars and itineraries, and other interactive features have been added throughout the years. Customers could even start purchasing merchandise over the internet.

The land-based gambling industry was no longer merely about gambling in a casino. It evolved into a brand-merchandising mega-machine.

The Internet Democratizes Gambling

Thanks to advances in online gaming technology, millions of people who probably would not have gambled were now able to play online and offline whenever they pleased.

While the land-based casino industry was booming around the globe, online casinos also proliferated.

To put into perspective, today, there are more than 2,000 licensed online casinos.

Players can choose among many competitive services. If a player doesn’t like one casino, they can try another. In states like Oklahoma, there are more Native American casinos within a few hours’ worth of driving than there are casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, or Atlantic City.

Because all of these land-based casinos have websites, it’s easy for people to find them. Travel websites, casino review sites, and forums all publish lists of land-based casinos, complete with addresses, phone numbers, booking information, and more.

The days when any one casino was so popular it could do almost whatever it wanted are over. Now, they have to compete against each other both online and offline.

Even American players, who are barred from making banking transactions with overseas online casinos, still have many options. US players win online slots jackpots every single year.

The Game Design Industry Expanded Thanks to the Internet

The demand for software developers exploded throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Many of these developers were tasked with creating animated, interactive software. These interactive applications are now found across many industries.

Old Triple 7 Slot Machine, Modern Triple 7 Slot Reel

Thanks to the ubiquitous online experience, people can quickly learn how to play new games. Demand and competition for new games led to a boom in gaming software companies. The gaming companies created many jobs.

The land-based gaming industry experienced similar growth, especially in slot machine designs. Every year, new concepts are brought to market. Game developers adopt ideas from each other as they improve their products.

The internet makes it simple for people to discover and learn about new gaming concepts. Programmers can take online classes, and companies can recruit new technicians and developers online.

Conclusion

Dig deeply enough, and you’ll find many other innovations behind each of the ideas I’ve outlined. The internet contributes to the growth of business and the simplification of consumers’ lifestyles.

We take so many things for granted that we don’t realize how effortless the internet makes our daily lives. Over 1 billion people now own smart phones, and most of these users download games and apps.

If owning a desktop computer and modem allowed us to bring gambling games into our homes, mobile phones allow us to take them with us wherever we go.

The old dial-up networks proved these things were possible. But without improved networking technologies, only a small percentage of people who gamble today would be doing so.

The internet didn’t carry us out of the dark ages of gambling, it illuminated our gaming life in a way that even 20th century gamers could never have imagined.

Cracking the Perfect Slot Game Strategy Code

Number Sequence, Guy Looking at Slot Machine Reel
Slot machine gaming is popular for many reasons. The game designs have become more attractive to be sure – but I’ve always believed the simplicity of slot machine games was their greatest appeal.

Whether you’re pulling an arm on an old machine or merely pressing Spin, you’re putting your fate into the hands of the figurative gods of gaming. Random chance decides what happens next.

How do you develop a winning strategy in a game like that?

Strategy is all about making smart choices. The more choices you must make in a game, the more complicated your strategy must be.

Sure, poker players go into a game with a basic strategy but they still need to make decisions in every round.

Blackjack strategy is less complicated than poker strategy. In blackjack you look at your cards, the dealer’s cards, and pick the best strategy that game experts recommend. It’s simple enough that you can put nearly all blackjack strategies onto a single tip card.

Baccarat has an even simpler strategy. Bet on the Banker. Always.

But slot machine strategy is said to be non-existent. Merely suggesting to a hard-core card player that you have a slot game strategy brings out the eyerolls and snide remarks.

So keep it to yourself but if you play the slots you should have more of a strategy than “press Spin and hope for the best.”

Here are several ways to develop a slot gaming strategy.

1 – Begin By Choosing an Enjoyable Game

What makes a slot game enjoyable?

Obviously the game’s theme will be important to you and maybe even the incidental sounds and soundtrack. But what I mean is a game you’ll feel good about playing.

Look at the game’s payback estimates. Some games show you the theoretical return to player and some games only tell you they pay a prize every 1-in-X spins. The higher the RTP percentage the better and the lower the prize-to-spin ratio the better.

But look deeper. Many players are attracted to games with higher jackpots. My rule of thumb is the higher the top prize the more volatile the game is likely to be.

Options of Online Slot Machine Games, Money Pile

A high volatility game may pay bigger prizes but it pays them less often than a low volatility game. You either play for larger jackpots or more frequent jackpots. Either way you’re not guaranteed to win a jackpot at all.

Finally, verify whether making Max bets really matters. On most progressive games you must make a maximum wager to win the progressive prize. If it’s not a progressive game then if the max bet top prize is only a proportionate multiple of the minimum bet top prize you have some flexibility.

Your last area of control over the game is in the variability of the wins and losses. You cannot control this completely but – for lack of a better expression – the slot base variance of your wins and losses is proportionate to how much you bet.

In other words, your wins and losses are smaller with minimum bets and larger with maximum bets.

2 – Test the Game Before Committing Your Bankroll to It

Most people just put enough money into a machine for a few spins. This isn’t helpful. You can’t judge a game’s volatility by a handful of bets.

Set a budget for a “first run” of spins. I like 25 spins. Some people I’ve discussed this with recommend 100 spins.

This is easier to do with an Autoplay feature than if you try to count spins by hand.

The idea is to give the machine as much money as you’re willing to lose.

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If you decide to play max bets and those are $5 each, assume you will lose every one of your first run spins. That is more likely to happen with 25 spins than with 100 spins.

If your test run ends with about the same amount of money in your balance as you began with the game has proven itself to be playable. You could still lose all your money quickly but with a long enough test run you’ll get an idea for how volatile the game is and how much variance it has.

3 – You Don’t Need a Huge Bankroll

Some slot games roll up small bankrolls into nice big balances. If you’re lucky enough to do that you should be okay. Keep skimming some money off your balance so you always have some cash or cashable tickets in your pocket.

Even if you set up a 100-spin autoplay round, you’ll learn very quickly if the game is programmed to take your money. A high variance game tends to deplete small bankrolls quickly. It’s better to lose $100 than $1000 on your first series of spins.

That’s why I like to start spinning with minimum wagers. People roll their eyes at me but I don’t play slots often enough to feel confident about burning through a couple hundred dollars right away.

Taking Money Out of Wallet, Slot Machine Screen

You’re not losing money if you hit a big prize on a minimum wager. People say that out of disgust but if your wins are proportional to your wagers it doesn’t matter.

How much you could have won by betting more on a slot game is no different from how much you could have won if you had placed your entire bankroll on a single number in roulette. Either way, always practice proper casino bankroll management.

Whatever happens, happens. Take the win and don’t beat yourself for missed opportunity. Somewhere in the world someone just checked their bank balance and found an extra $1000 in it – and that wasn’t you.

3 – Set Some Milestones Before You Play

Milestones are important checks on your game’s progress. Two common milestones are the stop loss limit and the total win limit.

A stop loss limit should be familiar to anyone who has made programmed trades on a stock or commodity change. You buy a position in an equity and tell the system to sell if the market price drops below a certain level.

The total win limit works the opposite way. It curbs your greed and that is its only purpose. People get carried away when they win at gambling and they keep playing.

If you find yourself $1000 ahead on a $100 bankroll you’ve done great. Walk away. Take a break and later start over with a new $100 bankroll.

Another milestone for slot machine games is to walk away if you never get a bonus game. Some bonus games are better than others but on many slot machine games the bonus games are where you make a lot of money.

Not every slot game has great bonus games. I’ve watched people play through bonus games that paid almost nothing.

Just getting to a bonus game is a big part of the fun. If you know the bonus game is there and you never see it you’ll probably be unhappy with the game.

Conclusion

Slot machine games range from mildly entertaining to really exciting. If you’re winning money hand over fist in a slot machine game you’re crazy if you’re not excited and happy.

The great thing about this slot gaming strategy is that you could use it for other games like baccarat, craps, and roulette.

It’s the best strategy I’ve found for any game that requires no skill. Whether you’re betting on a roll of the dice or who hits 21 first, passive betting is fun only when you still have money in the game.

If you’re going to kill time on slot machines you might as well take the experience seriously. You may not be able to improve your chances of winning you can reduce your chances of throwing money away.

Why Don’t People Bother to Learn Blackjack Strategy?

People Surrounding Blackjack Table, Poker Cards and Blackjack Logo
Blackjack strategy is complex. It requires gamblers to know how to handle hundreds of decisions based on their total and the dealer’s up card.

Luckily, studying blackjack strategy isn’t so daunting. One can easily learn how to make the best decision in each situation just by looking at a strategy chart.

Blackjack trainers offer another simple path towards learning optimal strategy. These programs point out incorrect strategy decisions.

Both blackjack strategy charts and trainers are completely free. Players can also find them with a quick Google search.

Everybody should seemingly be adept at blackjack when considering the widespread availability of strategy. However, many players are clueless on the matter.

Why don’t some gamblers bother improving their blackjack skills? I’ll discuss several reasons why this is the case below.

Don’t Feel Like Learning

Many blackjack players are lazy. They dismiss strategy as something that only serious players have time to learn.

These gamblers have a right to be lazy. After all, blackjack and other casino games are about entertainment first.

However, the same players could quickly boost their skills with little time wasted. Here are some simple ways that they could improve:

  • Look over a strategy chart for five minutes before every blackjack session.
  • Practice with online blackjack for 20 minutes while referring to the chart for each decision.
  • Pull up a strategy chart on a smartphone and occasionally refer to it at land-based tables.

Nothing compels gamblers to learn strategy before playing blackjack games. However, one can easily improve their skills without much effort.

Complete Belief in Luck

The internet has changed the world in many ways. Anybody with a smartphone now has access to more information than Bill Clinton did during his presidency.

Thanks to this explosion of information, many gamblers realize that rabbit’s foots and lucky shirts won’t change their odds. Nevertheless, some blackjack players still rely on trinkets and charms over sound strategy.

Group of People Playing Casino Blackjack, Good Luck Text

The same players may play based on feeling. If they have a hunch that a 6 is coming, they’ll hit on 15 even when the dealer shows 5.

Blackjack is a random game (minus card counting) that features verifiable odds. Luck and hunches won’t beat this game.

Misconceptions About Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack strategy may seem complicated. Again, though, anybody can quickly learn how to play optimally through charts and trainers.

However, some gamblers don’t realize the simplicity involved with learning strategy. They may believe that becoming a proficient player involves spending hours pouring over articles and software.

This game’s strategy indeed seems intimidating based on all of the different scenarios.

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Should 7s be split when the dealer shows 7? Should one double down on a soft 13 when the dealer’s up card is 6?

These are the types of situations that confuse the average player. However, gamblers can easily sort through them after spending time with trainers and/or charts.

Trend Betting

The gambler’s fallacy is heavily prevalent in blackjack. This term refers to the idea that past results can dictate future outcomes.

Players who operate based on the gambler’s fallacy use previous results to guide their bets. They often wager more when they think that they’re due for a win.

Here’s an example:

  • Player loses three bets in a row.
  • They feel that they’re destined to win the next hand based on their losing streak.
  • They triple their next wager from $10 to $30.

The odds of winning a blackjack hand are approximately 43%. Therefore, it’s logical to think that a losing streak indicates an impending win.

But outside of card counting, blackjack is a fixed-odds game. It provides the same 43% chance of winning regardless of what has happened in the past.

Blackjack Table with Cards and Poker Chips

The player from the example could lose another three consecutive hands on top of their current losing streak. They’ve only upped the risk by tripling their next bet.

The key thing to remember with trend betting is that every result is independent of the last. Blackjack card counting is the only way to change this.

Rely On Betting Systems

A betting strategy is a systematic approach to gambling. It calls on one to bet in a specific manner to increase profits and, in some cases, win back losses.

The Martingale system is very common in blackjack. This strategy requires doubling bets following every loss.

Here’s an example of the Martingale in action:

  • $10 bet loses (bankroll at -10).
  • $20 bet loses (bankroll at -30).
  • $40 bet loses (bankroll at -70).
  • $80 bet wins (bankroll at +10).
  • Restart at $10 wager.

This negative-progression system is popular for the fact that it helps win back losses quickly. However, it also forces gamblers to assume tremendous risk.

Queen of Spades Card, Ace of Spades CardMany players opt for positive-progression strategies to avoid taking on so much risk. Such systems only require one to increase wagers during winning streaks.

The Paroli system, for instance, requires gamblers to double bets following every win. The goal is to reach three consecutive wins before starting over.

Here’s an example:

  • $10 bet wins (bankroll at +10)
  • $20 bet wins (bankroll at +30)
  • $40 bet wins (bankroll at +40)
  • Restart at $10 wager.

Betting systems sound like a good idea in theory. They can accelerate hot streaks and earn back losses in the short run.

But these strategies don’t overcome the house edge. Therefore, they won’t work any better than flat betting in the long run.

Unfortunately, some blackjack players who use systems feel like they’ve found the golden ticket. They might also forsake conventional strategy.

Again, using casino betting systems aren’t a guaranteed way to make profits. Conventional strategy will get players much further than any system.

Only Playing with Friends

Some people aren’t gambling enthusiasts. However, they’re willing to visit the casino for a social outing with friends.

They may also be willing to play blackjack if their friends do. After all, who wants to stand off to the side of a table while their buddies gamble?

People who only play blackjack because their friends do won’t be motivated to study strategy. They may even have little knowledge of the rules and believe that blackjack is only based on luck.

These players should definitely master the basic rules before worrying about strategy. Once they get the rules down, though, they won’t have much difficulty picking up strategy either.

Playing for Progressive Jackpots

Some blackjack tables feature progressive jackpots. The jackpots grow with each wager and can reach large proportions.

Progressive blackjack plays much like the standard game. The only difference is that players must make an optional side bet if they want to qualify for a jackpot.

Casino Blackjack Dealer, People Surrounding Blackjack Table, Jackpot Logo

The side bet can result in multiple payouts, including the jackpot. For example, it might result in a payout for three aces (including the dealer’s upcard). Many progressive tables award 10% of the jackpot for a certain hand and 100% for an even rarer hand.

In any case, those who pursue jackpots may not be interested in strategy. Instead, they just want to enjoy blackjack with a huge payout on the side.

Of course, the progressive variation features the same strategy as the regular version⁠—only with a jackpot involved. Those who love this game can still benefit greatly by learning basic tips or more.

Conclusion

Those who fail to learn blackjack strategy diminish their chances of winning. They’re instead relying on luck to win.

Unfortunately, many gamblers continue going down this road all the time. They dismiss the idea of learning strategy for one or more reasons.

The biggest roadblock to studying strategy is pure laziness. Some people don’t think that it’s worth the time to improve when they could instead be playing.

These same gamblers may believe that learning blackjack strategy takes too much time. They’re intimidated by what’s seemingly a complex matter.

In reality, blackjack strategy isn’t difficult to figure out. It can be as easy as referring to a chart for every move.

Of course, land-based casinos frown upon those who stare at their chart during each decision. In these cases, one can practice with a blackjack trainer and learn optimal decisions through pattern recognition.

Blackjack strategy and its accompanying tools are readily available. Players only need to make a small effort to grind these resources and begin learning.

What You Need to Know About Keno

Keno Marquee with Numbers on It, Keno Block Logo
Keno is a lottery style game. There are many variations of it. Keno is so popular you can play it on scratch cards, scan cards, and video machines.

The basic game is the same the world over. There are variations and it’s always a good idea to read the rules for any keno game you play before you start making wagers.

The mathematicians and statisticians who calculate gambling odds and probabilities almost universally agree that keno has the highest house edge of any gambling game. Lottery game experts also point out that keno payouts tend to be much lower than comparable prizes from state-run lottery games.

So why do people like playing keno games?

Perhaps it is because of all casino games the payouts from keno can be much higher than payouts from other games. But keno is one of the most flexible gambling games available. That variability may be part of its appeal.

The basic game uses the number 1 through 80. A drawing is held and 20 numbers are pulled. The drawing may be electronically computed or conducted via lottery balls and machines.

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Players choose up to 20 numbers per card and may play multiple cards at once. Minimum wagers usually start at $1 per card.

The payout odds on keno are complicated and you really need to study the payout table for the specific keno game you play. On video keno machines those tables are displayed in the help screens.

In general experts agree that the best payout odds fall in the 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7-pick games. A pick is the number of numbers you’re betting on.

If you play a 5-pick game you choose 5 numbers. If those 5 numbers appear in the 20 numbers that are drawn for the game then you win the maximum 5-Pick prize. You could still win a lesser prize if only 2, 3, or 4 of your 5 numbers are drawn.

1 – Are Keno Winnings Taxable?

Yes, keno winnings are taxable if you pay income taxes. In the United States you are required to report gambling winnings over a certain amount of money.

In reality if you won $500 every week all year long the government would expect you to report that as income. That would come to $26,000. While many players don’t report these kinds of winnings, that’s usually because they lose so much money.

1040 Tax Form, Calculator, Money and Documents on Table, Keno Numbers

How do you keep track?

Bookkeeping is the player’s obligation but the casino will require you to fill out paperwork if you win more than $1200. This may vary by jurisdiction.

2 – Are Keno Numbers Random?

Assuming the game is honest, yes, keno numbers are random.

I can’t vouch for every keno game in the world. There are – I have read – villages in Asia and Africa where local keno games are run by independent operators.

If you’re playing keno in a licensed casino, or on a state-registered keno machine, or in a keno scratch ticket game then the numbers are as random as can be humanly contrived.

If you’ve played keno and feel like you were cheated, remember what I wrote above. Gambling experts consider this to be one of the worst choices out of all the games offered at casinos.

People do win prizes in keno but most of the prizes are a few thousand dollars or less. That’s because as players study the game and gather experience they stop playing 10-Pick games.

You have a 1-in-4 chance of picking any of the drawn numbers. To calculate the probability of all your numbers being drawn, multiply 0.25 by itself as many times as you pick numbers. In a 5-Pick game your chance of picking any 5 numbers that are drawn = 0.25 * 0.25 * 0.25 * 0.25 * 0,25 = 0.0009765625.

That works out to about 1-in-1024. You have a better chance of winning a comparable prize on a slot machine.

So while the numbers are random, if you pick a lot of numbers you make it less likely that you’ll win the top prize.

3 – Are Keno Machines Rigged?

Legally installed and operated video keno machines are regulated. Like popular slot games and video card games, all video keno games are supposed to use random number generators.

If you opened up one of the game consoles and looked at the inside all you would see are some electronic components with chips on them. You have no way of confirming the chips are legal random number generators and processors.

But casinos and other businesses that have video keno games are only interested in happy paying customers. They have no need to cheat you. The games are already designed to favor the house.

Keno Machine Screen, Stack of Money

If you’re playing in an underground casino then there’s no way to be sure of whether the keno machines have been tampered with. There is no way to be sure they are not fake.

The state-run keno games are handled by equipment provided by the same companies that manufacture and certify other lottery game equipment. And the same is true for keno scratch cards.

4 – Why Is Keno So Hard to Win?

I’ve already explained the basic rules of the game above. And I also provided an illustrative example of how to calculate the probabilities of winning.

But winning in keno is not that hard. People who feel it’s hard to win in keno may be playing too aggressively. If you’re betting on 10 numbers (or more in some variants) you’re really stacking the odds against yourself.

You’re more likely to collect on partial wins than complete wins and those partial wins can pay some pretty substantial prizes.

So if you’re getting partial wins and frustrated that you’ve never hit a top prize for your pick games, that’s normal.

But you’re also playing a game that has substantially longer odds than standard popular lottery games like EuroMillions, MegaMillions, and Powerball.

A typical lottery game requires you to pick 5 numbers from a smaller pool than in keno (plus an extra number from a second set).

In American Powerball players pick 5 numbers from a pool of 69 plus an extra number from a pool of 26. These are much smaller pools than keno’s 80 number pool.

That means your chances of winning a 5+1 Powerball game are much, much better than winning the top prize in a keno 6-Pick game, And to add insult to injury, if you do win that top prize in keno it’s going to be MUCH smaller than in a government lottery game like Powerball.

5 – Who Invented Keno?

A lot of people are interested in the history of keno. The usual answer is that historians guess it was invented by the ancient Chinese thousands of years ago to fund a government project, like a war or wall.

Keno Machine Screen, Flag of China, Keno Numbered Balls

Many articles about the history of keno say it was brought to America in the 1840s by Chinese immigrants. That seems unlikely since keno tables are mentioned in various American court cases and statutes in Alabama, Georgia, and New York going back at least to the 1820s. Chinese immigration is first record about 10-15 years before then but there is no mention of their gambling practices.

The truth is that no one knows when keno was invented. If the ancient Chinese of 4-5,000 years ago really played lottery games it’s doubtful they called any of them keno.

Keno in its modern form is first attested in the 1800s in Asia. It’s possible that everyone just assumed that if it came from Asia and the ancient Chinese played lottery games then keno must be very ancient.

Lotteries are attested throughout history and all over the world. So there is no way to confirm that keno really did come from ancient China.

Conclusion

Keno is in its own way a fascinating game. It’s not for everyone but has been called the Common Man’s Lottery. The name may be a little out of date.

Keno has well-deserved reputation for being hard to win but it’s not hard to play. And some players swear by the game.

If you enjoy keno and would like to learn more be wary of the numerous history articles you’ll find on the Web. If anyone has done significant research into the game’s history and variations their work is deeply buried in an archive yet to see the light of day.

4 Ways to Improve Your Texas Holdem Post Flop Play

Hand Grabbing Poker Card, Texas Holdem Text
This article covers ways to improve your results after the flop playing Texas holdem, but you can use the same information to improve your play in any poker game with a flop, like Omaha. Many poker strategy articles focus on playing tight before the flop, and playing all of your hands in an aggressive manner.

But the best Texas holdem players know how to play well after the flop, and this is where they make most of their profits. While playing tight before the flop is very important, it’s only one of many areas you need to do well in if you want to win more playing poker.

Aggressive play is good in many situations, but the best poker players understand when they should be aggressive and when it’s more profitable to back off and let an opponent lead the way. It’s dangerous to blindly follow any piece of poker advice, because there’s almost always an exception.

Here’s a list of four ways you can improve you post flop play in Texas holdem.

1 – Fold More Pre Flop Hands

The best way to improve your post flop play in Texas holdem is to put yourself in the best position to win at the start of the hand. This means that you need to stop playing hands that don’t have a good chance to win after the flop.

You’re going to learn more about expectation and expected value in a different section, but you need to look at every starting hand and try to determine if it’s profitable to play it. In other words, if you were in the exact same situation with your current starting hand hundreds of times, would you make more than you lose if you enter the pot every time.

Three Poker Cards Lying on Table, Man with Arms Crossed

Most poker players don’t look at starting hands this way, but this is actually the exact situation you’re in. Over the course of your life you’re going to play many poker hands. Instead of playing hundreds or thousands of different playing sessions; you’re actually playing one long game of poker that never ends until you die.

This means that you may play the same starting hand hundreds or thousands of times.

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Your table position, your stack size, and your opponents will change, but there are only 169 possible starting hands in Texas holdem.

Most Texas holdem players know that pocket aces and kings are profitable to play in the long run, and hands like seven two off suit aren’t profitable. But what do you know about pocket sevens? Are they profitable in the long run? Will this effect your casino bankroll management?

In some situations pocket sevens are profitable, and in some situations they aren’t. The key that unlocks your long term profits is learning when questionable hands can be played for a profit and when they can’t.

Many things go into learning this, but for now you can start improving by playing fewer starting hands. Until you start winning consistently, only play your best starting hands, and only play most hands from late position.

By improving the average value of your starting hands, you improve your chances to have a good hand after the flop.

2 – Use Your Position Better

The best Texas holdem poker players are always aware of their position and know how to use it to their advantage. Winning poker players know that they can only play their top starting hands in early and middle position, because these positions make you weak and you can be manipulated by players in later positions.

On the other hand, when you play most of your hands with position on your opponents you can manipulate them and use your position to your advantage. Consider all of the advantages that having position at the poker table gives you.

Two People Sitting at Poker Table, Hands Looking Over Poker Card

The largest advantage of having position is that you have more information than your opponent or opponents have when you have to act. You already know what your opponents did before you have to act, so you have additional information. This is a strong advantage that winning poker players understand.

Another advantage is when you’re the last to act; you have more control over the pot size.

When your opponent or opponents check to you, you can check to see a free card, or you can bet to build the pot. In addition, you have the same positional advantage throughout the entire hand.

Learn how position changes the value of your starting hands and it makes it easier to decide which hands to see the flop with and which hands you should fold early.

3 – Pot Odds and Expectation

The most profitable tools in every poker player’s belt if they want to win more are pot odds and expectation. And these tools are of the most value after the flop.

When you see the flop, you know the value of five out of the seven total cards that you’re going to use to make your best five card hand. You also know how your opponents have played the hand up to this point, so you have a large amount of information.

With this information you can start formulating the odds of winning the hand, make correct decisions based on pot odds when one of your opponents makes a bet, and use expectation, or expected value, to make all of your decisions.

Pot odds are a simple way to determine if you should call a bet. You compare the odds of winning the hand, either with your current hand or improving to a better hand, with the size of the bet against the size of the pot. Every winning Texas holdem player uses pot odds to some degree, so if you’re not using them now the best way to improve is to learn how to use pot odds.

Ace of Spades, King of Spades, Stacked Casino Poker Chips, Money Bag

Expectation or expected value is the most important concept you need to learn. Expected value can be assigned to every decision you make at the Texas holdem tables. It starts before you receive your starting hand, and runs throughout each hand until the showdown.

Every decision you make at the poker table is either profitable or unprofitable. When you raise with pocket aces before the flop it’s profitable because in the long run you’re going to make more than you lose. If you limp into the pot with two seven, it’s a negative expectation play because you’re going to lose more than you win in the long run.

When you make decisions based on pot odds after the flop, you’re using expected value. If the pot odds are correct, it’s profitable to stay in the hand. When the pot odds aren’t correct, the most profitable long term play is to fold.

The odds are high that you’re not currently using expectation and expected value as well as you can. Learn how to improve your use of expectation and it automatically improves your post flop results at the Texas holdem tables.

4 – Bluff and Fold Less

If you only see the flop with hands that show a long term profit, use your position at the table correctly, and use pot odds and expectation, most of the hard work to becoming a profitable post flop Texas holdem player is done. The only two things you need to know to complete your transformation are you need to bluff less and fold less after the flop.

The reason I include both of these things in the same section is because they’re closely related.

When you bluff, you want your opponent to fold. And when you’re thinking about folding, especially on the river, you need to determine the likelihood of your opponent bluffing.

As it turns out, if you play your hand correctly through the turn, your decision on whether to fold on the river should almost always be made before you see the river. If you know you’re behind and have received the correct pot odds to stay in the hand, you either hit your hand and bet or miss your hand and fold.

Woman Nail Biting at Poker Table, Casino Chips, Poker Cards, Bluff Text

If you reach the river and have a decent hand, it’s rarely correct to fold to a reasonable sized bet. You only have to catch your opponent bluffing a small percentage of the time when you have a decent hand to make a call profitable.

This is also why you need to bluff less after the turn. Your opponent or opponents only need to catch you bluffing a small percentage of the time in order for bluffing to be a bad play. Of course, there’s a big difference between making a semi bluff on the flop or turn and making a naked bluff on the river.

Semi bluffs are often profitable, but naked bluffs are dangerous. The only time you should consider making a naked bluff is when it has a very high chance of success.

When it comes to folding on the river, if you find that you have to make this decision often, you need to consider what you’re doing before the river that’s creating the issue. This is almost always an indication that you’re making mistakes earlier in the hand.

Conclusion

The best place to start improving your post flop results at the Texas holdem tables is to stop playing weak starting hands. Learn how to use your table position to increase your chances to win, fold less on the river, and bluff less after the flop and your results will also improve.

Finally, learn how to use pot odds and expectation and you’re going to see immediate improvements. Few poker players use pot odds and expectation; and few poker players win in the long run. These two things are related, and if you want to win you’re going to need to start doing what winning players are doing.

6 Essential Items to Bring When Walking the Las Vegas Strip

Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, People Walking Vegas Strip
Over the course of 4.2 glorious miles, the Strip along Las Vegas Boulevard packs 28 unique casino resorts into an oasis of gambling and gluttony.

Millions upon millions of visitors flock there every single year, and when they do, walking up and down the main drag is an essential part of the experience. You’ll see street-side buskers performing musical acts and comedy shows, adults in superhero costumes entertaining the kiddos, and vendors hawking everything from oversized cocktails to T-shirts, hats, and other tchotchkes to commemorate your trip.

Everywhere you look, walking on the Strip offers a new wonder to behold and new experiences to savor. What’s not to love about this utterly unique stretch of Americana?

Well, if you don’t pack and prepare properly, there’s plenty of problems that can plague those who visit Las Vegas. For a variety of reasons, venturing out into the wilds of The Strip without a good game plan is never a good idea.

The list below highlights six essential items to bring along whenever you’re taking a stroll down Las Vegas’ most iconic attraction.

1 – As Much Ice-Cold Water as You Can Carry

Right off the bat, first-time visitors to the Strip often find themselves struggling to cope with Las Vegas’ scorching temperatures.

We all know about the 110-degree heat that scorches the sidewalks during the summer months, but that’s only half of it.

As the table below shows, between April and September, visitors walking the Las Vegas Strip encounter brutal conditions that border on the unbelievable.

Las Vegas Average Temperatures by Month

MONTH HIGH LOW
January 58° F (14° C) 34° F (1° C)
February 63° F (17° C) 39° F (4° C)
March 69° F (21° C) 44° F (7° C)
April 78° F (26° C) 51° F (11° C)
May 88° F (31° C) 60° F (16° C)
June 100° F (38° C) 69° F (21° C)
July 106° F (41° C) 74° F (23° C)
August 103° F (39° C) 74° F (23° C)
September 95° F (35° C) 66° F (19° C)
October 82° F (28° C) 54° F (12° C)
November 67° F (19° C) 43° F (6° C)
December 58° F (14° C) 34° F (1° C)

And remember, those are just the ambient air temperatures. When you factor in the convection oven effect created by asphalt and concrete—not to mention people jam-packed together in a confined space—the actual temperature at surface level on the Strip can easily top 120 degrees.

Earlier this year, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a citywide extreme heat advisory, warning people to stay indoors when possible, while monitoring themselves for symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The latter condition can be deadly, even for healthy adults who have exhibited no prior problems before heading out into one of the hottest places in America.

With that in mind, folks who want to walk outside should definitely invest in a thermos capable of carrying at least 36 ounces of ice-cold water. In fact, grab two of these bad boys and carry them in your backpack at all times. Hydration is of utmost importance when the temperature is hitting triple digits, and no, frozen margaritas by the yard don’t count.

2 – A Portable Phone Charger

Sightseeing is what the Strip is all about, and in 2019, that means snapping as many selfies and Instagram stories as you can.

But after a few hours, you’ll probably find your phone battery drifting toward the danger zone. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than lining up that perfect shot of your family in front of the Bellagio fountains, only to find your phone has crapped out and can’t take photos.

Phone Connected to Portable Charger, Yellow Lightning Bolt

To avoid this sorry state of affairs, I recommend carrying a portable charger capable of powering up any mobile device. You charge these suckers to full capacity overnight in your room, then stash it in your backpack or bag for safe keeping. Then, when you notice your phone is almost out of juice, simply connect the portable charger for a quick pick-me-up.

3 – At Least $200 in Cash for Spending Money

The Strip is a hub of commerce and commercial activity, so you’ll find no shortage of vendors playing their trade up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

But many of these street-side salespeople work the old-fashioned way, with hand-to-hand cash transactions.

Try to pay with a debit or credit card and you’ll get the side-eye from most, so it’s a great idea to carry enough cash on hand to grab all of the goodies your heart desires.

Those famously oversized cocktails, a ballcap reading “Viva Las Vegas,” or a hand-drawn caricature of you with your loved ones, all of these staples are typically sold on a cash-only basis.

A couple of Benjamins should be enough to get you through a daylong walk up and down the Strip, but be careful when it comes to flashing that cash…

4 – A “Dummy” Wallet to Trick Pickpockets

One might imagine that the days of sly pickpockets preying on oblivious tourists are long gone, but that’s far from the case in Las Vegas.

In fact, the scumbags who “earn” their living by stealing from strangers have made Sin City their capital for as long as drunk jackpot winners have stumbled around the Strip.

Guy Pick Pocketing Backpack, Caution Exclamation Symbol

Back in 1990, local son Wayne B. Yeager wrote the definitive Bible on the subject. His book, Techniques of the Professional Pickpocket, offered concise instructions through which aspiring thieves can hone their craft.

And although the book was aimed toward pickpockets rather than their victims, Yeager did manage to offer sage advice for anyone looking to protect themselves:

“You can’t steal a man’s money as long as he has his mind on it.”

Knowing this, you should always have your mind on your money when you’re taking a lap on the Las Vegas Strip.

Carrying a “dummy” wallet in your back pocket is essential. This decoy won’t have any of your IDs, credit cards, or cash inside, so if somebody does happen to get the jump on you and lifts your wallet, they’ll still walk away empty-handed.

5 – A Map Directing You to Your Casino(s) and Attractions of Choice

The Strip can be a madhouse during peak hours, with thousands of people all struggling to do the same thing—find their way to wherever it is they’re trying to go.

And unless you’ve been here several times before, navigating the corridors, walkways, and elevated bridges that have been deliberately designed to confuse can be quite difficult indeed.

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Getting lost on the Strip is never a deal-breaker, as you can always look skyward to find your destination’s tower or façade, but it’s still very annoying.

To save time and avoid the hassle of trying to find your way, just bring a map listing all of the Strip’s major sites and destinations with you on your walk.

6 – A Token of Good Luck

Whether you believe in lucky trinkets and charms is a matter of personal preference, but this is Las Vegas after all…

Friends Playing Casino Slot Machines, Winner Gold Sticker

It can’t hurt to bring a special talisman with you when you walk the Strip, and if your next spin on one of your slot machine games does happen to trigger a sizable score, you can always thank me later.

Conclusion

The Las Vegas Strip is like nowhere else on planet Earth, and in more ways than one. The crowds, the casinos, and the commotion combine to create an environment unlike any other, which can be tough for rookies and regulars alike should they arrive unprepared. Armed with this list, you won’t be one of them though. Take the time to pack your backpack or bag with the essential items needed to make your walk a success!

5 Texas Holdem Starting Hands You’re Overvaluing

Poker Cards and Casino Chips, Texas Holdem Text
It takes a long time for some Texas holdem players to understand the link between their profitability, or lack of profitability, and their starting hand. The fact is you can’t be a long term profitable Texas holdem player if you don’t make the correct choices with your starting hands.

One of the things that causes a problem for most players is there are only a small set of good starting hands. You can go 10 hands or more without seeing a decent starting hand. This can get boring quickly, because most people that play the game of poker are action junkies.

If you’ve folded the last several hands you often start looking for a way to get into a hand. Weak starting hands start looking better, and if you’re not careful you’re jumping into hands with small suited connectors and king three suited. This is clearly not the way to be a profitable Texas holdem player.

Some players are stuck playing weak hands and never realize that the only way to improve is to fold weak hands and only play their best starting hands.

Other players eventually learn that weak hands are not profitable in the long run and start playing only their better hands.

As you learn to fold your weaker hands, you have to face a new challenge. You have to learn how to properly value the hands that you do play. It’s just as costly to overvalue decent hands as it is to play weak hands.

Here’s a list of five Texas holdem starting hands that you might be overvaluing. These five hands are all good enough to play in most situations, but if you value them too highly, they can cost you money.

1 – Ace King

Ace king is the most dangerous hand in Texas holdem. It looks like a great starting hand, and it’s good enough to play in almost any situation. But at the end of the day it’s still a drawing hand. Rarely will ace king win without improving.

The values in hands like ace ace and king king is not only are they high pairs to start with, but they also often win without improving. Ace king almost always has to improve to win with it at the show down.

You can play ace king two different ways, and the best way to play it depends on the specific situation. You can limp with it, just like you might limp with a medium pocket pair or ace jack suited in some situations, or you can enter with a raise.

When you limp with ace king, if you don’t improve on the flop you need to check and fold to a bet. Never call a bet on the flop with ace king unless you improve your hand. This is a terrible play and will consistently stray you away from your attempt at proper casino bankroll management.

Poker Table with Two Red Dice, Ace King Poker Cards

If you raise with ace king it usually thins the field before the flop. The best situation with ace king when you raise is to see the flop with one opponent. With a pre flop raise, when you don’t improve on the flop you can either make a continuation bet or check and hope to see the turn for free.

When you miss the flop and make a continuation bet, if you get called and don’t improve on the turn, your best play is almost always check and fold to a bet.

Most of the time when I have ace king I enter the pot with a raise. This sets up the possibility of winning the hand with a continuation bet on the flop if my hand doesn’t improve.

The only two ways to win a Texas holdem hand are to have the best hand at the show down or force all of your opponents to fold.

You should play ace king most of the time; you just need to make sure you’re not overvaluing it. It’s also not strong enough to get all in with before the flop. I know that you often see players get all in with ace king in tournaments, but the only time you should do this is when you’re short stacked. And you should always be the first one to move all in; not making an all in call.

2 – Queen Queen

Queen queen is a powerful starting hand, but the mistake many players make is acting like it’s as good as pocket aces or pocket kings. With pocket aces, you always have top pair. It doesn’t matter what lands on the flop, someone has to draw a hand that beats top pair.

When you have pocket kings, the only card that can land on the flop that scares you is an ace. And often you still win the hand with pocket kings when an ace lands on the flop if you entered with a raise pre flop.

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A pre flop raise discourages players with aces paired with smaller cards from calling, which minimizes the chance that an opponent hits the ace when it lands on the flop.

With pocket queens you have to worry about an ace or king landing on the flop. It might not seem like a big difference to move from one scare card to two, but in this case it does make a big difference.

Queen of Hearts, Queen of Spades, Queen Queen HandWhen you raise with pocket queens before the flop, try to imagine the types of hands that might call. If you’re facing pocket aces or pocket kings, you’re most likely going to get in a battle before the flop. But hands like ace king, ace queen, sometimes ace jack, king queen suited, and king jack suited are likely to call. Other possibilities include pocket pairs, hoping to hit a set and stack you.

You need to enter the pot with a raise with pocket queens to thin the field. But don’t overvalue them at any point on the hand. If you face a move all in before the flop with pocket queens, you might already be dominated. You need to use everything you know about your opponent when this happens to try to determine if you need to fold.

When an ace or king hits on the flop, I usually make a continuation bet, but when an opponent stays with me I slow down and try not to get committed to the pot.

3 – Jack Jack

I mentioned in the first section that ace king is the most dangerous hand in Texas holdem. Pocket jacks are the second most dangerous hand. They look like a strong hand, but there are simply too many ways you can lose with them on the flop.

As I was learning how to be a winning Texas holdem player, I lost too much money and definitely gave more to the casino house edge with pocket jacks. Eventually I figured out a way to play them profitably.

This way works for me, so it might work for you too. But just because it works for me doesn’t mean it’s automatically the best way for you to play.

I play pocket jacks the same way I play pocket eights or nines. I try to get in the pot as cheap as I can, and play them for set value. When I hit a set I push hard the rest of the hand, and when I don’t hit a set I usually check and fold.

If the flop has all undercards, I take a stab at it on the flop, but I’m very careful if anyone stays to see the turn.

4 – Ace 10 Suited

Ace 10 suited is rarely any better than ace two suited. The real value of the hand is when you complete a flush, and when you do complete a flush it’s hard to extract more value from the hand because your opponent can see the possibility of the flush.

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Top pair with a 10 kicker is a marginal hand, so you can’t play the hand aggressively when you flop an ace.

You need to play ace 10 suited as a drawing hand, and you need to be careful when you hit any hand that’s not a flush. It can create a straight, but this doesn’t happen often.

5 – King Queen Suited

When you haven’t played a hand for a half hour or more, a hand like king queen suited looks like a monster. King queen isn’t a terrible starting hand, but it’s not strong enough to even see the flop in some situations. I don’t play it from early position, and rarely play it from middle position.

Poker Table in Casino, King and Queen Poker Card

Every time you consider entering the pot, try to envision what you want to see on the flop. With king queen, what do you hope to see on the flop?

If the flop has a king or a queen, you have a high pair, but there’s no guarantee that you have the best hand. Any flush possibility without the ace on the board is dangerous. If the flop has a king and a queen, you have two pair, but you also might face a straight draw from any opponent who entered with ace jack, ace 10, or jack 10.

King queen suited isn’t a terrible hand, but you should only play it from late position and the blinds, and you can’t afford to play it too aggressively.

Conclusion

To be the best Texas holdem player you can be, you need to not only make smart decisions about your starting hands, but you also need to learn how to properly value the hands you do see the flop with. When you overvalue the strength of your starting hands it ends up costing you money. Make sure you don’t overvalue the strength of the five starting hands on this page.

5 Secrets Only Locals Know About Las Vegas Slot Machines

Slot Machine Real Icons, Las Vegas Logo Text
For the more than 100 casinos scattered across Las Vegas, slot machines are the lifeblood that keeps this entire town afloat.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) reported the Silver State’s casino industry collectively earned nearly $12 billion from gamblers last year alone. And of that staggering amount, $3.3 billion was generated by the penny slots, those low-denomination machines favored by gamblers spanning the spectrum from college kids to senior citizens.

The slots have been a staple of the Sin City gambling scene since the 1930s, when folks first started making the trek to a dusty outpost in the Mojave Desert to chase life-changing jackpots.

Unlike other games that require players to learn a lengthy list of rules or memorize strategy charts, slots require nothing more than some coins and a willingness to gamble.

The locals who live in Las Vegas year-round also gravitate toward the one-armed bandits, hoping to put their insider knowledge to use by putting themselves in a better position to win.

The concept of slot machine strategy can be a bit murky, as players don’t really have any ability to influence the outcome. With that said, you can learn a lot from local slot enthusiasts who have been around the block a time or two.

If you want to play slots like the locals do next time you visit Las Vegas, look no further. The following list offers up five secrets about slot machine gameplay that only locals know about.

1 – The Boulder Strip is for Slot Spinning Specialists

The Boulder Strip is a stretch along the Boulder Highway (along with the nearby suburb of Henderson) where 13 “local’s casinos” can be found.

Casinos on the Boulder Strip

  • Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa
  • Sunset Station
  • Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall
  • Boulder Station
  • Fiesta Henderson
  • Arizona Charlie’s Boulder
  • Jokers Wild Casino
  • Montelago at Lake Las Vegas
  • Eldorado Casino
  • Hacienda Hotel and Casino
  • Eastside Cannery Hotel and Casino
  • Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino
  • Club Fortune Casino

These smaller, more intimate gambling halls offer a distinct old-school Vegas vibe that local residents seem to love. Instead of corporate ownership trying to nickel and dime guests at every turn, casinos on the Boulder Strip take pride in taking care of their regular customers. Comps flow more freely here, the cocktail servers remember your name, and of course, the slot machines are among the “loosest” in town.

Slot Machine Icon, Text Reading $100 = $88-$92By making sure to order an inventory of slot machine games that are programmed to pay out at a higher frequency, Boulder Strip casinos ensure that their players experience winning moments more often. Payback percentage simply describes the player’s expected return on a particular make, model, or game type, and when you’re playing on the Strip proper, you can expect to find rates in the 88% to 92% range.

That means, for every $100 wagered over the long run, these machines will pay back between $88 and $92 on average.

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But when you make your way to the Boulder Strip, the average payback percentages climb much higher based on the particular machines and games put on the floor.

So says the NGCB anyway, as the regulatory agency runs annual slot machine surveys in various regions of Las Vegas. Per the latest survey data, the Boulder Strip is the best place to play almost every variety of slot machine under the sun.

Las Vegas Slot Machine Survey (Average Payback Percentage by Coin Denomination and Region)

1¢ Slot Machines
REGION PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
The Strip 88.38%
Downtown 89.15%
Boulder Strip 90.38%
N. Las Vegas 90.88%
5¢ Slot Machines
REGION PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
The Strip 91.64%
Downtown 93.40%
N. Las Vegas 95.29%
Boulder Strip 96.21%
25¢ Slot Machines
REGION PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
The Strip 89.35%
Downtown 94.25%
N. Las Vegas 96.41%
Boulder Strip 96.13%
$1 Slot Machines
REGION PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
The Strip 93.43%
Downtown 94.63%
N. Las Vegas 95.39%
Boulder Strip 96.13%
$1 Megabucks Machines
REGION PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
The Strip 87.83%
N. Las Vegas 88.52%
Downtown 89.07%
Boulder Strip 91.35%
All Slot Machines
REGION PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
The Strip 91.96%
Downtown 92.67%
N. Las Vegas 93.53%
Boulder Strip 94.34%

Las Vegas locals love value above all else, and as the numbers above make crystal clear, you simply can’t beat the value found along the Boulder Strip.

2 – Slots in Off-Strip Casinos All Over Town Outclass the Strip

While the slots on the Boulder Strip are clearly the best in town, venturing out anywhere other than Las Vegas Boulevard is a great way to boost your bottom line.

Las Vegas Downtown Fremont Street, Slot Machine Reels

Whether it’s Downtown Las Vegas, or just across I-15 at the Palms or Gold Coast, playing slots in any off-Strip casino will almost always provide a more player-friendly experience.

Once again, you can use the annual NGCB slot survey to see what locals have known in their bones forever.

Top 20 Casinos in Las Vegas Offering the Best Slot Payback Percentages

RANK CASINO AVG. PAYBACK PERCENTAGE
1 Palms 93.42%
2 Gold Coast 92.84%
3 Sahara 92.81%
4 Slots a Fun 92.63%
5 Western 92.57%
6 Ellis Island 92.56%
7 El Cortez 92.56%
8 Orleans 92.56%
9 Circus Circus 92.56%
10 Gold Spike 92.55%
11 Fitzgerald’s 92.54%
12 Fiesta – Rancho 92.53%
13 Arizona Charlie’s (E) 92.51%
14 Terrible’s 92.49%
15 Arizona Charlie’s 92.49%
16 Hard Rock 92.47%
17 Longhorn 92.47%
18 California 92.14%
19 Downtown Grand 92.10%
20 Plaza 91.94%

If you notice, only three venues on the list are situated on The Strip—Circus Circus, Slots a Fun, and the Sahara (recently rebranded from the old SLS).

On the other hand, five casinos in the Downtown district on Fremont Street made the cut, while the rest can be found on the Boulder Strip or far from Las Vegas Boulevard. If getting the most bang for your bankroll buck is the goal, bringing your business anywhere but the Strip is your best bet.

3 – Corporate Casinos Don’t Have Time to Micromanage Slot Payback and Placement

Back in the day, slots players suspected that casino managers carefully arranged their venue’s machines to achieve certain objectives.

On a busy weekend, for example, the casino might move its lowest paying machines near the front entrance. Conversely, they’d stash their highest paying games in secluded areas where guests seldom ventured.

Slot Machines in Casino, Icon of Two Dollar Bills

In doing so, a shrewd casino manager could easily ensure a steady stream of slot revenue simply by “rigging” the deck. Sure, the lower paying machines might still dispense a jackpot or two, but those losses would be more than made up for by crowds of tourists happily playing the worst slots in the house.

These days, however, locals know that the sheer abundance of slot machines found in a modern casino resort makes such micromanagement next to impossible.

Off-Strip casinos always seem have looser slots than their counterparts on the Strip, and that’s why. It’s not that the managers are moving the best machines around to trick players, they’re just ordering more of the higher paying models and letting nature take its course.

4 – You Don’t Have to Wonder When the Last Major Progressive Jackpot Was Paid Out

Spend enough time in Las Vegas casino slot parlors and you’ll inevitably hear players asking aloud about the last time a huge jackpot score was hit.

Part of the allure for slot enthusiasts who enjoy the major wide area progressive jackpot games, such as Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune, is wondering when and where the latest instant millionaire was minted.

For the longest time, information like this was passed on via rumors whispered amongst regular slot spinners, but things have changed these days.

In 2019, all you have to do is check up on the handy Jackpot Tracker page hosted by Las Vegas Online. This invaluable resource contains a running database of the biggest progressive jackpot networks in town.

When you pull up the Jackpot Tracker, you’ll instantly learn that Megabucks—the largest progressive slot jackpot in the world with a $10 million seed amount—was won on April 14 of 2019 at the Sunset Station Casino. That lucky winner pocketed a whopping $13,154,723. At the moment, Megabucks is offering a jackpot of $10,689,666.

5 – Playing Slots at the Venetian or Bellagio Is Almost as Bad as Burning Money on the Airport Machines

The only airport in America with slot machines running on the concourse is McCarran International in Las Vegas.

Venetian Casino on Las Vegas Strip, Slot Machine Crossed Out in Red

Local slot fans and tourists alike know better though, as the airport slots are notorious for offering the worst payback percentage in town at a dreadful 85.02%.

But locals in the know can tell you that the beautiful Bellagio and Venetian casinos on the Strip are nearly as bad for your bottom line. The average slot payback rate at Bellagio is only 87.42%, while the Venetian is even worse at 86.66%.

Appearances can definitely be deceiving, so even though these two monuments to excess are among the fanciest in all of Las Vegas, they’re the worst places to play slots anywhere but the airport.

Conclusion

Playing slot machines in Las Vegas is a special treat everybody should enjoy at least once in their lives. You might not hit a big winner, and indeed, the odds ensure you’ll likely lose your stake. Nonetheless, there’s no other casino game that allows anybody off the street to turn a few bucks into retirement money, which is what makes the slots so much fun for locals and tourists alike. Now that you’ve read this guide to playing slots like a Las Vegas local, you’ll be ready to give yourself the best possible chance to beat the odds and walk away a winner.

3 Reasons You Should Never Play Roulette and 3 Reasons You Should

Yes-and-No-Roulette

Every time I’m in the casino, it seems like the popularity of roulette is dying. Sometimes, there isn’t anyone at the table or there are only a few people playing. I’m sure that roulette is still popular in many places, but where I play most often, I’m surprised it’s still available.

I understand why roulette isn’t as popular as it once was. As you’re going to learn in the next section, there are many good reasons to stop playing the game. But there are also a few reasons why you should play roulette, which I’ll introduce in the later sections.

Why You Shouldn’t Play Roulette

I rarely play roulette because of the three reasons outlined below. I have a roulette system I developed years ago that I use from time to time, but it has the same problem as every other gambling system in existence. It produces a small profit most of the time, but when it fails, it creates a huge loss. It’s still fun to use, so I still play roulette every once in a while.

Roulette

1 – Terrible House Edge

The number one reason why you shouldn’t play roulette is the terrible house edge. In some casinos, the only available roulette wheel is called an American roulette wheel, and it has a house edge of 5.26%. This is a terrible house edge and almost every other table game in the casino offers a lower house edge.

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An American roulette wheel has 38 spaces, with both a zero and a double zero space. You can make the same bets on both types of roulette wheels, but the American wheel has a worse house edge because it adds another losing space on most bets.

When you make a bet on one of the even money spaces, like black, you win when the ball lands in one of the 18 black spaces on the wheel. You lose when the ball lands on one of the 18 red spaces or one of the two green spaces for zero and double zero.

This means that you win on 18 out of 38 spaces on an even money bet on an American roulette wheel. When you play on a European roulette wheel, which I cover next, you win on 18 out of 37 spaces. Of course, the casinos prefer you play on an American wheel, because they make more money when you do.

A European roulette wheel has a single zero space, but doesn’t have a double zero wheel. This lowers the house edge to 2.7%. This is still a high house edge when you compare it to many other table games. Most blackjack games have a house edge of less than 1%, with some coming in under 0.5%. The two best bets on baccarat come in at under 1.5%, the craps table has a few bets under 1.5%, and some video poker games have a house edge under 0.5%.

If you’re going to play roulette, always play on a wheel that doesn’t have the double zero space. But the best option is to play a game with a lower house edge.

2 – You Simply Can’t Win

I covered the large house edge that roulette carries in the last section. The truth is that every game in the casino is designed with a house edge. This is the way casinos make money. You can play a few games with particular strategies that give you a chance to overcome the house edge, but few people learn how to do it. If this is something that interests you, learn more about poker and blackjack.

When you play most casino games, you’re going to lose money in the long run. The higher the house edge, the faster you lose money. You also have a lower chance to win any particular playing session when you play high house edge games. When you play a game with a low house edge, like blackjack, you have a chance to leave many playing sessions ahead.

In the long run, you’re still going to lose more than you win, but you have some winning sessions. When you play a game with a higher house edge, like roulette, you lose more in the long run and you have a lower chance to win individual playing sessions as well.

3 – Lack of Good Wheels

I touched on this earlier, but casinos want you to play American roulette wheels. They don’t want you playing single zero wheels. This is why many casinos don’t offer any European roulette wheels.

Many of the casinos that offer both types of wheels force you to play for higher stakes at the single zero wheels. The minimum bet is higher, and some casinos only have the better wheels in high roller areas.

If you play roulette online, you can find single zero wheels in most casinos. I understand why online casinos have double zero wheels, but I can’t understand why anyone ever plays them.

One thing that many gamblers don’t know is there’s actually a third type of roulette wheel. In a few places, you can play on a French roulette wheel, which looks like a European wheel. The difference is that a proper French wheel has a couple of rules that lower the house edge. The rules are La Partage and en prison.

Why You Should Play

Now that I’ve covered why you shouldn’t play roulette, there are a few reasons why you might still consider playing. If you’re going to play, look for a French roulette wheel. If you can’t find one, stick with European roulette. The house edge on an American wheel is simply too high to ever play.

1 – Even Money Betting Options

The even money betting options on roulette give you a good chance to double your bet. On a single zero wheel, when you make an even money wager, it’ll win 18 out of 37 times. This means that 48.65% of the time you make an even money bet, you double your bet.

While this still ends up losing more than you win in the long run, it’s one of the best available chances to double up in the casino. As a matter of fact, you have a better chance of leaving the casino by placing your entire session bankroll on an even money bet once than playing several hours with smaller bets.

2 – It’s Easy to Play

Roulette is one of the easiest games in the casino to play. You can put your money on one of the even money bets or pick a single number. Once you place your bet, the casino personnel takes care of everything else.

I recommend starting with one of the even money bets, which are red, black, odd, even, 1-18, and 19-36. These are called outside bets, and each has a space outside of the single numbers where you place your bet. Other bets pay out higher amounts, but all bets have the same house edge so it doesn’t matter what you choose to bet on.

3 – Roulette Is Slower Than Many Games

Casinos want their games to run as fast as possible because the more bets they take, the more money they make. Some games, like slot machines, can be played at a rate of over 500 spins per hour. Table games are slower, but they all run at different rates of speed.

When you’re gambling, you need to consider how fast the game plays. Games that play slower are usually better for your bankroll. Roulette plays slower than most other casino games, so even with a higher house edge, you might lose less because you’re risking less every hour.

You should always bet the table minimum when you play a game with a high house edge. The combination of a low bet and slow play helps your bankroll last longer.

Here’s an example of how much you can expect to lose per hour playing a few different casino games.

When you play roulette on a European wheel with bets of $10 at 50 spins per hour, your total amount wagered is $500 per hour. With a house edge of 2.7%, you can expect to lose an average of $13.50 per hour.

When you play a slot machine with a house edge of 8% with a $1 bet at 500 spins per hour, you can expect to lose $40.

Playing blackjack with a 1% house edge with $50 wagers at 75 hands per hour, your expected loss rate is $37.50.

Conclusion

Roulette isn’t a good casino game for players. It’s not even close to the top 10 casino games to play. The high house edge and lack of good wheels simply make it a bad choice. But it’s not the worst game to play if you’re looking for something simple and slow. The even money bets offer one of the best chances in the casino to double up on a single bet.

7 Examples of Gambling and Their Implications

What-is-gambling

You’ll occasionally run into someone who learns that you’re a gambling writer. They’ll usually have a similar set of questions, but the one that always surprises me is, what is gambling?

Sometimes it’s a variation of that. I was having a cigar with some buddies yesterday, in fact, and they were discussing having a poker game at the cigar lounge. They suggested gambling for cigars instead of money, and they wanted to know if that would still be considered gambling (I’m in Texas, so there are laws related to gambling that you need to consider).

The other question that I get asked is about how to win at gambling. Everyone always wants to know what the best ways to win at various gambling activities are.

They usually want confirmation that their strategy with a specific game is the right one.

I usually can’t provide that confirmation, because their strategy is often terrible.

I’ll start be defining gambling then looking at 7 examples of gambling and which strategies might work if you want to be a winner.

What Is Gambling?

Gambling isn’t complicated. It just means risking money (or something else of value) on the outcome of a game or activity.

For example, pitching pennies is a type of gambling, albeit for low stakes. You pitch pennies toward a wall, and the person who winds up with his penny closest to the wall at the end of the game wins all the pennies.

Bingo is another kind of gambling. You buy a bingo card, everyone else does, too, and whoever’s running the game puts that into a prize pool. Your goal is to win that prize by matching a pattern of letters and numbers on your bingo card.

I’ll spend the rest of this post with mini-essays about the virtues of various strategies for specific types of gambling.

1- Betting on Sports

You’re betting on sports any time you wager money on the outcome of a sporting event. For many Americans, this means you’ve put money on a football game. You might bet on the outcome of a game with a buddy with a friendly wager, but you’re equally as likely to bet with someone who books action on games for a living.

Such a business is called a bookmaking operation. In the USA, bookmakers are called “bookies,” and they’re operating outside the law. This doesn’t make them bad people. Most of the bookies I know are sweet people who pay out winnings in a timely manner.

My favorite bone-headed strategy for winning at sports betting is to pay someone (an “expert”) to make your picks for you.

But think about this:

A bookmaker creates a point spread for a game. For a team to win, they must “cover the spread.” In other words, the stronger team must win by more points than the spread. The losing team can win by just getting close enough.

And the bookmakers set this spread at a number which theoretically makes a bet on the game a 50/50 proposition.

Literally anyone can claim to be an expert handicapper and get 50% of their picks correct just by choosing teams at random. I read a story about one tout who asked his 5 year old daughter for his picks all season.

He won over 65% of his picks that year.

This is just and example of standard deviation, though.

Don’t buy sports picks. It just increases the winning percentage you need to achieve to break even over time, and the expert handicappers probably aren’t as expert as you think.

2- Slot Machines

A slot machine is a gambling machine in a casino with spinning reels with symbols on each reel. These are usually virtual reels on a video screen now, although some games still have physical reels. The outcomes for these slot machines are determined by computer programs called random number generator programs. The reels are just for show.

Casinos are in the business of making a profit, so they set up the math behind these games in a way that they can average a profit. They do this by having winning combinations with a certain probability of winning. They then pay those bets off at odds lower than the odds of winning.

For example, a slot machine might have a combination that comes up 25% of the time. If it pays off at even money, the casino has an edge for that combination. After all, the odds of winning are 3 to 1, but winning only pays off at 1 for 1.

You might have another combination on that machine that comes up 10% of the time, and it might pay off at 2 for 1 odds.

But that combination only wins 1 out of 10 times, giving that combination a huge advantage for the house, too.

My favorite strategy for winning at slot machines was from a friend of mine in the real estate business.

She told me that she sits at the exact same slot machine every time she visits the casino, because eventually it’s bound to pay her off.

That’s not how it works. Every spin of the reels is an independent event. The slot machine has no memory of previous spins.

No strategy can beat a slot machine, save cheating.

And that’s a whole other blog post.

3- Blackjack

Blackjack is an example of a casino game played with standard playing cards. Your goal is to get a higher total than the dealer without going over 21.

Blackjack

It’s a comparing game, and you compare the number of points your hand has with the number of points the dealer has.

You compete with the casino, never the other players. Even in tournament blackjack, the outcome of each hand is determined by how your hand compares to the dealer’s.

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The worst strategy I’ve heard about blackjack is that you should copy the dealer’s strategy. After all, if the house has an edge with that strategy, shouldn’t you be able to mimic that strategy and eliminate that edge?

This doesn’t account for the simple fact that you have to play your cards before the dealer does. If you bust – get a total of 22 or higher – you lose immediately, regardless of how the dealer’s hand goes.

4- Poker

Poker is a gambling game using cards where you compete with the other players at the table. It’s one of the unusual gambling activities where you can actually get an edge if you’re skilled enough.

Poker is a whole category of games that includes draw poker, stud poker, and holdem poker. Each of those subcategories has specific games that fall into those categories – for example, there’s 5 card stud and 7 card stud, Texas holdem and Omaha.

Poker is one of those rare gambling games where you can get a mathematical edge. The problem is that most people overestimate their ability to get that edge.

The best information I’ve been able to find suggests that fewer than 5% of poker players are profitable in the long run.

Most players think they’re good at poker.

Some of them are good.

But the overwhelming majority of poker players aren’t good enough to overcome the rake. That’s the 5% fee that the cardroom removes from each pot to pay for the space you’re playing in.

If you stick with home poker games without a rake, you’ll probably do a lot better in the long run.

5- Video Poker

Video poker is my favorite alternative to slot machines. It’s still a gambling machine, but you can make decisions during the game that affect the outcome. This makes it a more intellectually stimulating exercise than just watching spinning reels and wondering where they’ll land.

Video Poker

Video poker also offers better odds than slot machines. You can also calculate the odds of winning in a video poker game, because the probability of getting certain results are based on a 52-card deck of playing cards.

Most people don’t play video poker as well as they think, and even if they did, most video poker games don’t have generous enough pay tables to offer the smart player an edge.

And the video poker games where you can get an edge are usually low-stakes games. Even if you could play perfectly and get a long-term advantage, you couldn’t make much money on an hourly basis because of the low stakes.

6- Craps

Craps is my favorite casino game, even though it has no skill element at all. You roll the dice and hope to get a winning result, or you bet on how well someone else does when they roll the dice.

Craps

One of the interesting things about craps is the variety of bets available. In some casino games, like roulette, you have multiple bets you can place, but they all have the same house edge. In the case of roulette, it doesn’t matter which bet you place, the house edge is 5.26%. (There’s an exception, but there’s only one, and it’s the 5-number bet, which has a 7.89% house edge.)

But in craps, almost every bet has a different set of odds. Of course, only a few of those bets are worth making compared to the other ones, but those bets (pass, don’t pass, come, don’t come, and odds) all have a house edge of 1.41% or lower.

But some of the other bets at the craps table have a house edge of 16% or more.

The lamest strategy I can think of for craps is the idea that you can control where the dice land. I’ve seen some gambling writers I respect suggest that this isn’t as nonsensical as it sounds, but I remain skeptical.

7- Roulette

The first casino game I ever played was roulette. The odds are lousy – a 5.26% house edge is too high, especially when you compare it to games like blackjack or craps, both of which have a house edge of closer to 1%.

Roulette

But roulette is a slow game, and if you place the right bets, you can play a low volatility game without a lot of hourly outlay.

The Martingale System is the most popular means of trying to beat roulette. Using this system, you double the size of every bet after a loss. This system usually breaks when you hit a bigger losing streak than you thought possible.

Conclusion

Those are just 7 examples of gambling and the ways people try to win at these activities.

If you noticed nothing else in this post, I hope you noticed this:

It’s not easy to win at gambling in the long run.

5 More Mistakes Made by First-Time Visitors to Las Vegas and How to Avoid Them


So, you’re packing up and prepping for your first trip to Las Vegas, huh? Although it’s been decades since I’ve done the same, I can still remember that feeling like it was yesterday.

Paying a visit to Las Vegas is a time-honored tradition among all walks of life. But when you’ve never been here before, it can often provide a rude awakening for first-time visitors.

The hustle and bustle of the Strip is overwhelming for many, as is the 110-degree summertime heat. Expenses can add up in a hurry, what with casinos charging “surge prices” at the gift shop, resort fees, and daily parking privileges at $24 a pop.

And then there’s the gambling floor. A place where dreams are crushed with regularity. Thinking about this led me to consider a few more mistakes that first-time visitors to Las Vegas make far from the table games and machines.

Without further ado, I present five more mistakes that plague inexperienced tourists taking in Las Vegas for the first time.

1 – Neglecting to Account for the Brutal Summertime Temperatures

It might be a dry heat out in the Mojave Desert, but after spending a few minutes baking in 110+ degree temperatures, you won’t be dry for very long.

When you’re out walking along Las Vegas Boulevard, the concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets combine to turn the Strip into a furnace.

As a result, millions of visitors soaking in Sin City for the first time find themselves literally soaking in sweat from head to toe. And while the extreme heat is typically just an inconvenience for most, many tourists taking a stroll down in the summertime suffer a far more serious fate.

As he told the local FOX-5 news outlet earlier this year, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski warns first-time visitors and regulars alike to remain vigilant when it comes to heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke:

“When you go past the point where it’s really bad, you’ll go into heat stroke and that is a true medical emergency. We’re going to have to rush you to the hospital with lights and sirens. There’s been a collapse. Your body temperature could be 106 degrees. You’re literally burning up and you need treatment at an emergency facility. You don’t want to get into that. That could cause permanent injury.”

If you notice yourself feeling out of sorts, including faintness, pale or clammy skin, nausea, or muscle cramps, get inside an air-conditioned casino to cool off. These symptoms are the first warning signs of heat exhaustion, a condition which can quickly turn into the far more dangerous heat stroke.

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The big mistake most Las Vegas rookies tend to make concerns their hydration levels. Whether it’s due to a late night out drinking and partying hard or simply not drinking sufficient amounts of water in the morning before heading outside, first-timers tend to get hit the hardest by overheating.

To combat this ever-present threat, always be sure to bring a thermos or two filled with cold water along when you walk anywhere outdoors. Take regular breaks to head inside the AC oasis of the nearest Las Vegas casino. And don’t confuse beer or liquor with the liquid lifeblood known as H20.

If you’re fair skinned, or come from a cold-weather climate, I recommend carrying an umbrella with you to shield yourself from the sun. Trust me, you won’t look weird in the slightest. People stroll the Strip wearing nothing but diapers or a Spider-Man costume and don’t attract any attention at all.

As always, don’t forget to lather on sunscreen to any exposed skin if you don’t want that intense sunshine to scorch you to a lobster’s hue.

2 – Forgetting to Pack Extra Clothing and Outfits to Swap out for Sweaty Clothes

Along those same lines, you’d be surprised at how many Las Vegas newbies find themselves low on clean clothes as their trip nears an end.

Between walking every day, the aforementioned 110+ degree temperatures, and the occasional jostle from neighbors in a crowded walkway, you can bet your bottom dollar that the morning’s outfit won’t make it to nighttime intact. Whether its sweat or spills, you’ll likely want to head upstairs to the room to freshen up with a cold shower and a fresh set of clothes for the evening.

Of course, that means packing two sets of pants, shirts, underwear, and socks for each day you’ll be in town. But unfortunately, many visitors to Las Vegas don’t factor this into their preparation. That means they’re out of clean clothes with a day or two still left on the itinerary, a quandary which presents several problems of its own.

You can try to locate a laundromat nearby, but let’s face facts—you came here to sink quarters into the slots, not a washing machine. The better casino resorts offer in-house laundry services, but most patrons balk at the itemized pricing ($12 for a shirt, $5 for a pair of socks, etc.) used to gouge desperate guests.

To remedy this preventable mistake from the get-go, pack at least two complete outfits for every day you’ll be in Las Vegas. That way, when you sweat through a t-shirt or somebody spills their martini on your lap, you’ll always have spare clothes waiting an elevator ride away.

3 – Trying to Walk Seemingly Short Distances Instead of Getting a Ride

One of the best ways to beat the heat and keep your clothes clean and dry is to avoid walking the Strip altogether.

But a vital part of the Las Vegas Boulevard experience is hoofing it from casino to casino, all while exploring those little oddities and adventures hidden in between.

Here’s the thing though… The Strip is a lot longer than it seems at first glance. We’ve all seen those picturesque postcards that seem to fit the entirety of the Strip into a single frame. Images like that can trick many newcomers into thinking they can walk up and down Las Vegas Boulevard without any issues.

In reality, the distance between Mandalay Bay at the southern end and the STRAT tower (formerly the Stratosphere) at the northern end measures 6.4 miles. Under normal conditions, a healthy adult might be fully capable of walking that distance with ease, but Las Vegas is far from normal in every way.

First, there’s the purposefully constructed impediments that ensure walkers have to venture inside various casino resorts along the way. Elevated walkways, a lack of crosswalks at surface levels, bridges spanning Las Vegas Boulevard from one side to the next—you name it, and it’ll be there blocking your way.

As will the throngs of tourists numbering in the tens of thousands, each of whom is trying to do the same thing you are. Throw in those scorching summer temperatures, and walking is much more difficult than meets the eye.

For those reasons, you’ll be well-served by simply hitching a ride from Point A to Point B. From there, you can still walk around as it was designed, you’ll just avoid the lengthy spells of walking that can quickly grow tiresome.

4 – Hiring a Traditional Cab Instead of Uber or Lyft Ridesharing

When you decide to hop in a car to cut down on walking time, be sure to avoid the traditional yellow cabs and local taxi companies like the plague.

Las Vegas cabbies are notorious for “long hauling,” or taking inexperienced patrons on meandering journeys that cause the meter to climb in a hurry. Visitors often describe cabbies hopping on the highway to take people from McCarran International Airport to their destination on the Strip, despite the fact that Tropicana Avenue offers a direct straight-shot route westbound.

Instead of dithering with an unscrupulous cabbie, Las Vegas visitors in the know simply use rideshare services like Uber or Lyft. These services have stricter rules and regulations restricting drivers, so you won’t have to worry about getting ripped off.

You can also utilize the local infrastructure, including the city bus or the Las Vegas Monorail. The latter runs regularly from the Westgate casino southbound all the way to MGM Grand, making it the perfect way to get around the Strip on the cheap.

5 – Forgetting to Visit Downtown Las Vegas and the Fremont Street Experience

Speaking of public transportation in Las Vegas, a dedicated bus route known locally as “The Deuce” takes people straight from the Strip to the Downtown district.

Also known as “Old Las Vegas,” the Downtown district on Fremont Street is home to a cluster of casinos that predate the Strip by several decades. You’ll even find the Golden Gate, which is only the longest continuously operated casino in America after opening its doors way back in 1906. Other venerable casinos located Downtown include the Golden Nugget, Binion’s, the California, and The D.

The area was revitalized in the mid-1990s with the completion of the Fremont Street Experience, an incredible video screen canopy that envelops the entire drag. Fremont Street is loved by locals and tourists alike for offering a taste of what Las Vegas used to be. Sidewalk buskers entertain the crowds, the casinos offer best-in-class odds and service, and the prices simply can’t be beat.

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If you’re coming to Las Vegas for the first time, don’t make the mistake so many others do by confining your stay exclusively to the Strip. Hop on The Deuce and travel northward for a spell, then jump out and see the Fremont Street Experience for yourself.

Conclusion

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that doesn’t have to mean mistakes like those mentioned here. In a town as eclectic and diverse as Sin City, it can be easy to get lost in the mix, which is exactly what happens to so many first-timers. Thankfully, you’re now armed with a wealth of knowledge on how to get the best bang for your buck when exploring one of the world’s most unique and interesting locales.

3 Times Where Tight Aggressive Play Is Less Profitable

Poker Card Going in Spiral, Poker Logo Text
If you’ve studied popular poker literature for long, you’re probably familiar with the idea that tight and aggressive play is the most profitable. The reason why this is the most common advice is because, in general, tight play is more profitable than loose play, and aggressive play is more profitable than passive play.

When you play tight, you enter the pot with stronger hands on average than when you play loose. When you enter the pot with a better starting hand than your opponent, you have a better chance to win. If you play too many hands, the average value of your hands goes down, so you end up playing too many hands against superior starting hands.

The main reason why aggressive play is more profitable than passive play is because, when you bet, you force your opponents to make a decision. Every time an opponent makes a decision, they have a chance to make a mistake. Mistakes made by your opponents are profitable to you.

But sometimes, the best expected value doesn’t come from tight and aggressive play.

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A concept called expected value is a way to determine the best play in any situation.

Before I dig into three situations where tight and aggressive play is less profitable than other options, I want to point out that these are exceptions. For the most part, tight and aggressive play is better than loose and passive play.

This is especially true for inexperienced poker players. If you’re not familiar with the game of poker, you should focus on learning tight play and learning the proper way to play aggressively. Once you master tight and aggressive play, you’re ready to learn more about the situations discussed below.

1 – Trapping the Maniac

At the lower and middle levels of Casino Holdem, many players marry a high pocket pair and are willing to get all in with it on the flop. When you identify these players, you can often call a raise before the flop when they have a deep stack and get them all in when you flop a strong hand.

Here’s an example of trapping someone who marries big pocket pairs.

I was playing in a low limit Casino Holdem game with a maximum buy in of $300. A player to my right had suffered a couple bad beats, and he was on the verge of steaming. I’d noticed that when he got a big pocket pair, he played aggressively and was willing to get all in after the flop.

He opened with a raise, and I had a pair of eights. I put him on a big hand, and he had a deep stack. I flopped a set, and he bet into me. I instantly fired back a minimum raise, hoping he’d see it as a bluff. He instantly shoved all in, and I won the hand. He had a pair of kings in his hand.

Hand Placing Poker Cards on Table, Angry Man with Hands on Head

Of course, in this situation, playing aggressively before the flop was not a smart play for me. You don’t raise with pocket eights, so the only decision was to call or fold. This was a mathematical decision based on how deep his stack was and how likely it was that I could get him all in if I flopped a set.

But the thing you shouldn’t miss in this is that I had been watching him play and used what I learned to make a decision. If I’d missed the flop, I’d have just folded to his flop bet and waited for my next opportunity.

Notice that I played passively before the flop, when it was correct, then applied the correct amount of aggressiveness after the flop when I had the best hand.

This same type of strategy is valuable when you’re playing against a maniac. A maniac bets and raises with a wide range of hands, so it’s hard to put them on a hand. This can be valuable when you have a big hand, because you can let the maniac lead the betting, which disguises the strength of your hand.

You’re playing with a maniac, and everyone at the table knows the maniac is going to raise. You have pocket queens and flat call before the flop. The maniac raises, and one other player calls. You call and flop a set of queens.

You check to the maniac, he bets, and the third player calls. At this point, you can get aggressive, but unless the board is particularly scary for you, the best play is to try to get another bet from the third player. The way to do this is flat call, check to the manic on the river, and let him bet again. Then, you can shove whether the third player calls or folds.

You need to learn how to spot a maniac and learn how to take advantage of them. You also need to understand how to trap correctly and when you need to switch from passive to aggressive play for maximum value.

2 – Exceptionally Tight Tables

One reason why tight play works so well is because most tables are filled with players who play too many hands. By playing tight, you’re doing the opposite of most of your opponents.

Occasionally, you’re going to find a table where everyone is playing tighter than you’re used to. This happens more at higher levels, but it does happen at lower levels as well.

When the table is exceptionally tight, you can make more profit by playing more loose than normal. You can take advantage of the tight players and pick up more pots. You can also get away from hands after the flop when a tight opponent bets into you or plays back at you after you bet.

Crowded Poker Table, Poker Cards Spread Out

This can be quite profitable at the lower and middle limits, but you have to be careful as you play against better players, especially at higher limits. The higher you go, the fewer players on average see the flop. Many high end games are played two and three handed.

In these games, most of the players are good enough to see that you’re playing looser, so they use this against you. You can play looser at a tight table to make more profit sometimes, but you need to pay attention to the other players to figure out when you need to tighten up again.

It’s also important not to get too loose. I’m talking about seeing 25% to 30% of the flops instead of 15% to 20%. You can’t start seeing 35% to 50% of the flops and hope to make more profit.

3 – Strong Post Flop Play

One of the things that separate weak and average poker players from profitable ones is the ability to play well after the flop. The truth is that anyone can learn how to play reasonably well before the flop. You can learn a set of hands you can play in each position and which hands to raise with and play fairly well before the flop without much trouble.

Hands Grabbing Casino Chips and Poker Cards, Stack of Cash

Most players never learn to play well before the flop, but it’s not difficult if you work at it. This is good news for you. In many games, if you learn good pre-flop play, you can turn a profit.

Even fewer players learn how to play well after the flop. This used to amaze me because most post flop plays can be worked out mathematically.

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You can use pot odds and expected value to determine the most profitable play, especially in limit games.

What all of this has to do with tight aggressive play is that if you’re one of the few players who has a particularly strong post flop game, you can afford to play much looser pre-flop than other players. This is because, with a strong post-flop game, you know how to get away from losing hands and maximize your return on winning hands.

Conclusion

Most poker players are going to have better results when they stick to tight and aggressive play. But when you start mastering your game, you’re going to learn to base your decisions on long term profitability. Sometimes, you need to play loose and/or passive in order to maximize your profits.

If you’re not a profitable poker player yet, stick with tight and aggressive play. You can learn when to be aggressive with experience. Most players play too many hands. Focus on tight play to start, and when you start winning, you can look for specific opportunities to loosen up a small amount.

How to Tell if a Slot Machine Is Loose

Loose-Slots-Slot-Machines

A slot machine is loose when it pays out a lot of money. It also needs to do this often to be considered loose. You’ll see some writers say that a loose slot machine is one with a high payback percentage, but that’s not enough to qualify as loose. It also needs to have low volatility.

What’s the difference?

The payback percentage is a function of how much the prizes pay compared to how often they hit. I could create a slot machine that pays off only one prize every million spins and that pays off 1.2 million coins when it does.

That machine would provide the player with an edge, a payback percentage of over 100%, but it still wouldn’t be a “loose” machine. In fact, it would be one of the tightest machines in the casino, because it only hits on average once every million spins.

That’s what volatility means when you’re playing slots. The more often a game hits a winning combination, the less volatile the game is. Most slot machine games have a hit ratio of around 30% or so now, which means that you’ll see some kind of win about 1/3 of the time.

The size of the wins is small enough that the game still makes a profit for the casino.

Your goal should be to find the loosest slot machines you can.

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But How Do You Do That?

The Best You Can Do Is Estimate

The math behind slot machines and other gambling games is based on long-term results, not short-term results. You can make some guesses about the settings for a game based on short-term results, but they’re not necessarily accurate.

Here’s one way you could measure the hit ratio for a slot machine game, though:

You could track how many spins you make, and also track how many of those spins resulted in a win. That would provide you with the actual hit ratio for that session.

For example, if you made 300 spins on a slot machine over the course of half an hour, and you saw 100 winning spins, you had a hit ratio of 33.3%.

If you only saw 50 winning spins, your hit ratio would only be 16.67%.

The game with the 33.3% hit ratio is probably “looser” than the game with the 16.67% hit ratio.

The Concept of Naked Pulls

Years ago I read a book about strategy when playing slot machines by John Patrick. It’s a terrible book, and I don’t recommend it.

But he did offer one concept that I thought was interesting:

The naked pulls concept.

A naked pull is one in which you get no winnings at all.

Patrick’s advice is to quit playing a slot machine once you’ve had a certain number of naked pulls in a row. I don’t remember if the number he suggested was 7 or 9, but it was something like that.

Here’s the thing, though:

A slot machine could have a hit ratio of 50% and still see 7 or 9 losing pulls in a row. It won’t happen often, but it will still happen several times a day just because of random variance.

Slot machines aren’t set on times or cycles. They have a random number generator which determines how often a winning symbol gets hit, but it doesn’t have a memory of what happened on previous spins.

Every spin of the reels on a slot machine is an independent event. This means that it isn’t affected by the previous spin.

Some of the time, if you walk away from a machine that has had several losing spins in a row, you’ll have avoided a tight machine.

Other times, you’ll just be walking away from a loose machine for no reason other than short-term variance.

What’s More Important? Hit Ratio or Payback Percentage?

Deciding which of these 2 factors is more important is more about your temperament as a gambler than anything else.

If you’re impatient and don’t want to lose a lot of money fast, you should look for a game that seems to have a high hit ratio. I’ve played slot machines in land-based casinos which hit 40% of the time while I was there. I didn’t walk away with a lot of winnings, because the sizes of the prizes were low.

But I didn’t lose a lot of money, either.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for that big score – which is likely, if you’ve chosen to play blackjack – you should probably pay less attention to volatility and more attention to the sizes of the prizes.

You could find a game with a hit ratio of only 20% that has a payback percentage that’s 5% higher than a similar machine with a 40% hit ratio.

You can’t really rank these 2 factors in importance, because they fall into a relatively narrow range.

Most slot machines have a hit ratio in the 20% to 35% range, and their payback percentages fall in the 75% to 95% range.

The payback percentage has the bigger range, but it’s impossible to calculate with any degree of statistical confidence.

How Would You Calculate a Payback Percentage for a Slot Machine Based on Your Actual Results?

The math behind calculating a payback percentage isn’t hard. You just calculate how much money you’ve wagered in a machine and how much you have left when you’re done. The amount you’ve lost is divided by the amount you’ve wagered to give you the actual payback percentage for that session.

I did this as an experiment not long ago. I played a slot machine for $1.25 per spin over the course of 400 spins. It’s easy to see how much I wagered in that scenario – it was $500.

When I finished playing, I had lost $100, which meant that I’d gotten $400 back in winnings from the game.

This means I lost 20% of what I wagered, which would be the game’s “hold.”

The payback percentage was 80%.

What does that say about how loose or tight the game is?

Not much.

When you’re calculating things like payback percentage and house edge, you’re calculating statistical events.

And if you’ve read much of what I’ve written about probability and gambling, you already know that in the short run, anything can happen.

If I’d finished that session with $600 and a net win of $100, I’d have seen a payback percentage of 120%, and I can promise you one thing:

That’s NOT the long-term expected payback percentage for that slot machine.

It can be a fun exercise to keep up with your actual payback percentage over time. If nothing else, it slows down the number of bets per hour you’re making, which will have the indirect effect of reducing your average hourly losses.

Some Tips for Finding Loose Slot Machines

The problem with offering tips for finding loose slot machines is that many of them are based on pure conjecture.

For years, everyone suggested that you play the slot machines closest to the walkways in the casino. The premise was that some slot machine technician had suggested the managers put the loosest machines there so they could attract more gamblers.

This is a myth that has since been dispelled.

Another piece of advice you’ll often see is that you should play flat-top slot machines instead of progressives. In this case, I lean toward believing this one. You could play a progressive slot machine where the jackpot is high enough that you could have an edge over the casino, but it would still be tighter than a game with a 1000-coin jackpot.

Here’s why:

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The progressive jackpots on these machines only get hit a staggeringly low percentage of the time. If you’re only winning once every million spins, you might as well be playing a game with a low payback percentage.

In other words, if you’re not likely to hit the jackpot in your lifetime, it might as well not exist when calculating how loose or tight the game is.

You’ll also see people advise you to play for higher stakes. The idea is that the payback percentage goes up as the denominations go up.

This is likely true, too, but you still shouldn’t play for stakes you’re not comfortable with.

Conclusion

The best possible advice I could give you about finding a loose slot machine is this:

Give it up.

It’s virtually impossible to accomplish this goal.

Also, almost any other game in the casino will cost you less money in the long run than the slot machines will.

But if you are going to play, at least try to play the games with the flat top jackpots for the highest denomination you can easily afford.

 

Celebrities That Have Lost Big in Blackjack

Paris Hilton, Rapper Yo Gotti, Ben Affleck, Casino Poker Cards
Blackjack attracts more celebrities than any other casino game outside of poker. Like many gamblers, celebrities appreciate the combination of skill and luck involved with casino blackjack gaming.

However, fame and fortune doesn’t guarantee success on the blackjack tables. In fact, some celebrities have lost big playing this game.

Others haven’t necessarily lost money. But they’ve embarrassed themselves in other ways and been banned from casinos.

That said, I’ll discuss 7 celebrity blackjack players who have experienced the lowest of the lows with this game.

1 – Yo Gotti Loses $500,000 – Jay-Z Can’t Believe It

Yo Gotti has had a very successful rap career that includes hits such as The Art of Hustle, I Am, and White Friday. Unfortunately, he hasn’t proven a hit on the blackjack tables.

The 38-year-old was filmed playing a high-stakes blackjack session at Jay-Z’s Shawn Carter Charity Gala.

At one point, Yo Gotti put $500,000 on the table. This is one of the largest blackjack bets ever recorded.

It didn’t go so well for Yo Gotti either. He busted out and lost his massive wager.

Jay-Z was standing right next to Yo Gotti when the blow was delivered. Jazy-Z walked away and exclaimed “Oh my goodness” in disbelief over the result.

2 – Paris Hilton Loses a $175k Bentley – Gets Banned from Family Casino

Paris Hilton has won serious money in the past with blackjack. In 2014, she collected $50,000 in winnings after a DJ gig in Atlantic City.

However, the famed socialite has experienced more struggles than success with the game. Case in point: she once bet and lost a $175,000 Bentley at her family’s casino.

Richard Hilton made arrangements to have his daughter banned from the Hilton Las Vegas (now Las Vegas Hotel & Casino) gambling floor afterward.

Paris Hilton with Red Banned Logo

This incident hasn’t marked Paris’ only ban. Her boyfriend accidentally dropped a bag of cocaine in front of police while speaking with them in front of the Wynn Las Vegas. Both subsequently received bans from the Wynn.

3 – Charles Barkley Loses Millions in Blackjack

Charles Barkley was one of the greatest basketball players of his generation. During a career spanning from 1984 to 2000, he won the MVP award in 1993 and was an 11-time All-Star.

However, the Hall-of-Famer’s basketball skills haven’t translated to the blackjack felt. “Sir Charles” has lost a self-estimated $10 million through blackjack and sports betting.

Barkley once displayed his lack of blackjack strategy knowledge for TMZ.

Considering that he doesn’t know to hit on 16 when the dealer has 10, it’s no wonder why he’s lost so much.

The TNT analyst’s gambling problem broke in 2008. The Wynn sued him for an unpaid $400,000 marker. Barkley admitted that he had a gambling problem at this point.

Sir Charles had a unique strategy of trying to “win a million dollars” every time he visited Las Vegas. He eventually learned that chasing $1 million every session is a terrible goal.

Barkley continues playing blackjack and other forms of gambling. However, he’s more sensible about how much he risks these days.

4 – Ben Affleck Gets Banned for Card Counting

Unlike the other people on this list, Ben Affleck isn’t a blackjack loser from a financial perspective. Instead, he’s been banned from casinos and had his name dragged through the mud.

Affleck’s blackjack tale started in 2014. He received a ban from the Hard Rock Las Vegas for counting cards.

Ben Affleck, Poker Cards Spread Out

“I took some time to learn the game and became a decent blackjack player,” he said at the time. “And once I became decent, the casinos asked me not to play blackjack.

“I mean, the fact that being good at the game is against the rules at the casinos should tell you something about casinos.”

Affleck became a hero among gamblers for counting cards and beating Vegas. But his wife at the time, Jennifer Garner, wasn’t so pleased about the matter.

She became fed up with Affleck’s gambling and drinking shortly after the card-counting ban. The two have since divorced.

5 – Gladys Knight Drops $6 Million in Blackjack

Gladys Knight is one of the biggest R&B legends of all time. She’s sang hits like License To Kill, That’s What Friends Are For, and When a Child Is Born.

Away from the big stage, though, Knight always suffered from a blackjack addiction. She would lose up to $40,000 per night on the tables and has dropped an estimated $6 million overall.

Knight sometimes stayed up all night to play the game. However, she finally suffered a breaking point and quit playing.

Knight failed to take her kid to school in the morning, because she’d been playing blackjack and drinking all night long. This incident convinced her to walk away from the game and her mounting losses.

6 – Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer (1937 – 2005) was a billionaire Australian media tycoon. His net worth was estimated at AUD6.5 billion shortly before his passing.

Packer was one of the biggest high-stakes gamblers in history. He made six-figure wagers had enough wealth to back up his big gambles too.

The Aussie placed bets as large as AUD300,000 per hand. He also routinely won and lost millions of dollars during his gambling trips.

Aside from his extraordinarily large blackjack bets, Packer is the subject of many legendary gambling tales.

Kerry Packer with Pile of Money with Red X

He lost AUD28 million during a three-week gambling trip in Britain. This short-term loss is believed to be the largest in British history.

However, Packer won AUD33 million at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He also laid claim to several multimillion-dollar wins during holidays in the UK.

Packer was once spotted playing high-stakes roulette in South East England on four tables simultaneously. He had a £15 million bankroll in play during the session.

The most-famous story involving Packer is the time he offered to flip a coin for a Texas oilman’s $60 million fortune.

He’d grown tired of hearing the Texan brag about his wealth at the poker table. Packer shut the man up by saying, “I’ll flip you for it.”

7 – Terrance Watanabe

Terrance Watanabe earned a fortune as CEO of Oriental Trading Co. The Nebraskan sold his controlling stake in the company and retired with a fortune.

Thus began his lengthy gambling odyssey in Las Vegas. According to ABC News, Watanabe would sometimes gamble 24 hours per day.

He’d play three hands of blackjack simultaneously at $50,000 apiece. This heavy playing volume caused him to lose as much as $5 million per day.

Caesars Palace raked in nearly $127 million of Watanabe’s losses.

The latter claimed that Caesars Palace gave him generous amounts of alcohol and prescription pills to keep him gambling.

Watanabe eventually failed to repay $14 million worth of losses to Caesars. The Casino sued him for the amount, and both sides settled out of court.

Conclusion

Celebrities might achieve major success in the entertainment and/or business world. However, their fame doesn’t make them any less immune to the blackjack house edge.

Yo Gotti became the most-recent person to find this out. He lost a $500,000 bet in a single hand during Jay-Z’s charity event.

Paris Hilton is another celeb who lost big. She wagered and lost a $175,000 family owned Bentley. Her father subsequently got her banned from the casino’s gambling tables.

Ben Affleck is another blackjack player who drew a ban. But unlike Hilton, his ban came from being too successful as a card counter. Unfortunately for Affleck, he eventually lost his marriage as a result of gambling.

Charles Barkley has proved publicly in front of TMZ that he’s not the most-knowledgeable blackjack player. However, this limited knowledge hasn’t stopped him from losing millions of dollars on the game.

Gladys Knight developed such a bad blackjack habit that she once forgot to take her son to school. She quit afterward but not before losing $6 million lifetime.

Kerry Packer and Terrance Watanabe are two successful businessmen who frequented the blackjack tables. Only the late billionaire Packer, though, could afford to bet and lose big.

Watanabe, in contrast, blew too much money on blackjack and other games. The former Oriental Trading Co. owner lost most of his fortune in casinos.

Blackjack is quite an alluring game. That said, we’ll eventually see other celebrities join this list of the biggest gambling losers.

How to Tell If a Slot Machine Is Honest

Casino Background Illustration, Slot Machine with Money Flying Around It
When people ask in gambling forums or general question and answer sites like Quora if slot machine games are honest, someone with at least basic knowledge of slot machines usually answers.

Most of the answers I see boil down to yes because cheating would be pointless in a game that already favors the casino.

While I agree with the sentiment my experience has been different. And this is one of the reasons why I don’t like to play slot machine games very often.

Honesty Is Whatever You Decide It Should Be

In a political campaign both sides accuse each other of committing awful acts of deceit such as lying to voters, possibly breaking obscure laws, or polishing their resumes.

Many voters are savvy enough to take a lot of these accusations with some skepticism. Some hard core party supporters believe everything their candidates tell them.

If you play an arcade game like a western-style shooter, you expect the guns to sort of work like real guns. If you take clear aim at a bad guy you should hit him. But that doesn’t always happen.

I’ve played arcade games that were “crooked”. The gun sights were off. An arcade technician told me that despite what it seemed like the misalignment wasn’t intentional. The sights drift over time as people knock the toy guns around.

Is that true?

Either way, you don’t know if the arcade game is letting you aim properly. Once you realize the sights are off you can adjust how you aim the gun and make better shots.

Question Mark Next to Slot Machine GameWhen I was a teenager I met some people who worked for a carnival. They called themselves Carnies and they spoke a language that sounds a lot like the Harry Potter snake language. My Carny friends told me their games were often rigged because they are so simple anyone can eventually learn to beat them.

Is that true?

In both situations someone told me what they claimed was the inside story. In both situations I learned that if I adjust my expectations I could play the games better. But that didn’t always mean I would win.

Experts Explain Slot Machine Games All the Time

If you want to know how slot machines work you can buy a book, read a blog post, or ask a casino technician. It’s easy to get an explanation. I believe the majority of these explanations are accurate as far as they go.

Because so many people have explained how slot machines work almost anyone can now explain how they work. There are even Wikipedia articles about slot machines and probability and everything else related to basic gambling science.

If you want to know how slot machines work you don’t have to go to slot machine school. The Internet made it easy for everyone to share what they know.

And if that’s the case I find myself still amazed every time I come across a new slot machine game secret. I don’t mean those “how to win” articles. I mean things about game tricks.

Yes, some experts say slot machine games play tricks on you. I suppose it’s all part of the experience. The harder the game is to beat the more you enjoy it.

But shouldn’t you know the game is hiding something from you?

Does the Slot Game Tell You Its Theoretical Return to Player?

In my experience it’s been easier to learn these ratings for online games than for land-based casino games. I guess it depends on whose laws govern the games you’re playing.

If you click on the “Help” or “Info” button for a slot game and bring up the Pay Table screens, you should be able to find everything you need to now about playing the game. Sometimes the last screen tells you how much of a chance you have to win.

That’s the RTP or theoretical return to player. This percentage, subtracted from 100, tells you what the house edge is. The house edge, as many people know, is the average – over a long period of game play – that the casino expects to keep from all player wagers.

Casino Slot Machine Floor, House Icon with Casino House Edge Text

The house edge and the RTP assume that players win some of their money back and that every now and then a really big prize is paid out. It’s all math and the games make no guarantees.

What few gambling experts who talk about the house edge and theoretical return to player tell you is that a really bad player increases the house edge. I call this the “hidden edge” in every game.

Slot games have other hidden edges.

Even if a slot game tells you its RTP that doesn’t mean you’ll keep 85%, 90%, or 95% of your stake. That’s a projected average over time. It assumes someone – probably not you – will win a major jackpot.

You’re paying for someone else’s jackpot. The game doesn’t tel you that. It’s not exactly dishonest but it’s an omission of an honest fact.

As one of my older friends once said, who wants to spoil a good game with honest facts?

Does the Game Tell You the Chances of Winning a Prize?

Since I don’t spend much time playing slot machine games I can’t promise this is always true. But I have never found a game that told me both the RTP and the “this game has a 1:4 chance of winning”.

That “1:4” chance ratio is used in a lot of games. You’ll find it in every lottery game. The ratio represents a theoretical average of how often a prize of any amount is awarded.

Jackpot Text on Stack of MoneyI think that’s another gray area in honesty. I’d like to know my chances of winning a jackpot. If you play Euro Millions, Mega Millions, or Powerball every news story about the next big jackpot tells you the odds of winning that huge prize.

Slot machine games are silent on how likely it is you’ll win their biggest prize. Do slot machine games pay better than lottery games?

No self-respecting card player should care but slot machine games and lotteries are more poplar than baccarat, blackjack, and poker combined.

If You Play Online Slot Games, Do You Know Who Is Running the Game?

I’ve read that for about $25,000 or $50,000 you can start up an online casino of your own. All you have to do is set up an account on a licensed gaming server.

Hand Reaching Out to Laptop Displaying Online Slot Game

These servers are run from data centers in countries like Canada and Malta. They certify their games’ integrity with independent testing bodies. If you check your casino’s website and game credits you should see their licensing and certification information.

But is that good enough?

Turns out it’s not always good enough. I’ve seen a few discussions in gambling forums about illegal online casinos stealing software from the gaming servers.

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Savvy players who check the website addresses of the games loading in their browsers and phones recognize the legitimate gaming server addresses.

They know when someone is running an unauthorized copy of a casino.

If the online casino stole its software then can you still trust the certifications?

I’d say that’s a dishonest casino to begin with. And that means their games are dishonest. Even if the software says it is licensed and certified you don’t know how good that hacker is.

If you find a slot machine game that your instincts say shouldn’t be where you found it, dig a little deeper. At least trust your instincts enough to take a closer look and find yourself some trustworthy online casinos.

Conclusion

There may be other ways a slot machine game deceives you. I hate the older slot games that offered the “double or nothing” bonus. Once a friend explained the odds on those games to me I decided never to play them.

Slot machine games are supposed to be fun. But even though I know the games are favoring the house I’d still like to know what to expect from a game. I think that’s only fair.

If the game is not being completely honest with you then is it being honest with you at all?

And that’s a good question to ask of any gambling game. You can be satisfied with any answer you get. Just ask the question and get the answer.

Otherwise, you’re not gambling so much as you’re paying someone else to take advantage of you.

How to Play Craps at Home

Hand Throwing Dice on Table, Casino Chips, Craps Logo
It’s no secret that craps is my favorite gambling game. It’s just more fun than any other game I can imagine. Sure, I wish it had a skill element, and I don’t believe in dice setting, but it’s still a wicked amount of fun.

And if you stick with the bets which have a low house edge, it’s one of the best games in the casino.

But what if you want to play craps at home for some reason?

What are your options?

That’s what this post is all about.

Buying or Building Your Own Craps Table

Craps tables are big. If you want to play craps for real money on a table similar to what you’ll find in a casino, you need to make sure you have a space big enough to put it in. For some people, the garage or the basement is the only option.

Buying your own craps table isn’t cheap, either. You can expect to spend close to $1000 for even a cheap one, and if you want one that’s actually nice, you should expect to spend closer to $2000.

Craps Table with Two Dice on It, $1000 to $2000 TextEven that $2000 one won’t duplicate what you’d play on at a casino. It’s going to be a little smaller and not quite as high-quality.

Still, if you’re determined to play casino-style craps at your house with your buddies, you have the option of buying one.

Another option is to build your own craps table. You can find plans for craps tables online easily enough if you’re a do-it-yourselfer.

Just be ready for building a craps table to be harder and take longer than you expect.

A friend of mine once told me he was going to build his own smoker, and he didn’t realize how hard that was really going to be until he embarked on the project.

But yeah, you have options.

Street Craps

People have played craps on the street for decades. You don’t need a special table at all for this. Just a pair of dice and some folks who understand what the game is all about.

Normally when you’re playing street craps, you have some players who are willing to bet on either side of the game. In other words, some of the bettors are betting on the pass line, while others are betting don’t pass.

You need someone to place a bet, but you also need someone to lay that bet.

Prop bets are less common in street craps, although you can still have them. You just need to find someone willing to cover the other end of that bet.

I should point out that in most jurisdictions, street craps is illegal. That doesn’t seem to slow down the action on such games, but I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t at least mention it.

Free Craps Games Online or Off

Of course every traditional online casino I can think of offers its entire suite of games to players for free. This includes their craps games. The big drawback with these free craps games is this:

You can’t win any money playing them.

The big selling point to these free online craps games, though, is this:

You can’t lose any money playing them.

When you play the free games at an online casino, the casino gives you a specific number of play-money chips to bet with. Your balance goes up and down, but these chips don’t have any monetary value. They’re just a means of keeping score.

Woman Playing Online Craps Game on Computer

You can compare playing online casino games with free chips to playing poker for matchsticks or toothpicks as a kid. It’s a way to keep score in the game without risking anything with any actual monetary value.

Online casinos provide these free games with the hope that you’ll like them well enough to sign up for the casino and play for real money. They’ll usually give you a significant sized signup bonus when you make your first deposit, too.

These signup bonus offers come with strings attached, of course, in the form of wagering requirements. You can’t just sign up at a casino, claim a bonus, play craps for 2 or 3 hands, then withdraw the free money they gave you.

The casinos require you to wager your deposit and your bonus a minimum number of times before cashing out.

And most of them don’t count wagers on craps toward those wagering requirements.

The house edge on craps is too low.

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Your other option for playing craps on a computer is a software package like “Hoyle Casino”, which also offers animated versions of casino games you can play without risking any money.

But with a software program like that, you don’t have the option of trading up to real money play even if you want to.

I also want to caution you about one thing:

I’m confident that the real money versions of craps have the same odds attached to them as regular craps in a traditional casino. There’s plenty of mathematical edge built into the game as it’s traditionally played that casinos have little or no incentive to cheat.

But with the free casino games, I suspect that they tilt the odds slightly in the players’ favor.

I have no evidence of this, but in my first online casino experience, I just couldn’t lose when I played their free online blackjack game.

And that changed dramatically after I made a deposit and started playing with real money on the line.

Internet Casinos for Real Money – Simulated Craps

When you do play online craps for real money, you’ll usually be playing an animated game that’s powered by a random number generator. This random number generator has been programmed to offer the same kinds of odds and probability you’d find in a traditional craps game.

Number Sequence, Laptop Displaying Online Craps Game

Some people suspect online casinos of cheating, but I think that’s the least of your worries. They don’t need to cheat. There are no bets at the craps table where the player has an advantage, so why would they need to cheat?

But for someone who’s used to playing craps in an actual casino, playing a simulated video game version of craps lacks a certain something. It’s just not the same as throwing the dice yourself or watching another player throw the dice.

It reminds me of playing craps in the casino a few years ago in Oklahoma. They offered craps, but they weren’t legally allowed to use dice. They used playing cards, instead, and each card represented a different result of throwing 2 dice.

It just wasn’t the same.

Live Dealer Casinos

The more exciting way to play craps online is to play at one of these new live dealer casinos that are becoming more popular. These casinos use webcams and chat software to power their games. And their craps games use real dice.

Of course, you don’t get to hold these dice in your hands. The dealers throw them for you.

But I have friends who are skeptical in the extreme about the fairness of most casino games. They think that all of them are rigged except craps. They claim that you can cheat with anything but dice, and the casinos do.

No matter how hard I tried to explain to my one conspiracy-minded friend that this isn’t the case, he refused to believe me. His mind was made up.

Of course, he also believes that the earth is flat, so there’s that.

Practicing Dice Setting and Dice Control Techniques

I’ve already mentioned that I don’t put much stock into dice setting and dice control techniques, but if this is an “advantage” gambling method you’d like to try, you WILL need to practice at home.

Player Throwing Dice on Craps Table

To have any hope of success, you’ll need to make sure that you’re practicing on a craps table that’s the same size and shape as one you’ll find in the casino. This means spending some money and doing some research.

You’ll need to research the exact dimensions of a standard craps table and either build one or have one built to those expectations.

If you’re not practicing in conditions that are similar to the conditions you’ll face in the casino, you won’t have any way of knowing if you’re actually going to get an edge over the house.

Also, when you practice, you’ll need to track your results on a consistent basis to be sure that you’re actually doing well and not just seeing a statistical anomaly.

That means thousands of dice throws.

Conclusion

How do you play craps at home?

You have multiple options, depending on what your goals are.

If you want to practice dice control, you should probably have a craps table built to casino specifications.

Otherwise, you might as well play on the street or on the internet.

4 Whales That Fueled High Stakes Online Poker With Their Losses

Online Poker Game, Stacks of Money, You Lose Text
High rollers aren’t as prevalent in online poker as they were several years ago. Certain legal events struck the internet poker world and scared off some of these whales.

But during the high-stakes scene’s heyday, certain whales were integral to keeping the nosebleeds going. Unfortunately, these same high rollers had to lose a lot of money to fuel the biggest games.

Who are the whales that propelled online poker’s highest stakes to even bigger heights? Below, you’ll find four players whose losses essentially kept the largest online games afloat for years.

1 – Guy Laliberté

Guy Laliberté, the former CEO of Cirque Du Soleil, was at one time, one of the biggest gaming whales in online poker. Worth well over $1 billion, he had the bankroll to comfortably play with the game’s best.

Unfortunately for Laliberté, he felt the sting of being overmatched on a regular basis. He’s believed to have lost over $30 million playing internet poker.

He lost so much that he resorted to using different screen names to help conceal his identity. After all, he didn’t want the sharks rushing to the tables all at once.

His known screen names include “Zypherin,” “lady marmelade,” “noataima,” and “patatino.”

Laliberté didn’t take these losses lightly. He spoke out about Full Tilt Poker, which featured the most prominent nosebleeds for several years.

Poker Player Guy Laliberte with Casino Chips, Fail Red StampGuy later complained that Full Tilt loaned money to sponsored pros so that they had enough funds to compete against him. Going further, he claimed that Full Tilt was freerolling players like Patrik Antonius, Tom Dwan, and Phil Ivey.

His losses helped the winners push Full Tilt’s highest stakes even higher. It wasn’t uncommon to see elite pros competing at $3,000/$6,000 limits back in these days.

Despite his terrible experience with the online game, Laliberté wasn’t turned off from the poker world as a whole. In fact, he’s behind some of the biggest WSOP high rollers ever.

He’s used these high rollers to help donate money to his One Drop Foundation, which provides clean drinking water to third-world countries.

2 – Gus Hansen

Hansen was once known as one of the world’s most respected poker pros. He became the first grinder to win three World Poker Tour titles and was the face of many poker advertisements.

The “Great Dane” also made plenty of money through business dealings, including when he earned $5 million through the sale of PokerChamps.

Despite his poker skills and business acumen, Hansen failed to realize that he couldn’t hang with the top online pros. He’s learned a very expensive lesson over the course of several years, dropping around $22 million on the cyber tables.

Poker Player Gus Hansen, Pile of Money, $22 Million Text

Hansen just couldn’t stay away from the dream of beating the nosebleeds. He tried again and again, each time fueled by successful mini runs. But every one of these hot streaks was always preceded by a much longer downswing.

Outside of Laliberté, Hansen was the most responsible for fueling the high-stakes economy with his losses.

It’s not like Hansen didn’t have enough hands to prove himself either. He logged over 1.6 million hands before finally disappearing from the online scene.

On one level, he deserves some respect for continually competing against the game’s top players. He also refused to drop down in stakes over the desire to play at the top.

Unfortunately, Hansen took far too long to realize that he was clearly overmatched. The only solace is that he quit playing online poker in time to save some of his fortune, which came through live cash games, tournaments, business dealings, and sponsorships.

3 – Chun Lei Zhou

Chun Lei Zhou has had a successful live poker career, especially in Macau’s big game. Much like Hansen, his bane has been the online poker world.

Chun started out playing at Full Tilt under the screen name “patpatpanda.” He didn’t have much success here, so he switched to “samrostan.”

Eventually, Black Friday scandal led to the demise of Full Tilt’s high-stakes scene. So, Zhou switched to PokerStars under the name “patpatman.”

The change of online scenery still failed to help. He’s lost around $15 million total through internet cash games. Chun isn’t the type of player who loses because he gets pushed around. He’s one of the more aggressive pros in the game.

Unfortunately for him, this aggression just doesn’t translate into winnings. Zhou continued trying to solve the nosebleeds for too long, which has led to him losing a big portion of his live winnings.

4 – Paul Phua

Like Laliberté, Paul Phua is a rich businessman who doesn’t have to worry as much about his high-stakes losses. Phua, who’s a VIP junket operator in Macau, has an estimated net worth of $400 million.

He’s also arranged for some of the biggest live poker games in Macau. Phua himself often showcases his skills in these games.

However, his skills haven’t shined through on the cyber tables. He’s lost around $4.5 million in the online game.

Poker Player Paul Phua, Money Stack with $4.5 Million Text

He’s played under the alias “MaIACEsia” for years. His sample size is relatively small at around 50,000 hands.

If you compare this to Hansen’s 1.6 million hands, Phua may not have enough action to show his true abilities. He’s rumored to be a winner in Macau’s big game.

Phua also has close to $16 million in live tournament winnings. Therefore, he’s one whale who’s likely better than his losses indicate.

Why Did These Whales Continue to Play and Lose Big?

It might seem like a no-brainer that some of these players should’ve quit after losing a few million dollars. However, multiple reasons exist for why these whales would keep playing in a losing effort.

Players like Gus Hansen and Chun Lei Zhou have experienced success in some types of poker. Therefore, they have the confidence to conquer the online game as well.

Hansen was actually considered one of the world’s top players during his prime in the 2000s. He won three WPT tournament titles and millions of dollars in live cash games.

Three Poker Cards Spread Out, Money Bag with Money StacksBut internet poker can be a different beast, especially when competing against the top grinders. Hansen found this out the hard way after losing massive amounts over the span of several years.

Zhou also won a lot in live poker, most notably in Macau’s big game. But he never quite translated his live skills to the cyber felt.

Laliberté grew up knowing he was an underdog when playing against the world’s best. Nevertheless, he loves the competition and had the money to keep firing bullets.

But Laliberté was so overwhelmed by the best players in the nosebleeds that he lost a record $30 million. He was bitter about the matter and blamed Full Tilt for freerolling the pros who beat him.

Phua has lost around $4.5 million in high-stakes online play. But he’s not exactly sweating the losses considering his $400 million fortune.

Also, Phua has proven that he can beat both live cash games and tournaments. Therefore, he may just enjoy testing his skills against the best that online poker has to offer as well.

Conclusion

The high-stakes online poker world will likely never return to its former glory days. Part of the reason why is because the internet poker industry has switched its focus to recreational players rather than worrying about catering to high rollers.

But another major reason is that some of the biggest whales have vacated the online scene. These players once fueled the largest games with their losses and have now moved on.

Laliberté is the clearest example of a whale who fueled the nosebleeds. He lost over $30 million in a relatively short time span.

Gus Hansen is the second-biggest loser in online poker history. His $22 million in losses helped build the bankrolls of many other grinders. Hansen’s unsuccessful online career is fairly surprising, given how well he’s done in other settings.

Chun Lei Zhou is another good live player who hasn’t fared well online. He’s dropped $15 million on the cyber felt.

Paul Phua is one more player who helped keep internet poker’s glory days going. He lost $4.5 million through the online game. But Phua has made plenty of money through gambling in other areas.

The days of online poker whales experiencing massive losses may be long gone. But this still marks one of the game’s most interesting chapters.

The Top 10 Best Taco Places in Las Vegas

Tacos on Wooden Table, Las Vegas Text, Red Location Symbol
Tacos in Las Vegas?  You better believe it.

I understand the reputation of visiting Las Vegas was built on shrimp cocktail and prime rib.  However, that was our parents’ Las Vegas when either luxury could be had for a song and gourmet chefs hadn’t established their culinary empires in Sin City.

Today, you’re just as likely to find amazing noodles, dumplings, meatballs, soul food, or sushi in Las Vegas as you are the famous buffet staples of steak and shrimp.  Even better, you’re likely to run across some of the best damn tacos you’re ever going to shove down your gullet.  It’s all part of Las Vegas’ culinary reconstruction and our taste buds love it.

Of course, like other cuisines, Las Vegas offers a lot of choices so I present ten places you can satisfy your taco craving with complete confidence of getting a great meal.

10 – ¡Salud! Tacos at Palace Station

This San Diego transplant opened in March of 2019 to great fanfare.  The menu features a nice blend of baja- and California-inspired tacos, hard shell tacos and an insane delicacy known as the califa a taco topped with your choice of meat and French fries.

While no one would dare claim that’s authentic Mexican food, no one is likely to care since French fries are delicious and deserve to be put on top of tacos. And other things.

When you go, try the birra (shredded beef in beer) and fried catfish and their amazing frijoles. You won’t be sorry!

Another added bonus is the variety of casino games offered at Palace Station which is always as good thing.

9 – Taqueria El Buen Pastor

For the number nine restaurant, we leave the cushy indoor food scene and head out to a food truck with a reputation for amazing tacos: Taqueria El Buen Pastor.  The tacos served from the truck are authentic street style with meat, soft shells, cilantro and onions.  For those looking to spice up their meal, salsas can be tossed on in various levels of fire.

Taqueria El Buen Pastor Food Truck, Thumbs Up Emoji

Radish can be added for extra crunch, which I also highly recommend.

You have several meat choices at Taqueria El Buen Pastor.  So, if it is your first time (or your first time eating traditional street tacos), a simple beef taco is your best bet.  If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, the have trompo (basically Mexican-style gyro meat.)  Get that.  You won’t be sorry.

8 – Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino

Located in the Miracle Mile Shops in Las Vegas, Cabo Wabo is one of the restaurant incarnations of Sammy Hagar’s tequila/lifestyle cabo wabo.  At some level, Cabo Wabo’s tacos are a bit of a strange addition to the list because they are not nearly as authentic as a lot of entries on this list.

However, they are really good and if you want to eat decently cost-effectively along the strip, a platter of short rib tacos from Cabo Wabo is not the worst place to go.  Yes, there are more authentic places, but Cabo Wabo is fairly conveniently located and you won’t be sorry if you go.

Especially if you pair them a shot or two of tequila.

7- El Dorado Cantina

The El Dorado Cantina may not be the most family-friendly place to get tacos because it shares land with the Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, but we didn’t claim that Las Vegas or this list was family friendly, just that you could get awesome tacos here.

Plate of Tacos from El Dorado Cantina, Non GMO Logo

Not only are they tasty, the tacos at El Dorado Cantina are made from non-GMO food sources and there is a nice selection of gluten free options.  It’s probably not what you expect from a place where you are expected to get your change in singles for the joint next door, but who am I to complain.  I’ll take healthy food wherever I can get it.

6- Border Grill at Mandalay Bay

Anyone who has been to a convention at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino has been forced to walk past Border Grill at least once a day.  This Mexican place is the brain child of two Top Chef Masters: Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger who bring a decidedly gourmet spin to the humble taco.

Unfortunately, the tacos are not anyone’s idea of cheap.  However, the al pastor and brisket tacos are both dialed to eleven and are everything you want from an elevated taco.  Look this place up when you want Mexican on the strip.

5- Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo is just what Las Vegas needed: a late night place to get some food.  There’s not a lot of those in Las Vegas.

Tacos El Gordo Logo, Plate with Three Tacos, LimeOkay, that’s not true, but still located right on the Strip, you can tear into tacos, sopes, quesadillas and other Mexican delights made from your choice of buche (don’t ask), cabeza (exactly what you think it is if you took even basic Spanish), adobada and other, safer choices.

All that really means is Tacos El Gordo is completely authentic and a favorite place for tacos in Las Vegas.

4- Hussong’s Cantina at The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay

The list returns to the Las Vegas Strip and the shores of Mandalay Bay with Hussong’s Cantina, a taqueria to be enjoyed in the Mandalay Bay’s Shoppes area.  Hussong’s Cantina is another less authentic joint that injects a little Las Vegas flair into the taco, but the results are just too good to pass up.

The menu packs a lot of Tex-Mex staples: nachos, ceviche, grilled corn, etc.  But it also features eight different tacos ranging from vegetarian to barbacoa to chicken to pork belly (with maple bacon aioli) or shrimp.  In other words, there’s something for everyone’s taste in this casino eatery.

3- KoMex Fusion

We couldn’t talk about the amazing tacos in Las Vegas and not put at least one fusion taco on the list.  That honor goes to the KoMex’s fusion homegrown blend of Korea and Mexican flavors, blended together.

Tacos From Komex Tacos in Las Vegas, Komex Tacos Logo

Those who drive to KoMex (it’s roughly fifteen minutes from the Strip) will be treated to fusion tacos with beef, chicken, pork, tofu, calamari, fish or shrimp tacos, bulgogi cheese steaks, fusion chimis and other East meets West style dishes most of which come with KoMex slaw and some truly next level pico de gallo.  Give it a shot.  You won’t be sorry.

2- Taco y Taco Mexican Eatery

Taco y Taco is another authentic Mexican joint with a menu that could fit in a taqueria straight out of Mexico. 

When you go, treat yourself to tacos, vampiros (cheese filled tostadas), mulas, regular tostadas, nachos, tacos, and fries.

After choosing your food of choice, you then pick your meat. You choices of meat are vegetables, mushrooms, cheese or real meat like chicken, asada, barbacoa, chorizo, soyrizo (a meatless chorizo replacer), al pastor, beef brains, chicharrons in green chile sauce and other there’s still more. It’s hard to find a more complete menu in town.

Taco y Taco also really nails the upscale vs authentic debate.  The food at Taco y Taco has every right to claim authenticity. However, the ingredients are of the highest quality, the presentation looks like it could come from a Michelin restaurant and everything carries just that little extra hint of class.

In the end, this restaurant really shouldn’t be number two on the list.  It’s more like it’s tied for first place with our next entry.

1 – China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan

Tacos and Chips and Salsa, China Poblano LogoChina Poblano remains one of the weirdest restaurants in Las Vegas.  Located inside the Cosmopolitan Casino, the restaurant is half Mexican, and half Chinese with absolutely no fusion food.  Still, the last time I went, China Poblano made me rethink nopales (cactus) tacos forever (and for the better.)

China Poblano features several different tacos, but the star really is that nopales taco with a huge slice of queso fresco in a perfect flour taco.  It wasn’t the cheapest taco I’ve ever had, but it was more than worth it for every bite.

Conclusion

Given how diverse Las Vegas is, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of authentic taco restaurants in Las Vegas.  Also, given how gourmet Las Vegas is, it’s no surprise there are a lot of upscale taco places that are serving refined tacos in a luxury setting.

Still, no matter where you fall on the taco spectrum (upscale or authentic), Las Vegas has a place that you are going to fall head-over-heels in love with.  If you’re on the Strip, that place is probably Border Grill, Hussong’s Cantina or China Poblano because they’re convenient and more than a little delicious.  Still, when you’re on the Strip you are paying Strip prices.

You can take an Uber to Taco y Taco or KoMex and maybe even save money on the outing if you’re looking for something that’s either undoubtedly authentic or creatively fusion.  No matter what, the choice is all yours.   It’s really not possible to have a bad taco at any of the taco joints on the list, so try them all.

Trust me.  You’ll have a great meal.

Why Your Blackjack Game Is Bad

BlackJack Table-Sad-Man

If there’s one casino game most people should be able to master, it’s blackjack. Even if you can’t remember every strategy off the top of your head or count cards, the rules are so simple that most people understand the game within a few minutes.

Although there are many variants of the game, it’s simple enough for everyone to understand how the point values are associated with cards. You win by getting as close to 21 as possible and getting a value higher than the dealer.

Of course, the real difference between playing blackjack at home and playing in a casino is the casino won’t forgive mistakes. When playing blackjack in a casino for the first time, new players may be nervous and excited at the same time. It’s easy to make mistakes.

But there are signs that your blackjack game isn’t what it should be. If you’ve been playing for at least a few months on a regular basis, it might be a good time to review these red flags. Maybe you should hit the free online blackjack games for some practice sessions.

You Don’t Know Basic Strategy

Some people become overconfident in their blackjack skills because they know the rules. Rules are important in this game, but without strategy, you’re playing blind.

The strategy gets you as close to your goal of 21 points as possible, or it keeps you in the game when the dealer is likely to bust. Blackjack strategy depends on knowing the probabilities of which cards will be dealt next.

The strength of the dealer’s up card should affect your decision, too. If the dealer is showing a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 you know he’ll have to hit regardless of what the hidden card is.

If the dealer’s up card doesn’t mean anything to you during gameplay, you still need to work on your basic strategy.

You’re Not Sure of When to Double Down

Double-Down-Red-X

The basic double down rule allows a player to double his bet and take one more card. This is a bet you should only make when you’re confident the probabilities are in your favor.

There are two ways to think about the probabilities:

  1. You’ve been counting cards and feel the deck or shoe is now biased toward your desired outcome.
  2. You’re only playing with one deck or in an online game without a shoe and conclude the probabilities are favorable based on the cards you see.

If you’re playing a live dealer game where you can see the shoe and know how many decks it holds, online blackjack’s probabilities should be similar to those of a land-based casino game. If you’re playing a computerized blackjack game, unless it says it is using a simulated multideck shoe, you are safer assuming it deals from a new deck on every hand.

Either way, though, you’re unable to count cards online. Even the live dealer games use a continuous shuffling machine, which means you’re playing from a fresh deck every hand.

Many players know that if their first two cards total 10 or 11 points, then they may be in a good position to double down. But you may also be in a good position to double down if you’re holding an ace and any card from 2 through 6 while the dealer is showing either a 5 or 6.

i
There are some variations to this basic strategy. If you’re not tight on the two basic doubling down situations, then it’s not time for you to double your bet.

You’re Undecided About Standing on a Soft 17

Blackjack is always a guessing game. Your skill comes into play in remembering the rules of the game, correct strategy, and how many high and low cards have been played (if you count cards) since the last shuffle.

If you’ve clawed your way to 17 on low value cards, and the dealer is showing either an ace or a 10-point card, you’ll need to decide whether to stand on your soft 17. You could still push or win if the dealer busts. Asking for another card could put you out of the game.

If the dealer is holding an ace and anything less than a 6, then he must take a card. There’s still a chance he’ll bust. But if you’re unsure of what is most likely to happen next, then you’re not ready to make this call.

In the long run, it doesn’t matter what call you make. You’re going to win and lose some hands. Your uncertainty or lack of confidence is a sign you’re not playing the best game you’re capable of.

If you have 100% confidence in your choices, and you lose every hand at blackjack, you’re probably never going to improve your game.

You Keep Making the Same Mistakes

Blackjack-Bad Hand-Oops

To expand on my previous point, if you blindly split every time you get two of the same cards, you’re not improving your game. If you don’t understand why experts recommend against splitting 9s or 10s, add up the points.

In other words, look at the points in your hand before you decide whether it’s time to try one of the riskier, flashier moves in blackjack. If you don’t acknowledge how many points you have on the table, you’re not playing a good game.

Some players will split 10s. They have their reasons. Most good players stand on 20 more often than not. It’s a solid hand.

Players who get caught up in the excitement of the game may be enjoying themselves, but they’re not playing their best game if they don’t pay attention to what’s on the table.

You Feel Envious of Other Players’ Success

Do you keep looking at their cards and their wins? You’re not paying attention to your own game.

You can’t control how the cards are dealt. The best strategy in the world doesn’t guarantee you’ll win even one hand in blackjack. You can only change what happens when it’s your turn to play.

If you’ve been hitting on high cards and busting, the change you need to make should be obvious. You can’t make other players sacrifice the cards you need. There is only one game you should care about—the game between you and the dealer.

Conclusion

No one is born an expert. Mastering any game of skill requires practice, patience, and flexibility. Most importantly, a little humility goes a long way.

We all make mistakes, and the sooner we recognize and learn from those mistakes, the better. If you’re frustrated with your blackjack game, you may only need to adjust your expectations.

But if you’re not sure why it seems so hard, try looking at the game differently. Good blackjack tutorials explain the details of each strategy in clear, simple language. Take the time to understand why the experts play the game the way they do.

When you’re enjoying the game, and winning or losing about as much as can be expected, you’re on the right path.

The Top 7 Movies on Gambling (And How Accurate They Are)

Casino Floor, Poker Cards Spread, Movies About Gambling
The good news about Hollywood movies is that they always accurately portray their subject matter and never, ever, take liberties to produce a better film.

Okay, clearly, that’s a lie. In fact, Hollywood is perfectly happy to do a little handwaving and play loose with the facts if it means that movie turns out better in the end.

This is fine, because everyone wants a good movie, even when the subject of the movie is gambling. If multiple hours of watching casino poker games on TV is any indication, it should be exciting enough.

However, Hollywood continues to make movies about gambling and plays with the details when it suits them. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of the top gambling movies produced by Hollywood and rated them on how accurately they portray the activity.

Of course, compiling any top list of movies leads to a fair amount of debate. This list, pin particular, favors newer movies. This was done on purpose, because gambling as a whole has changed a lot over the years and newer movies are more likely to represent today’s form.

1 – Rounders

Rounders tops the list of movies on gambling for a number of reasons. First, Matt Damon and Edward Norton give gritty, no-nonsense performances that transport you directly into some shady poker rooms across the New England area. Plus, the movie itself is riveting.

Part of the attraction of the movie is just how real it feels. As Damon gets good hands, lousy hands, and everything in between, it’s pretty easy to see yourself in those situations feeling the thrill of a great hand and the disappointment of a poker hand gone wrong. Another part of what makes this movie great are the characters who feel very true to life.

Part of why the movie feels so real is the amount of research the screenwriters (David Levien and Brian Koppelman) did as they wrote the movie, coupled with the actual underground poker rooms Damon and Norton visited (according to ESPN).

In other words, Rounders feels real because a lot of it is based in the real world.

Of course, many of the characters in Rounders play larger-than-life versions of real people the screenwriters met and, this being Hollywood, liberties were taken. Still, despite that, this movie does a great job of putting you in the poker action.

2 – Ocean’s Eleven and Thirteen

Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven, Las Vegas Strip at Night
Ocean’s Eleven (and Thirteen) and whatever else comes out of the minds of directors Steven Soderbergh, actors George Clooney, Damon, and Brad Pitt, and others make the list because they are incredibly fun movies to watch and feature gambling in some form.

What Ocean’s Eleven gets right is the location shots of the City of Las Vegas, some of the commentary about casinos (they can be hard to navigate), and they are generally right about the lengths to which a casino will go to be secure while making up a lot of stuff along the way.

In general, Ocean’s Eleven and the sequels are more fiction than fact, but they’re fun. That’s why we keep them on the list. (Quick note: Neither Ocean’s Twelve nor Ocean’s Eight made the list because these movies were about heists, not casino heists.)

3 – 21

21 is the film adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s book Bringing Down the House. Both tell the story of a band of plucky MIT students who win loads of money using the awesome power of math. That description is only slightly hyperbolic.

In fact, the movie shows a mastermind bringing together smart MIT students who can quickly do the mental arithmetic to count cards. Working in teams, these students do end up winning a lot of money from the casinos before they are beaten up, their winnings are stolen at gunpoint, and lives are generally ruined.

The interesting part about 21 is that there are lots of little nuggets that are true about it. For example, the system for counting cards is basically a legitimate way to make money.

This system is described in greater detail in the book and can work if a team is willing to play together to beat the odds.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is just a Hollywood heist/revenge movie that’s good for passing an evening.

4 – High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story

Crowd at WSOP tournament, High Roller The Stu Ungar Movie Poster
Stu Ungar was a highly-intelligent, controversial figure in the world of gin and poker. His early childhood as the son of a bookie led to wins in underground card games and eventually three World Series of Poker championships. His role is portrayed by Michael Imperioli (of Sopranos fame) in High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story.

As a movie, it’s a bit all over the place. Critics say that it focuses too much on his achievements while glossing over his drug addiction, gambling addiction, and barely touches on some odious personal habits that undoubtedly got him in trouble (like not following the unofficial rules of poker, which got him in trouble with more than a few players).

With that said, the poker action itself feels real enough to give poker fans something to chew on, but it could definitely have done more to showcase the game. Still, despite all of these flaws, it is a great movie that sheds light on one of poker’s all-time winningest players.

5 – Two for the Money

Two for the Money is a book about the rise and fall of Matthew McConaughey’s Brandon Lang, as he is hired, then betrays, then makes up with Al Pacino’s Walter Abrams before taking a job coaching Little League. If that sounds bizarre, that’s because it sort of is, especially when a very upset C.M. Novian (played by Armand Assante) ends up urinating on Lang for making bad picks.

Even as I type that, I’m having trouble making sense of the plot of this film, and I saw it in the theaters. Regardless, Two for the Money is a biographical tale based on the real Brandon Lang who forewent the exciting life of Little League coach to stay in sports betting and work as a handicapper.

All jokes aside, Two for the Money is a pretty good film that showcases both Pacino’s and McConaughey’s talents. There’s also plenty of little tidbits one can take away about how handicappers work, especially at the beginning of the film before McConaughey’s character essentially decides to give up. Definitely give it a watch.

6 – Casino

Scene From the Movie Casino, Two Red Dice
Casino makes the list because it’s one of the all-time greatest movies no matter the genre, and it also features casinos. This film is a fairly good look into how casinos were run back in the day, though in a lot of ways, the violence was toned down compared to what really happened.

Still, Casino is more a mob film than a true gambling film. We just really liked it and thought it deserved to be on the list.

7 – Maverick

We debated putting this Mel Gibson vehicle on the list, but in the end, it’s just too much fun not to include. This movie really does focus on poker in the Old West in a number of ways.

Although, for the first half, the poker action is largely off camera and only serves to establish the main character’s superhuman ability to take everyone’s money playing the game.

Later, the movie chronicles the main character—Maverick—and his ascension to the final table in a game of poker. He bets everything on the top card of a deck that had been dealt from by a crooked dealer. Of course, Maverick wins and absconds with the money. This movie wasn’t meant to be serious.

But even with all of its silliness, it’s still a decent poker movie and does a pretty good job of pointing out how tells can be a gambler’s downfall. With that said, Maverick is meant to be enjoyed, not imitated for learning poker strategy.

Conclusion

Gambling is a popular subject for the folks in Hollywood. In addition to the seven movies above, there are plenty of other films like The Gambler, Runner Runner, The Cincinnati Kid, the original Ocean’s 11, The Hustler, and Let it Ride. Heck, even Rain Man and The Hangover feature gambling.

In all of these files, screenwriters and directors combine scenes of people playing slots, poker, or betting on sports with action, heists, drama, and even history. All of these seven movies, each in their own way, showcase Hollywood’s take on movie-making mixed with gambling. In the end, all of these movies are entertaining to watch, and some are truer to life than others.

We suggest you watch them all for their own merits. Just stick to Rounders if you want true-to-life and Maverick if you need a good laugh.

Advice on Specific Starting Hand Selections in Texas Holdem

Hands Reaching Casino Poker Chips, Poker Cards and Texas Holdem Text
Winning Texas holdem players do a good job of choosing the correct hands to enter the pot with. They resist the urge to enter the pot with marginal or poor hands, and always consider their position before making a decision to call, raise, or fold before the flop.

I remember when I started playing Texas holdem, I quickly learned how important starting hand selection was. The problem was that I couldn’t find specific information about what hands to play and which hands not to play in this version of casino poker gaming.

Of course, you can find a short list of hands you can always play, and it’s fairly easy to put together a list of some hands you should never play. But what do you do about all of the hands in between? It’s still almost impossible to find a list of specific hands you can play.

I’m going to give you a specific list of hands to play in Texas holdem. But you also need to understand a few things before you just blindly use this list. It’s important that you read the two sections below before reading the list.

How the List Was Developed

Over the years, I’ve developed the list of starting hands listed below. The hands I consider playing are based on table position. But I never play all of the hands blindly. The list is just the first thing I consider, and it’s only a small part of what you need to consider also.

The best way to start using the list below is by recognizing what isn’t on it. Any hand that’s not on the list should be folded.

Most poker players play too many hands, and one of the fastest ways to improve your results is to play fewer hands. If you fold all the hands that aren’t on the list, you won’t enter the pot often with hands that lose in the long run.

I learned that the optimal percentage of hands for me to see the flop with is around 20%. This is somewhat game-specific because, in some games, I can push the percentage up to close to 25% and in others, I push it down closer to 15%.

The starting hand recommendations below will see the flop from 20% to 25% of the time, including the blinds. As you’re going to learn, some of the hands are marginal and should only be played in certain situations. If you’re in doubt about a marginal hand, the best play is to fold before the flop.

Starting Hand Warning

If you want to be a winning Texas holdem player, you must learn about position and how to use it to help you make profitable plays. It’s much deeper than this, but as a short explanation, you can play more hands in late position than early position.

Dealer Reaching on Texas Holdem Table with Gamblers on the Side, Warning Tape

The reason is because you have an advantage when you get to act after your opponents. When you have to act first, your opponents have an informational advantage over you. This is why you can only play your strongest starting hands from early position.

The list below is just a starting point. Once you see the flop, you have to make smart decisions based on your position, the strength of your hand, and your odds of improving your hand. Most of the hands you see the flop with should be folded in order to save money for when you hit a good flop.

You also need to learn how to judge the abilities of your opponents. Against poor competition, you can get away with playing a few more hands because they make more mistakes. But against good competition, you can’t afford to make mistakes because they make you pay for every mistake.

Early Position Hands

At a nine or 10-player table, early position is the first three seats to the left of the blinds. At a six-player table, it’s the first two seats to the left of the blinds.

This list is designed for play at nine or 10-player tables, but it’s a good starting point for short hand tables as well.

You can play a few more hands at short hand tables, but you shouldn’t add too many more hands.

Here are the only hands to consider playing from early position:

  • AA
  • KK
  • QQ
  • AKs
  • AK
  • AQs

I know this is a small list, but you’re at such a strong disadvantage in early position that you must remain tight to have a chance to profit. And even though this list is small, in some games, I fold AQs from early position. Though it’s rare, I’ve also folded AK from early position in particular games.

King of Hearts, King of SpadesWhen you enter the pot from early position with these hands, you need to raise over 90% of the time. Playing in an aggressive manner forces weaker hands that can outdraw you on some flops to fold or pay a higher price to see the flop.

You also need to learn how to play each of these hands correctly after the flop. If you raise with QQ and the flop has an ace, you’re in a weak position on the flop. If you enter with AKs or AK and the flop doesn’t have an ace or king, you’re also in a tricky spot.

Middle Position Hands

Middle position is the two or three seats to the left of early position. The list of hands you can consider entering the pot with include the hands in the previous section as well as the following hands:

  • JJ
  • 10 10
  • 99
  • 88
  • 77
  • AQ
  • AJs
  • AJ
  • A10s
  • A10
  • A9s
  • KQs
  • KJs

Some of these hands are weaker than others and must be folded when you face a raise from early position. In most games, the only hands on this list I consider laying when facing an early raise are the pairs. And if I don’t flop a set, I usually fold them after the flop.

Late Position Hands

Late position is the button and one seat to the right of the button.

Six of Spades, Six of Clubs, Fold Text
The following list of hands can be played from late position in most games, but many of them must be folded if there has been a raise in the hand.

  • 66
  • 55
  • A8s
  • A7s
  • A6s
  • A5s
  • A4s
  • A3s
  • A2s
  • KQ
  • KJ
  • K10S
  • K10
  • QJs
  • QJ
  • Q10s
  • Q10
  • J10s

None of these hands are good enough to win on their own very often, so you need to be prepared to fold them on the flop if you don’t improve. When you flop a draw to a good hand, you need to start using pot odds and expected value to make all of your post flop decisions.

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When you enter the pot from late position with one of the hands listed in the early and middle position sections, you should usually raise.

With one of the hands in this section, you can raise occasionally, but most of them are drawing hands so you want to see the flop as cheaply as possible.

Blind Hands

The blinds are a big problem for most Texas holdem players. They get in trouble on the flop when they get to see the flop for free, or they decide to call a half bet or a raise with a weak hand because they already have money in the pot.

In the small blind, you need to fold any hand that isn’t on the list above. It doesn’t matter that you have a half bet in the pot already. The only hands you can consider playing from the small blind are the small pocket pairs not on the list, and it’s questionable if these are worth playing for a half bet.

Blind Positions on Poker Table Layout, Warning Exclamation Icon

Any time you face a raise in the blinds, the only hands you should play with are the ones that are strong enough to play from early position and the pocket pairs that can flop a set. All other hands should be folded.

Once you see the flop from the blinds, always remember that you’re in the worst position at the table. This means that if you don’t flop a strong hand or a draw that offers the correct pot odds to chase, you should check and fold to the first bet. It’s not worth chasing anything questionable from the blinds.

Conclusion

Now you have a specific list of starting hands for Texas holdem. You need to learn to make adjustments to the recommendations above based on whether the game is limit or no limit and based on the level of competition at the table. Use this list as a starting point and refine it as you gain experience.

Shoot for seeing somewhere around 20% of the flops, and you’re going to have a better chance to win than most of your opponents. The player entering the pot with the strongest hand has the best chance to win.

The Quest for the Perfect Sushi in Las Vegas

Different Sushi and Chopsticks, Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
If forced to make a choice between never eating in Las Vegas again or never playing poker in Las Vegas again, I’m pretty sure that I’d give up poker and keep dining. All things in Las Vegas are usually done well (and there’s a lot), so it’s hard to beat Las Vegas’ culinary prowess. Plus, I can always drive to SoCal to play poker.

Even though Las Vegas does most foods well, it’s culinary fame rests on a small number of dishes—steaks, lobster, and shrimp cocktails rise to the top of that list. Still, Vegas has perfected so many other great dishes, too, and of these, sushi is one of the first to come to mind.

A simple Google search reveals dozens of sushi bars around town. Some of these are on the Strip and some off. Some are as glitzy as Vegas itself, while others offer few frills other than a fantastic meal. Still, with all that, I worked tireless to identify the best sushi places in Vegas. Here, for the first time, is a recap of that journey.

1 – Carnival World Buffet

The Carnival World Buffet in the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino seems like a strange place to begin one’s journey for sushi, and indeed, it is. It’s also not the true place that the journey began. It’s more of a placeholder.

Around the turn of the century, the Rio was home to a small, no-frills sushi bar not too far from the main entrance.

It was the first and only place that I’ve ever been served octopus salad that was tender, flaky, and delicious. Every other time I’ve had it, it’s basically been seafood-flavored chewing gum.

That place will live on in my memory as one of the best sushi bars ever, though like all things, its time has passed. However, it was my hope that perhaps the spirit of amazing sushi might live on in the Rio’s buffet.

Sadly, while the Rio’s Carnival World Buffet offers a grand variety of delicious lunch and dinner options, its sushi falls slightly short of the mark. It isn’t out of this world. Thus, our journey continues.

2 – Bayside Buffet

Critics will undoubtedly argue this point, but Bayside Buffet at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino is the best in Las Vegas. Admittedly, that’s a judgment call based in no small part to the sheer amount of seafood on their buffet and, oddly enough, the Rio actually wins awards for the quality of its buffet.

Bayside Buffet at the Mandalay Bay, Chopsticks Holding Sushi

Regardless, the sushi journey went from the Rio to the Las Vegas Strip where I ended up at the Bayside Buffet. (That’s somewhat of a lie…I was actually looking for crab legs, but lo and behold the Bayside does offer a fairly decent selection of sushi to patrons who have room left on their plate after the rest of the seafood.)

All that aside, after a brief tasting of the Mandalay Bay’s sushi selection, one thing became very clear. Las Vegas casino buffets were no place to enjoy amazing, high-quality sushi. It’s a good place to enjoy vast quantities of sushi, but that’s another story.

3 – Chin Chin Café

It’s up to you New York, New York.

That was my next thought as my sushi journey continued through the streets of Las Vegas. Thus, I found myself walking to New York-New York Hotel and Casino on the Strip. Near the sportsbook, and sort of by the stairs up to the giant roller coaster, is a little sushi place that looks like it could have been a diner if not for the Asian décor.

If you’re ever waiting for your child to get full use of his all-you-can-ride bracelet or your college alma mater is playing in the Final Four, then Chin Chin Café is a nice spot to spend a few hours and a few hundred dollars.

The menu is expansive, covering different forms of crudo (raw fish), sashimi, special rolls, and cooked dishes like noodles and stir-fried entrees.

If you go, try both the shrimp tempura and fiery tuna rolls, both of which are high quality and excellent. The shrimp tempura is a deluxe roll that combines crunchy shrimp with crab, cucumber, and avocado for a proper mix of rich, salty, and crunchy in one bite. The fiery tuna takes tuna and covers it in spicy mayo, special sauce, and jalapeno in case the spicy mayo wasn’t enough.

Clearly, Chin Chin Café knows what it’s doing. The fish was fresh and the rolls well-constructed. It also featured the best edamame. Still, it seemed like the sushi was missing something.

4 – Biwon

As I struggled to find an excellent sushi restaurant that was worthy of the title of Las Vegas’ best, I decided I needed to get off the Strip. In what has to be an even more controversial statement than my pronouncement about the Mandalay Bay, most of the best food in Las Vegas seems to be away from the Strip.

There are two things that locals in Las Vegas know, where to find the hottest poker action and where to consume copious amounts of food on the cheap. Usually, the location of both poker gaming and food is a place where tourists don’t often go.

Thus, I found Biwon about 10 minutes away from the Stratosphere. Biwon was an unlikely place to find the best sushi in Las Vegas for no other reason that it’s an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant. But for a few dollars more, it turns into an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ and sushi restaurant. This was enough to make me want to try it.

Play with Sushi Roll on it, Biwon Las Vegas Logo

Open until 3 AM, Biwon rates as my second favorite all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant in the country. The meats are fresh. The wait staff is very friendly, and even the sushi is good. When you go (note I didn’t say “if”), make sure you try the “What the Heck” roll, the “Kiss of Fire roll,” and the “XXX” roll.

All three rolls mix fresh fish inside and out. Their spicy tuna (the star of both the XXX roll and the What the Heck) was salty and just a bit fiery. The sriracha on the Kiss of Fire turned into more than just a kiss, but the soft shell crab more than made up for it.

What Biwon missed, though, that robbed it of the title of best sushi in Las Vegas, was the fine attention to detail. You can get a lot of sushi at Biwon, and it’s all delicious, but it just fell short of what I knew Las Vegas sushi could be.

5 – Nobu

Despite my earlier statement about the best food in Vegas being from outside the Strip, there was only one place left for me to try: Nobu.

Thus, I had no problems sitting down in my chair and ordering omakase (telling the chefs to make whatever they wanted and I would eat it) even after being told that my portion sizes would be “Japanese.” (That’s restaurant code for small and, in this case, expensive.)

Named for legendary Peruvian-Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Nobu is an icon amongst Japanese restaurants across the world.

$250 later, I had the finest sushi meal of my entire life. Nobu’s army of trained chefs served whole sardines, crunched bones and all. There was mackerel with a dark sauce that turned the oily fish into something rich, deep, salty, and strong without being overpowering. Their simple egg omelet sushi was sweet and refreshing, even as I dipped it in just a hint of soy sauce.

Like Mount Everest, it was the type of meal you only need to do once. Once you try it, you realize you’ve been to the top and nothing else can compare. Plus, like oxygen canisters and hiring guides, that meal was crazy expensive. Still, I have no regrets.

Conclusion

At the end of touring Las Vegas for the perfect sushi, I believe the moral of this story is probably to go to Biwon.

In all seriousness, a little joint off the beaten path is a great place to get a sushi meal, and there’s nothing wrong with it. This is doubly true because I paid around $35 for so much food that I was afraid they’d have to use the jaws of life to get me free from the table.

Still, I have to hand it to Nobu. Sometimes, you end up at a celebrity chef restaurant and you pay a lot of extra money for the ambiance and the name. That’s not what happened there. Those chefs brought out 13 small plates, each offering a flavor combination that I had simply never tried before and may never experience again.

Ultimately, though, maybe the moral is this… As long as it’s not from a gas station, sushi is always pretty good. So, start your own journey and eat as much of it as you can.

Top 10 Poker Destinations That Aren’t Las Vegas

Melbourne Australia Casinos, Poker Text with Poker Cards and Chips
If you want to go somewhere and play poker, you’ll probably have to pack your bags and head to Las Vegas. It’s an international destination for those who want to gamble, eat, and spend.

With that said, Las Vegas isn’t the only place in the world with exquisite gambling opportunities. There are great casinos and poker rooms throughout the US and the rest of the world. If you’re thinking about doing some travel outside of Nevada, but still want to get in some gambling, you have options.

Here are 10 vacation destinations where you can gamble. And these aren’t just good gambling spots, they offer other interesting vacation activities. Not that you’ll be needing them (the poker action will be too hot), but maybe your family will enjoy the sun, surf, and shopping.

1 – Paradise Island, Bahamas

The name “Paradise” Island may actually be underselling this area’s natural beauty. Even before you step into a casino like the world-famous Atlantis, you can’t help but notice the icy blue waters, sunny beaches, and tropical wonders. Head in and play various types of poker in the home of PokerStars’ Caribbean Adventure.

How you spend your time in the Bahamas is up to you. The poker game is definitely hopping in Paradise Island, but there’s a lot of food, nightlife, and sand, too.

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Just don’t go during hurricane season. Mother Nature has not been kind to the Bahamas lately.

2 – Monte Carlo, Monaco

Las Vegas sells a luxury lifestyle to those who travel to its borders, but even the 24-hour neon lights of Vegas can’t compare to the glamour that is Monte Carlo. Like some of the other places on this list, Monte Carlo has plenty of activities to draw traveling poker players. There’s high-end shopping, amazing food, glorious beaches, and an F1 race of which you might have heard.

With that said, Monte Carlo also hosts the Monte Carlo Casino, home to the European Poker Tour Grand Finale, an amazing venue to find both high stakes and budget-friendly poker tables. That last part is key because it means that at least something will be affordable in Monaco.

3 – Southern California, USA

Lucky Lady Casino and Poker Card Room Sign, California State Flag
The roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Diego and Los Angeles in Southern California is home to sandy beaches, seafood shacks, multimillion-dollar homes, zoos, and other attractions that make it one of the most desirable places to live in the US. It’s also home to over 30 poker rooms looking for more players.

Easily one of the most affordable travel destinations on the list, SoCal has a gambling venue for you. It also has beaches and other recreational activities for the family. A trip to Southern California can start as a nice family activity, which you slowly can turn into a poker destination trip.

4 – Macau, China

Ready to leave Sin City and head to the Las Vegas of Asia? Then buy your tickets and head to Macau, which hosts large casino shopping areas and sights like “Macau Tower” along its coastal regions. (By the way, “coastal regions” means it’s definitely cooler than Vegas…)

There are several amazing places to play poker in Macau, including the Wynn, the Venetian, and the Sands.

Yes, you read that right. Famous Vegas casinos have found their home in Asia, too.

Feel free to stay in one of these familiar locales or try places a little more steeped in Macau history like The City of Dreams Macau casino.

No matter where you stay, Macau offers a very Vegas-like array of shopping, eating, and gambling for anyone who ventures there.

5 – Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, Australia, is one of the best places to visit in the world. The fact that they have 24/7 gambling at a huge number of casinos is really just icing on the cake. For those looking for a place to vacation, Melbourne offers beaches, nightlife, premier restaurants, and access to the crazy Australian nightlife.

For the gamblers, Melbourne offers several land- and sea-based casinos for your gambling pleasure. The Crown Casino is regularly touted as the best place to play poker. No matter which casino you choose, you will be treated to a wide selection of slots and casino poker games.

Also, interesting to note, in Australia, slot machines are called “pokies” and offer a fairly thrilling gaming experience.

6 – San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Casino Club Colonial, Costa Rica Country Flag
For the world traveler, San Jose in Costa Rica is a must-see. While it has yet to earn the official title of “Las Vegas of Central America,” it’s certainly a title it could claim. The city, which Costa Rican tourism sites refer to as very modern, hosts almost 20 casinos and world-class restaurants along with museums and great nightlife.

For those worrying about security in the area, most of the casinos are located in tourist areas, which tend to be more secure. The casinos are part of large hotel chains that would be familiar to US tourists. These include the Best Western Irazu and the Radisson Hotel San Jose Costa Rica.

In San Jose, you have a number of gambling options including poker, roulette, and electronic slot machines.

7 – London, England

England has long had legalized gambling and is a great place to take the family on vacation if they prefer history (or Harry Potter) over sun and beaches. London, however, has stepped up its casino game and features over one hundred standalone casinos for you to try.

Many forms of casino games are featured at these casinos, including poker, slot machines, roulette, and table games.

There is also sports and racing betting, including a number of tracks hosting the races themselves.

With that said, London is also a metropolitan city featuring some of the best shopping and food in the world.

8 – Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is another tourist location that features local flavor and history over fun in the sun. For many, though, that is enough, especially given Prague’s amazing food and local breweries.

However, for the gambler, Prague has a lot of casinos featuring a number of amenities and places to play. Check out Banco Casino, an upscale casino in Prague highly rated by those who visit.

Also, if you are up for a little road trip and you feel safe doing so, take the 90-minute drive to King’s Casino in Rozvadov (near the border with Germany), which features the largest poker room in Europe.

9 – Barcelona, Spain

Casino Barcelona in Spain, Flag of Spain
For most people, they don’t need much of an excuse to go to Barcelona. There’s food. There’s wine. There’s some of the best beaches in the world. There’s soccer. There’s art. There’s culture.

But, if you’re looking at this list, then there’s also poker, slots, roulette, and other ways to gamble. In fact, Barcelona hosts a number of very nice casinos, including Casino Barcelona and Bingo Poblenou, which has no frills on the outside and plenty of great gaming on the inside.

10 – Atlantic City, USA

The inclusion of Atlantic City on this list was somewhat debatable. There are plenty of international spots that could have been number 10 on the list (for instance, Italy). However, the casinos in Atlantic City have too much to offer in terms of both hotels and family activities that we couldn’t leave it off.

Atlantic City is famously home to nightlife spots and a boardwalk that is as renowned for its culture as its views. Overall, Atlantic City gets kind of a bad rap, but it’s really not a bad place to hit up a large poker tournament and offers plenty of diversions for all ages of visitor.

Conclusion

Some people love to gamble when they’re on vacation and there’s nothing wrong with that. The only real issue is when a gambler has a family and that family’s entire vacation only includes trips to Las Vegas (with its killer summertime heat).

Fortunately, the world has more to offer than one (admittedly amazing) gambling destination. There are a number of places to travel to inside the United States (Atlantic City or Southern California) for more budget-friendly travel spots.

If budget is less of a concern, then get passports and take the family to unforgettable international trips like Monaco, Melbourne, or Macau. If those trips aren’t for your family, but you still want to gamble, London is a shorter plane ride from many places in the US and Costa Rica isn’t terribly far.

Wherever you go, the main thing is that you have fun and play some great poker.

Why It Seems Like You Never Win With Slots

Slot-Loser

Slot machines have several attractive qualities, including jackpots, bonus features, and interesting themes. Many gamblers are drawn to these benefits as a result.

However, one big downside to slots is that they seem unbeatable. Your bankroll often vanishes much faster on slot machines than with any other casino game.

You may leave the casino feeling like you never win with slot machines. The truth, though, is that slots winnings are simply misleading.

In this post, I’ll cover why it feels like you can’t win with slot machines along with the reality behind the situation.

The RTP Is Misleading

Each slot machine is programmed to offer a certain return to player (RTP). For example, a slot with 96% RTP will pay back $0.96 for each dollar wagered on average.

You definitely want to play games with high payout percentages whenever possible. But even when you’re on a game with high RTP, you may lose lots of money.

This situation leads to conspiracy theories, such as casinos changing payback whenever they feel like it or purposely lying about RTP. However, the truth is much less sinister.

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Casinos don’t have to alter payback or misrepresent it. They’re already guaranteed to profit from slot machines over the long run.

Instead, slots are just extremely volatile games that offer unpredictable short-term results. Volatility refers to how consistent short-term results are in relation to the mean.

You may win far more money with a slot that has 90% payback versus one with 96% RTP because of volatility. In short, payout percentages do little to influence how much you win or lose in a given session.

Volatility is influenced by a combination of factors, including jackpot size, payout sizes, and RTP. Of these aspects, the jackpot and payout sizes play the largest roles.

You stand to win more often with games that have a combination of a small jackpot and other small prizes. These slots can afford to pay more frequently because they don’t have huge payouts available at the top.

Meanwhile, slot machines with big jackpots and other large prizes are highly volatile. They must cover occasional big wins and can’t offer frequent payouts without costing the casino money.

You Need Big Wins to Feel Like a Winner

Regardless of how volatile a slot machine is or isn’t, you need to hit big prizes to come out a winner. Otherwise, you’ll just keep bleeding out money over the course of a session.

Slot machines aren’t built to offer lots of payouts over a short time span, such as with baccarat or blackjack. Instead, they only deliver occasional prizes compared to your number of bets.

Even on a 50-line slot, you might only earn a payout on one out of every five spins. In this case, you’re winning just once out of 250 chances (5 x 50) on average.

Even during the course of a hot streak, you’re probably only going to collect several prizes every five spins. On the same 50-line slot, this frequency amounts to five to 10 wins out of 250 opportunities.

You aren’t going to nickel and dime your way to winning sessions. Instead, you’ll need at least one or more large prizes to profit from a slot outing.

Your Winnings Will Be Spread Out

As covered above, you ultimately need big payouts to win in slots. Unfortunately, these large prizes don’t come around very often.

You’ll rarely hit a sizable jackpot, if ever. You may have to spin the reels hundreds of thousands or even millions of times before collecting a huge prize.

The big wins just below a jackpot are more attainable. But even in these cases, you still won’t earn many large prizes over the course of one or more sessions.

That said, you have to accept the fact that your winnings will be spread out over many sessions. You may lose money for 10 straight sessions before you finally leave the casino a winner.

Part of this is due to the fact that slot machines are negative expectation games. Of course, all house-banked casino games carry a negative expectation to some degree.

You might win money in nine out of 20 baccarat sessions on average. But, with slots, you may only profit from two out of 20 sessions.

Again, everything goes back to volatility. Slot machines are so unpredictable that you don’t know when to expect your next successful casino trip.

Tips for Boosting Your Slots Winnings

People-Sitting-at-Slot-Machines
You’re never going to have the degree of control over slots as you would with, say, Texas holdem or blackjack. Slots just don’t feature the same level of strategy as many other casino games.

However, you can take a few steps to improve your chances of winning. Here are some tips that’ll help you earn more with slot machines.

Play Less Volatile Slots

If you’re sick of losing session after session, then you should really consider playing less volatile slot machines. No slot pays out at a truly high frequency, but the less volatile ones do provide better short-term chances of winning.

The key aspects to consider are the payout sizes. Generally speaking, games with smaller jackpots and other prizes pay more often.

In contrast, you may want to avoid slot machines with huge progressive jackpots. Providers often seed these payouts with a fortune (e.g. $100k to $1 million), meaning they need a lot of money coming back.

Sometimes, a volatile slot machine will have a small jackpot but feature several bonuses that can lead to big payouts. These types of games also pay less frequently to make up for the lucrative bonus features.

Look for Games With High RTP

You aren’t guaranteed to win at a high rate just by playing slots with good RTP. However, you can definitely improve your long-term chances of winning by consistently playing slot machines with high payback.

Online slots are typically the best games for favorable payout percentages. Internet casinos don’t have as high of overhead costs, meaning their slots pay back more than those at land-based casinos.

Furthermore, you can actually find RTP for most online slot machines. The developers often make payback publicly available information, meaning you can just google something like “[slot name] RTP.”

Unfortunately, land-based slots don’t usually have publicly available payout percentages. The reason why is because casinos can order different pay schedules, meaning there’s no uniform RTP figure for a specific game.

A good rule of thumb, though, is that slot machines with higher coin denominations pay more. Penny slots may only offer 88% to 91% RTP, while a quarter game might deliver 93% to 95% payback.

Take Advantage of Comps

I want to state right away that casino comps aren’t worth as much as most gamblers think they’re worth. However, VIP rewards do help your bottom line to some degree.

You automatically generate comps at most online casinos. All you have to do is play real-money slots to begin earning loyalty rewards.

Land-based casinos, on the other hand, require you to sign up for their VIP program. Once you do so, you’ll receive a slots club card that tracks your play.

Cashback is universally the best comp that you can get at an online or land-based gambling establishment. This perk gives you back a percentage of the amount you bet (usually 0.1%).

Other loyalty benefits differ based on whether you’re playing online or at a brick-and-mortar venue. Internet casinos offer free spins, deposit bonuses, and birthday gifts to VIPs.

Land-based casinos are much more extensive in their offerings. Their comps can include free drinks, meals, hotel stays, limo rides, nightclub bottle service, and show tickets.

Have a Stop-Win and Stop-Loss Limit

You should always have a predefined plan before stepping into the casino. Specifically, you want to have both a stop-win and stop-loss limit set for slot machines or any other game.

Both of these limits are predefined points at which you plan to quit playing for the day. The goal is to either minimize your losses or bank winnings.

Here’s an example for how each limit works:

Stop Win

  • You set a limit of $500 in winnings.
  • You hit a big prize and earn $773 overall.
  • You quit playing for the day.

Stop Loss

  • You set a limit of $300 in losses.
  • You have a rough session and quickly hit the limit.
  • Even though you haven’t played long, you stop.

Stop-loss and stop-win limits don’t improve your chances of beating slot machines. But they keep you more disciplined and, in the case of stop win, help you walk out of the casino with some profits.

Conclusion

Slot machines can lead to frustrating experiences when the losses mount. Worse yet, you may have little idea on why you keep losing.

But you’ll feel better about the matter by understanding exactly why slots offer such inconsistent wins. Furthermore, you can adopt a better bankroll management plan to absorb the losses.

The first aspect to understand is that the RTP has little bearing on short-term results. You may win slightly more during a single session on games with high payback. However, RTP figures are based on average payback over the course of countless spins.

Volatility is more indicative of how much you’ll win in the short run. A really volatile slot won’t pay out as frequently as a game with lower volatility.

Regardless of how volatile a game is, you’ll still need large wins to book profits. Meanwhile, you won’t win much if you’re just earning tiny payouts here and there.

Taking everything into account, your slots winnings will be spread out over the course of many sessions. You may suffer through some brutal outings one month, then hit several big payouts the next.

The key through all of this is to be smart about bankroll management. As long as you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose, then you’ll be fine with slot machines.

Best and Worst Times to Split and Double Down in Blackjack

Double Down Blackjack-Man w/Cash

What makes any casino game interesting is when the play suddenly changes.

A basic round of blackjack involves players deciding whether to hit or stand on the cards they are dealt. It’s fun to beat the dealer, to be sure, but there’s more to the game than that.

Some players feel all the challenge is in counting cards. And given how casinos love to frustrate card counters by changing or shuffling shoes, card counting may be the most challenging strategy of all.

Whether you count cards or not, the moment the dealer hits you with a pair of aces or 8s, you should know to split right away.

But what if you’re dealt 10 points? You have two 5s in your hand and conventional blackjack strategy says to “never split 5s.” Some adventurous players do it anyway. 10 points is a strong hand, and the next card you’re dealt could be an ace or 10-point card.

You’d have to be insane to split 5s. I’d rather double down on a pair of 5s if I’m feeling adventurous.

So, what are the best hands to split or double down? And are there times when going against conventional wisdom is less risky? Find out below.

When to Split 5s – If Ever

I’ll start with the insane situation. I cannot think of a reasonable rationale for splitting 5s, but a friend once asked me to imagine a scenario where it’s at least not as stupid an idea as it sounds.

Assuming you’re counting cards and the casino is in a laissez-faire mood about shuffling the shoe, you’d be okay to split 5s if you’re really confident you have a lot of low value cards left.

To move a 5 card into winning territory, follow it with 12 or more points. That could be two 6s, a 5 and 7, a 4 and 8, a 3 and 9, or a 10 and 2. If the following cards are really bad, you could do this with four 3s, three 4s, two 5s and a 2, and other unlikely combinations.

It seems like there are a lot of possible combinations to play with here. Splitting 5s really means you’re playing two 5-point hands. Imagine what you’d have to do if your hand begins with a 2 and 3. You have no choice but to hit.

If the next card is an ace, you’re sitting with either 6 or 16. You must hit and hope for an ace or 2-5 card.

I have a friend who calls this “climbing out of the hole.” You’re clawing your way up into winning territory. When I start with such a weak hand, it feels like I have to take three or four hits to resolve the hand.

Unless you just want to risk your wager and chew through cards, I can’t think of a reason to split 5s. But if you forced me to do it at least once, I would only do it if I believed there were a lot of low-value cards left.

Who wouldn’t want to beat the odds, right?

When to Double Down on 5s

Assuming your sanity doesn’t leave you in the middle of the game, is it a good idea to double down on a pair of 5s?

Our card-counting friends might say it’s worth the risk if you’re feeling adventurous and are confident the next card will be a 7 or better. Standing on a soft 17 is better than guessing whether you’ve got more low cards coming. But don’t make this decision in a vacuum.

When you’re dealt a pair of 5s, conventional strategy says if the dealer’s up card is anything from 2 through 9, you should double down.

Basic Strategy for Doubling Down

Most basic strategy guides on doubling down fail to keep it simple. Doubling down doesn’t work the same way for everyone. When a strategy is based on assumed table rules, you should really think it over carefully.

If a strategy guide says, “this works when you have six decks in the shoe,” or “when the dealer must stand on soft 17,” that means the strategy may not work as well for you in other situations.

The “basic” part of basic strategy begins with knowing what rules you’re playing under. If you’re in a highly coveted single deck game, put that eight-deck strategy card aside and vice versa.

The casino may restrict doubling down to high-value hands of 9 or higher. To keep it simple, if you’re playing by these rules, only double down on an ace+7 hand. A more experienced player may feel up to the challenge of calculating the odds for other combinations.

If the casino allows you to double down on any hand, your safest strategy is to double down on hard 11 against any dealer up card and a hard 10 if the dealer’s showing a 2 through 9. There are other guidelines for doubling down, but they assume certain rules are in play.

Give yourself time to learn the game.

When Is It Best to Double Down With an Ace?

Everyone should know to split aces in blackjack. But when should you double down if you’re holding an ace?

When you double down, you only get one more card. When this strategy pays off, you only need one more card.

There are two things to consider:

  1. What’s your second card’s value?
  2. What’s the dealer’s up card value?

If you were dealt an 8 or higher card with your ace, don’t double down. Period. You’re sitting on 19 or better. If you have an ace and you’re sitting on 18, you might be able to get away with doubling down if the dealer’s up card is a 3, 4, 5, or 6.

The lower your second card is, the more likely you can get away with doubling down. But the dealer’s up card should play into your decision. If the dealer is showing a deuce or anything better than a 6, don’t double down.

Should You Always Split 8s?

Basic blackjack strategy says 8s are a safe and wise split. It’s hard to go wrong with splitting 8s. The math says this works out well in the long run.

Split-8s-Blackjack

So, there you are with a pair of 8s and you split, and the dealer hits you with a 5. You kick yourself for walking away from an easy 21.

If you’re playing blackjack, there are too many hands in your future to justify second-guessing yourself. Learn from each situation as you go along, but don’t expect to become a blackjack genius overnight.

If you’re counting cards and you believe there are a lot of low value cards left in the deck, splitting 8s may not be the wisest move. You only need a 2 through 5. That’s a narrow range of cards, but if you’re sure more of the higher value cards have been played, your chances of surviving are better.

A simpler way to make the call is to look at the dealer’s up card. Some people won’t split 8s if the dealer is showing a 9 or 10.

The simplest strategy is to always split your 8s. When you gain more experience, you may cut some losses by judiciously not splitting 8s.

Conclusion

Basic strategy should simplify your decision-making as much as possible. Some basic strategy guides don’t simplify things enough.

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Keep in mind though, the simpler your strategy, the more missed opportunities you’ll have. And if you don’t recognize those missed opportunities, you’re probably not ready to use the exceptions to basic strategy.

As you gain experience and see what could have been done with your hand, go back and study the exceptions in basic strategy guides. Wait until you’re truly ready to play a more challenging game.

5 Tips for Your First Time Playing Blackjack for Real Money

Blackjack-Table-Playing Cards

My wife had never played blackjack before, and we were getting ready to go to the casino. She asked me to give her some tips, and my first thought was that I wished she’d told me a month ago. That way, I had time to teach her more. But I told her everything I possibly could in a half hour.

This article is a summary of the advice I gave her. If you want a quick summary of how to play blackjack without losing your shirt, you could benefit from this page. You can also use it as a beginners guide to playing blackjack if you need to help a newbie on their first trip to the tables.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a system that’s going to help you beat blackjack tables. You can’t learn how to do that in a half hour. You don’t have time to learn all of the rules, strategy, how to count cards, and how to get away with it. But you do have time to learn some basics and keep the house edge low.

If you’re an experienced blackjack player, this advice is going to sound simple. One of the problems that experienced players have is they forget what beginners don’t know. I struggle with this, so it’s not an insult. You just need to try to put yourself in the beginner’s shoes and start from the beginning.

When you keep things as simple as possible, you don’t run the risk of confusing a new player with too much information. Here are the five simple steps I taught my wife for her first real money blackjack experience.

1 – Finding a Good Table

It’s easy to get bogged down trying to figure out all of the different blackjack rules variations and how they change the house edge. But when you’re trying to figure out the best way to get started, you need to keep things simple.

Here are the two rules that I told my wife to focus on.

  • Play at a table that pays 3 to 2 for blackjack
  • Play at a table where the dealer stands on a soft 17

I also told her that if she can’t find a table where the dealer stands on a soft 17, she could ignore that rule.

I understand that if you want to play with a house edge as low as possible, you need to find games with other good rules involving surrender, doubling after splitting, doubling on as many totals as possible, and splitting multiple times. But all of this can quickly get confusing for a new player.

If you’re extremely limited for time, you can drop the second rule and simply make sure you’re getting 3 to 2 on natural blackjacks. The house edge goes up so much when the payout drops to 6 to 5 that you shouldn’t even play.

The difference in house edge between the dealer hitting and standing on a soft 17 isn’t as much, so it’s not as important. Many casinos with several blackjack tables have at least a few tables that pay 3 to 2 and have dealer that stand on a soft 17 rule.

Once you gain some experience at the blackjack tables, I recommend learning about other rules. This will help your long-term results. The best way to get started is to find a 3 to 2 table and start playing.

2 – Never Take Insurance

The second step is to never take insurance. Some dealers call the insurance bet even money because the casino wants you to believe you can break even when you take the bet. The problem is that the only time you break even is when the dealer has a natural blackjack. When the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you still play your original bet out and lose the insurance bet.

The truth is that insurance isn’t really part of the regular blackjack game. It’s just a fancy way for the casinos to add a profitable side bet to the base game.

When the casino offers you blackjack insurance, the bet is really whether or not the dealer’s down card is a 10-point value card. Insurance pays 2 to 1, but the deck has nine cards that aren’t worth 10 and four cards that are. This is a ratio of 9 to 4, which is worse than the 2 to 1 payout, making insurance a bad bet.

3 – No Side Bets

Insurance is the most common blackjack side bet, but many casinos have other ones available. As a general rule, all side bets offered in a casino should be avoided. This is true for all of the most common blackjack side bets too.

Stick with the base blackjack game that pays 3 to 2 for natural blackjacks and never make any side bets, including insurance.

4 – Strategy Card

Blackjack is one of the games available in the casino where you can use strategy to alter the house edge. Some plays are easy to figure out, but many of them are difficult to figure out when it comes to the best strategy.

The great news is you can simply use a strategy card at the table. Sometimes, other players frown on players who use a strategy card at the table. But casinos don’t mind as long as you don’t slow the game down too much. And once you learn how to use a strategy card, you can quickly see the best play.

After you use a blackjack strategy card for awhile, you start memorizing the most common plays. This helps you make playing decisions faster.

As a first time player, use the strategy card for every decision you have to make. This leads to another piece of good advice. Never take advice from other players at the table. Most players are actually trying to help, but most of them don’t know what they’re talking about. Simply make the play on the strategy card every time.

Sometimes, a blackjack dealer will give you advice. If this advice is about the rules and how to play, you should listen to them. But if a dealer tries to tell you how to play a hand that doesn’t agree with your strategy card, you should politely decline their advice and follow the best strategy.

Here’s a link to some blackjack strategies you can print out and take with you to the casino. If you’re playing real money online blackjack, you can keep this chart beside your computer. You can also buy blackjack strategy cards in most casino gift shops.

5 – Make Minimum Bets

The base blackjack game has a house edge for the casino unless you learn some advantage plays like counting cards. The longer you play and the more you risk, the more you’re going to lose. In games with decent rules, the house edge is less than 1%. Some games have an edge of less than .5%. But you’re still fighting against an edge.

Minimum-Bet-Blackjack Table

This is why you need to make the table minimum bet and stick with it. Many blackjack players ramp up their bets when they get down, basically chasing their losses. While this works sometimes in the short term, in the long run, it just means they lose more money.

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Here’s how the house edge works. If a game has a 1% house edge, it means that over time, the casino averages a 1% profit on the total amount wagered on the game. So, if you make a $100 bet, on average, you lose $1.

If you’re playing $10 a hand at the blackjack table and play 60 hands in an hour, you’re risking $600. You can expect to lose $6 per hour on average at this rate.

The way to play as long as possible is to bet the minimum amount with the lowest possible house edge. I told my wife to take a break every hour and get a snack or walk around for a few minutes. This is one way to reduce the number of hands you play every hour and reduce the total amount you wager.

Conclusion

The five steps on this page can be covered pretty quickly. You can even write them down on an index card so you can take them along with your strategy card to the casino. By following these steps, you can keep the house edge low and make your bankroll last longer.

These steps also give you a chance to win your first blackjack playing session. The odds are still against you, and you’re going to lose in the long run unless you learn some advantage plays. But this simple system does give you a chance to win some sessions.

Should You Always Bet Max on the Slot Machines?

Three Casino Slot Machines, Bet Max Slot Machine Button
Slot machines are the most popular game in any casino. Sure, people bet more on the lottery, and the worldwide sports betting market is huge. But slot machines are the game du jour in most casinos, especially in the United States.

Sadly, slot machines games also offer the worst odds in the casino except maybe for keno. The compounding effect of making hundreds of bets per hour at the slots make these games a bigger moneymaker for the casino than keno.

There’s no science to playing slots. You put your money in, spin the reels, and hope for the best. The only decisions you make are which game to play and how much to bet.

This post covers how much you should bet. You’ll often hear so-called gambling experts say you should always place the maximum bet on slot machines.

This isn’t true for most games.

There Are Two Kinds of Max Bets on Slot Games

You’ll only find one “Max Bet” button on a slot machine game, but some games allow you to adjust the number of paylines you bet on. These are older games. They preceded the guaranteed “243 ways to win” games.

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Many of the slot games that use configurable paylines have 20 to 50 paylines. You can turn them all off but one.

The first time I saw one of these games, a friend of mine called them “penny slots.”

The minimum bet was 10 cents per payline and the game had 25 paylines. The minimum bet was, to my way of thinking, $2.50. You could never bet just a penny on that “penny slot” game.

The maximum bet was $1 per payline. This was a sneaky way of getting the players to lay down more money. If you hit “Max Bet” on that machine, it took $25 in credits from your balance.

The More Complicated the Slot Game, the Less Likely You’ll Win

Lady Upset Playing Casino Slots, Red Banned Sign Over Money Spread
If you don’t understand how much you’re betting when you push a button on a slot game, there’s something wrong with the game. Perhaps the gaming industry just went through a phase of bad design.

But just because a slot machine game has multiple paylines, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll lose money if you bet on fewer paylines. Each bet on each payline is a separate bet, so playing all the paylines at once might make you more likely to see a winner. But you’ll also see more losing spins on the other paylines to compensate (in the long run, anyway).

The game is still programmed to spin as if all the paylines are active. I watched in horror, as that $25 bet spun the reels. I got lucky and the machine paid a low prize. I didn’t lose $25.

You can save money on a slot machine like this in two ways.

  1. You can bet on fewer paylines.
  2. You can lower the size of your bet.

My buddy disabled all the paylines and played $1. We saw a big prize combination come up but it didn’t pay anything. It was on a deactivated payline. There was no pattern on the one active payline.

A Few Older Games Increased Your Probability With Your Bet Size

This kind of game worked in the opposite way. You didn’t disable or enable paylines. The game’s help screen said some features were only enabled for the max bet.

We deduced that meant the theoretical return to player was calculated only for the max bet. And if the game wasn’t allowing you to use all the features with lesser bets then it must have had a lower RTP.

I went back to play some blackjack that night but my friend stayed and played that game. He did okay, not great. He said it made a big difference to play the max bet.

A Basic Slot Game Doesn’t Change the Probabilities

View of Slot Machines Inside Casino, Colored Probability Wheel
Whether it’s a 3D video slot with monsters running around the screen or just a classic three-reel game, if the slot game doesn’t disable paylines or require max bets, then the probabilities don’t change.

You can bet the minimum or maximum credits, and it won’t affect the outcome of the game. You simply change the number of guaranteed spins you can play.

If you have $300 and a game has a $1 minimum, you can play that game 300 times. If you make a maximum bet of $5 on every spin, then you can only play the game a maximum of 60 times (if you lose every time).

This makes a difference to some players. Other players say you’re not going to lose 60 times in a row, so why worry about that? Bet the max and get the most from your prize.

Most Progressive Slot Games Only Pay on Max Bets

If you’re playing a progressive slot game, then you need to make a maximum bet. I’ve seen a few games with multiple progressive jackpots where you only needed a max bet for the biggest jackpot.

If you have two versions of the same slot game, one is progressive and the other is not, you might as well play the max bet on the progressive version of the game.

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Don’t ever play anything less. The progressive jackpot is awarded randomly.

Progressive slot games have a mixed reputation. I’ve talked to people who refuse to play them. They’re convinced the payouts are less on progressive games.

And I know people who almost exclusively play progressive slot games. They would rather win a big prize beyond whatever the machine itself pays. They don’t have to win $1 million if they can come away with a few thousand.

I’ve seen it play out both ways. I’ve never been in a casino where someone won more than $10,000.

The Math Says Max Bets Put You Ahead Faster

Guy Doing Math Problem, Casino Slot Machine Reels Faded in Background
Assuming you find a slot machine that pays reasonably well, maybe it’s on a “hot” streak despite its regular RTP, why not play only max bets?

If the maximum payout is 1000x your bet, you’ll make $999 on a $1 bet or $4995 on a $5 bet. That’s a really simple equation, so why doesn’t everyone bet that way?

If you’re down to your last $20, you may decide to “roll it up. ” But what’s the difference between rolling up $20 and rolling up $200?

It comes down to how many spins you can guarantee yourself. This is a psychological game we play with ourselves. The odds of winning on the next spin are the same regardless of how much you bet.

There Is Another Advantage to Not Making Max Bets

If you want to play a lot of different games and you don’t have an unlimited bankroll, then playing minimum bets allows you to spread your time around.

Some players like to test the games when they visit a casino for the first time. They make a decision based on luck.

I remember watching a man approach a slot machine late one night. I was getting ready to leave. He put a dollar in the machine and spun the wheels.

He went down the line of machines until one of them paid. There, he stopped and began playing.

This strategy has no better chance of winning than any other strategy. But if the player feels better playing slots this way, that’s what matters.

Conclusion

Slot game designs have become more polished, but their rules are less confusing. People want to push a button and win some money.

I think caution is only warranted if you’re unfamiliar with the games and you don’t know immediately if they have any special rules. It’s always a good idea to read the pay tables first.

And if you’re a little confused by the game rules, then only play minimum bets until you understand what the game is doing.

There’s no need to rush into max bets if you’re not ready to take that chance.

7 Tips for Finding Great Online Slots

Virtual Casino Slot Reels, Woman on Laptop
You certainly won’t be at a lack for choices when playing online slots. The internet gaming world features thousands of different slots across many casinos.

You may even find this massive variety to be a problem when trying to find great games. You’ll especially have trouble in this department if you’re fairly inexperienced with playing online slot games.

Luckily, you can quickly narrow down your choices by using some simple advice. That said, here are seven tips for picking high-quality online slots to play.

1 – Consider Your Favorite Themes

You likely have a good idea on what type of themes you like in gaming. For example, you may love games based on sports or movies.

You should definitely keep your favorite themes in mind when combing through a casino’s slots. If you could care less for gold mining, for instance, then you can just skip over any games involving this angle.

You’ll find that every type of story is covered through the gaming world to some extent. Adventure, Christmas, Halloween, and treasure hunting are just some of the themes you’ll find.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you completely discount any game that falls outside of the realm of what you’re looking for. Sometimes, great slots deal with subjects that don’t interest you.

Assuming you play these games, you may grow to enjoy them in spite of the theme. But overall, you want to have a good idea on what stories you care about before looking for new slots.

2 – Check Out the Betting Options

One of the most overlooked aspects of online slots is the betting options. Many players only consider these options after they’ve found a game that covers other criteria they’re interested in.

The first thing to consider in this regard is the minimum bet. Assuming you’re a low roller, you want a slot that allows you to play fairly cheaply.

Most online slots require you to play all of the lines. On a 25-line slot, for example, you might have to wager a minimum of one penny on each line ($0.25 total).

Money Piled Wallpaper, Casino Slot Machine Betting Buttons

Other games can require you to wager between $0.50 and $1 total to play. These slots might be out of your budget, depending on how you’re managing your casino bankroll.

On the other end of the spectrum is the maximum bet. If you’re a high roller, then you’ll want plenty of freedom with the max wager.

You may not be happy with a slot that only allows you to bet up to a max of $5 per spin. But you can find plenty of games that allow for wagers worth hundreds of dollars.

Gameplay options should also factor into your choices. Autoplay, double up, sound effects on/off, and turbo are all some options you should consider when choosing a game.

3 – Decide What Jackpots You Want to Chase

One exciting aspect about online slots is that you can win jackpots worth millions of dollars. These games allow you to dream while spinning the reels.

However, you’ll find that certain slots with smaller jackpots are also really fun to play. These games may not give you a chance at life-changing money, but they’re still worth playing.

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The key is to know ahead of time the size of payouts you’re interested in going for. You may only be happy with games where you have the opportunity to win six or seven figures.

Some slots have smaller jackpots, but multiple bonus features. These bonuses can lead to huge payouts under the right circumstances.

That said, you also need to consider the bonuses if you’re looking for large prizes. Oftentimes, such slots will advertise that they pay up to X times your stake if they feature a noteworthy top payout.

4 – Understand Volatility

Virtual Slot Reels Showing Triple 7s, Special Bonus Banner
Volatility is a term used to describe how much short-term results can fluctuate. This is yet another overlooked factor with regard to picking slots. It’s extremely important, because it determines how often you’ll get paid.

High-volatility slots usually have a big jackpot and/or several bonuses. However, these games pay out less frequently to make up for the large prizes at the top.

Low-volatility games don’t normally have a big jackpot or multiple bonus features. But they do pay out often.

Some slots actually have volatility ratings, which makes this matter easier. However, the average slot has no such rating.

You instead need to figure out how volatile a game is by looking at the jackpot size, bonuses, and number of small payouts. You may not be able to pinpoint the exact volatility of a slot, but you can at least come close.

5 – Find the RTP

Return to player (RTP) refers to how much a game is programmed to pay back in the long run. The key term here is “long run,” because RTP doesn’t have much of an impact on your short-term winnings.

Therefore, you must consider volatility to figure out how much you’ll be paid in any given session. But RTP is still crucial if you want to play a game that offers higher payout potential.

Payback becomes even more significant if you have a favorite slot and play it often. A favorite slot with high RTP goes perfectly together, because you have a stronger chance of making money over time.

You can easily find payout percentages for online slots. Many internet slots developers run their games at the same RTP regardless of the casino.

All you need to do is run a Google search for a specific slot followed by “RTP.” You should find what you’re looking for within a minute or less.

6 – Consider Your Favorite Developers

Online Slot Game by Rival Gaming, Rival Gaming Logo
Dozens of companies supply slots to online casinos. Each of these providers comes with their own unique design style and flair.

You’re not going to know which developer is your favorite right away. But as time goes on, you may eventually like game designs from one or more providers.

You should definitely choose online casinos that carry at least one or more of your favorite provider’s games.

If you like Rival Gaming slots, for example, then you should look for casinos that have Rival products. Likewise, you may enjoy live dealer games from Evolution Gaming and pick casinos that carry their software.

7 – Play Free Online Slots Before Betting Real Money

One more thing to consider when looking for your future favorite slots is the free mode. Almost every online casino allows you to play for free after registering for an account.

The registration process is simple in almost every case. You just have to enter basic information, such as your name, email address, phone number, username, password, etc.

Once you’ve completed all of the required forms, you need to submit your account for approval.

As long as you’re of age and not in a restricted country/territory, you should be approved instantly.

From here, you can decide which games you want to test out. Online slots are almost always available in free mode.

Some casinos may limit the amount of play funds you receive. Others, however, let you play free slot games as long as you’d like.

In any case, you should definitely take advantage of free games before making a deposit. You’ll not only be able to figure out which slots you like, but also decide if the casino is right for you.

Conclusion

You don’t have to let the massive selection of online slots overwhelm you. Instead, you can quickly find great games by keeping a few points in mind.

The first matter involves deciding exactly what you’re looking for in terms of themes. You should only choose games that offer stories/ characters that you find appealing.

Another important step is to figure out whether a game can be played for cheap or if a couple of spins are pricey. You’ll especially want to pay attention to the minimum bet, because this determines how much you must spend to play.

Jackpot size is another crucial element. Assuming you want to get rich through slots, then you need to play games with six or seven-figure jackpots to realize your dreams.

Of course, jackpot size can also affect a game’s volatility. This brings up another point in that low-volatility slots determine how often you’ll be paid.

You should also think about the RTP of an online slot. The higher the RTP, the better chance you have of making money with a game over time.

You might eventually fall in love with certain slots developers. In this case, you should definitely pick a casino that carries your favorite providers.

Finally, free online slots are an excellent way to find your games of choice. You just need to complete registration in order to start playing for free.

4 Jacks or Better Video Poker Rules and Strategies Most Players Don’t Know About

Casino Video Poker Machine Screen, Poker Cards
If you’ve made it through the wilds of the internet to find your way here, you probably know all about basic strategy for Jacks or Better video poker already.

With basic strategy guidelines out of the way, many Jacks or Better players mistakenly believe that their tutelage on video poker’s foundational game has come to an end. While it is true that learning basic strategy is an essential first step in a quality Jacks or Better education, it is just that – a first step.

Once you’ve mastered the ins and outs of playing your five-card draws with optimal precision, you’re definitely in business and there’s no doubt about that.

Nonetheless, the best Jacks or Better players out there – world-renowned professionals like Bob Dancer who consistently beat the house by playing at an expert level – never rest on their laurels.

I don’t believe Jacks or Better enthusiasts should ever limit themselves to the confines of basic strategy. Learn it, by all means, but always follow through by enhancing your basic strategy knowledge with supplementary skills and strategies designed to extract every possible edge from Jacks or Better’s basic rules and gameplay.

To that end, the list below highlights four rules and strategies for Jacks or Better video poker that most players simply don’t know enough about.

1 – Betting the Maximum of 5 Coins Is the Only Way to Score Premium Payouts on a Royal

If you’ve been spending time in video poker parlors or you’ve gambled on online video poker sites, you’ve probably heard regulars admonishing rookies who don’t bet all five coins:

“Hey, whaddya doin’ there guy? You’re only helpin’ the casino out by bettin’ less than the max.”

Unfortunately, while these self-styled mentors are quick to dole advice like that out, they seldom back it up with a real explanation as to exactly why maximum bets are the best play.

I’ve got you covered though, so scan at the standard 9/6 full pay Jacks or Better pay table show below:

Jacks or Better Full Pay Table (by Coins Bets)

HAND 1 COIN 2 COINS 3 COINS 4 COINS 5 COINS
Royal Flush 250 500 750 1000 4000
Straight Flush 50 100 150 200 250
4 of a Kind 25 50 75 100 125
Full House 9 18 27 36 45
Flush 6 12 18 24 30
Straight 4 8 12 16 20
3 of a Kind 3 6 9 12 15
Two Pair 2 4 6 8 10
Jacks or Better 1 2 3 4 5
Payback 98.3% 98.3% 98.3% 98.3% 99.54%

This pay table can be fund flashing in yellow print from hundreds of thousands of Game King machines found in casinos all over the world.

I want you to focus on how the payouts for each hand, except the best hand, escalate according to a steady pattern. No matter the size of your bet, making two pair is always good for a 2 to 1 payout in terms of coins. In other words, bet 1 coin and get 2 back for two pair; bet 2 coins and get 4 back, etc.

This pattern holds up even for a straight flush, which pays out at 50 to 1 for each coin wagered. You can bet 4 coins and get 200 back for a straight flush, or 5 coins for 250 back, but it all boils down to the same 50 to 1 payout.

But get a load of that Royal Flush payout, which starts at 250 to 1 for a 1-coin bet. Royal payouts climb according to the same pattern for 1-4 coins bet, until you hit that 5-coin max bet level. There, landing a Royal Flush is good for a whopping 4,000 to 1 payout.

This “jackpot” element is crucial to Jacks or Better strategy, because as the table’s bottom column clearly shows, even a 9/6 full pay game won’t offer the 99.54 percent payback rate that makes this game so great for players.

Simply put, when you bet anything less than 5 coins per hand, you’re doing the casino a massive favor. Not only does the house’s liability drop severely on Royal Flushes, but every hand you play suddenly changes from 99.54 percent payback to 98.30 percent.

Fortunately, the Game King machine – and the top-rated online casinos offering Jacks or Better – lets players choose their coin denomination. So if betting 5 coins at $1 per is too rich for your blood (and bankroll), just dial it back to the $0.25 coin denomination and max-bet for $1.25 per hand.

2 – Hunting for the 9/6 Full Pay Machines and Never Settling for Less

Casino Video Poker Floor, Full House Poker Cards
That 99.54 percent payback rate is what brings so many sharp gamblers out of the woodwork to play Jacks or Better.

Expressed in terms of house edge, the game only lends the casino a 0.46 percent advantage, putting Jacks or Better on par with blackjack and other popular casino games.

But that’s only when you play against the 9/6 full pay table shown below:

Jacks or Better Full Pay Table

HAND PAYOUT
Royal Flush 800
Straight Flush 50
Four of a Kind 25
Full House 9
Flush 6
Straight 4
Three of a Kind 3
Two Pair 2
Jacks or Better 1
All Other 0

As you might have noticed by now, many video poker games out there today don’t actually offer the 9/6 full pay table.

Instead, the casinos try to get one over on players by offering machines that use one of the inferior pay tables shown below:

Inferior Jacks or Better Pay Tables (by Payback Percentage)

HAND 9/5 8/6 8/5 7/5 6/5
Royal Flush 800 800 800 800 800
Straight Flush 50 50 50 50 50
Four of a Kind 25 25 25 25 25
Full House 9 8 8 7 6
Flush 5 6 5 5 5
Straight 4 4 4 4 4
Three of a Kind 3 3 3 3 3
Two Pair 2 2 2 2 2
Jacks or Better 1 1 1 1 1
Payback Percentage 98.44% 98.39% 97.29% 96.14% 94.99%

These pay tables are, pardon my French, pure B.S. By tweaking just a single payout downward, casinos can turn Jacks or Better into a sucker game on par with slots.

Here’s how Bob Dancer, known in the gambling world as the “King of Video Poker,” described the creeping shift away from 9/6 full pay machines:

“The machines at Station have been getting a lot tighter. Most players think there will be no 100 percent games by the end of the year at Station Casinos.

They have 100 percent machines, but they have more at the middle of the spectrum and a whole lot near the bottom. Station appears to be catering to the less-knowledgeable player.

But no one should play at a machine that pays less than 99 percent. There are too many 99 percent machines around town.”

3 – Knowing the Odds Against Making Every Possible Paying Hand

Two Video Poker Machines in Casino, Money Stack
Everyone knows a full house beats a flush or a straight in poker, so naturally, it pays out more than those hands in Jacks or Better.

But did you know it’s actually slightly more difficult to make a flush or a straight in Jacks or Better than it is a full house?

Well, that’s a fact, as the table below shows off quite clearly:

Probabilities and Odds Against for Paying Hands in Jacks or Better

HAND PROBABILITY ODDS
Royal Flush 0.003% 1 in 40,391
Straight Flush 0.012% 1 in 9,148
Four of a Kind 0.236% 1 in 423
Full House 1.151% 1 in 87
Flush 1.119% 1 in 91
Straight 1.104% 1 in 89
Three of a Kind 7.439% 1 in 13
Two Pair 12.921% 1 in 7.7
Jacks or Better 21.370% 1 in 4.7
Nothing 54.647% 1 in 1.8
Total 100.000%  

As you can see, the odds against making a full house, flush, and straight are almost identical. Knowing this, when you have starting hands that allow for multiple draws to these hands, always opt for the full house and it’s juiced up payout.

4 – Playing Faster to Make Long Odds More Attainable

In that table above, you can see that landing a Royal in Jacks or Better is a huge longshot at 1 in 40,391 odds against.

Playing through more than 40,000 hands to realize those odds may seem like an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Just ask “Dr. Antonius,” a video poker speed-runner who holds the world record for fastest Jacks or Better session ever recorded. You can watch the good doctor do his thing down below:

But here’s the scoop. Using perfect basic strategy, Dr. Antonius completed 2,262 hands in a single hour. Thus, it would only take him 17 hours or so of grinding to reach the 40,391-hand threshold.

Obviously, you don’t have to play at world-record pace to improve your odds of a Royal. But playing faster is the best way to churn out enough hands to realize those longshot odds.

Conclusion

Jacks or Better basic strategy is like a key that opens a treasure chest stuffed with gold and jewels. In theory, when wielded in the right hands, using the hard and fast rules for discard / draw decisions can turn Jacks or Better into one of the best games in the house. But that advantage remains entirely theoretical when players don’t know about the other rules and strategies found above.

The folks who don’t bet all 5 coins per hand, sit down at inferior non-full pay tables, or play too quickly or slowly for their personal bankroll requirements instantly sacrifice all of the extra equity basic strategy provides. Knowing this, you should never put a penny in a Jacks or Better machine until you’ve checked all four rules and strategies found here off your to-do list.

What Happened to Poker’s Alex Dreyfus?

Alex Dreyfus, Poker Cards Spread, Casino Chips, Pile of Money
The poker world is filled with many prominent pros who gain fame and fortune. Those who play a major role behind the scenes, on the other hand, are less visible.

But somehow, Alexandre (Alex) Dreyfus managed to become one of poker’s biggest names despite not being a player. He was by far one of the game’s most-discussed figures in the mid-2010s.

Strangely enough, though, Dreyfus has basically disappeared from the poker radar just a few years later. Who is Dreyfus and how did he drop out of poker conversations so quickly?

I’m going to discuss more on his background, why he eventually left the game, and what he’s up to today.

Who Is Alex Dreyfus?

Alex Dreyfus began his career as a digital entrepreneur. He witnessed the poker boom play out and saw the game’s immense potential.

The Frenchman moved to Malta and set up an online poker gaming platform. It went by the name of Chilipoker and quickly became a success and earned millions of dollars in revenue.

Dreyfus could’ve rested on his laurels and continued operating the successful Chilipoker. However, he had higher ambitions and began reaching fingers into many aspects of the industry.

He started the European Poker Awards, American Poker Awards, Global Poker Index (GPI), and Global Poker League (GPL).

Dreyfus also purchased the highly popular website The Hendon Mob, which records players’ live tournament cashes.

Dreyfus still owns the GPI and The Hendon Mob. However, he’s largely abandoned the other projects that he launched.

Dreyfus’ Mission to Change Poker

Woman on Computer Playing Online Poker Game, Copy of Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
The poker boom is largely believed to have ended when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) took effect in 2006. This law made it much tougher for online poker sites to accept deposits and make payouts to US players.

Nevertheless, some sites continued thriving in the face of the UIGEA. But in 2011, Black Friday dealt another huge blow to the industry.

The poker world spent the next several years wishing for a return to its glory days, which never came. Rather than waiting, Dreyfus thought of a new solution to “sportify” poker.

He didn’t necessarily see poker as a sport in the same vein as football, basketball, or hockey. However, he believed that it could be promoted as a sport.

His vision was similar to NASCAR, which puts emphasis on the drivers, sponsors, points, and rankings. Dreyfus wanted to create a model where fans got to see pros more often, rather than random players winning tournaments.

These ideas all went into creating the GPL. Thanks to a $4.9 million investment from various Chinese venture capitalists, Dreyfus was able to bring his dream to fruition.

He created a league full of teams along with the controversial “Cube,” a $100,000 glass structure that would host the GPL’s marquee events.

As for the teams, they included rosters of drafted players. A few dozen pros liked the idea and participated in the inaugural season upon being drafted.

The Struggles of the Global Poker League

The GPL concept sounded good in theory. However, it didn’t play out quite as planned.

Rather than a live poker league that featured teams from different cities battling live, just like normal sports leagues, it entailed a bunch of online competitions.

The GPL managed to span 180 matches in its first season. However, even those who love poker had difficulty watching these online affairs play out.

Besides the dry format, another problem is that Dreyfus mainly marketed the GPL to an American audience. He was likely banking on online poker regulation spreading throughout America.

But internet poker regulation has moved at a slow crawl. Most states don’t see it as a lucrative venture, given that the ring-fenced player pools produce little revenue.

Dreyfus went back to the drawing board and developed another idea. He wanted to give fans the opportunity to be stakeholders in teams for Season 2.

This concept didn’t work out either. Legal concerns eventually convinced Dreyfus to scrap the stakeholder plan.

The GPL still exists in some format in India. PokerStars decided to sponsor the venture as a marketing tool. However, the league is a far cry from the grand ambitions that Dreyfus had.

Drama With German Poker Pros

Poker Pro Fedor Holz and Hendrik Latz, Hand Holding Out Money Bills
Dreyfus’ reputation was dragged through the mud in late 2016. German poker pros Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz and Hendrik “ValueH” Latz posted a story on TwoPlusTwo regarding a cash swap gone wrong.

The tale began when Dreyfus approached the poker players in Las Vegas during the 2016 WSOP. He asked Latz and Holz to loan him $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, as a favor.

Dreyfus then promised to transfer an equivalent value of euros to both players later that day. Such cash swaps are common in the poker community when players travel between continents.

Latz and Holz didn’t really need to worry about the money, so they forgot about it. However, Latz eventually realized five weeks later that he hadn’t received his $20k.

Holz didn’t even remember the missing $10k until Dreyfus emailed an apology. The latter noted that the GPL was having financial difficulties and asked if he could wait until the next month to repay both players.

He offered an additional 5% interest on top of what he owed. However, the poker pros still felt that they should make others aware of the incident.

The deals were meant to be trades, rather than short-term loans. They wanted to warn others in the poker community on dealing with Dreyfus.

To be fair, he did pay back the money and apologized multiple times afterward. But his behavior certainly wasn’t befitting of a trusted poker entrepreneur.

Move to the Cryptocurrency World

Dreyfus was eventually able to work out a deal with PokerStars involving the GPL. As mentioned before, Stars is now using the league as a marketing/entertainment tool in India.

However, his poker reputation was definitely damaged from the league’s underwhelming performance as well as his dealings with Holz and Latz.

Instead of opting in for creating something like an Bitcoin online casino, Dreyfus switched gears and transitioned into the cryptocurrency industry in a different manner. He revived his Chili brand under “chiliZ,” which is a sports and esports blockchain project.

Esports Tournament Arena, Chiliz Logo

ChiliZ is patterned after Spanish football’s “socios,” which describes how thousands of Barcelona and Real Madrid fans have a voice in how their favorite teams are run. Sports and video gaming fans will get an opportunity to do the same with their favored teams through chiliZ.

Here’s an example on what they can vote on with esports:

  • Skins used in matches
  • Which pros will start matches
  • Which pros will be on the bench

Like many cryptocurrency projects, this one is tokenized. The chiliZ token (CHZ) will allow users to perform a variety of functions within the project’s blockchain.

Those who have the most tokens will have the biggest say in how teams are run. The pros, meanwhile, benefit by drawing funding through tokens that they might not otherwise be able to attain.

The general public is often hesitant about cryptocurrencies. After all, the majority of these projects are either scams, bad ideas, or efforts to draw funding on previously failed concepts.

It’s difficult to say where Dreyfus’ project lies. This blockchain could very well go the same way as the GPL.

But he at least has a good vision and is looking to fill a real void in sports and gaming. ChiliZ has also netted some high-profile partnerships, such as the Roma football club, Paris Saint-Germain football club, and OG esports squad.

Conclusion

Alex Dreyfus is one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs to have entered the poker world. After originally starting with an online poker room, he expanded his empire to include award shows, a player rankings system, and the largest poker tournament database.

But what Dreyfus is best known for is starting the Global Poker League. The GPI represented an ambitious attempt to start a pro-centric poker league that fans could enjoy.

However, the GPI is just a fraction of what it was intended to be. The format wasn’t quite what many expected, and the online-match format just wasn’t very appealing to the average poker fan.

Aside from the GPI not taking off as expected, Dreyfus also had a cash-swap controversy. He borrowed a collective $30k from two poker pros and failed to pay them back in a timely manner.

Dreyfus began slowly fading away from the poker world after these incidents. He’s now focusing on a cryptocurrency project called chiliZ.

Once again, the Frenchman is aiming for big things with this platform. He hopes to tokenize the sports and esports worlds while giving fans a bigger say in their favorite teams.

Can chiliZ be the ultimate success that will come to characterize Dreyfus? Or will it go the way of the GPL? The next few years should answer this question and define the rest of Dreyfus’ professional career.

Is the Online Poker Cashout Curse Real?

Money Pile, Woman With Hands on Her Head Screaming, Laptop Displaying Poker Game
The online poker world features plenty of conspiracy theories. Some of these include:

  • New players receive better cards to help them win in the beginning.
  • A glitch exists lets you see temporarily see opponents’ hole cards.
  • Poker sites use bots on their customers to make more money.

Each of these conspiracy theories is well known to a degree. However, no online casino poker gaming conspiracy has been discussed more frequent than the cashout curse.

In fact, this curse has been discussed so much that many players completely believe it. But is the cashout curse actually real or just a myth?

I’ll discuss this matter by first covering more on the curse, why many believe in it, and the reality of the situation.

What Is the Cashout Curse?

The cashout curse suggests you’ll experience a bad run of cards after withdrawing money from a poker site. You’re supposedly more vulnerable to this problem if you make a large cashout.

For example, you might initiate a withdrawal and suddenly be unable to buy a pocket pair. Or, you may get solid cards, but have terrible luck after the flop.

In general, you’re supposed to worry about your results after withdrawing money. Online poker software is allegedly designed to punish you for taking funds off their sites.

What’s the Basis Behind the Curse?

The main reason why people believe in this curse is because they think poker sites are out to get them. Specifically, they believe online poker rooms want to punish them for withdrawing.

Those with tin foil hats think online poker sites will do anything to keep more money within their ecosystem. After all, more funds circulating around a site means more rake.

It doesn’t help matters that certain sites have cheated in the past. For example, an UltimateBet (UB) insider named Russ Hamilton could see his opponents’ hole cards. Likewise, an Absolute Poker insider used the same type of “superuser” software to see other players’ cards.

Of course, these are isolated incidents that only involve a couple of operations. But they create the everlasting impression that any site could cheat its customers.

Real or Fiction?

Woman Crossing Her Fingers, Money Pile with Poker Chips and Cards
If you’re at all worried about the cashout curse, then stop! It doesn’t exist.

It may seem logical to believe that poker sites would take vengeance on you for withdrawing money. But the following reasons explain why it’d be foolish to engage in such practices.

Poker Sites Make Money Through Rake

Earlier, I mentioned how online poker rooms can benefit by having more money on their site. Lots of funds increase the possibility that more cash will flow on the tables and deliver rake to the house.

By and large, though, poker sites will make their money as long as enough people are playing. Furthermore, they don’t actually gain any advantage by causing you to lose money. Their profits come entirely through rake from cash games and tournaments.

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One more point worth making is that poker operators can actually accomplish the opposite effect by sending bad luck your way.

If you continue getting bad cards and losing, you’re less likely to continue playing at a given site.

Online Poker Rooms Aren’t Devastated by Withdrawals

The underlying theme behind the cashout curse is that you’re hurting poker sites by withdrawing. But the reality is that your individual cashout won’t mean much to a site in the long run.

Unless you’re a multimillionaire high-stakes online gambler, you’ll probably be making plenty of small banking moves. Your $50 or $100 won’t cause a site to start panicking.

Furthermore, internet poker rooms don’t really care about withdrawals as long as they’re getting consistent traffic. The traffic, after all, is what has a direct impact on rake.

Poker Sites Would Need to Put Too Much Work Into the Curse

Poker sites can’t just initiate a cashout curse with the flick of a button. Instead, they’d need to make massive updates to the software to rig the system.

Is all of this time and effort worth it just to scare players away from withdrawing money?

No, the average poker site won’t receive much benefit from using these scare tactics. In fact, they’d probably lose more money when accounting for the software development and extra manpower needed to punish withdrawers.

Yet one more problem is that a curse would punish countless players. After all, thousands of online grinders cash out on a daily basis. Just imagine the headaches involved with trying to get revenge on each one of these players.

Reasons Why You May Lose After Withdrawing

Online Poker Game with Rigged Text, Photos of Guy Happy Then Sad
Even after seeing the logical reasons for why the cashout curse isn’t real, you may still question the matter. This is especially true if you manage to lose the most after initiating a withdrawal.

You’re likely to continue believing in the curse in this situation. But there are some explanations that cut through the idea that an actual curse is afoot.

You Cash Out When You’re Running Good

More times than not, you’ll withdraw money from an online poker room when you’re running well. You may turn $500 into $1,000, for example, and want to enjoy the spoils.

Perhaps your winnings have come in part due to solid poker skills. But chances are, any hot run that you experience will also be aided by good cards.

Poker may be considered a skill game, but it also involves a great deal of luck. You might experience a hot streak for several weeks, only to suffer through a brutal downswing afterward.

If you’re used to cashing out after a good run, you may be in for a dry run of cards soon after. This timing plays into the idea that it’s the withdrawal, not your luck going south, that causes you to lose.

You Become Confident and Try New Games or Stakes

In addition to withdrawing some winnings, you may be motivated to try a new variation or move up in stakes when you’re doing well. After all, you’re likely to be running high on confidence.

Odds are that you won’t be a beast at whatever new poker game you try. In fact, you could lose a lot of money until you develop the necessary skills to win.

If these losses come on the heels of a cashout, you might again believe that your downswing is due to the withdrawal. But you need only look at the fact that you’re trying a new variant or higher stakes to see why you’re suddenly losing more often.

You Withdraw Too Much and Play Differently

Two Computer Screen Displaying Poker Games, Hand Holding Poker Cards, Button with Coins Displaying Withdraw
Casino bankroll management suggests that you have at least 25 cash-game buy-ins and 75-125 tournament buy-ins for your chosen stakes. These recommendations might seem like overkill, but they’re meant to help you survive the variance of poker.

Bankroll management is especially important for pros who need to survive poker’s ups and downs to continue making a living. If you’re just a recreational player, you might not stick with these hardline bankroll requirements.

Furthermore, you may feel like cashing out lots of money from a poker room for one reason or another. For example, you might need extra money for Christmas presents and take it off a poker site.

But when you decimate your bankroll to this degree, you may suddenly start playing differently. If you’re playing scared and are afraid to lose, then you’ll have more trouble earning profits.

Conclusion

The cashout curse is one of the oldest myths in online poker. It suggests that you’ll be punished for withdrawing money from a site.

Many players believe in this curse, because they seemingly lose money after cashing out. However, their bad run can be attributed to other factors.

First off, people tend to withdraw money after a good run. They want to take advantage of their hot streak and enjoy the winnings.

But despite the skill factor, poker is a game of variance. Somebody who runs well may quickly experience a downswing in the aftermath.

Some players feel confident after a strong run and will try a new variation or higher stakes. They’re more likely to lose money in these instances. Assuming they cash out before experimenting, they may blame their losses on the withdrawal.

As for poker sites, they don’t really have any concrete reason to punish customers who cash out. They make money from rake, rather than causing players to lose.

In fact, creating a withdrawal curse might do more harm than good. Players who frequently lose are more likely to leave a site and even drop out of poker for good.

It’s also worth considering how much work would be needed to make a cashout curse happen. Sites would have to put extensive time and money into reprogramming their software to punish withdrawers.

Long story short, internet poker rooms have little to gain and more to lose by causing a withdrawal curse.

How to Always Win at Blackjack

Casino Blackjack Table, Ten Dollars Stack Spread, Win Sticker
It’s mathematically impossible for either the house or the player to always win at the game of blackjack if both are playing a perfect game. It also comes down to how you interpret the phrase “always win.”

Is it possible to win every hand in blackjack without cheating? No, not even if the other player makes the worst choice on every hand (hitting on anything other than a 21). If both players draw 21, the push negates any win or loss.

By that reasoning alone, a cheater would have to control the deal to prevent the other player from ever drawing a blackjack.

For the sake of reasonable discussion, I’ll interpret “always win” to mean “leave the table with more money than you took in.” I still can’t offer any guarantees, but the following strategies improve your chances of always leaving the table a winner.

1 – Set a Hard Limit on Earnings

Although card counting doesn’t perform the magic people expect, as you become more experienced at counting cards you should see some improvement in your win/loss ratios. This is why, despite all the precautions they take, casinos still pay attention to card counters.

Even if you don’t count cards and only rely on “perfect play,” once you’re ahead in the game, you now have to protect your winnings.

The basic idea in good gambling practice is to only risk losing money you don’t mind losing. If you really want to get ahead, then your thinking should become more conservative as you accumulate more money.

Rather than change your playing strategy, which is why you’re ahead, just call it quits before you’ve won too much.

How much is too much? If the pit boss is paying unusual attention to your table, that could be a sign you should take a break.

2 – Practice Every Chance You Get

Blackjack Strategy Book on Table, Two Poker Cards
Some of the best blackjack experts in the world say they ran through memory exercises for months before taking on the Vegas casinos.

You need to memorize two things to be successful in blackjack—the rules of the game (including table rules) and the best blackjack strategies for each card you’re dealt.

The basic rules of the game are easy to learn. Casinos add their own rules to limit players’ chances of success or to limit their winnings. The change from 3:2 payouts to 6:5 payouts is an example of how casinos are limiting winnings.

Whether you play free online blackjack games or practice with a partner who flashes index cards at you, the more you practice, the better you’ll become.

You need to react instinctively to the cards on the table. You need to know what you can do and what you should do in every situation.

You won’t get there by losing your money for months or years on end.

3 – Pick Your Tables Carefully

Because casinos have changed many of the old school blackjack rules, standard advice that people followed 10, 15, or 20 years ago doesn’t always apply any more. The old classic blackjack strategy books were great resources in their days, but the world has changed.

Choosing the best blackjack table may be easy. You could walk into a casino that still offers the basic game. You may have to visit a few casinos in your area to find the best game.

Because finding a good table is so hard, some players now prefer playing online blackjack games. They can choose from a variety of casinos, and because of the competition, online casinos offer a lot of different blackjack variations.

When you know the table rules you want to play by, they become part of your strategy as much as part of the house’s strategy.

4 – Bet in Consistent Patterns

Rows of Colored Casino Chips
Standard card counting technique says you should increase your bets when the deck is favorable. Because everyone shares this advice in books, video tutorials, and articles, it’s not a secret to the casinos.

Varying your bets when the cards are favorable may lead to the unfavorable reaction by the casino—they shuffle the cards.

Although many card counters still swear by the practice, they concede it’s much harder to win this way than in years past. The solo player is less likely to win much money over all than a team.

Instead of trying to win as much as a team wins, be more consistent in your betting. A little bit of subtlety in your patterns may give you the psychological boost you need to keep playing.

How can you be consistent and subtle?

5 – Only Play When the Crowd Is Small

This is more a matter of personal preference. But having spent some time at the blackjack tables, I find it disruptive when people constantly come and go.

That is the exact reason why I stopped trying to count cards.

Whether you prefer to count cards or not, it’s easier to focus on the game without distraction. The more people join the game, the more likely there will be chatter.

If you want to socialize, then chat away if the other players are willing to do that. But if your goal is to win, then treat the game like it’s your job. Do the work when you have the fewest distractions.

If you’re a regular high roller, you might be able to request a private table. And this is another reason why some people prefer to play online blackjack over a game in a casino. Whether it’s a live dealer table or a computer game, if you have the table to yourself, you can play without distractions.

6 – Ignore the Extras in the Game

Hands on Blackjack Table, Red Arrow and Stop Sign Pointing to Insurance on Blackjack
You might be tempted to play a progressive blackjack game or to take insurance. I’ve done both, but in the long run, these game options just suck your money away from you.

The casino throws in extra options to make the game more interesting, but they’re also after your money.

Surrendering is a borderline practice. If you have the option of surrendering, some experts recommend you only do this when the cards are clearly against you.

Some casinos require late surrender, meaning you must wait for the dealer to check for a blackjack in her hand. Some games allow early surrender where you can forfeit based on the cards you see in your hand and the dealer’s face card.

Some surrender articles speak in terms of probabilities.

?
Should you really sit there and compute the probabilities on every hand? Not if you’ve memorized your strategies correctly.

Your decision to surrender preserves capital. You should take into consideration what the face up cards show, what the table’s rule for dealer stands is (soft 17 or not), and the number of decks in the shoe (4 to 8).

Players usually surrender on a hard 16 if the dealer shows a 9, 10, or ace. They usually surrender on a hard 15 if the dealer shows a 10 or ace.

Some players criticize a player who surrenders. It’s your decision, not theirs.

Conclusion

As a player you want to enjoy what you’re doing even if you’re there to win. It’s hard to concentrate when you feel like every hand is against you. The psychological side of the game is important.

It’s just like going to work every morning, do you love your job or not?

Unless you’re there as part of a team, you don’t have to keep playing if the game isn’t fun anymore. Choosing to play only when you have a good time builds your confidence.

Confidence doesn’t contribute directly to winning, but you’re more likely to trust your choices when you’re confident. Winning makes you confident but winning can be the result of random chance.

Your job begins before you make the first bet. Study the rules, practice good strategy, and set a goal of achieving perfect play through instinct and experience.

Whether you count cards or not, the better you play the game, the more likely you’ll leave the table a winner.

What Defines Loose Slot Machines: RTP or Volatility?

Casino Slot Machines in a Row, Money Pile with Green Arrows Going Up and Down
If you’re into casino gambling, then you’ve likely seen ads for loose slot machines. For example, a casino will claim that they have the “loosest slots” in the area.

You can probably figure out that loose slots indicate casino slot games that are generous with payouts. But what exactly defines a loose slot machine? Is it return to player (RTP) or volatility?

I’m going to discuss more on this topic by covering RTP vs volatility in depth. I’ll also come to a conclusion on which term better defines a loose slot machine.

What Is RTP?

Return to player refers to how much a slot is programmed to pay back to the average player. If a game has 95% RTP, for example, then it’ll pay $0.95 on the dollar to the average gambler.

However, slot machines don’t offer such clean structures. They’re not like baccarat, where they pay players around 50% of the time.

Instead, slot machines are among the most volatile games in the casino. You can never predict when your next prize is coming with slots. Therefore, you want to think about RTP’s validity in the short run.

Payout percentages indicate how much a game is programmed to pay over countless hours. You’re unlikely to hit the exact payout percentage of a slot machine in a given session. Instead, you’ll either lose or win far more than the stated RTP.

What Is Volatility in Relation to Slot Machines?

Row of Casino Slot Machines, Red Arrow Going Up and Down
Volatility is a measure of risk. It essentially defines how often a slot machine will pay over a specific period of time.

This term is often confused with variance in slot machine games. The latter also measures the risk of a slot machine, but it’s not bound by a certain length of time.

Volatility and variance are both worth considering for slot machines. But chances are that you’re more concerned with how much risk you’re assuming in a given session.

The most volatile slot machines pay less frequently than the average game. They make up for low hit frequency by offering more big prizes.

The most volatile slots pay more often than the typical slot machine. However, they also have smaller jackpots and/or fewer bonuses.

How Should a Loose Slot Be Measured?

Casinos don’t offer any explanation when they throw out the term “loose slot machines.” You and I are tasked with filling in the blanks.

For my take, low volatility is a better measure of loose slots than RTP. After all, I’m more concerned with how much money is paid in a certain session versus how much I stand to make over time.

I can’t be certain what exactly casinos are indicating when they advertise loose slots. Most are likely referring to the RTP, which can play a small factor in short-term winnings.

However, a game with 99% payback may not pay much in a single session if it has a large jackpot or multiple bonuses. Meanwhile, a slot with just 90% RTP could offer far more prizes in a lone session.

How Can You Find Loose Slots?

I’ve just established my belief that loose slot machines should refer to low volatility. The only problem, though, is that the majority of slots don’t offer any indication of their volatility.

In most cases, you’ll have to look at multiple factors to determine how frequently a slot pays. Here are the main aspects that you should focus on when doing so.

Jackpot Size

Many gamblers flock to slot machines with big progressive jackpots. After all, they want a chance at life-changing money.

But the trade-off is that games with large jackpots don’t usually pay very often. Developers (e.g. Microgaming, RealTime Gaming) need to seed such slots with a large amount of money in order to draw gamblers.

Reels on Slot Machine, Yellow Caution Symbol, $500,000 Text

For example, a provider might front the initial $500,000 of a jackpot. The players, through their bets, may push the jackpot to millions of dollars.

But the key thing to focus on is how much the developer seeds the jackpot with. The more money they have to pay, the less often the slot will pay. After all, the provider needs to recoup some of their initial costs.

Number of Small and Large Payouts

Jackpots aren’t the only big prizes that slot machines can offer. Some games also feature multiple other big payouts ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 coins.

Just like progressive jackpots, large prizes can increase a game’s volatility. You might have more chances to win big on these machines, but you won’t be getting paid as frequently.

In contrast, certain slots may offer an abundance of smaller prizes. These games are your best bet for wining often in the short term.

Bonuses

Bonuses are often viewed as entertaining features that spice up the action. However, they’re notable beyond just keeping you glued to the reels.

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Multiple bonuses can lead to more volatility. This is especially true when one or more of the features offer huge payouts.

Again, developers need to recoup some of the money that they lose through large wins. Therefore, bonus-filled slot machines must pay less often.

Volatility Rating

In an ideal situation, you’ll choose a slot machine that offers a volatility rating. These ratings indicate exactly how frequently a game pays, which negates the need to look over all of the factors covered above.

You can simply navigate to a slot machine’s help screen to see if it has a volatility rating. So, you’ll know the exact payout frequency of the game.

Unfortunately, most slots don’t have such a rating. Therefore, you’ll most likely need to check out the jackpot, number of small and big pads, and bonuses to make this determination.

Conclusion

Casino Slot Machine Reel, Final Thoughts Text in Red
You can form your own opinion on whether RTP or volatility is the better way to judge loose slot machines. But again, I strongly believe that volatility should be viewed as the most important determinant.

Low volatility offers you a stronger chance to win more frequently with a given slot machine. Meanwhile, high volatility lowers the odds of you winning frequent payouts.

If I go into a casino looking for loose slot machines, then I’m expecting to win quite a bit. I’m not, however, looking for a game that may have high RTP but is also stingy in the short term.

Assuming you agree, then you’ll want to focus on the different factors that can help you spot low volatility. When you know this information, you don’t even need to rely on casino advertisements about loose slots.

To recap, the main factors to consider include:

  • Jackpot size
  • The amount of large payouts
  • The amount of small payouts
  • The number of bonus features
A game with a huge jackpot can’t afford to pay players on a frequent basis. After all, the developer of that top prize wants to earn back their investment and more.

Likewise, a slot that features several big non-jackpot prizes won’t pay out very frequently. This is yet another situation where the provider is looking to make money back for the big prizes they’re offering.

Finally, bonus features also play an important role in volatility. While bonuses may be entertaining, they can also lower the payout frequency.

You may ultimately decide that loose slots are those with the highest RTP. This line of thinking is good when you have a few favorite slot machines and want to know which one(s) will pay the best over time.

If you’re just heading to the casino for quick trip, though, then you should look for the least volatile slots. These games are more likely to provide payouts over the course of a single session.

What Is the Gambler’s Fallacy (And What Does It Mean to You)?

Man-Holding-Smiley-Face-Happy-Sad-Dice

The gambler’s fallacy is one of several gambling myths. It is based on the assumption that a series of random events follows a pattern. If such a pattern exists, then it follows that the pattern should reverse trends at some point.

But if there’s a pattern, then the events are not random. By definition, a random event cannot be predicted.

And if it’s unpredictable, then there cannot be a true pattern. Mathematicians say that long series of random events include “local patterns” that don’t predict anything about future events.

Randomness is sometimes described as independence. The independence of two random events means that neither influences the other. Coin tossing is often used to illustrate how randomness affects statistics and probability.

If a person tosses a coin 1,000 times and records the results, that person can compute a probability distribution describing the percentages of “heads” and “tails” results.

That probability distribution makes no prediction about how many of the next 1,000 coin tosses will result in “heads” or “tails.”

On the other hand, given the knowledge that there are only two sides to a coin, the rules of statistics and probability say there’s an approximately even chance (probability) that any future coin toss results in either “heads” or “tails.”

For me, a simple way to explain this apparent contradiction is to say, “probability in the past is fixed and certain, but probability in the future is not fixed.” That is why philosophers and everyday people say “the future is what you make of it.”

Why Is It Called “The Gambler’s Fallacy?”

The concept has a more scholarly name in “fallacy of the maturity of chances.” The earliest credited use of this phrase is Hoyle’s Games, 1907 edition. The text used roulette to illustrate the principle. The 1907 edition included the following paragraph in the section on probabilities:

“Some persons imagine that because the odds are so great against any event happening a certain number of times in succession, that when it has happened so many times it is very unlikely to happen again. If the ball in the roulette wheel has not fallen in the red for ten rolls, they think it must come red next time. This is called the ‘maturity of the chances’ and by betting on this fallacy, many millions have been lost.”

Hoyle didn’t invent the phrase. Several journals and books referred to “maturity of the chances” in the 1800s. An 1877 novel, A Woman-Hater, describes the principle using roulette.

The scenario played out in real life in Monte Carlo, 1913. After that time, the phrase “Monte Carlo fallacy” became popular.

A 1963 paper published in The Journal of Psychology titled “The Maturity of the Chances: A Gambler’s Fallacy” introduced the modern name by which the concept is now known. The name caught on in popular literature and has been used ever since.

Some Random-Seeming Things Really Are Parts of Patterns

Card games provide good of examples of how randomness affects a limited set of probabilities. There are only 52 cards in a standard playing deck. The probability of any 1 card being drawn from a full deck is 1 in 52.

As cards are dealt, the probability for any one remaining card being drawn improves. The ratio comes down on the right side to 1 in 51, 1 in 50, etc.

This is why advantage players are able to count cards in blackjack. The remaining possibilities may be unpredictable, but each one becomes more likely as the deck or shoe loses cards to the table.

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True randomness is not achieved in any kind of card game. The limited number of cards always have some order when kept together as a deck. The players are simply unaware of the order of the cards.

Gaming machines use random number generator chips to simulate random sequences. Research in the field of computer science continues to improve the algorithms these chips use. Older chips’ algorithms can be reverse-engineered with a supercomputer.

The randomness that most casino games count on depends on players being unaware of the RNG algorithms or the shuffled order of playing cards.

Among the well-known casino games, the most random games are craps and roulette. Craps is random because players take turns throwing the dice. Roulette is random because the wheels are designed to minimize wear and tear from friction with the ball.

Casinos also change out dice, balls, and wheels as necessary to ensure the games remain as fair and random as possible.

Slot Machine Games Are Considered to Be “Random Enough”

Slot-Machine-Row

The only documented case of slot machine RNG chips being reverse-engineered occurred a few years ago. A Russian gang acquired older slot machines from several casinos. They hired computer experts to tear the machines’ computers apart.

Using a super-computer, the Russians sent operatives into casinos around the world. The operatives played slot machine games similar to those that had been studied by the gang’s experts.

The players used their smartphones to transmit live video of the games back to the super-computer, which determined how to beat the games. The players stole a lot of money before the casinos caught them.

Land-based casinos have changed their security procedures to protect against this kind of cheating. It’s not clear if online casinos have been compromised in the same way. To do so, criminals would have to possess one of the gaming platforms that online casinos lease from software companies.

Hopefully, the data centers are well-protected and the software companies do a good job of vetting who leases their systems.

Because it’s so hard to reverse-engineer a slot game, the casinos make most of their profits from slots. Serious players advise people not to play slots with any hope of making money. People should only play slots for fun, if at all.

The Gambler’s Fallacy Is Less Likely to Happen in Sports Betting

Although honest bettors remain ignorant of the outcomes of all competitions, a thorough knowledge of team skills and performance statistics is leveraged to weight bets.

A team that has lost every game in the first half of the season is not likely to make a dramatic comeback, although it occasionally happens. Usually, there is a change in the roster, coaching, or the team’s schedule. Sports analysts sometimes argue that a mediocre team can achieve a winning record against weaker rivals.

Horse racing enthusiasts rely on handicappers to estimate which horses are most likely to win. The handicapping process looks at a horse’s record on each type of track.

Bookies and racetracks offer odds based on two factors: which competitor they deem more likely to win and how many bets they receive at the offered odds. Racetracks and bookies must adjust their payout odds as the weight of bets shifts one way or another.

A naive bettor might go against the odds on the assumption that something has to change. But more experienced bettors take every available fact into consideration. Consistently losing competitors do tend to lose more often than not.

Betting Systems Based on the Gambler’s Fallacy May Still Be Useful

Despite the fact that a system wrongly assumes a series of random events is more likely to change going forward, some betting systems make good recommendations for sizing wagers.

If a betting system recommends using modest bets, that’s prudent. The system’s assumptions may be invalid but the betting limits could be worth following.

There is also the psychological factor. If a betting system teaches you to change what you bet on, that may make the game more interesting. Ignoring the predictive factor, players can gamify the game by waiting to see what happens.

As long as the player maintains a true perspective, it’s fun to see a false prediction come true. Just don’t count on it happening again.

Conclusion

Some players run simulations of games into millions or billions of iterations. They do this to estimate the “true probabilities” of results.

These simulations don’t ever predict the future. They are as guilty of the gambler’s fallacy as any betting system that assumes the next ball must be red or odd.

If you’re not just gambling for fun, never lose sight of the fact that the casino is counting on you not knowing what happens next. They’ll do whatever is necessary and legal to ensure the next event is a surprise.

At best, you can leverage your knowledge of a game to make wiser choices. At worst, you could fall for the gambler’s fallacy without realizing it, even though you’re aware of what it is.

The 5 Best Online Slot Machine Games to Play During Autumn

Autumn Trees Background Scenery, Laptop Displaying Online Slot Game
There’s something about autumn weather that makes one want to walk through the woods, kick up a few red and gold leaves, and feel the brisk wind. This iconic fall feeling only happens in certain areas. Autumn in the desert is more about colorful sunsets. In the south, it’s more about a relief from the summer heat.

For people who don’t live near deciduous forests, the next best thing is to get the fireplace going and put on an action-packed horror flick. If that isn’t your type of entertainment, might I suggest autumn-themed slot games?

People who enjoy online slots know what I’m talking about. There are some pretty cool fall-themed slot machine games to play online.

I’ve yet to find an online slot that allows you to reap a great corn harvest. But I’ve seen plenty of mysterious and exciting games offered by different slot developers. These are the best online slot machine games that put me into an autumn state of mind.

1 – The Rift by Thunderkick Games

This game should appeal to players who enjoy simpler slot mechanics. It’s a basic push and spin game with a free spins bonus. The game’s autumn appeal is in the electronic music that sounds similar to many vampire movie soundtracks and the steam punk motif.

The background image shows you a foggy street at night. Supposedly, an interdimensional rift has opened up. The game symbols include stop watches, arcane books, and strange tokens or coins.

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The bonus game begins as a basic free spins win. But, as the wild symbols appear, you’ll realize there’s a second layer to the bonus feature.

You have a chance to win more spins and complete a circuit for a Big Win.

The wilds in the bonus game are also sticky and the animations are state of the art. The regular game features a Cthulhu-like octopus symbol. Something about its eyes says it’s not from our oceans!

You could almost put this game on in the background and just listen to the music all day long. It’s mesmerizing and relaxing, and it’s the perfect slot game to get you into the spooky autumn mood.

2 – Max Quest: Wrath of Ra by Betsoft

Max Quest Online Game by Betsoft, Betsoft Logo
I wish there were more “slot” games like this. It’s a shooter game, so anyone who loves carting a weapon around in a mystical ruin should enjoy it.

The concept is based on “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Tomb Raider,” “The Mummy,” and a few other great fall movies. For the most part, you’ll be shooting monsters in an Egyptian pyramid.

After the game loads, you choose one of five rooms to explore and clear them. But don’t expect it to be simple! You’re paying for the shots you make and winning prizes at the same time. That’s the “slot” effect. You can miss or hit your target.

The bigger mummies are hard to kill but the scarabs burst out in hordes and swarm all over the place. There are multiple weapons to choose from and three different ways to shoot.

  1. You can point and click
  2. You can point and right-click, which chooses targets for you
  3. You can hold down the space key and point

It takes multiple shots to kill most targets. You earn experience points as you kill mummies. There’s one giant mummy that is HARD to kill, but the prize is worth it.

The game assigns quests and awards prizes for completing them. If you want to use special weapons, you have to pay for those. Be sure that you’re winning before you start spending and always practice proper casino bankroll management!

Once you clear a room, Ra rises. Good luck!

3 – Jackpot Raiders by Yggdrasil Games

This game uses a high-quality cartoon graphics style. The music is symphonic in quality and is reminiscent of soundtracks from B-quality adventure movies.

It begins as a basic five-reel click and spin game. But there are several ways to win bonus games and you collect relics along the way to win one of five bonus features.

These “collect the token” games can be boring or fun to play. It depends on how easy it is to score the bonus tokens. The scatter game allows you to pick one of five chests. You may get a relic from one of them, another scatter, or a free spins bonus.

During the free spins game, you hunt for treasure in the form of gems that are collected in five groups by color. If you complete the set for any one group, you win an additional prize.

4 – Dragon Kings by Betsoft

Online Game Dragon Kings by Betsoft, Stack of Money Going Up
The autumn-related aspect to this game are the red and gold colors. Dragon Kings is a classic Asian-themed “lucky dragon” game. And it’s a good one!

The sticky wilds make it a more interesting five-reel game than most. The music isn’t bad either. The center reel also has an expanding wild in the form of a golden dragon (the Dragon King).

The free spins bonus triggers an increase in tempo in the already upbeat music. Some new symbols appear in the game. Getting to the free spins bonus requires patience as you must win enough scatters to trigger it.

If you’re feeling lucky, you can buy the free spins feature by clicking on the “Buy” button.

It’s more like paying in advance for 30 spins, but there is a chance you’ll win your money back and more.

There is a sixth reel with a single slot. When the magical dragon pearl appears on this reel at the same time as a free spins bonus is triggered, the number of spins is doubled. If the pearl appears when the Dragon King appears in the main reels, a jackpot is awarded.

5 – Dr. Acula by Rival Powered Games

At first glance, you may be tempted to pass this game up. It’s a simple three-reel game and there’s no bonus feature.

The music is based on classic pipe organ riffs used in old vampire movies. Dr. Acula is obviously based on You-Know-Who and his lovely nurse assistant could send chills up the spine of any corpse.

The graphics are done in Rival’s trademark anime and manga style.

What I like about this game are the special effects on the spins and reels, and the fact that you win small prizes quite often makes it appealing.

I’ve played several other vampire games that shall remain nameless. They had 3D graphics and special features but were less exciting than this spooky-themed game.

Let that be a lesson to all game software designers: Don’t make me wait for a mediocre bonus feature!

Most vintage three-reel slot games only offer one payline. But Dr. Acula is generous in providing five paylines.

Dr. Acula Slot Game By Rival Powered Games, Pile of Cash

My only advice to players is to NOT reduce the number of paylines you play. While it’s cheaper to do that, your chances of winning a prize are reduced. The pay table odds are calculated for all paylines being active.

Conclusion

When I picked a handful of online slot game makers, I was hoping for more Halloween-themed games. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in some of the selections.

The developers that are still publishing Flash games are in for a world of hurt, as most of the browsers and Adobe have terminated Flash. After 2020, we won’t even be able to activate the Flash plugin in modern browsers.

I like interactive games the best, but if you mix it up and give the player a lot of features, the game doesn’t have to be interactive. Wrath of Ra has to be the coolest “slot” game I’ve ever played but it is barely recognizable as a slot game.

When reviewing these games, I tried to choose something for everyone. Online gaming continues to evolve and maybe in a few years, there will be more interesting games for autumn lovers.

Why You Always Lose When You’re Gambling in a Casino

Gambling Loser-Chips-Keys_Table Game

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but many (if not most) of the casinos in Las Vegas are opulent. The buildings are exquisite, the decorations are lavish, and even the smallest of details scream luxury.

They can only afford that kind of opulence because you always lose when you’re gambling there. But how and why do you keep losing?

My dad would tell you that it’s because the casinos cheat, but that’s misleading.

This post explains the real reasons why casinos always win.

1 – Losing Is the Price You Pay for Playing Casino Games

Of course it’s disappointing to lose money during a gambling session. What’s worse is sometimes you lose all your money faster than you expected to. It’s hard to not spend time at the bar, throwing down drinks, imagining what you could have spent that money on if you hadn’t lost it.

But everyone who gambles in casinos experiences this. If you’re realistic, you’ll understand that this is how it’s going to happen most of the time for most gamblers. Even if you’re a seasoned stock market or real estate investor, you face the risk of losing money.

In fact, any time you risk money with the hope of a reward, you face the possibility of losing that money. You only have three possibilities in these situations:

  1. You break even.
  2. You lose money.
  3. You make money.

Even if you put your money in a sock under your mattress, you’re going to lose money. Inflation will make sure that such money is worthless when you get it back out than it was worth when you squirreled it away.

And gambling is, by its nature, a high-risk venture. That’s why it’s called gambling.

Your job is to make sure you don’t risk money you can’t afford to lose. My advice is to set aside a gambling bankroll that you don’t need for any other purposes.

Scared money always loses, and if you’re losing a lot at the casinos, you’re probably gambling with money you can’t afford to lose (“scared money”).

I have friends who take their grocery money to the roulette table with the goal of doubling or tripling it. They usually come to me for a loan, a meal, or some groceries.

2 – Casino Gambling Is an Entertainment Expense

Casino-Row-of-Slot-Machines

It’s normal to get mad or frustrated when you’ve lost a lot of money at the casino. If losing were fun, the casinos would have ALL the money instead of just a lot of it.

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Avoid gambling if you’re not financially healthy. Avoid gambling if you feel guilty about gambling. If you do gamble, consider it a form of entertainment with a cost associated, just like a movie or a magazine subscription.

If you win, great, but always prepare yourself for the possibility of losing.

That’s the good news about casino games, too. Even though it’s entertainment, in the long run, you’ll lose your money. Sometimes, in the short run, you can come out ahead and win money. If that never happened, no one would ever gamble, and the casinos would go out of business.

If you only gamble with money you can afford to lose, you’ll limit the amount of frustration and guilt you feel after a losing session.

On the occasions when you win, you’ll feel even better because you won’t be thinking about how much money you’ve lost up until this point.

3 – Casinos Don’t Cheat, but the Odds Are Stacked Against You

Remember earlier when I mentioned that my dad thinks casinos cheat? He’s wrong, but he’s not that far off.

roulette-wheel-closeup

Casinos don’t cheat in the respect that they control which playing card you get next in blackjack. They’re unable to affect the outcome of a roll of the dice. They can’t decide which number comes up on the next spin of the roulette wheel.

Instead, casinos get their edge by paying off your bets at odds that give them a mathematical edge that’s realized over time.

The hypothetical casino has a game where you bet on a coin toss. You’re required to bet a minimum of $5, but you’re also required to post a 14 cent “ante.” When you win, you get $5. When you lose, you lose the $5. In either case, you lose the 25-cent ante.

In the long run, it’s impossible to win this game. Look at what happens to your bankroll after 100 statistically perfect coin tosses.

You win 50 times for winnings of $250. You lose 50 times for losses of $250. But you also paid a 25-cent ante on all 100 of those hands, for another $25 in losses.

You wagered $500 total, but you lose $25, or 5% of your wagers. This 5% figure is the house edge, and it’s built into every casino game you play. It doesn’t always take this form, although an ante is a popular type of fee charged by Oklahoma casinos.

4 – Most Casino Games Don’t Pay off at the Same Odds You Have of Winning

Roulette is one of my favorite games to illustrate how the house edge works because the math behind the game is so simple.  Most people know that you can place a bet on red or black at the roulette table and win almost half the time.

But do you know how to calculate the actual probability of winning and what effect that has on the long-term house edge for the casino?

Again, you can just look at a statistically perfect set of results. A roulette wheel has 38 possible outcomes, so that’s your starting point.

For illustrative purposes, I’ll just assume that you’re betting $100 per spin. On a roulette wheel with 38 numbers, 18 of those numbers are red, 18 of them are black, and two of them are green.

So, a bet on black (or a bet on red) would win 18 out of 38 spins. That’s $1800 in winnings. But this also means you’ll lose on 20 of those spins. That’s $2000 in losses.

When you subtract the amount you won from the amount you lost, you’ve seen a net loss of $200 over 38 spins or an average of $5.26 per spin.

Since that’s 5.26% of your $100 bet on each spin, you can think of the 5.26% as the house edge for the game.

5 – All Casino Games Have an Edge and There’s No Way to Overcome It

Most of my readers know that some people gamble professionally. This doesn’t mean that a professional gambler can get an edge in every game in the casino. For the most part, most casino games don’t offer you any opportunity to get a mathematical edge.

Roulette is a good example. No matter what you do, it’s impossible to change the number of possible outcomes on the roulette wheel or predict where the ball is going to land.

Slot machines are another good example. The game has payouts for various combinations, and each of those combinations has a probability of coming up. The payback percentage for the game is based on those two factors, and no amount of skill can help you affect either factor.

Blackjack is one of the few exceptions. Card counters can get an edge at blackjack by changing the size of their bets based on the composition of the deck.

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Here’s the difference between blackjack and roulette—roulette has no memory. Every spin of the wheel is an independent event.

But what if when the ball landed on a number, that number was removed from play? Over time, the probability of winning a bet on red or black might change based on previous results.

In blackjack, when a card is dealt, it’s gone from the deck until the next deal. This has implications about what’s going to happen next in the game.

A card counter keeps rough track of this and raises the size of his bets when the odds favor him. This tilts the odds back in his favor.

Conclusion

Why do you lose when gambling in a casino? The answer is simple. The games are designed mathematically in such a way that the house always has a mathematical edge over the player.

Any time there’s risk involved, you might lose. But with casino games, the odds are set up so that you’ll lose more often than you’ll win.

Finding RTP for Land-Based Slot Machines

Casino Slot Machine Up Close Showing Reels, Guy Looking Through Binoculars
Return to player (RTP) is very important in regard to the long-term chances of winning with slots. RTP (a.k.a. payback) refers to how much slot machines are programmed to pay out in the long run.

Higher payback means that a game gives you a stronger chance of winning. Therefore, you’ll do well to know the RTP behind any game that you play.

You’ll discover that it’s really easy to find payout percentages for online slot machine games. A simple Google search will produce the RTP for most internet games.

Unfortunately, you’ll have a much tougher time figuring out the RTP of land-based machines. In fact, this information is rarely available.

Is there still a way for you to determine payout percentages for slot machines in brick-and-mortar casinos? I’ll answer this question by covering more on the difficulties of finding RTP for land-based slots and if it’s ultimately possible.

Why Isn’t RTP Available for Land-Based Slots?

Unlike with many online slots, you can’t just find the RTP for land-based slot machines through Google. Your efforts will turn up little to no results.

The problem with slots in brick-and-mortar casinos is that they don’t have uniform payback across every casino. Instead, game developers allow casinos to select payout percentages based on a list of options.

Here’s an example on how this works:

  • WMS is offering Monopoly Party Train slot to Vegas casinos.
  • They feature the following RTP options: 92.5%, 93.5%, and 94.5%.
  • Caesars Palace orders this game at 93.5% payback.
  • The Venetian orders Monopoly Party Train at 92.5% RTP.
  • Treasure Island orders this slot at 94.5% RTP.

You can see the obvious challenge in trying to provide payback numbers for such games. A website could list Monopoly Party Train at 93.5% RTP, which is middle ground.

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But this figure will only be true for the casinos that have selected this amount. Meanwhile, it’ll be false across all of the other gambling establishments that choose a different pay schedule.

Most online slot providers differ because they offer their games at a uniform RTP across every casino. For example, Rival Gaming will feature Spy Game with 95.1% payback at each online casino it serves.

Some exceptions do exist in the online gambling world. RealTime Gaming (RTG), for instance, allows its casino clients to choose 91.5%, 95%, or 97.5% RTP for a given game.

You can’t find payout percentages for RTG games either. Nevertheless, you can still learn the payback for the vast majority of internet slots.

How Can You Figure out the RTP?

Row of Casino Slot Machines, Hand Holding Money Bills
You won’t be able to find the exact payout percentages for most land-based slot machines. But you can at least get a good idea on the matter through a few different methods. Here are some ways to learn the RTP for brick-and-mortar casino slots.

Make General Guesses Based on Coin Denominations

Casinos like to reward gamblers who are willing to risk more money per bet. Therefore, they order higher RTP for games with larger coin denominations.

Here’s an example on how this works:

  • Penny slot machines = 88% to 90% RTP
  • Nickel slot machines = 91% to 94% RTP
  • Quarter slot machines = 93% to 95% RTP
  • Dollar slot machines = 94% to 96% RTP
  • $5 slot machines = 95% to 97% RTP

Penny slot machines are almost always the worst games with regard to payout percentages. Larger denominations ranging from a nickel to $5 are all closer in terms of payback.

Your theoretical losses will be higher on nickel games and up just because you’re betting more per spin. Nevertheless, you can still get more value per dollar wagered with the higher-denomination machines.

Read State Gaming Reports

Rather than making generalizations about coin sizes, you can always check out state gaming reports. These reports show the average payout percentages (or house edges) for each coin denomination within a given state’s casinos.

For example, you might look at a Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) release and see that dollar slot machines are offering 94.79% RTP on average.

Interestingly enough, the NGC reports specific payout information for Megabucks. This IGT product is the most popular slot in all the popular Las Vegas casinos and warrants more detailed info.

Largely speaking, though, these reports only give general information about each coin denomination.

You won’t find the exact payout percentage for an individual game, but you’ll at least have a better guideline with these reports.

Email a Casino and Ask

One more option involves emailing a casino directly and asking them about their RTP for a specific slot machine.

The problem here is that customer service will often state that they don’t have this information available. But in certain cases, you may actually receive a real answer.

You shouldn’t count on this method majority of the time. It’s at least worth trying, though, if you’re desperate to find out the RTP for certain slots.

What to Avoid When Searching for Land-Based Slots Payback

You can see that there are a few different options for determining the payback for land-based slot machines. But there are also measures that you want to avoid on your payback-finding quest, including the following.

Relying on Signs Inside of Casinos

Many casinos hang signs above a bank of slot machines that will read something like, “Pays up to 99%.”

These signs are very effective at drawing players to slot machines. After all, who wouldn’t want to play a slot that only has a 1% house edge?

Casino Slot Machines, Guy Thinking with Hand on Chin, Caution Sign 99% RTP

Unfortunately, these signs are also very misleading. Only one of the machines within the section has to offer 99% RTP.

The rest could pay as low as 90% RTP and still make the sign valid. Therefore, you can’t rely on much information that the casino supplies you with.

Furthermore, you have no real way of knowing which of the machines offers 99% payback. The only way to make a solid determination would be to play each game for a long time and judge their payout percentages.

Using One Good Session to Determine Quality Payback

Slots are extremely volatile games that may pay a lot one session, then offer very few prizes for the next five sessions. Therefore, you can never use any single outing to judge how a game pays.

Many gamblers still make this very mistake. They’ll have one hot session with a game and believe that it offers a high payout percentage.

It would be great if finding RTP for land-based slot machines was really this simple. The reality, though, is that it’s anything but.

Blindly Believing Ads for the “Loosest Slots”

I’ve seen plenty of ads for loose slot machines when driving on the interstate. These billboards suggest that a given casino features slots with high RTP or frequent payouts.

However, “loose” is a broad term that doesn’t really mean anything. State gaming laws don’t put parameters on what constitutes a loose game.

Casinos can make this claim, regardless of whether it’s true or not. That said, you should take any such advertisement with a grain of salt.

Conclusion

You may think negatively about land-based casinos upon being unable to find RTP for their slots. After all, you don’t have to spend much time at all finding payback for online slots.

However, providers are the ones who choose whether to or not to release payout percentages. They can’t accurately do this with slot machines at brick and mortar casinos, because providers feature different RTP options.

One casino may order a slot at 93% payback, while the next orders it at 95% RTP. Developers are therefore unable to offer a uniform payout percentage for each slot.

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to give up hope. Instead, you have a few options for finding general RTP figures.

The easiest method is to make generalizations based on coin denominations. Simply put, the higher coin denominations usually offer better payback.

You can also read state gaming reports. These releases show the average amount that each coin denomination pays out within a given state’s gambling venues.

Finally, you can always email a casino directly and ask about a specific game. You won’t get the desired answer most of the time, but it’s worth trying.

In summary, finding the RTP for an individual land-based slot is impossible in most cases. But you’ll still have a general idea on how much these slots pay by following the previously covered tips.

7 Biggest Similarities Between Casino Gambling and Cryptocurrencies

Row of Casino Slot Machines, Different Bitcoin Currencies
The cryptocurrency market is often compared to casino gambling. After all, crypto investing involves plenty of risk and uncertainty.

Casino gaming and cryptocurrencies are similar in a number of ways beyond just the gambling aspect. I’m going to discuss seven of the main ways that crypto investing and online casino games are similar.

1 – Crypto and Casinos Feature Plenty of Risk

As mentioned at the outset, both cryptocurrencies and casino games both involve a large amount of risk.

The house holds an edge in casino gambling. Therefore, you need to win over 50% of the time to overcome the house edge and make profits.

For Example:
European roulette carries a 2.70% house advantage. You must win over 51.35% of your even-money wagers to make money in this game.

Cryptocurrency risk is a little different. No house edge exists, although you must pay a small trading fee (e.g. 0.5%) every time that you buy or sell a cryptocurrency.

The main uncertainty comes in how you never know if an asset will increase or decrease in value. You may think that Ethereum (ETH) will moon in the future, but you have no guarantees of knowing this. ETH could skyrocket 1,000% by next year, or it could fall by the same amount.

In a sense, cryptocurrencies are actually riskier than gambling. However, they also have more long-term profit potential when considering the lack of a casino house edge.

Casino games, on the other hand, usually involve small theoretical losses. If you’re playing baccarat (1.06% house edge), for example, you’ll theoretically lose just over a dollar for every $100 wagered.

2 – Both Involve Strategy

Split Image of Bitcoin Gold Coins and Casino Roulette Wheel, Two Silhouettes Thinking
Casino gambling can either feature a high or low degree of strategy, depending upon the game. But the key point is that many games do call for some strategy.

Poker is definitely one of the most complex casino games. You need to use critical thinking skills to consider what your opponent may hold, especially as you move up the stakes.

Roulette has far less strategy than poker. But you still need to know which games pay the best (i.e. French and European roulette) and properly manage your bankroll.

The cryptocurrency market also involves plenty of strategy. You can use different strategies depending on what your goals are.

One of the easiest plans is to “hodl,” or buy and hold an asset for a long time.

This strategy is perfect if you believe that the cryptocurrency you’re holding will definitely increase in value at some point.

You can also use dollar cost averaging (DCA) to minimize your risk in the short run. DCA involves spending a fixed amount on cryptocurrencies at a predefined (e.g. $500 on the first of the month).

You can also use more-complex strategies, such as day trading and swing trading. However, you should really get to know the market as well as the basics of both types of trading before using either.

3 – Casinos and Trading Sites Offer Bonuses and Promotions

Online casinos have become well known for offering bonuses. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a gaming site that doesn’t at least offer you a deposit bonus.

You can look forward to plenty of other rewards at casinos too, such as free spins, cashback, birthday gifts, and faster casino deposits/withdrawals.

Cryptocurrency trading sites have taken a cue from the online gambling world and offer their own bonuses. For example, they may reduce your trading fees or even give you free crypto.

Many trading sites also run frequent promotions to keep you engaged. For example, a trading platform might feature a trading contest, where the highest-volume traders receive free cryptocurrencies.

You should never choose an online casino or trading platform based solely on bonuses and promotions. However, these offers can definitely improve your bottom line in either discipline.

4 – Certain Forms of Gambling Are Also Zero-Sum Games

Casino Craps Table, White Dice Showing Loss and Win
Much like the stock market, the crypto world is often described as a “zero-sum game.” This term refers to the fact that when somebody makes money in crypto, one or more people must lose it to balance everything out.

You can make the argument that crypto isn’t exactly a zero-sum game. After all, many assets have increased greatly in price since initially being released. But generally speaking, somebody does lose money when another person gains it in the short term.

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Not all forms of casino gaming are zero-sum games. For instance, slot machines only see a few winners, while the house is the biggest winner of all.

However, poker is a prime example of a zero-sum game. For every winner, there are usually plenty of losers who are providing the profits.

The zero-sum aspect of both cryptocurrencies and certain types of gambling is why you want to study strategy. You have a better chance of making money when you’re more skilled than the competition.

5 – Both Industries Have Scammers

You should always do your research before depositing at a crypto trading platform or online casino. After all, both Industries have scammers.

The cryptocurrency world became notorious for scammers during the bull run of 2017. Everybody from YouTubers (e.g. CryptoNick and Trevon James) to projects (e.g. Bitconnect and OneCoin) were ripping off dumb money coming into the market.

Some scams weren’t even so blatant. Instead, projects gather lots of funding, put in minimal work, then abandon ship under the guise that things didn’t work out (i.e. a soft-exit scam).

Online casinos have also entailed gamblers’ worst fears about the industry. For example, the Virtual Casino Group failed to honor bonuses, didn’t pay certain players, and allegedly beat an unhappy customer.

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At the very least, you should do some light research before depositing with either an online casino or crypto trading site.

You want to know the backgrounds of any operation you’re dealing with so that your money doesn’t get stolen.

6 – You Need Discipline to Survive in the Casino and Crypto World

Sticky Note on Cork board Reading Self Discipline, Two Bitcoins
Most people view casino games as a simple form of entertainment. However, some gamblers get carried away and become addicts.

They may start betting money that they don’t have in hopes of winning everything back. Considering the house edge, these efforts usually just result in more losses and misery.

The crypto industry isn’t known for creating “addicts” in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, many people have put too much money into the market and lost big, especially during the bear market of 2018 and early 2019.

You definitely don’t want to be in a situation where you’re either gambling too much or over-buying cryptocurrencies. This is why it’s important to remain disciplined with either pursuit.

Bankroll management is a great way to keep yourself from blowing too much on casino games. You can use a variety of bankroll management methods, but the key is to put some consideration into the matter.

DCA-ing is one of the best methods of remaining disciplined with cryptocurrencies. You’ll be less susceptible to the highs and lows of this volatile market when you buy at predefined points.

7 – Cryptocurrencies and Casinos Have a Close Banking Connection

Risk isn’t the only reason way online casinos and cryptocurrencies are compared. They also have a very close bond when it comes to making internet casino deposits.

Some gaming sites have begun accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as deposit methods. US-friendly casinos are particularly fond of cryptocurrency. They use Bitcoin to get around the restrictive Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

Some players really enjoy using crypto over traditional deposit methods, such as e-wallets, bank transfers, and wire transfers.

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Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, meaning they don’t require dealing with a third party (e.g. bank or e-wallet) when making a gambling deposit.

Cryptocurrencies don’t look like they’re just a fad in the casino gaming world. Instead, more and more sites are accepting these digital currencies each passing year.

Conclusion

If you have a tolerance for risk, then you may appreciate both casino gambling and cryptocurrencies. After all, both have plenty of similarities.

First off, you can make a lot of money with each. But you should definitely know the risks associated with both crypto and casino games ahead of time.

Another similarity is that you can use strategy in both pursuits. Crypto and some casino games require a high degree of strategy to overcome the competition.

You can also pick up some nice bonuses at online casinos and trading sites. You’ll normally receive some type of deposit bonus after funding your account.

Before making a deposit, you want to research whatever trading site or casino site you’re dealing with. This research helps you avoid scammers in either industry.

You also need to remain disciplined with either cryptocurrencies or casino gambling. Each involves a large amount of risk and can tempt you into betting or investing more than you should.

Assuming you’re into both casino games and cryptocurrencies, then you can find a common link between the two. Many gaming sites now accept crypto as a deposit method.

7 Ways to Determine If Someone Is Cheating at Poker

Split Image with Hand Tucking in Poker Card Inside Sleeve, Two People Playing Poker
Have you ever played poker against someone who was a little too good? Someone who always seemed to get the right card in the highest-pressure situations and eke out an improbable win when they should have already lost? If you’ve played poker for long, then you have definitely run into such a player.

When you sit with a player on an improbable hot streak for too long, you might think that person is cheating. Be careful with that kind of thinking because, in probably 99.9% of the cases, the player is just facing a hot streak and it was just not in the cards for you to win.

It’s better to cash out and let your bankroll survive another night. After all, there is such a thing as a lucky streak even if science and statistics can’t explain them.

Let’s say that’s not the case, though. Let’s say you’re convinced that a particular player is cheating. How do you know they’re cheating? What can you do to spot behavior that identifies them as a cheat? Here are seven ways to spot a poker cheater that you can use in your real-life poker games.

1 – They’ve Played Long Hours

This first hint really only applies to playing online poker, but one of the signs of cheating will be if they have been playing online for a long period of time. By “long,” I mean an amount of time you wouldn’t expect a human to be able to play for and still be able to make coherent plays (a minimum of 12 hours but more like 18 to 24 hours).

If you notice that someone has been able to play for a long period of time, it’s possible they’re a bot which is a program that has been specially designed to play the game of poker.

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If you think that someone is a bot, then feel free to report them to the online casino, but be careful.

Weekends and holidays can affect how long someone might play, so be sure they are showing some other bot characteristics. You would probably feel pretty bad if you accused a human of being a bot and ruined their long weekend in which they planned to marathon some poker.

2 – Patterns Don’t Change

This is another good online hint that the player at the table is actually a bot. If you notice they’re constantly using the same pattern, there’s a chance they are a bot and not a human. Of course, like everything else, show some discretion before reporting someone for being a bot.

Person on Laptop Playing Online Poker Game

Really analyze the patterns of their play and see if they’re the same across a number of different scenarios: being on the button, having position, not having position, etc. This is even more important when the player in question makes the same stupid mistake in the same situations.

The people who design bots are smart, but programs cannot account for every possible poker combination. If you see the same mistake made over and over again, there’s a better chance they are a bot.

Still, I cannot give this advice without one more caveat. Some patterns are okay. For instance, don’t start reporting players for following basic blackjack strategies. That would be silly. The patterns need to be consistent (in that they happen every time, not just most times) and specific to a given situation. Then, you might have a bot.

3 – Players Always at the Same Table

This is an interesting sign of cheating in both online and live poker, but it’s a little more suspicious in online poker. In real life, it’s pretty common to head to a poker room with a friend or two, so sitting together and talking at the table is not a sign of cheating at poker. It’s an opportunity to see if they make similar hand gestures, eye moments, or use the same words over and over.

On the other hand, in online poker, there could be thousands of accounts registered for some of the larger sites.

It’s pretty rare to accidentally find yourself with the same person over and over.

Therefore, if two players are at the same table often, there’s a good chance it’s intentional. Then, given the fact you don’t know what those two players are saying outside of the game, it’s not a bad idea to assume they’re cheating and go to another table.

Unfortunately, you can’t prove anything, but you can leave to be safe.

4 – Strange Play When Two Players Go Head-to-Head

Poker Table with Cards and Chips, Silhouette Heads of Man and Woman
Again, this can be a sign of poker cheating online or live. In this case, if you notice a pattern of strange behavior when the same two players meet head-to-head, they might be cheating. By strange, this could mean one player always folds, always value bets, or always makes the same mistake.

In live poker, this could mean that two players are working together and plan to split the pot. In online poker, it could mean that one player is playing two accounts, two players are working together, or a player is teaming up with a bot.

Again, it’s hard to gauge if a given pattern really constitutes strange behavior, and it’s almost impossible to prove. Therefore, if you start to feel uncomfortable that someone is acting odd, move tables in online poker, or say something quietly to the pit boss in live poker.

5 – Too Many Strange Bets With the Odds Against Them

This mainly applies to online poker. If you find that one player is betting big when they should be folding, they very well could be cheating.

They could be lucky or bad at poker, too, but if the behavior is consistent and ensures that they win, there’s a chance they’re cheating.

This was actually a major giveaway that shenanigans were going a few years ago. Hackers were able to install malware, targeting specific top online casino sites that took pictures of players hands and let them know when to go big and when to fold.

6 – You’re Playing on a Lesser-Known Site

Guy on Laptop Computer Playing Poker Game, Warning Caution Tape Over Computer Screen
If you’re not playing on a reputable site, there’s a much, much better chance that other players are cheating. The major sites are constantly working to find frauds and prevent them from playing the game. Lesser known sites may have small IT groups that don’t have the resources to fight cheating as effectively, or they may not care as much as the big names.

With that said, you are more likely to be cheater-free on a larger site. You are also more likely to get your money back from a more reputable site, too.

7 – Too Many Improbable Wins as the Dealer

This last cheat applies to live poker only and is as old as the Old West (or at least movies about it). If you’re playing live poker in which someone besides a casino dealer is dealing, pay attention to the player’s win percentage when dealing versus when they are not.

If you suddenly find that a player who can’t count to 21 in blackjack suddenly becomes a shark when dealing, there’s a good chance they’ve spent more time learning to stack a deck than play poker.

When this happens, watch how they shuffle and deal. You might catch them in the act of cheating and save yourself some money.

Also, pay attention if another player at the table gets overly lucky when there’s another dealer. This is the scenario from Rounders in which Edward Norton deals an overly sweet hand to Matt Damon and they both get beaten up.

Conclusion

Cheating and accusations of cheating are sensational and good for headlines. That doesn’t mean you need to worry about them happening that often.

The fact of the matter is that pit bosses, dealers, computer AI, online poker algorithms, and other players are pretty good at spotting when someone is cheating in poker. And they’re usually great at taking steps to handle it when it happens. In other words, there’s no reason to be paranoid that someone is trying to cheat.

At the same time, there’s no reason for you not be aware of some of the ways that a person might cheat so that if the situation ever arose, you could spot it. In real life poker, that means looking out for table talk and shady dealing. In online poker, it usually means finding players that act like bots or searching for strange occurrences that happen too often to be a coincidence.

No matter if you’re playing real life or online, if you think someone is cheating, your best bet is to find another room. Then, report the potential cheater if there’s an authority you can do so.

A Brief Craps Glossary of Terms

Group of Friends Playing Craps - Dice With Letters Forming the Word Glossary

My favorite game in the casino used to be roulette, then I learned how to play blackjack. Eventually, craps replaced blackjack as my favorite casino game. One of the many reasons for this is because of the colorful language used at the table.

I’m not talking about swearing necessarily. I’m just talking about all the cool jargon and slang that you might hear while playing craps.

Where else in the casino do you get to hear cool expressions like “box cars,” “muleteeth,” and “snake eyes?” And where do you get to hear most of this colorful language? From the stickman, of course!

That’s the casino employee at the table with the stick. It’s his job to move the dice around the table using a stick but, more importantly, he announces the action and sells the prop bets that are available.

A good stickman is basically the P.T. Barnum of the casino, selling terrible bets with a high house edge to unsuspecting players. Readers of my blog know that it’s a good idea to never take any of the bets offered by the stickman.

But, even if you skip those bets, you should still understand all the phrases he’s using. It just makes the game more fun.

Keep in mind that these expressions are generations old, and some of them may go out of vogue after a while. I’m pretty experienced, so some of the expressions at the craps table I’m familiar with might be less familiar to you.

2-way – This is when the bettor is placing a bet both for himself and for the dealers. It’s a popular way of tipping the dealers at the craps table.

50-yard line – The center of the table. The dice have to go across the 50-yard line when you roll them.

Action – A measure of how much money is being wagered at the table. Also, if you have money that you’ve bet, that’s called money that’s in action.

Any craps – This is a one-roll bet that wins if the next roll comes up 2, 3, or 12. The odds of winning this bet are 7 to 1, and the house edge is 11.1%.

Any 7 – A one-roll bet that wins if the next roll is a total of 7. The odds of winning this bet are 4 to 1, and the house edge is 16.9%.

Ballerina special – This is when both of the dice show a 2. “Two twos.” Get it?

Big red – This just means 7. It’s considered bad luck to use the word “seven” when you’re at the craps table.

Bones – This is what they call the dice. (And you thought “bones” were dominoes, didn’t you?)

Boxman – This is one of the dealers at the table. He’s in charge of supervising the other dealers, and he’s sitting down instead of standing. You’ll find him at the craps table opposite the stickman.

Boys – The appropriate thing to call the dealers at the craps table is “the boys.” This can be inaccurate when the dealer isn’t male, but that’s just the lingo.

Broke money – This is money the casino will give a player for transportation when he’s lost all his money. I’m not sure how often this practice happens in modern casinos.

Cold – The dice are “cold” when the shooter has been rolling but doesn’t make the point.

Crapless craps – This is a variation of craps where you can’t crap out on the come-out roll. The 2, 3, and 12 are all point numbers. This is an unusual variation that never really caught on.

Garden – This is another name for the field bet.

George – This is what the dealer calls a craps player who tips well.

Hard way – The hard way bets are bets on totals of 4, 6, 8, or 10, but they only win if you roll that number “the hard way,” as doubles. There’s only one combination of dice out of 36 that results in one of these hard totals. A hard way bet loses if the total is rolled the easy way. The house edge for all the hard way bets is high.

Hit a brick – This is when the dice hit a stack of chips and don’t make it across the craps table.

House edge – The statistical difference between the payout odds and the odds of winning. The house edge is expressed as a percentage, and over an infinite number of trials, it represents the average amount of each bet that will be lost based on the math behind the game. The lower the house edge, the better the bet is for the player.

Hot – The table can be running hot and/or the dice can be running hot. This just means that the pass line bet and the corresponding odds bets are winning repeatedly. Usually, it’s when a shooter is doing well at hitting his point often as he rolls.

Little Joe – Another name for the “ballerina special,” or a pair of 2s.

Monster roll – This is when a shooter has been winning for over 20 minutes, which usually means most of the players at the table are winning lots of money.

Muleteeth – This is when both dice show a “6.” The total for this combination is 12, and you have 35 to 1 odds of getting this result. Muleteeth is also sometimes called “boxcars” or “midnight.”

Natural – On the come-out roll, the 7 or 11 wins immediately. Either of these totals is called a “natural.”

Right bettor – A right bettor is betting for the shooter to succeed, placing pass line and come bets. Most of the players at the craps table are right bettors.

Snake eyes – This is when both dice show a “1,” for a total of 2. The dice don’t have numbers on them, just pips, and a “1” has a single pip in the center of it. A snake has two eyes, and that’s what those two pips represent with this result. You can even bet on snake eyes and have a 35 to 1 probability of winning. Sadly, the payoff is only 30 to 1 on such a bet, which means it’s not worth making. The house edge is 13.9%.

Square pair – A hard total of 8, or a pair of 4s, depending on your perspective.

Washing your hands – The dealers are required to clap their hands before leaving the table. This ensures that they’re not palming chips or gambling equipment (like dice).

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! – This just means someone won or you’re rooting for someone to win. The idea is that you can spend the winnings on a chicken dinner.

Wrong bettor – A wrong bettor is someone who’s rooting against the shooter. He bets on the don’t pass and don’t come lines. The house edge for a wrong bettor is 0.05% better than it is for a right bettor, but most people are willing to give up that tiny percentage just for the sake of camaraderie at the table.

Yo eleven, take me to heaven! – This is a bet that the dice will come up with a total of 11. It’s also sometimes just called a bet on “yo.”

Conclusion

These are just some of my favorite craps terms defined. I’m sure you’ve heard others. Would you like to leave a comment with some of the more interesting slang you’ve heard at the craps table?

4 Things You Should Know About Spanish 21

Blackjack Cards Wallpaper, Spanish 21 Blackjack Logo
Spanish 21 is an interesting variation of blackjack that’s available at most casinos throughout the world, but especially in the most popular Las Vegas casinos.

And the thing about most blackjack variations is that they’re just gimmicks designed to make you lose your money faster than you would if you were playing plain old blackjack.

But after studying Spanish 21 for a little while, I’ve come to realize that it’s just as good a game as standard blackjack. And in some casinos, it’s even better.

On this page, I offer you four facts about Spanish 21 you should understand before sitting down to play.

1 – Spanish 21 Is Both Similar to and Different From Blackjack

Spanish 21 is still a blackjack game. Your goal is still to beat the dealer, either by getting closer to 21 than the dealer or by still being in the hand when the dealer busts.

The biggest difference between Spanish 21 and standard blackjack is that the 10s are removed from the deck. Note that this is just the 10s, not the jacks, queens, or kings. Those cards are worth 10, still, but they haven’t been removed from the deck.

Most casinos deal Spanish 21 from a shoe with six decks, which means that if you were using a standard deck of cards, you’d have 312 cards in play.

But in Spanish 21, you only have 288 cards left after the 10s have all been removed.

If you know much about playing standard blackjack, you probably realize that getting rid of the 10s is bad for the player, mathematically. For one thing, it reduces your chances of getting a natural, a two-card hand totaling 21, which pays off at 3 to 2.

In fact, card counters track how many 10s are left in the deck and raise the size of their bets when the ratio of 10s and face cards is favorable.

By taking the 10s out of the deck, it’s like starting the game with a negative count.

2 – Spanish 21 Compensates You for Removing the 10s, Though

The biggest thing that Spanish 21 does to make up removing the 10s is providing bonus payouts for some hands.

10 Spades Poker Card with Banned Red Logo Over

For example, if you get a hand totaling 21 that’s made up of five cards, you get a bigger payout (3 to 2). This is also true of hands with six cards (2 to 1) or seven cards (3 to 1) that total 21.

You also get bonus payouts if you have a hand made up of cards 6, 7, and 8 (3 to 2). The bonuses get bigger if the cards are suited (2 to 1), and they get bigger again if that suit is spades (3 to 1).

The same is true of a three-card blackjack made up entirely of 7s.

And if you have a blackjack at the same time as the dealer, you get a 3 to 2 payout instead of having the hand treated as a push.

There are also some huge payouts in a few rare situations. If you have a three-card 21 made up entirely of suited sevens, AND if the dealer has a seven showing, you get a $1000 or $5000 bonus. You get the $1000 bonus if you’re betting less than $25. The $5000 bonus applies if you’re betting $25 or more.

This makes one aspect of Spanish 21 strategy clear and obvious; the optimal bet size, if you’re not counting cards, is either $5 or $25.

If you bet less than that, your upside is 5x smaller than it should be. If you absolutely cannot afford to bet $25 per hand, the less you bet, the better.

You have to look at that big jackpot as a multiple of your bet size.

A $1000 bonus payout on a $5 bet is 200 to 1. A $1000 bonus payout on a $20 bet is only 50 to 1. A $5000 bonus payout on a $25 bet is also 200 to 1.

You can even get a $50 envy bonus just for being at the table when someone wins this bonus. It’s like a bad beat jackpot when you’re playing poker.

These differences change your basic strategy differences significantly. If you’re not aware of and compensating for these changes, basic strategy-wise, the casino has an edge of 2% to 3% more than they should have.

On the other hand, if you master Spanish 21 basic strategy, you can get the house edge down to less than 1%, just like you can with any other blackjack variation.

3 – Not All Spanish 21 Games Are the Same

Spanish 21 is often dealt from a six-deck shoe, but it can also be dealt from an eight-deck shoe.  In some casinos, the dealer stands on soft 17. In others, the dealer hits a soft 17. In that respect, it’s like blackjack, it’s better for the player if the dealer stands on soft 17.

In some casinos, you can redouble after splitting, but not in all of them. Some casinos completely disallow surrender, and you’ll also find the occasional casino who won’t let you hit aces after splitting them.

Some casinos treat a two-card 21 after splitting as a blackjack and pay 3 to 2, but most casinos don’t count it that way.

 

4 – The Basic Strategy for Spanish 21 Isn’t Hard to Learn

Here’s a quick guide to basic strategy in Spanish 21.

The first thing to decide is whether you should surrender. You’ll only surrender if the dealer has an ace showing as his up card, then, only when you have a total of 16 or 17. Some casinos don’t allow surrender, but if they do, this is your first decision.

Spanish 21 Blackjack Table, While Surrendering Flag

The next thing to think about is whether you should split your hand. You can only split if you have a pair. The rules for splitting aren’t that hard to remember.

  • You split 2s or 3s if the dealer has an 8 or less showing.
  • You never split 4s, 5s, or 10s.
  • You split 6s if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 showing.
  • You split 7s if the dealer has a 7 or less showing, but if the dealer has a 7, AND if you have suited 7s, you should just hit. (You’re trying to get that $1000 or $5000 bonus payoff in this situation. Ignoring this is a huge basic strategy mistake.)
  • You always split 8s unless the dealer has an ace showing.
  • You’ll split 9s unless the dealer has a 2, 7, 10, or ace.
  • Of course, you always split aces.
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Any time you have a pair that you’re not splitting, you just play it according to its hard total.

Your next decision is whether you should double down. With hard totals, you’ll only ever double down with a 9, 10, or 11.

If you have a 9, you already double down if the dealer has a 6 showing. If you have a 10, you double down if the dealer has an 8 or less showing. But you’ll make exceptions based on how many cards you have, because of the bonus payouts for 5, 6, or 7 card 21s.

If the dealer has a 2 or 3 showing, for example, you should hit if you have 5 cards. If the dealer has a 7 showing, you should hit if you have 4 cards. If the dealer has an 8 showing, you should hit if you have 3 cards.

If you have an 11, you double down if you have two cards. If the dealer has an ace or 10 showing, and you have three cards, you hit. If the dealer has a 2, 7, 8, or 9, you hit four cards. If the dealer has any other card showing, you should hit a hand with five cards.

You’ll also consider doubling down on soft 15, 16, 17, or 18. Again, if you have multiple cards, you might just hit. If you have a soft 15 versus a dealer’s 6, you’ll double down unless you have four cards. In that case, hit.

If you have a soft 16 versus a dealer’s 5 or 6, you’ll double down unless you have three cards versus a 5 or four cards versus a 6. If you have a soft 17, double down versus a dealer 4, 5, or 6 unless you have three, four, or five cards.

With a soft 18, you double down against the same dealer upcards, unless you have four, five, or six cards, respectively. You only get to the point where you decide whether to hit or stand after you’ve made the decisions regarding surrender, splitting, and doubling.

Hand Holding Poker Cards, Guy Holding Chin Thinking

Start by learning what to do with your hard hands. Unless you’re doubling down, you’ll always hit any hard total of 12 or less.

With a hard total of 13, you’ll hit unless the dealer has a 6. You’ll stand against a 6, UNLESS you have four cards, in which case, you’ll hit.

With a hard 14, you’ll also hit most of the time. You’ll stand versus a dealer 4, 5, or 6, UNLESS you have four, five, or six cards; in any of those cases, you’ll hit.

With a hard 15 or 16, you’ll hit against any dealer card of 7 or higher. You’ll stand against a dealer’s 6 or less depending on how many cards you have. If you have four, five, or six cards, you might hit.

With a hard 17, you’ll almost always stand, unless you have six cards versus a dealer’s 8, 9, or 10. You’ll always stand on a hard total of 18.

With a soft hand, you’ll hit any soft total of 17 or less unless you’re doubling down. With a soft 18, you’ll hit versus a 9, 10, or ace. You’ll also hit if you have four cards or more. With a soft 19, you’ll stand versus almost anything, you’ll hit six cards versus a dealer’s 10 or ace.

As you can see, Spanish 21 basic strategy is slightly more complicated than standard blackjack strategy.

You have to account for the bonus payouts for the hands with multiple cards in them.

Conclusion

It’s easy to dismiss Spanish 21 for being gimmicky. It’s also tempting to skip the game because of the removed 10s.

But the game has enough other bonus payouts to make it well worth playing.

The only trick is learning the correct basic strategy and accounting for the bonus payouts for getting five, six, or seven card totals of 21.

Why Do You Gamble? The Answer Is Valuable

Dice Rolling on Craps Table, Friends Playing Roulette, Slot Machine Reels
This might sound like a silly question at first, but stay with me for a few minutes. Think hard about why you gamble. Once you determine why, you might be able to use the information to improve your chances to win and find ways to enjoy it more.

The first answer that comes to mind for many people is because they want to win money. But deep down, most gamblers know they don’t win in the long run.

I put together this article because I believe that if you can take a clear look at why you gamble, it can help you in many ways. Most people are afraid they might need to stop gambling if they become truly honest with themselves.

Once I figured out my reasons for gambling, it helped me focus on the best areas. The reason I gamble is because I love competition. I want to compete against others and this drives me to improve my skills so I have a chance to win.

Because of this, I play poker most of the time. It’s a pure form of competition where I put my skills directly against my opponents.

I also like to beat the casino and sportsbook, so I do know how to count cards in blackjack, and I work at finding profitable sports betting opportunities. But my main focus is on continuing to improve my poker skills.

As you read through the reasons why people gamble below, see if one of them resonates with you. Once you determine why you gamble, think of what it means and how you can use the information to improve your enjoyment while you gamble.

The Chase

Medical studies reveal that the brain releases dopamine when you gamble. This explains the rush people experience when they risk their money in hopes of winning. Casinos use this rush to keep people gambling for as long as possible.

Cartoon Reaching for Slot Machine, Slot Machine Icon

Though I don’t have any concrete evidence to back it up, I believe most gamblers fall into this category. They know that in the long run, they’re going to lose, but the rush they get when they win overcomes what they know if they’re being honest.

I’m not saying anything is wrong with this. I get a rush when I win a bet, just like everyone else. And if you can afford to chase the rush, there aren’t many good reasons why you should stop.

If you fall into this category, I recommend playing casino games with a low house edge, so your bankroll lasts as long as possible. It’s even better if you can learn how to beat blackjack or poker. That way, you have a chance to win in the long run.

The Rush of Competition

Some people gamble because they enjoy competing against others. This can be competing against other players at the poker table, or it can be competing against the casino or the sportsbook.

The good thing about the rush of competition is, if you use it the right way, it can drive you to improve your skills.

If you enjoy competition and are playing games with a house edge that can’t be overcome, consider switching to poker or blackjack. You can use your competitive drive to improve your results.

Pure Entertainment Value

This is the category my wife is in. Sometimes I envy her, because gamblers in this category gamble just because they enjoy it. They like to win, but they don’t have to win to have a good time. Many entertainment gamblers play slots, because they’re easy to play and you don’t have to concentrate to do it.

The only advice I have for people who gamble for the pure entertainment value is to stay within your budget. Gambling for entertainment is no different than going shopping or to a movie, except that sometimes, you leave with more money than you started with.

To Escape From Something

This is the only category that can be dangerous. Some people gamble to escape from the rest of their life. This can be okay if you set strict time and practice proper casino bankroll management, but it can also lead to gambling too much and too long if you’re not careful.

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If you’re gambling as an escape and don’t want to stop, I strongly suggest playing something you can beat.

Focus on learning how to count cards, finding winning sports betting opportunities, or playing poker. If you can figure out how to win while you gamble, you can afford to use it as an escape.

It’s Your Job

Not many gamblers fall into this category. While many gamblers wish they could gamble full time, very few actually do it. And many of them are just as unhappy as most people working other jobs.

Guy Wearing Sunglasses Throwing Poker Cards, Clock with Work Time Text

In order to gamble for a living, you either have to be so rich that you can’t lose all of your money or you have to be an advantage player. If you’re so rich that you can’t lose all of your money, do whatever you think makes you happy. And that includes gambling.

If you’re an advantage gambler, the odds are good that you play poker, bet on sports, or play blackjack. While there are a few other ways to gamble with an advantage, most winning gamblers are involved in one of these three areas.

From the outside looking in, it seems like a great way to make a living. What could be better than playing a game to make money instead of working for it?

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The problem with the way it looks from the outside is that it actually takes as much work or more than holding down a regular job to be an advantage gambler.

If you dig deep enough, you can find stories about professional poker players talking about the daily grind. Playing day after day, trying to grind out enough money to live on can be taxing.

I’m sure you don’t feel sorry for them, but be careful what you wish for. I’ve known quite a few poker players over the years that were good enough to grind out a living at the middle levels, and most of them eventually found something else to do. They still play poker, but being forced to play almost every day to survive takes the fun out of the game.

If you’re gambling for a living, make sure you take time out to enjoy other areas of your life. Spend time with your family and friends, doing things other than gambling that you like. If you don’t, you run the risk of burning out. If this happens, you might find that you start hating gambling as much as working a regular job.

Conclusion

Have you figured out why you gamble? If you haven’t, spend some time over the next few days coming up with an honest answer. The effort is worth it, because once you figure it out, you can make a plan that helps you enjoy gambling more and produce better results.

If you know why you gamble, use this information to your advantage. If you chase the rush or play for pure enjoyment, learn how to play games with a low house edge. You can still chase the rush and play for enjoyment, but you can do it more often and for longer playing sessions.

When you gamble for another reason, the odds are good that you should learn more about advantage play. If you can learn how to play with an edge, you can afford to gamble more because you don’t have to worry as much about losing money.

10 of the Most Successful Gamblers in History

Famous Gamblers Billy Walters, Richard Nixon, Doyle Brunson, Money Flying
Can you imagine how many gamblers have won and lost money throughout history? We’re not just talking about hundreds or even thousands of people. Hundreds of millions of people, probably even billions, have gambled something to try to win.

Almost all of these gamblers have failed. With so many to choose from, making a list of the 10 most successful gamblers in history might sound like a herculean task.

As it turns out, there are fewer success stories than you might think. Here are my picks for the 10 most successful gamblers in history.

1 –  Edward Thorp

Edward Thorp is a math professor who literally wrote the book on card counting. Beat the Dealer was the first book about card counting that mathematically demonstrated that you could beat the house edge in blackjack by tracking the ratio of high cards to low cards left in the deck.

Beat The Dealer Book by Edward ThorpHe personally used his card counting techniques in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Reno, starting with a bankroll of $10,000 provided by his friend Manny Kimmel. Their first weekend at the tables, they won $11,000.

Thorp was also one of the first card counters to use disguises to prevent casinos from backing him off.

Keep in mind that he developed these card counting techniques in 1966, when a computer less powerful than your cell phone took up an entire room in a university somewhere. There were no personal computers to rely on.

He’s also known to have won at baccarat, backgammon, and roulette, using various other advantage techniques, some of which are now illegal.

2 – Billy Walters

Most people think of Billy Walters as the most successful sports bettor in the history of sports betting in all the popular Las Vegas casinos. He’s been winning sports bets consistently for 30+ years, which is certainly enough of a winning streak that it can’t be accounted for by a “lucky streak.”

His has a true rags-to-riches story, too. He grew up poor in Kentucky, and he was (more or less) orphaned before he was two years old. His grandmother had to raise him, as his father died and his mother ran off.

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But he’s not just a famous sports bettor. Walters also owns multiple businesses, including car dealerships, a golf course, and a car rental franchise.

Not everything about his story is rosy, though. He was also convicted of insider trading and is serving five years in prison.

3 – Phil Ivey

When you’ve won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, like Phil Ivey has, you can start to stake your claim at being the best poker player in the world. According to the Wikipedia page about Ivey, multiple sources have called him the best.

I don’t even have the time to list all of his poker tournament wins. There are just too many of them.

More interesting to my readers, probably, is the tale of how Phil Ivey got involved in an edge sorting scheme to make money. In 2012, Ivey won over $11 million playing baccarat in London.

But Crockfords, the casino where he was playing, refused to pay him because they caught him using an advantage play technique called “edge sorting.” The casino called it cheating, but Ivey claims that he was just making intelligent use of an imperfection in the playing cards in use.

Ivey had a similar experience with the Borgata, too. Litigation ensued. The courts ruled in favor of the casinos, agreeing that edge sorting constitutes cheating.

Who knows what Ivey will get into next?

4 – Chris Moneymaker

You gotta love someone with the last name of Moneymaker who goes on to win the Main Event in the World Series of Poker, which is what Chris Moneymaker did in 2003. It was a huge cultural event, because he won his entry into the WSOP on the internet. This resulted in a huge influx of players to online poker sites during the so-called “poker boom.”

Pro Poker Player Chris Moneymaker, Moneymaker Autobiography Book

You can read more about Chris Moneymaker in his autobiography, Moneymaker: How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker.

One interesting note about the title of his autobiography, though. Moneymaker actually bought into the satellite tournament for $86, not $40. He just misremembered the details.

Moneymaker still plays poker and has continued to rack up winnings. He’s won over $3.5 million in his career, which includes the $2.5 million from his win at the WSOP.

5 – Don Johnson

Please don’t confuse this Don Johnson with the actor, who I love, but who isn’t a gambler (at least as far as I know).

The Don Johnson I’m referring to here is a businessman and a gambler who won over $15 million playing blackjack, and he did it WITHOUT using the counting cards technique in blackjack.

His run against the three Atlantic City casinos in 2011 and 2012 is historic now. It’s important to note that even though he wasn’t counting cards, Johnson was thinking like an advantage player. He insisted on blackjack rules that gave the house a small edge of only 0.26%.

He then negotiated a loss rebate deal with the casino that turned that small edge for the casino into an edge for the player. His losses were limited, which means that he didn’t risk much money compared to his potential win. Such a move is called a “positive expectation bet.”

It would be hard to duplicate Johnson’s success, as casinos are probably more sophisticated now, thanks to his large win.

6 – The MIT Blackjack Team

MIT Blackjack Card Counting Team, Money Spread Out
While I’m on the subject of blackjack, let’s include this group of students from MIT who counted cards as a team and took the casinos for millions. The MIT Blackjack Team isn’t a new organization either. They’ve been winning money from the casinos since 1979.

They recruited new players with flyers they posted at colleges throughout the United States, but they were selective about who they admitted to the team.

Prospective teammates had to pass a test, then they were thoroughly trained. Before being allowed to play with the team’s money, they had to demonstrate perfect play for the management of the team.

Besides traditional card counting techniques, the MIT Blackjack Team uses shuffle tracking and ace tracking techniques. It’s estimated that the techniques used by the team give them an edge over the casino in the 2% to 4% range.

They did not, however, invent the concept of team play in blackjack. Ken Uston is known for starting one of the first blackjack teams.

They even made a movie about the MIT Blackjack Team. It’s called 21 and stars Kevin Spacey. It’s an extremely loose adaptation of actual events, though.

7 – Doyle Brunson

Texas Dolly, which is Doyle Brunson’s nickname, retired in 2018, but his poker exploits are legendary. I’ve read that he invented Texas hold’em, although I don’t believe that’s actually true. He’s won the World Series of Poker twice, and he’s written multiple poker books, the most famous being Super/System.

Like Phil Ivey, who’s profiled earlier on this page, Brunson has a total of 10 WSOP bracelets.

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The number of people who’ve actually won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker is breathtakingly small, by the way.

Brunson is a member of a club that only includes four people.

If you’ve never read it, Super/System is definitely worth checking out, even though much of the language is dated.

8 – Stanford Wong

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better book about getting an edge at blackjack than Wong’s tome, Professional Blackjack. He owns his own publishing company, Pi Yee Press, and he’s a well-known gambling expert. Wong isn’t his real name, though, his real name is John Ferguson. He uses a pseudonym to stay one step ahead of casino security.

His last name has become a verb in the advantage play community. “Wonging” is when you count cards as an observer and don’t place a bet until you have an edge over the casino because of the count. It’s easy to understand why someone whose very name has become a verb used to describe a gambling technique would make a list of most successful gamblers in history.

9 – Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon Giving Speech, Poker Cards Spread OutRichard Nixon was (obviously) a highly-flawed individual, but it’s hard to imagine leaving him off a list of most successful gamblers.

Even though he never won the World Series of Poker or any major poker tournaments, he’s a huge success story because he used his poker winnings to fund his political campaigns.

In the United States, becoming president is probably the pinnacle of success.

10 – Phil Hellmuth

My favorite poker player is Phil Hellmuth who has won 15 WSOP bracelets. His nickname is “the Poker Brat.” The first poker strategy book I ever read, in fact, was called Play Poker Like the Pros.

It wasn’t the best poker strategy book I’ve ever read, just the first, and I still credit it with giving me a fundamental understanding of starting hands in Texas hold’em and the different types of players.

He’s also made several instructional poker videos.

My favorite thing about watching Hellmuth play is how emotional he gets. I read somewhere that he claims that he externalizes those emotions so they don’t come out in play. In other words, it only looks like he’s on tilt.

Conclusion

That’s my list of the 10 most successful gamblers in history, but you might have some gamblers you like better for your own reasons. If that’s the case, please feel free to pony up a name or two for consideration in the comments below.

7 Asian Casino Games Worth Trying (If You Get a Chance)

Sic Bo Table Layout, Red Dice, Poker Cards Laid Out
Casinos and gambling are a huge part of Asian culture and have been for centuries. In fact, Vegas is no longer considered the gambling capital of the world. That title has been taken over by the tiny nation of Macau, which is off the coast of China.

You’ll notice many good luck charms in Chinese restaurants or even just spending some time watching other Asian television programming. That’s because luck, chance, and fortune are tied into the culture.

The casinos in Macau cater largely to Asians, so paying attention to which games are available there can be helpful if you want to know which Asian casino games are worth trying.

In this post, I list some of the most popular Asian casino games along with notes about how to excel at each of them.

1 – Sic Bo

One of the first games I ever played in a casino was called sic bo, which is played with three 6-sided dice.

“Sic bo” means “dice pair” in Chinese.

I was familiar with the probabilities when rolling three dice because I played Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager.

Besides baccarat, sic bo is probably the most popular game in any Asian casino. It’s also popular in Atlantic City, which has a devoted Asian clientele.

Many Las Vegas casinos no longer offer sic bo, although many of them might have a single table available.

Sic Bo Game in Casino, Three Dice in Globe Logo

The game of sic bo reminds me a little bit of roulette, because you have a table full of betting options. The payoffs for all the bets are always at a rate lower than the odds of winning.

Unlike roulette, though, sic bo doesn’t offer a host of bets that all have the same house edge. The casino’s edge varies based on which bet you take in sic bo. The best thing to do, mathematically, is to always take the bet with the lowest house edge.

Betting on small (or betting on big) is your best bet. The house edge is 2.78% for either of those bets. A bet on small wins if the total of the three dice is less than 11, but you lose if there’s a 3. A bet on big wins if the total of the three dice is more than 10, but you lose if it’s a total of 18. In fact, on either of these bets, if you get three of a kind, you lose.

Most of the other bets at sic bo have a house edge greater than 10%. Those bets just aren’t worth making, although you’ll see people placing those bets all the time.

2 – Baccarat

Baccarat isn’t specifically an Asian game, but it’s the most popular game in Macau. In American casinos, slot machines dominate the gambling floor. In Asian casinos, baccarat tables do.

Baccarat seems complex, but that’s mostly because the rules are complicated. There’s no strategy to winning at baccarat, and the odds are almost as good as betting on a coin toss with your buddy, which is close to a 50/50 proposition.

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You can find plenty of descriptions of baccarat, how to play, and its variants, but here’s the essential thing to know about the game.

Always bet on the banker, as that’s the bet with the lowest house edge (1.06%). You CAN bet on the player, but you face a slightly higher house edge (1.24%).

But never, under any circumstances, bet on a tie. The house edge for that bet is 14.36%.

Those percentages vary slightly based on how many decks and which other rules conditions are in effect at your table, but they’re not too far afield at all.

3 – Fan Tan

Fan tan uses a cup and a wand along with a stack of white buttons to play. You play on a large table, and the middle of that table is covered with a plastic dome. The edges of the table are where the players make their bets.

Fan Tan Dealer at Table Shuffling Buttons, 5% House EdgeThe game begins when the dealer puts the cup over a random number of buttons. You can then choose from any of the bets on the table. After that, the dealer uses the wand to count how many buttons he had in the cup.

These buttons are counted off in groups of four, and the outcome is determined by the last set of buttons, which always consists of one, two, three, or four buttons.

The payout odds for all of the bets are the same as the odds of winning, but the casino takes a 5% commission. This makes the house edge in fan tan 5%, regardless of which bet you place.

4 – Pachinko

Pachinko reminds me of a pinball machine, only instead of being oriented horizontally, it’s oriented vertically. It’s basically the Japanese answer to slot machines.

In fact, instead of casinos, Japan has pachinko parlors, some of which also offer slot machine games.

It’s illegal to bet real money in Japan, so pachinko is played for balls, which are later exchanged for money or other prizes.

For an end run around legal gambling, the pachinko market is huge. Revenue from pachinko parlors is more than that of gambling in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore.

5 – Pai Gow (and Pai Gow Poker)

Pai gow is basically an Asian version of dominoes. The tiles are put into stacks of four. There are eight of these. Then, players make bets.

When the bets are all placed, players each get a stack of tiles and have to use those four tiles to create two hands of two tiles each. One of these is the “front hand,” and the other is the “rear hand.”

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The player wins if both his hands beat both of the dealer’s hands. The player loses if both his hands are beaten by both the dealer’s hands.

If one hand wins, and the other hand loses, it’s treated as a push. A push is what happens in casino gambling when there’s a tie. The player doesn’t lose his bet, but he doesn’t get any winnings either.

Pai Gow Poker is an Americanized version of pai gow that’s played with playing cards instead of tiles. Both land based and online Pai Gow Poker use poker hand rankings, but the gameplay is similar.

Pai Gow Poker is a great casino poker game to play, by the way, because it’s relatively slow and results in a push a lot of the time. This results in a lower than usual hourly loss rate when compared with other casino table games.

6 – Niu Niu

Woman Dealing Niu Niu Game, Ace Poker Card with Plus 1 Text
You won’t see niu niu in many (or any) American casinos, but visit some of the gambling halls in southeast Asia, and it’s ubiquitous. You can also find versions online in casinos catering to Asian gamblers.

Niu niu is a card game where the playing cards have the same values they would have in baccarat:

  • Aces are worth one point.
  • Numbered cards are worth their ranking (e.g. the two card is worth two points).
  • The jack, queen, and king are worth zero points.

Any time the total becomes 10 or greater, the number is converted to a single digit. A total of 11 becomes a one, a total of 13 becomes a three, etc. The 10 is just dropped.

You can bet on either or both of the following:

  • Double
  • Equal

Each player gets five cards, and so does the dealer. The cards get sorted into whichever hand would be best. Here are the possible hands, from best to worst.

  • A niu niu is a three-card hand worth zero points and a two-card hand worth zero points.
  • A three-card hand worth zero points combined with a two-card hand worth more than zero points is the second best hand. The higher the number of points in the two-card hand, the better the hand is.
  • Any hand where you can’t make a three-card hand with zero points.

If there’s a tie, you compare the highest ranked card in each hand to determine the winner. Aces always count low for this purpose.

If there’s still a tie, the suit of the highest ranked card breaks the tie. See the suits from high to low.

  1. Spades
  2. Hearts
  3. Clubs
  4. Diamonds

If you placed an “equal” bet, you win even money if you chose the winning side. But you have to pay a 5% commission.

If you placed a “Double” bet, you win a prize based on a pay table, but you still pay a 5% commission.

7 – Yee Hah Hi

If you ever wanted to play sic bo but without all the counting, you could try Yee Hah Hi. The game is a variation of sic bo. But instead of numbered pips on the dice, each side has a picture on it.

Yee Hah Hi dice have six different symbols in three different colors.

  • The Coin
  • The Crab
  • The Fish
  • The Gourd
  • The Rooster
  • The Scorpion

The symbols come in the following colors.

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Red

You can bet on things like “all are the same color” or “two of the dice are the same color.” The house edge for this game is actually surprisingly good at just 1.11%.

Conclusion

That’s my list of seven Asian gambling games worth trying. But it’s not even close to a comprehensive list. You probably have some favorite casino games that are also popular in Asia.

Which games would you add to this list?

7 Fascinating Facts About Daniel Negreanu (Kid Poker)

Known all over the world as one of the most successful poker players of all time, Daniel Negreanu’s life is an open book. While many celebrities guard their privacy, Negreanu puts his everyday thoughts and experiences on his blog and he has for years.

He’s got a crazy sense of humor, a lot of money, and a deep appreciation for family. Negreanu also loves to gamble and he’s not afraid to talk about his losses.

Fans know him as Dnegs, but his first big nickname was Kid Poker. He even used “kidpoker” as an email address for years.

He is funny and sometimes controversial. Whether it’s questioning socially sensitive topics like the name of the Black Entertainment Television or dressing up as Scotty Nguyen while playing against him in a tournament, Negreanu dances to his own beat in life.

Dnegs has fans and critics like all celebrities. His life has been documented a thousand ways over. But it’s always fun to learn something new about someone who has been around so long. See how many of these details about Daniel Negreanu are new to you.

1 – He Passed on Joining PokerStars

Fans know Daniel Negreanu and PokerStars go way back. But he could have been there from the beginning and chose not to be.

Writing on his own blog, Steve Badger states that, in 2001, Daniel Negreanu put him in touch with “a Canadian acquaintance” about a business proposition. Isai Scheinberg was looking for investors in the company that became PokerStars. Badger signed on but Negreanu passed.

To be fair, Dnegs was not the only person to pass on PokerStars as Badger’s article explains. It was a decision he later had a chance to reverse.

2 – He Fell in Love With Hearthstone Right Away

He’s neither the first nor the last poker player to download the app. But the way Negreanu tells it, he was about to go to a party when he began playing the app. Nearly six hours later, he realized he had missed the party.

Hearthstone is a deceptively simple game. Players use cards to fight matches between heroes and minions. Who goes first and which character is played weighs heavily on the outcome of the game.

Daniel Negreanu Playing Hearthstone Against ElkY

There are costs to every decision and rewards for completing daily quests. The strategic components of the game obviously appeal to people like Negreanu. The player-vs-player action is another factor that poker players appreciate.

3 – Losing His Dog Taught Him Something Profound

The Negreanu family had a dog named Lucky. Early in Daniel’s poker career, he was still living with his family. According to a blog post he wrote years later, he was taking a shower when his father cried out, “Lucky’s dead! Lucky’s dead!”

The family was distraught over their loss, but Daniel couldn’t allow himself to cry. He felt the grief, but his feelings wouldn’t show. In his own words, Dnegs analyzed what happened.

“By that time, I’d already been playing poker on a daily basis and I was getting better and better. My knowledge base was steadily growing, my reading ability was improving, and MOST importantly, my emotional control was becoming more stable. So, as I was getting better and better at hiding my emotions, I think that ability spilled over to my personal life and had a negative effect on me. It basically numbed my heart, and that’s not something I wanted as a by-product of being a good poker player.”

The life lesson he learned from this introspection was to not be afraid to show your feelings outside the game. “Don’t numb your heart.”

4 – He Paid a Backer 50% of His Winnings in the 1990s

Everyone knows that it’s easier to stake a good player for a piece of their action than to master the game and go up against thousands of other good or great players.

Daniel Negreanu began staking himself in poker tournaments in 2000, according to this New York Times Magazine profile. Until then, he needed a backer who took a 50% cut from everything he won in the tournaments.

Being able to cover his own entry fees allowed Negreanu to grow his wealth that much faster. And his independence has transferred into other financial areas of his life.

He’s not afraid to lose $100,000 of his own money on a single bet.

5 – He Has Lost Millions Playing Golf

In July 2019, Negreanu shared some of his golf stories with the No Laying Up podcast.

He’s lost about $3 million on golf bets, including a $1.2 million loss to poker rival and friend Phil Ivey. But he claims to have won it back over the years.

The best story he shared concerned a $550K bet he made about improving his game at TPC Summerlin. He had a year to get his score down. Waiting until the last month before the deadline, he started playing golf 12 hours a day.

With a little more than a week to spare, he played his final round to win the bet. On the last shot, he needed to sink a six-foot putt. His knees gave out on the shot, but he sank the ball.

6 – He Shared His Conversion to Veganism on His Blog

You must use the Wayback Machine to read the post now, but in November 2002, in November 2002 Daniel told his readersDaniel told his readers about when and why he decided to stop eating meat.

His Romanian mother loves to cook and she raised her family on hearty meaty dishes. Although skeptical of her son’s new diet, she bought vegan cookbooks and learned to prepare wholesome meals for him.

Food is an important part of the Negreanu family life. In interviews like the New York Times article above, Dnegs shares how his mother constantly uses food to entice him away from poker.

Daniel Negreanu Surrounded by Vegetables

If he’s winning, he’s won enough and should come eat. If he’s losing, it’s not his day, so he ought to come back and eat. If he’s breaking even, well, that’s a good time to take a break and eat.

Going full vegan in 2006, Negreanu doesn’t push his beliefs on others. But when people talk to him about why he doesn’t eat meat, he asks them probing questions that challenge their comfort.

He credits his change in diet with improving his poker game, too. He sometimes felt lethargic after eating a heavy meal. After switching to a vegan lifestyle, he had more energy, his game improved, and he manages his weight well.

7 – His Advice on Poker Tells Goes Against Conventional Wisdom

In the early 2000s, Dnegs wrote an article for CardPlayer Magazine that he republished on his blog, the legendary “The Truth About Tells.” The article was republished many times on amateur poker blogs for years and cited in books and magazines.

Negreanu challenges the conventional wisdom of watching players’ body language. His philosophy is that the tells are in the action, not in subtle hand movements and nervous tics.

To this day, gambling bloggers dwell on body language stereotypes when discussing tells.

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The most stunning and game-changing revelation in Negreanu’s article for many players was the reveal that professionals will intimidate less experienced players by doing one thing—nothing.

Holding nothing in your hand, you can drag out a decision for minutes before folding, and the other player may be so relieved he won that he won’t challenge you again.

Maybe this advice has been lost on bloggers who don’t dig deep enough in Bing and Google’s search results for their “10 tips” articles, but experienced players still know that half the other player’s bluffing is in his silence.

Conclusion

Love him or hate, Daniel Negreanu helped change the game of poker. He was among the first generation of young superstars to take the game away from the older players.

He has been more open with his followers about his private life than many a celebrity, and he’s honest about his mistakes. He seems to take life in stride.

Doyle Brunson said at one time that Negreanu may be the best poker player ever. It doesn’t really matter who agrees with that judgment. As long as Dnegs keeps playing the game, people will have interesting things to share about him.

Daniel Negreanu isn’t afraid to live life the way he wants.

Casino Gambling and Taxes (How Does THAT Work?)

IRS-Gambling Winnings

When you file your federal income tax this year, be sure to account for any gambling winnings. That’s taxable income, and if you’ve won enough money, the casino has filled out a form and reported that income to the IRS.

That might sound like bad news, but it’s not all bad news. If you’ve kept a diary of your losses at the casino, you can use that to offset your winnings. You only pay taxes on your net winnings from the casino.

But you can ONLY deduct losses up to the amount you won. You cannot deduct more than that. Also, if you’re going to take this deduction, you do have to itemize your return.

I like to suggest to people that they keep a blog and sell advertising on it as a side hustle. If you do that, it’s theoretically possible to consider any money you spend at the casino a tax deduction. I’m not an accountant or a lawyer, so consult a professional before following this strategy.

You can read the official IRS information about gambling income on the IRS website. I’ll provide further coverage and observations in this post.

How to Keep a Gambling Diary

If you gamble at all in a casino, you should keep a gambling diary. This just tracks your wins and losses. You should include the following information in your gambling log:

  1. The dates you were gambling
  2. The games you were playing
  3. Where you were gambling
  4. Who was with you
  5. How much you won or lost on the trip

You should also keep supporting documentation. This might be the form that the casino provides when you win a jackpot. It could also be the receipts from the ATM for the money you withdrew to gamble with.

You can also ask the casino to give you a record of your action based on what is reported when you used your slots card. And yes, you should always use your slots card while you play.

What Does the IRS Say About Gambling?

The information presented on the IRS website is aimed at casual or recreational gamblers. If you’re operating a casino or bookmaking operation, this information might not apply to you.

Casino Table

The most important piece of information on the page is that yes, your winnings are completely taxable. You are required to report that income.

They provide examples of casual gambling activity that might count:

  • Casino games
  • Horse betting
  • Lotteries
  • Raffles

Cash isn’t all that counts as income either. If you win a car or a vacation, the fair market value of that prize is taxable.

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The casino uses a form called the W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings to give you a record of winnings beyond a certain level that you’re required to pay taxes on. You’re required to report this income on your tax return in the “Other Income” section of your tax return.

As I pointed out earlier, you can deduct losses, but only up to the amount that you win. If you saw a net loss for the year, you can only deduct the amount you won.

How Much Tax Do I Owe on My Gambling Winnings?

As of this writing, the tax rate for gambling winnings below $5000 are a flat 25% of the amount you won. But that’s only if you’re a recreational gambler.

If you’re a professional gambler, you pay tax on it at the same rate as your taxable income. Professional gamblers must file taxes as if they’re self-employed.

What About State Taxes?

There are 50 individual states in the United States of America. Each of them has its own law regarding taxes. Texas, for example, has no income tax at all. It does, however, have a higher sales tax than most other states.

So, yes, some states require you to pay taxes on your winnings, while others might be more forgiving. I recommend that you check with an accountant or a tax attorney regarding your specific situation in your state.

What About Nonresidents?

If you’re a nonresident, you report your income on Form 1040NR. The NR stands for nonresident. The tax rate for gambling winnings for a nonresident is slightly higher, 30% instead of the usual 25%. Nonresident aliens don’t get to deduct their gambling losses either.

There’s an exception for Canadian citizens gambling in the United States. They’re allowed to deduct their gambling losses just like American citizens can. This is part of a tax treaty between the United States and Canada.

President Trump has been getting the United States out of treaties with other countries. So, you should double-check this fact with your tax professional, too.

We encourage you to double-check all this information with your tax professional in case of any changes. That’s just sound fiscal policy.

Other Countries Do It Differently

If you live in the United Kingdom, you do NOT have to pay income tax on your gambling winnings. Even if you’re playing in another country, if you’re an English citizen, you probably don’t have to pay taxes on your winnings there. That’s because the UK has treaties with other countries related to taxes that cover you.

UK Casino

That being said, if you’re a huge winner, the UK does charge you if you win more than a certain amount. They assume that anyone winning more than that amount isn’t a typical recreational gambler. After all, if you make enough money at an activity that it pays all your bills, it’s hard to not consider it income.

England is more typical of other countries’ attitudes toward gambling winnings and taxes than the United States. Most countries don’t tax money you’ve won gambling.

France, Mexico, and Spain are exceptions. Each of them require you to pay taxes on your winnings, although they don’t seem to charge as much as the United States.

Conclusion

My best advice to any of my readers is to always pay your income taxes. There’s no positive expected value in trying to get out of it.

Also, don’t use a blog post like this one to get the real details about paying taxes on your gambling winnings. Visit the official IRS site if you’re from the United States, and follow the instructions there.

Or better, consult a tax professional. Finally, if I can offer one more piece of advice: Keep detailed records.

The 3 Best Places to Play Three Card Poker When You Visit the Las Vegas Strip

Three Card Poker Game and Las Vegas Strip

Of all the hybrid table games that made up the “New Wave” of casino offerings in the 1990s, Three Card Poker reigns supreme.

And that was by design, at least when Three Card Poker’s inventor Derek Webb tells the tale.

In 1994, when both Caribbean Stud Poker and Let It Ride were taking the table game industry by storm, Webb wondered if he might be able to fuse the best elements of both games to create a casino classic.

Speaking to Global Gaming Business in 2017 as part of a retrospective on Three Card Poker’s rousing success; Webb explained how the first hybrid table games provided plenty of inspiration:

“I wanted to design a three-unit bet game that incorporated what I thought was the best of Caribbean Stud and the best of Let It Ride, and it was going to be naturally faster than Caribbean or Let It Ride.

But also, the design needed to make sure that we got the three bet units out more frequently than Caribbean or Let It Ride. And those two combined features meant that it could go with a lower house advantage than either of those games, and give the player a more positive experience, and at the same time, create a higher win for the operator.

So, in effect, you’re serving both sides of the table better than what was already out there.”

And boy did he ever succeed in that regard…

By blending a relatively low house edge (3.37 percent) on the base game with a more volatile Pairplus side bet (7.28 percent), Three Card Poker offers the best of both worlds for casinos and players alike.

Throw in one of the easiest basic strategies to master in all of gambling – in Three Card Poker, all you need to know is to make the “Play” bet with Q-6-4 or higher, while folding everything worse – and the game holds mass appeal for recreational players and sharps too.

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Aside from the staples like blackjack, roulette, and craps, Three Card Poker takes up by far more table game placements than any other game on the floor.

While players nowadays might find one or two Let It Ride or Caribbean Stud Poker tables at their favorite Las Vegas haunts, you can expect upwards of 10 Three Card Poker games running at the same time.

And unlike those classics, the casinos haven’t done their dark magic to make the game worse for players. You won’t find any inferior pay tables or reduced payouts in Three Card Poker, just the beautiful game as Webb designed it all those years ago.

Three Card Poker With Red Background Casino Chips And Text

If you’re planning to visit the Las Vegas Strip anytime soon, and Three Card Poker is your game of choice, be sure to hit the three Sin City venues listed here.

1 – Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino

First things first… Caesars Palace in the heart of The Strip has the most Three Card Poker tables on Las Vegas Boulevard at 10. That means you’ll never be stuck waiting around to find an empty seat, even on the busiest weekend nights and holidays.

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Seven of the tables at Caesars Palace use a $10 minimum bet and $500 maximum bet, while lower-stakes players will likely prefer the lone $5 / $500 table. And you’ll also find a pair of $15 / $500 tables better suited for the high roller crowd.

But while variety is indeed the spice of life, gamblers are looking for juicy life-changing jackpots – and Three Card Poker at Caesars Entertainment properties have that covered in spades.

Well, in diamonds if we’re being technical about it…

“Caesars Entertainment casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City are offering up a Three Card Poker “side bet” that’s too incredible to be ignored: Combine your three cards with the dealer’s three cards to make a six-card royal flush in diamonds…and fly home a millionaire.

Sound impossible? Tell that to the more than half-dozen players who’ve already taken home the million-dollar prize.

Oh, and if you score a six-card royal flush in a different suit, you won’t go away empty handed; you’ll take home $100,000. Not too shabby, right? (You can confirm this non-shabbiness with the dozen players who’ve taken home the $100k prize.)”

Take a look at how Caesars Entertainment describes its Six-Card Royal Flush Progressive Jackpot side bet attached to table games like Three Card Poker:

Breaking that advertising copy down, this amazing addition to Three Card Poker is known as the 6-Card Bonus side bet. For an extra $5 on top of your base Ante bet, you’ll be eligible to take home a progressive jackpot that seeds at $1 million.

And while the odds of landing the perfect 9-10-J-Q-K-A “Super” Royal Flush in all diamonds are quite steep against players – try 1 in 2,598,960 for a house edge of 18.10 percent – folks who can afford an extra $5 outlay have a chance win lottery-like seven-figure sums.

That’s exactly what happened at the Caesars Palace Atlantic City sister casino back in 2011, when an anonymous winner pocketed a cool milly after the cards cooperated like clockwork.

If you’re looking for a more local Las Vegas connection, the Caesars owned Flamingo on The Strip paid out $1 million to a San Diego tourist in 2017 thanks to the 6-Card Bonus.

And that’s the beauty of playing Three Card Poker at Caesars Palace. If the deck isn’t delivering there, you’re only a short walk across Las Vegas Boulevard from Caesars venues like Flamingo, Bally’s, Paris, and all the rest.

Jay Bean – the company’s Vice President of Table Games – made sure to link the million-dollar progressive jackpot on table games to all Caesars properties:

“By linking them citywide it only increases all our jackpots faster, resulting in millions of additional prize money awarded in Las Vegas.”

2 – The Venetian and Palazzo

I’ve got progressive jackpots on the brain now, so let’s stick with that script by covering the twin casinos Venetian and Palazzo.

While they don’t fall under the Caesars umbrella, the Venetian and Palazzo sister casinos offer their own version of the Three Card Poker progressive.

And this one is much easier to bag too, as you only need a natural five-card Royal Flush to take home the bacon.

Just ask Sean Berry, who visited the Venetian from Ohio in June of 2019 to play Three Card Poker. After a few minutes of grinding, Berry spiked gin with a Royal Flush in clubs to win $1 million and change.

And because he only needed to use five cards, and suits weren’t factor, the odds of winning this Three Card Poker windfall are “only” 1 in 649,740.

According to Lance Gautreaux – Senior Vice President for Venetian and Palazzo parent company Las Vegas Sands Corp. – Berry’s score makes it five instant millionaires through just six months this year:

“The Millionaire Progressive has paid out more than $5 million this year. That’s five millionaires, made each from a $5 side bet. A huge congratulations goes out to all of our winners so far.”

As for the Three Card Poker tables, you’ll find three of them at $10 / $500 limits at Venetian, plus three more with slightly higher $15 / $500 limits at Palazzo.

3 – Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino

This one’s not exactly a surprise, but gamblers love to go back to the well, so the Flamingo makes the cut based on its recent progressive jackpot history alone.

But even if we leave aside the ultimate longshot of a 6-Card Bonus “Super” Royal Flush for a moment, the Flamingo is where it’s at for Three Card Poker fans.

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You’ll find seven tables at the $10 / $300 stakes, along with one more running a bigger game at $15 / $300.

And if the cards aren’t coming your way, there’s no better way to blow off some steam on The Strip than strolling through the flamingo enclosure alongside pink hued birds who couldn’t care less about wins or losses.

Conclusion

Once you get the hang of Three Card Poker, you’ll probably play the game for the rest of your casino-going life. Simplicity, elegance, plus strategy and skill elements alongside a progressive jackpot – what’s not to love? And if you love gambling it up on the iconic Las Vegas Strip, the three venues listed here are your best bet for enjoying your next Three Card Poker bonanza in style.

10 Gambling Myths and Superstitions I Hear Most Often

Casino Chips and a Deck of Cards

Would it surprise you to learn that a lot of gamblers are superstitious? Would it also surprise you to learn that some gambling myths are encouraged by casinos and bookmakers?

The first step in becoming a savvy gambler is to make sure you understand the facts about gambling. This means ignoring the myths and superstitions that are so rampant in the hobby.

Here are 10 of the most common gambling superstitions and myths. You’ll find other lists elsewhere on the internet, but many of the myths and superstitions listed on those pages are just subcategories of the 10 below.

1 – The Gambler’s Fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy is a mathematical term from the discipline of probability, which is the branch of mathematics that deals with measuring how likely (or unlikely) events are to happen or not. Gamblers and mathematicians measure likelihood using a fraction, which can be expressed in multiple ways.

For example, if something is going to happen half the time, it has a probability of 1/2, or 50%.

The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that probability changes based on previous events. For example, if a ball has landed on red six times in a row, someone can believe the gambler’s fallacy and assume that the ball is more likely to land on black on the next spin of the roulette wheel.

Most people gamble on independent events. Previous events don’t affect the probability. On a roulette wheel, you have 18 black pockets, 18 red pockets, and two green pockets. That’s 38 total possible events.

The probability of the ball landing on black is 18/38, or 47.37%. That doesn’t change based on what happened on the previous spin.

2 – Luck

You can list all kinds of examples of what people think bring good luck or bad luck. The implication is that by doing certain things, you can increase your probability of winning. An example might be someone wearing red to the roulette table, thinking that it will bring them good luck.

Any kind of good luck charm is an example of this myth or superstition in action. Bringing a rabbit’s foot on your keychain to the casino has NO effect on the probability behind the game.

Savvy gamblers don’t believe in the supernatural, at least not as it relates to gambling. And believing in good luck or bad luck. at least as forces you can somehow control, is a belief in the supernatural.

Of course, mathematically speaking, good luck and bad luck happen any time you see results that deviate from the mathematically expected results.

But that’s only visible in retrospect. You can’t do anything to make sure you get lucky in the future.

The probability of the ball landing on red in roulette remains 47.37%, regardless of what kind of good luck charm you have in your pocket.

3 – Bad Players at the Blackjack Table

Many people believe that the actions of the player at third base at the blackjack table can affect the luck of the entire table.

What’s third base? When you stand behind a blackjack table, the first person to act is the person on the far right. That’s first base. The last person to act is the person on the far left. That’s third base.

The player at third base can play the cards any way he likes and not affect the probability of you winning. As long as you’re following basic strategy, the third baseman’s actions have no effect on your outcome.

In fact, even if you’re not following basic strategy, the third baseman’s actions have no effect on your outcome.

4 – Using Your Players Club Card in the Slot Machine

Most modern casinos have a players club. When you sign up for the players club, you give the casino your contact information in exchange for a card you can insert into the slot machine while you play.

This card tracks how much money you’re wagering per hour. The casino provides you with rebates in the form of cash, food, and other perks as a tiny percentage of that action, usually about 0.2% of the amount you wager.

Many gamblers think that if they insert their players club card, it’s impossible to win the jackpot on a slot machine. Or they think the machine will run colder because the card is inserted.

Neither of those myths is true. In fact, the random number generator that determines your outcome on the slot machine has no connection to the device tracking your play.

You’re just as likely to win (or lose) on a slot machine with your players club card inserted as you are without it inserted.

5 – Don’t Count Your Money While You’re Sitting at the Table

In the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler,” he insists that every gambler knows you shouldn’t count your money while you’re sitting at the table.

The implication is that this is rude or unlucky. The truth is, it’s neither rude nor unlucky. It’s not rude unless you’re holding up the game while you’re counting. Obviously, it’s rude to force everyone else to wait for you while you count your money.

But knowing how much money you have in front of you is critical for strategy decisions when you’re playing poker. And it’s not unlucky because we don’t believe in the supernatural, remember?

How on earth would counting your money affect the probability of catching any specific kind of card?

6 – Gambling Isn’t Really Addictive

Some people think gambling isn’t addictive because it doesn’t involve ingesting some kind of foreign substance that changes how you feel. Science doesn’t agree.

Psychologists have run multiple experiments analyzing the brain chemistry of gamblers while they’re gambling. Hormones like dopamine, the same substances that get released when you’re doing drugs, are triggered by gambling, too.

Slot machines, in particular, are especially addictive. In fact, they’re similar to “Skinner boxes.” B.F. Skinner was a behavioral scientist who studied what happened when rats were given cheese when opening doors on boxes.

The rats who got cheese when they opened a box were more motivated to open a box than the rats who didn’t. But the most motivated rats were the ones who got cheese some of the time when opening a box.

This intermittent reinforcement of behavior is exactly what happens when you’re playing a slot machine.

7 – Casinos Cheat

Gamblers who think casinos cheat are on the right track with their reasoning; they’re just drawing the wrong conclusion. Casinos wouldn’t stay in business if you could win on a consistent basis.

But thinking that the casinos cheat means you believe they somehow control the outcomes of random events. And that’s not where the casino gets its edge.

The casino gets its edge by paying off bets at odds lower than the odds of winning. For example, when you’re playing blackjack, you have just as good a chance of winning as the dealer, right? After all, you’re getting the same cards from the same deck and playing by the same rules, right?

Wrong.

The dealer doesn’t play his hand until you’ve completed your hand. This means that if you bust, and the dealer busts, too, you still lose. You lost your hand as soon as you went bust, even though the dealer didn’t play his hand first.

In a fair game, if you and the dealer both busted, you’d face a push result. You wouldn’t win anything, but you wouldn’t lose anything either.

In roulette, when you bet on red, you have 18 ways to win. But you also have 20 ways to lose.

There are 18 black outcomes, but there are also two green outcomes. The bet pays off at even money, which would be a break-even bet.

The casino doesn’t have to CHEAT. The outcomes can be entirely random, and the casino will make money hand over fist.

8 – Betting Systems

This is one of my favorite misconceptions, that you can somehow increase your probability of winning by using some kind of betting system.

What’s a betting system? It’s a way of structuring your bets based on what’s happened on previous rounds of the game. You might increase or decrease the size of your bets based on whether you’re losing or winning.

One example of a betting system is the Martingale System. Using this system, you bet on something with an almost 50/50 chance of winning. The classic Martingale player will place an even-money bet at the roulette table, which means he has a 47.37% probability of winning.

If he loses, he doubles the size of his next bet, which means he’ll recoup the loss from the previous bet and show a profit the size of his original bet.

If he loses twice in a row, he doubles the size of his bet twice in a row. So, if he bet $5, lost, then bet $10 and lost again, his next bet would be $20.

This seems foolproof. After all, you’re eventually going to have to win. What are the odds that you’ll lose seven or eight times in a row?

As it turns out, the odds of losing eight times in a row at the roulette table is better than you think. And once you do, the size of your bets would become too large to be realistic. The casino has betting limits, and you (presumably) have a finite bankroll.

$5 – $10 – $20 – $40 – $80 – $160 – $320 – $640

See how fast these bets increase?

Another betting system which takes the opposite track is the Paroli system, also known as the Reverse Martingale. The idea is that you double the size of your bets after each win, hoping to get a huge win when you hit one of those inevitable winning streaks.

No betting system can ever overcome the house edge, though. Eventually, the results will ensure that you lose money.

9 – Money Management

Some aspects of money management make perfect sense. Of course you should have a bankroll set aside for gambling, and of course it should be money you can afford to lose. And yes, you should have an idea of how much you’d like to win and how much you’re willing to learn.

The main premise behind money management, though, is that you somehow reset the clock every time you sit down for a new gambling session. You set a stop loss limit, which is an amount of your bankroll for that session you’re willing to lose. You also set a win goal, which is a percentage of your bankroll that you’d like to win before quitting.

Suppose you put $100 into a slot machine. A money management proponent would suggest that you set a win goal of 20% and a stop loss limit of $20.

At any point, if your credits on the machine go over $120, you’re supposed to quit and walk away. You’re also supposed to walk away if you get down to $80. The reasons why this won’t work to help make you a winner should be obvious.

10 – Practice Makes Perfect

Some people think that if they just practice playing a casino game long enough, they’ll eventually get good enough at it that they can win.

But no matter how much you play roulette, you’ll never get “good at it.” The game is entirely random.

Even in games with a skill element, like blackjack or video poker, the house has a mathematical edge regardless of whether you play perfectly.

Conclusion

Those are the 10 gambling superstitions and myths that I hear most often. Did I leave out any of your favorites?

Do you disagree and think that any of these myths are actually fact? Let me know what you think in the comments.

How to Know if You’re a Math Nerd or a Poker Player (Or Both)

Limit Omaha Poker Table With Casino Chips and a Hand Holding 4 Cards

I know that some people use the word “geek” in a negative way, but I assure you I’m using it positively in the title. Many people, including my family, consider me a math geek. In fact, I have a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and have used my math skills in gambling for as long as I can remember.

As someone who looks at gambling from a mathematical viewpoint, I’m always searching for opportunities to use math to win. This helps me avoid games I can’t beat, like roulette and slot machines, and helps me learn how to beat games like blackjack and poker.

Math usually teaches people that there is one right answer and everything else is wrong. It pushes a black and white view on everything in the world. This begs the question, “What’s the best game to gamble on from a mathematical standpoint?” And you might think that because I’m a math geek that I have to give you an answer.

While I do have an answer, I should also admit that it’s not the single right answer for everyone. If you read any of my articles you know that there are more ways than one to be a winning gambler. As long as you master at least one way to beat the casinos, you don’t need to worry too much about finding one best answer.

You can learn how to count cards and play blackjack with an edge. This is a straightforward way to beat the casinos, but it’s not the solution for everyone. As a card counter, you have to find good games and you’re always in danger of being confronted by casino personnel and banned from playing. Some gamblers aren’t willing to deal with this.

Some gamblers have almost a sixth sense when it comes to handicapping sporting events. While most can develop the ability to be a winning sports bettor with thousands of hours worth of work, this isn’t for everyone either.

If you have strong mathematical skills, the best game to learn how to play is limit Omaha poker. Of all the poker variations, it’s the most mathematically-grounded game and the easiest to go from beginner to profit. It has the added benefit of being a game where your opponents tend to make more mistakes you can profit from.

In the following sections, I cover all of the reasons why Limit Omaha Poker is your best choice from a mathematical standpoint. I recommend limit instead of pot limit because it’s easier to reach the profit point at first with limit. Once you master Limit Omaha Poker, you can start exploring others, but stick with limit for now.

The fact is that you’re going to make some mistakes as you’re learning. Playing limit instead of pot limit keeps the cost of your mistakes lower as you’re learning.

The Rules

The first advantage you have in Omaha is the rules. Many Omaha players started with Texas holdem, and while the rules are similar, there are a couple of important things to understand. In Texas holdem, you can use any combination of your hole cards and the board cards to form a hand. In Omaha, you have to use two of your hole cards and three board cards.

This leads to some players making mistakes in Omaha. Any time one of your opponents makes a mistake, it’s profitable for you.

The first thing you need to do is learn everything you can about Omaha rules and make sure you never make a mistake because of the rules. With your mathematical mind, this is easier for you than most people.

Starting Hand Selection and Position

Most poker players don’t understand table position and how it directly changes the values of starting hands. Most players also play too many starting hands in Omaha. They think they can hit more hands on the flop because they have four hole cards.

Once you learn how position changes the value of your starting hands, and learn proper starting hand selection, it gives you a big advantage over most Omaha players. The best starting hands have four cards that work together in some way. Hands that only have two cards working together aren’t worth playing.

Some hands that have three cards working together are worth it, but many of them aren’t. As you learn about profitable starting hands, you’re going to find that playing fewer hands is almost always better than playing more.

Pot-Limit Omaha Poker Cards on a Table

It’s usually not the best idea to set a particular limit to starting hand selection because each game is different. You can play more hands in some games more profitably than others. But because this is aimed at math geeks, shoot for playing somewhere around 20% of your starting hands.

Once you reach this level, you can make small adjustments based on your competition. You also need to learn the correlation between table position and starting hand profitability. From early position, you must only play your best hands.

All four cards need to work together from early position. You can play more hands as you move around the table to late position. All of this is mathematical, and you can use this to your advantage every time you play.

Pot Odds

This section and the next section on expected value are where your mathematical ability is going to make you the most money. Everything you do at the Omaha table boils down to pot odds and expected value. And the best news is that once you master these two things, you’re going to have a huge advantage over most of the other players, because they don’t understand probabilities or don’t use them.

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Pot odds are simply a comparison of the amount in the pot, the amount you put in the pot to remain in the hand, and your chances of winning the hand. In every situation after the flop, you can use pot odds to determine the best play.

Pot odds is an area that requires an in-depth understanding, so I strongly suggest studying articles and books until you completely understand it. A good place to start is The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. It also has a good explanation of expected value, and it’s responsible for as much of my profit in poker as any other book.

Expected Value

Expected value is the long term expectation, either positive or negative, of any decision you make at the poker table. This includes your decision to enter the hand and every betting decision throughout the hand. In many cases, the expected value uses pot odds.

As a beginner, you have to make your best guess about some things when determining expected value. The truth is that even experienced players have to make a best guess at times, but you refine your skills and get better with experience.

As you learn more about individual opponents and how to put opponents on a small range of hands, your expected value skills become more valuable.

Expected value is the biggest reason why Omaha is the perfect game for math geeks. It takes all of your math skills and translates them into profits. Take advantage of your skills and master expected value. It’s the key to profits, both long term, and short term.

Bankroll Size

You don’t have to be a math geek to determine proper bankroll size for Omaha, but if you need help to learn how to manage your casino bankroll take a look at our guide. Your math skills do come in handy as you learn how to win on a consistent basis. In Texas holdem, even the best players have up and down swings that require a large bankroll.

Loads of Casino Chips and Wads of Dollar Bills

Omaha is based on math more than Texas holdem, so once you master your skills, you’re going to find that you don’t need as large of a bankroll. The common suggestion for Limit Texas holdem is 300 times the big blind.

I suggest starting with this in Limit Omaha Poker as well, but once you use your math skills to master Omaha, you can usually get away with as low as 100 times the big blind. You’re still going to have down swings based on short term variance, but the swings are less severe than in Texas holdem because the math is more important in Omaha if you know how to use it.

Conclusion

Limit Omaha Poker is the best game to master if you have strong math skills. Every decision you make while playing has a correct or best way to play based on math. Most players never learn how to use math to make a profit, but you can use your skills to quickly gain an advantage.

Once you learn how to consistently win at the limit tables, consider moving to the pot limit tables. The same skills you use to beat the limit game are used in pot limit, and the long term profits can be higher. But the short term variance is also higher, so you need a larger bankroll once you move to pot limit play.

Letting Your Gambling Winnings Ride to $1 Million

Jackpot-Woman-Dollar Bills-Champagne

Many gamblers dream of winning $1 million. This well-rounded number has been a common target among gamblers for decades.

Of course $1 million doesn’t go quite as far these days. In fact, $1 million is worth about three times less today than it was in 1978.

Nevertheless, this is still a worthy mark. You can actually reach seven figures just by risking your winnings enough times (a.k.a. letting it ride).

As you may have guessed, this feat isn’t as easy as it sounds. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting route to gambling toward a fortune.

Path to $1 Million

The first step in letting your wins ride to a million is deciding your starting bet amount. This decision is crucial when considering how it impacts the number of wagers you must make to reach seven figures.

If you start at $1, for example, you’ll need to make several more bets than when beginning at $100. I personally suggest starting at $10. It’s a decent amount that gives you plenty of wagers to make runs at $1 million.

You also need to consider what games to play. I’ll get into the math behind each potential choice later. But you should be considering games that offer even-money bets, because they usually offer the best overall odds.

Finally, you need to let your winnings ride after each wager. Assuming you’re making even-money bets, you only have to worry about doubling your wager following each win.

Is This a Realistic Strategy?

Before continuing further, I want to illustrate what doubling your winnings to $1 million through even-money bets looks like:

  • $10
  • $20
  • $40
  • $80
  • $160
  • $320
  • $640
  • $1,280
  • $2,560
  • $5,120
  • $10,240
  • $20,480
  • $40,960
  • $81,920
  • $163,840
  • $327,680
  • $655,360
  • $1,310,720

Adding this sequence up, you’d need to win 18 total bets to earn over $1 million. You might think that this is nearly impossible when considering that winning three to four straight bets is hard enough.

You’d be right to assume that winning this many consecutive wagers is extremely rare. In fact, you only have around a 1 in 262,000 chance of doing so with 1:1 odds.

Here’s the formula for how I arrived at this number, as well as others that are covered later:

  • [1 / (chances of winning a bet x to the power of 18)]
  • g. [1 / (0.518)] = 262,143.81
  • Odds of winning = 1 in 262,144
  • You can use an exponent calculator to multiply to the power of 18.

Of course, casino games don’t typically give you an even chance to beat the house. Therefore, your odds are even lower of winning so many times.

But you also have to consider that progressive slot machines offer longer odds of winning seven figures. The odds of hitting a jackpot on any given spin may be in the millions.

That said, letting your winnings ride on a table game 18 straight times is just as feasible as spinning the reels.

What Games Should You Play?

You can try a variety of casino games in order to reach your goal. However, you might want to be a little more selective when considering that house edges and commissions vary.

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For example, you shouldn’t play American roulette due to its 5.26% house edge. This high house advantage makes it less likely that you’ll win enough to reach $1 million.

Baccarat seems like a great choice when considering its 1.06% house edge on banker bets. This low house edge even factors in a 5% commission that you must pay the house on wins.

The problem, though, is that casinos don’t take commissions until the end of your session. If you go on a long win streak and eventually lose, you’ll be on the hook for all of the commission money, too.

However, you shouldn’t rule out baccarat entirely. The player bet, which has a 1.24% house edge, is very useful here. Your odds of winning 18 straight bets with this wager are 1 in 328,156.

Both French roulette (1.35% house edge) and the craps don’t pass line bet (1.36%) are worth considering as well. They offer 1 in 335,417 and 1 in 340,351 odds, respectively, of tallying 18 consecutive wins.

Craps seems like an even better choice because it offers free odds. For example, don’t pass lined backed with 2x odds features just a 0.46% house edge.

Craps Table-Gambling

The problem, though, is that you can only put odds behind your bet after a point is established. Furthermore, the don’t pass line wager only comprises one-third of your total bet with 2x odds.

If you win on the come-out roll with a 2 or 3, then you never get to use the free odds. Therefore, you’ve made a very small bet that forces you to place more wagers to reach your goal.

Craps with odds represent your best chance of beating the casino. But the betting structure is so unpredictable that you’ll likely need more than 18 bets to reach a million.

Aiming for $1 Million, Instead of $1.3 Million

Earlier, I showed that you’d win $1,310,720 on the 18th bet when starting with a $10 wager. Of course, you’re overshooting the original goal by quite a bit here.

You have a couple of options for dealing with this situation if it arises. First off, you can simply bank any extra amount that’s not needed to reach the target.

Rather than risking $655,360, you’d wager $500,000. You’d have $155,360 left over, which you could either walk away with or put back into play.

Another option is to make single-number roulette bets. A single-number wager offers a 35 to 1 payout when successful.

You’d need to place up to 23 of these bets to win $1 million. Any more than 23 wagers prevent you from hitting the seven-figure market.

The benefit of making all of these single-number wagers is that you have a 62% chance of winning at least one and reaching your goal. This is a better opportunity than any of the wagers covered before.

Cons of Letting Winnings Ride to $1 Million

You can see that trying to win $1 million through even-money bets is an exciting goal. The nice thing is that even if you never reach it, you’ll at least have plenty of fun without risking too much money.

However, you should also consider the downsides before embarking on this quest. First off, you’ll have some difficulty finding a table that’ll accept your bets once you get into the six-figure range.

You’ll definitely have to find a larger casino resort once you get to $163,840 and above. Most resorts that accept this kind of action are based in Las Vegas or Macau.

Another dilemma is that you have limited options for realistically reaching your goal. You can’t, for example, just sit down to a video poker machine or three-card poker table. You have to play the games and make the bets that give you the strongest chance of winning.

Gambling-Loss-Casino

The most-obvious drawback is that your chances of reaching $1 million are slim. You won’t get to bank any previous winnings either when engaging in this strategy.

Finally, you have to consider how far you’ll actually go if you’re up hundreds of thousands of dollars. Will you truly pursue a million when you’re sitting at $327,680 or $655,360 in profits?

The temptation to walk away will be great, especially if you’re not a high roller to begin with. Of course, I wouldn’t fault you for pocketing $328k or $655k.

Conclusion

One of the most exciting aspects of casinos is that they give you a chance to turn a small bet into lots of money. You can win big jackpots through slots, Caribbean stud, and progressive blackjack.

But one of the rare ways of winning big involves starting with a small bet and working your way up. As discussed earlier, you can bet just $10 and turn it into $1 million (or more) over a sequence of 18 wagers.

Your odds of winning seven figures through this route are better than progressive slot machines. And just like with slots, you’re taking a relatively low risk to chase this dream.

The chances of you reaching $1 million through casino games are low anyways. But 1 in 262,144 odds don’t sound completely impossible, especially if you continue making $10 bets.

Even if you never accomplish your goal of winning a million, you’ll get plenty of thrills out of the process. Just imagine being on bet no. 14 or 15 and knowing that you’re only a few more away from a life-changing payout.

Of course, you may decide to walk away with six-figure winnings if you get up to this amount. It all depends upon how badly you want $1 million.

5 Video Poker Tips for Beginners (Or Anyone Else)

Slot Machines at a Casino Floor - Video Poker Screenshot - Man Celebrating

I try not to be judgmental about people’s gambling habits.

But I am always baffled by people who play slot machines instead of playing video poker.

In no way do I understand how you would want to play a game with worse odds where your decisions are meaningless instead of video poker.

Maybe you’ve been playing slot machines for a long time and you’re ready to make the switch from slots to VP.

Or maybe you’re a real beginner at casino gambling, and you’re doing some reading before gambling. (If that’s you, kudos.)

Either way, these 5 video poker tips for beginners should help you have more fun your gambling dollar.

1- Understand Expected Return

With any gambling machine, expected return is the most important factor to concern yourself with. The phrase just refers to how much money you can statistically expect to get back when you play that machine.

You’ll often see expected return called “payback percentage” or “return to player.

These phrases all mean the same thing.

The expected return is a factor of the probability of getting a specific outcome along with its payout.

For example, if you’re playing a simple game where you bet $1, and you have a 50% probability of winning $1 on each bet, the expected return is 50 cents, or 50%.

That’s because half the time you’ll lose the dollar, and half the time you’ll win that dollar.

With gambling machines, it’s a little more complicated, but not much. For one thing, you’re trading the bet you made for your winnings (if any). That’s different from playing a table game. If you win in a table game, you get your original bet back along with your winnings.

The way those odds are explained is different. With table games, you refer to the payout odds as “X to Y,” while with gambling machines, you refer to the payout odds as “X for Y.”

That’s a major difference.

In blackjack, you get paid even money on most hands, or 1 to 1 odds. This means you make a $5 profit when you win a $5 bet.

But on a Jacks or Better video poker machine, you get paid 1 for 1 on a pair of jacks or better hand. This results in no profit and no loss, because the machine kept your $1 bet as soon as you hit the “play” button.

Here are the main things to remember about the expected return:

  1. The higher it is, the better. An expected return of 99% is better than an expected return of 95% by a significant margin.
  2. The expected return is a percentage of each bet that you can expect, on average, over a huge number of repetitions. For example, you won’t win 98 cents when you play a dollar on a video poker game with a 98% expected return. But that will be your average over time if you play long enough.

When you’re playing slot machines, you have no idea what the expected return for the game is.

But with video poker, you know the odds of winning and the payouts for winning, so the expected return for the game can be calculated.

2- Learn to Recognize the Games with the Best Expected Return Figures

Video poker, like slot machines, isn’t just one game. It’s a huge variety of games, all of which have some things in common, like paying out based on the strength of the poker hand you wind up with at the end of the game.

Jacks or Better is the most basic version of video poker. It’s the classic game that deals from a 5-card deck and allows you one round to discard and replace your cards. It also has no wild cards.

The payouts are based on the strength of your poker hand, but the amounts can vary from one game to the next – even if the 2 games are sitting right next to each other on the casino floor.

A full pay Jacks or Better game has an expected return of 99.54% if you play with optimal strategy. The payouts for the final hands in that game look like this:

  • Royal flush – 800 for 1
  • Straight flush – 50 for 1
  • 4 of a kind – 25 for 1
  • Full house – 9 for 1
  • Flush – 6 for 1
  • Straight – 4 for 1
  • 3 of a kind – 3 for 1
  • 2 pairs – 2 for 1
  • A pair of jacks or higher – 1 for 1
  • Anything else – 0 for 1

This is also called a 9/6 Jacks or Better game, because the payouts for the full house and the flush are 9 and 6 respectively.

When a casino wants to have a machine that makes more money for the casino, they just adjust the payouts for those 2 hands.

For example, 8/5 Jacks or Better game has the same payouts for every hand except the full house and the flush. The payback percentage for that game is considerably lower, though – 97.3%.

They even have lower payback machines with a 7/5 or 6/5 pay table.

Regardless of which version of video poker you play, you should learn which pay tables offer the best expected return. That’s the first step in getting good at video poker – finding and playing the best games.

Here are the best expected returns to look for with each variety:

  • Deuces Wild – 00.76%
  • Joker Wild – 100.65%
  • Aces & Eights – 100.25%
  • Double Bonus – 100.17%
  • Loose Deuces Wild – 100.15%
  • Double Bonus – 100.14%
  • Super Bonus Deuces Wild – 100.13%
  • Double Bonus Double Jackpot – 100.09%
  • Double Bonus Plus – 100.08%
  • Double Double Bonus – 100.07%

You’ll notice that all of the expected returns on those games are over 100%. This means that if you play with optimal strategy, you’ll actually have an edge over the house.

You can find websites where video poker enthusiasts scout games in casinos in Vegas and elsewhere to help other players find the best games.

3- Learn How to Play with Optimal Strategy

You can only get the returns listed above by using the optimal strategy for the game in question. Every game and every pay table has its own best strategy to use. The correct strategy is easy to find nowadays, too.

You can find strategy advice on any number of websites. Some sites even offer you the option to input the payout table for the game and get a customized strategy tailored specifically to that game.

But another, more practical option, is to buy one of the many computer programs that will teach you to use the correct strategy by playing on your personal computer.

These software programs offer you a playable version of video poker, but you don’t have to input money to play. You also can’t win any money.

Instead, the game analyzes the decisions you make and alerts you when you’ve made a mistake. The training software usually also points out what effect this mistake will have on your expected return if you make that mistake repeatedly in an actual casino.

You can shop around and find multiple kinds of video poker training software. Most of these programs aren’t particularly expensive.

4- Or Just Use a Video Poker Strategy Card as You Play

My favorite source for usable video poker strategy cards is Bob Dancer’s website. His “winner’s guide” series of books is also excellent and should be on the shelves of any serious video poker players.

Video Poker Strategy Card

These kinds of cards are similar to the blackjack basic strategy cards you see on the internet that you can print. Another option would be to just buy the formatted and laminated strategy cards available through Bob Dancer’s site.

5- Always Play with Your Slots Club Card Inserted

Even though all the video poker game examples above had an expected return of over 100%, you won’t usually be playing those games. I recommend trying to stick with the video poker games which have a return of at least 98%, though.

When you play with your slots club card inserted, you get an additional 0.2% of your action (give or take, depending on the casino) back in the form of rebates and comps from the casino.

If you combine that with the double or triple points happy hour promotions available at these casinos, you can get 0.4% or 0.6% back in the form of comps.

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This can take a good game, like full pay Jacks or Better, with its 99.54% expected return, and turn it into a great game with a close to break-even expected return or even a 100%+ return.

And don’t buy into the popular myths that playing with the slots club card inserted makes you lose more often or makes it impossible to hit the royal flush. That’s just baloney.

Conclusion

Video poker is the perfect gambling machine for beginners or intermediate gamblers. Heck, it’s even appropriate for casino gambling experts.

The trick is to find the games with the best expected return and play them with optimal strategy with your slots club card inserted.

What video poker tips would you offer a beginner?

Is Las Vegas or California Better for Young Poker Players?

Poker Table at a Casino - California and Nevada Map Silhouette - Young Adult Woman Thinking About Something

In the cult-classic poker flick “Rounders” (1998), Matt Damon plays an ambitious young poker player in New York City who dreams of building a bankroll big enough to take a shot at Las Vegas. Damon’s character “Mike McD” describes Sin City’s poker scene circa the late ‘90s in almost reverential tones, repeatedly positioning Las Vegas as the pinnacle of the profession.

“The poker room at the Mirage in Vegas is the center of the poker universe. Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Helmuth… the legends consider it their office. Every couple of days a new millionaire shows up, wanting to beat a world champion. Usually they go home with nothing but a story.”

I won’t spoil the plot for folks who haven’t seen Rounders. But if you’re reading this page and you haven’t seen the best poker movie ever made, correct that mistake immediately. Las Vegas is still on Mike McD’s mind in the film’s final scene.

As an aspiring poker pro, Las Vegas represents the world’s undisputed capital for every version and variation of the game. Cash games running at the lowest stakes operate around the clock in casino card rooms on the Strip, downtown, and surrounding suburbs.

On top of that, the greatest poker tournament series of all, World Series of Poker, has called Las Vegas home for 50 years and counting. Every summer, thousands of hopefuls from every corner of the globe arrive at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino to take part.

Clearly then, Las Vegas remains the center of the poker universe as Mike McD once wistfully described. Nonetheless, a highly-competitive poker industry in California has been humming along on the sidelines for decades now, playing the proverbial second fiddle to Sin City.

Centered around iconic card rooms like the Bicycle Club and Commerce Casino in the Los Angeles suburbs, California’s poker scene has produced top pros like Barry Greenstein, J.C. Tran, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Brian Rast, and Mike McD’s nemesis at the old Trump Taj Mahal, 10-time WSOP bracelet winner and two-time Main Event World Champ Johnny Chan.

With hundreds of casinos and card rooms spanning the state’s massive land mass, California is increasingly becoming a destination for up and coming poker pros looking to break into the biggest games.

Poker fans in the know religiously sweat the livestreamed high-stakes cash game action from the Bicycle Club in a regular program called “Live at the Bike.”

And thanks to national series like the World Poker Tour (WPT) and World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOP-C), tournament players from San Jose to LA can take part in top-tier events every year.

As a young poker player looking to take your game to the next level, is Las Vegas or California the best place to establish yourself as a pro?

Well, that’s an extremely important decision for anybody to make, so this page won’t pretend to offer definitive answers one way or another. What it will do, however, is offer an objective review of both locales written from a poker-centric perspective, complete with pros and cons for each area.

When you’re finished reviewing the information here, my hope is to leave you with a much better idea as to which place to embark on your next poker adventure.

Pros of Playing in Las Vegas

I already alluded to the historic nature of Las Vegas’ utterly unique poker scene, but it bears repeating. There’s no place on earth with more poker games running right now than Las Vegas.

From the fabulous Las Vegas Strip, where the Venetian and the Bellagio are home to an astounding 37 tables apiece, to the off-Strip casino The Orleans and its 35-table poker room, the game continues to flourish here despite the occasional closure.

The beauty of playing poker in Vegas is that you’ll never be forced to quit for lack of demand. Games run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year without fail. Sure, one room might empty out at certain hours, but it’ll only be a short walk or Uber ride to the next casino to find a crowded game in full bloom.

And this selection is hardly limited to Texas holdem either. While the two-card game popularized on ESPN’s iconic broadcast of the 2003 WSOP Main Event is definitely the most prevalent variant you’ll find in Las Vegas, it’s far from alone. In the larger poker rooms like Bellagio, the sign-up board represents a veritable smorgasbord of poker mixed games and stakes, as shown by the PokerAtlas listing below.

Cash Games Offered at the Bellagio Poker Room

$1/$3 No Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $100 to $300
  • Runs: Always
$2/$5 No Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $200 to $500
  • Runs: Always
$5/$10 No Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $400 to $1,500
  • Runs: Always
$10/$20 No Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $800 to No Max
  • Runs: Always
$10/$20/$40 No Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $1,500 to No Max
  • Runs: Weekends and evenings
$50/$100 No Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $5,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$2/$5 Pot Limit Omaha Hi

  • Buy-in: $200 to $1,000
  • Runs: Rarely
$4/$8 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $40 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$9/$18 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $100 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables
$50/$100 Stud

  • Buy-in: $500 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$20/$40 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: Always
$20/$40 Limit Omaha 8/b

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: One or two tables
$40/$80 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $600 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$40/$80 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $600 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$40/$80 Limit Omaha 8/b

  • Buy-in: $800 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$50/$100 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $1,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$60/$120 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $1,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$30/$60 Stud 8/b

  • Buy-in: $500 to No Max
  • Runs: Friday and Saturday
$80/$160 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $1,500 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$80/$160 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $1,500 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$100/$200 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $2,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$100/$200 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $2,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$150/$300 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $3,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$200/$400 Limit holdem

  • Buy-in: $4,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$300/$600 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $6,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$400/$800 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $8,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$600/$1,200 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $10,000 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours
$25/$50 Mixed

  • Buy-in: $5,000 to No Max
  • Runs: Occasionally
$20/$40 Stud

  • Buy-in: $200 to No Max
  • Runs: Usually one table
$30/$60 Limit Omaha 8/b

  • Buy-in: $500 to No Max
  • Runs: During busier hours

Just get a load of the staggering level of variety found on that list, and that’s at the Bellagio alone. Fellow mega-resorts on the Strip such as the Aria, Wynn, and Venetian all boast world-class poker rooms with similar selection. This is why so many international pros make sure to rent suites for extended stays spent grinding for weeks and months on end.

If you’re willing to put in the time and work by consistently playing at a specific Las Vegas poker room, and paying rake on every hand or half-hour, the venue will typically “take care of you” in the form of comps, cash back, and other perks.

The bountiful abundance of options also extends to tournament play, as the WSOP annually spreads upwards of 100 gold bracelet events while paying out nine-figures in prizes to top performers. For six weeks every summer, Las Vegas lives up to Mike McD’s label, attracting the world’s best players, recreational poker fans, and grinders looking to make a life-changing splash on the big stage.

The tourney action here runs year-round too, with recurring seasonal series like the Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza and Wynn Signature Series generating huge prize pools over condensed month-long schedules. The WPT makes annual stops at the Bellagio, the WSOP-C hits the Rio for a revival tour twice a year, and poker rooms like the Orleans specialize in medium-stakes events for weekend warriors.

On a final note, if you’re looking to enjoy a little online poker on the side of your live action, California has nothing on Las Vegas. And I do mean that literally. Nevada is one of only four states in the country, along with New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, where online poker is fully legal and regulated.

Cons of Playing in Las Vegas

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed by now that this page has placed an emphasis on just how good the players in Las Vegas really are.

Leaving aside the insanely talented top pros duking it out at Bobby’s Room and the Aria’s “High Roller” tournaments, Las Vegas still attracts players like Mike McD, the best of the bunch from their hometown who want to test their skills against the best.

You just might be one of them, too, a talented young poker player ready to take the leap and bring their game to the next level. If that’s the case, godspeed good reader, and a sincere “good luck” your way.

When you arrive in Las Vegas intent on earning a living at the poker table, you’ll usually meet five or six players in every game who have the exact same intentions. Aside from the intense competition fostered by Las Vegas’ status as the peak for poker industry climbers, the city has its other drawbacks as well.

Serious Poker Players at a Casino

In order to play on the Las Vegas Strip day in and day out, you’ll need to absorb a litany of supplementary expenses. Comps can only go so far, which means you’ll be paying out of pocket when you tip the valet, hit the buffet, or grab necessities at the gift shop.

These hidden charges extend to the tables too, as Las Vegas’ higher stakes games ($5/$5 and above) generally charge a higher rake than their counterparts in California. Young poker players often neglect to take the rake, or the chips deducted from every pot as the house’s cut, when assessing the viability of one game versus another.

These fees can be charged in “time rake” form at the higher stakes, with all players ponying up a set amount every half hour, but Las Vegas tends to charge higher rates than California no matter how it’s collected.

Rake concerns also extend to tournament play. So, when you’re comparing the various structures used by card rooms in Las Vegas and California, always be sure to check for “service fees” deducted from your overall buy-in.

Conclusion

For poker players of every generation, from the old road gamblers in the 1970s to the online whiz kids inspired by Chris Moneymaker at the 2003 WSOP Main Event, Las Vegas holds an allure like no other.

This city is where the WSOP was born, where Nick “The Greek” Dandolos and Johnny Moss once played the highest-stakes heads-up poker game in history, and it’s where the world’s most talented players convene on a nightly basis to this day.

California may be positioning itself as a potential sidekick. For more on the pros and cons of the Golden State’s poker scene, be sure to check out Part II of this series, but Las Vegas will always be every poker aficionado’s first love.

7 Reasons Why the Blackjack Dealer Always Seems to Win

Blackjack Dealer Smirk - Blackjack Table Full With a Pile of Cash

Of course, the blackjack dealer doesn’t always win, but many people feel the dealer wins a disproportionate number of times in blackjack. It’s a basic rule of the casino business that the house only offers games where it has an “edge”.

The house’s edge is baked into the game.

But the edge doesn’t guarantee the dealer will always win. Over the long run the dealer should only win slightly more often than a perfect player.

So what gives?

The old adage “perception is reality” works on one level because you play the game by how you perceive it. But on another level appearances can be deceiving. And sometimes the players themselves are responsible for the deceptive appearances.

Here are 7 reasons why the blackjack dealer always seems to win.

1 – Players May Not Understand Probabilities Well Enough

If you’re not trying to count cards, then you don’t even need to worry about the probabilities. Basic blackjack strategy takes all that into consideration.

In blackjack there are only two kinds of probabilities players should think about. The first and most well-known is the division between theoretical return to player and house edge.

Contrary to some players’ thinking, the house edge doesn’t predict how often the house wins. The house edge predicts how much money the house keeps. The assumption behind the house edge is wager-neutral.

In other words, the statistical likelihood that the house keeps about 1% of the money over the long-term doesn’t have anything to do with how much players bet on each game. The payout odds are calculated on the assumption that everything happens in random fashion.

Although the house needs to win a lot in blackjack to get ahead, the differences between payout odds and probabilities of card play create the edge. In any gambling game, if there is a statistical 50-50 chance of a certain outcome, the house will pay less than 1:1 on the odds.

The only other probability players need to care about is the probability that the next card they are dealt helps them. How many people are playing at your table doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s left in the shoe when it’s your turn for a card.

2 – The Number of Hands You Play per Hour Matters

If you’re playing head to head with the dealer, you can go through as many as 200 hands in an hour. If there are four other people at the table with you then each round takes longer. You’ll play fewer hands per hour.

Just using basic strategy against the house, you’ll lose money over time. The game is designed to pay slightly less than the true probabilities allow. So the more hands you play, the more likely the house will “win” your money away from you.

You should still win a lot of hands against the dealer. The house’s strategy is a long game. The more hands you play the more likely they’ll keep some or all of your money.

3 – Bad Game Play Provides the House with a “Hidden” Edge

The casino counts on most players making mistakes or bad calls. An inexperienced player makes a bad call. An experienced player who should know better makes a mistake.

Either way, if you hit or stand when you shouldn’t you make it more likely that the house wins.

If you split when you shouldn’t you make it more likely that the house wins. If you miss an opportunity to split it’s not so bad but you could win twice or more against the house on a favorable split.

On those rare occasions when doubling down would pay off well, if you don’t see the opportunity you’ll pass it by.

Player strategy often enhances the house’s strategy. And whereas you decide your strategy on the fly the house is playing by a very simple rule book. House strategy never changes.

I imagine a guy dancing around a fight ring, trying to show off, while the dealer waits to whack him hard in the face. Your opponent isn’t going anywhere, trying to do flashy moves, or hiding anything. He’s just waiting for you to do something stupid.

With few exceptions players sometimes make it easy for the dealer by using the wrong strategy.

4 – The House Undermines Your Advantage Play

If you count cards the way most people advise you to, you’ll raise and lower your bets in a predictable fashion. This is like jumping up on the table, waving your arms, and shouting “hey, I’m counting cards!”

That strategy may have worked well in the 1960s but today’s casinos just shuffle the cards. All your counting is wasted time and energy.

This is why card counters like to work in teams. They can be more subtle, although the casinos still look for coordinated play.

Continuous shuffling machines may have ruined card counting forever. If not, the larger shoes and option to reshuffle on a whim make card counting a less rewarding strategy for most players.

If it seems like the house is winning more than you think they should, it could be you’re counting cards badly or needlessly.

5 – Are You Tipping the Dealer?

The dealer literally wins when you leave a tip. While this is considered a courteous habit and one I myself practice, it makes it all that much harder for you to get ahead.

I limit my tips to when I leave the table. I’ve seen some players split their winnings on big bets with the dealer. Assuming that’s completely legit, it still reduces the player’s winnings.

Smiling Blackjack Dealer Giving Cards - Hand Holding Dollar Bills

Whether you tip the dealer or not, the house is winning if you do tip the dealer. Those tips help casino employees pay their bills. I’ve seen some people argue against tipping because it “supports the system”.

I don’t think it’s fair to push casino employees into a moral quagmire. Either tip or don’t tip, but the tip costs you money. It does affect your win-loss ratio proportionate to how often and how much you tip.

6 – Is the Dealer Feeding You Bad Advice?

I’ve played a few tables where the dealers answered player questions. Blackjack dealers don’t have to be expert players. They only follow one strategy.

If you’ve got a friendly dealer who shares advice, he or she may be well-intentioned but that doesn’t mean they know the best strategy.

I’ve never questioned the integrity of a blackjack dealer. But they may push a progressive bet option. If you want a guaranteed way to improve the house edge in blackjack, go for the progressive wager on the side.

7 – Are You Using a Betting System?

Sooner or later someone sits down at the table with a betting system ready to go. Card counters raise their wagers when they believe the deck favors them but I’ve seen other betting systems.

One guy alternated his bets. He played $25 on one hand and $50 on the next. If he had played perfect strategy it shouldn’t have mattered.

When you talk betting strategies with people someone always brings up the Martingale System. The strategy is simple. Only make minimum wagers until you lose and then double your wager on the next bet to win back what you lost.

The Martingale System requires an endless supply of money, luck, or both. I’ve never met a great blackjack player who believed in a betting system. The best players I’ve sat next to had a set wager amount they always played and stuck to their games.

Conclusion

One of the most important things in gambling is to manage your expectations. The more you expect to win the greater your disappointment will be.

I don’t walk into a casino expecting to lose all my money. I expect to enjoy myself. I want to get the most value for my time and money spent there.

When people allow their expectations to get out of hand they try to make up for disappointment with risky bets. I’ve been one of those guys who got so frustrated he started making aggressive wagers.

When you stop caring about how well you’re playing you should walk away from the table. You can always go back later when you’re feeling better.

The only way the house doesn’t win is if you enjoy yourself and stay in budget. Dropping $200 at a casino is no different from buying $200 concert tickets.

If it’s all for fun and you enjoy yourself the house can’t take that away from you.

Why Insurance in Blackjack Is Sometimes Called Even Money

Man Playing Blackjack and Touching his Wedding Ring Nervously

Anyone who’s read a reasonably good post about basic strategy in blackjack knows that you should never take insurance. It’s a sucker bet.

But sometimes casino dealers will confuse players by offering them “even money.” That’s just another way of offering insurance to the player.

The selling point of even money in blackjack is that you’re going to win no matter what. This post explains the fallacy behind thinking that insurance (or even money) is a good idea when playing blackjack.

How Even Money Works in Blackjack

Even money works when you’ve been dealt a natural, a two-card hand that totals 21. Such a hand is also called a blackjack, and it pays off at 3:2 in most games.

There’s one catch to having a natural. If the dealer also has a blackjack, it’s a push. When the dealer has an ace showing as the face-up card, you get the opportunity to place an insurance bet. They’ll often refer to this as taking “even money.”

If you have $100 in action and agree to take even money, the dealer will pay you $100 and take your cards before looking at her hand to see if she has a blackjack, too.

This seems like a good idea. After all, if you turn down the even money, and the dealer flips over a blackjack, you lose your $100.

On the other hand, if you decline even money, you win $150 on your $100 bet. Which is the better deal?

A conservative player might think even money is a great deal because you have a 100% chance of winning. In that respect, he’s correct, but gambling isn’t about having a 100% chance of winning.

It’s about how much you win or lose in the long run.

To really understand whether even money makes sense, you need to look at how often the dealer will win or lose and how much you’ll win on average every time.

Decisions and Consequences in This Blackjack Situation

Let’s simplify this for a minute. You have two choices. You can take even money and win $100. Or you can decline even money, winning either $150 or facing a push.

It should be obvious why declining even money makes sense, because when you push, you don’t lose any money. You just get your original bet returned to you.

How often will the dealer have a blackjack?

This varies based slightly on how many decks are in use, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that the dealer will have a blackjack only 30% of the time (this is really close to the actual number). 70% of the time, you’ll win 3:2 on your bet.

Let’s play this situation out 100 times in a row.

  • Player A takes even money, which means he wins $100 on all 100 hands, or $10,000.
  • Player B declines even money, which means he wins $150 on 70 hands, or $10,500.

Obviously, declining even money results in more wins in the long run.

What’s the Difference Between Even Money and Insurance?

Insurance is a side bet that the dealer has a 10 as the hole card. You can only place this bet when the dealer has an ace showing face-up, and the wager for this must always be half of the original wager size. If you bet $100, your insurance bet must always be $50.

If the dealer does have a blackjack, you get paid off at 2:1 for your insurance bet, which means it pays off at $100.

You don’t need to have a blackjack to place an insurance bet. You can take insurance with any total versus the dealer’s face-up card. If you have any total other than 21, you lose your original bet against the dealer.

But since insurance pays off at 2:1, you’ll wind up breaking even on that action.

So basically, even money is just an insurance bet that you can only make when you have a blackjack. When you take even money, though, you lose your opportunity to get the 3:2 payoff.

You don’t have to put up the additional bet, because the casino has just subtracted that $50 from your payoff for your hand.

The only difference between “even money” and “insurance” is a semantic one. Even money is just insurance when you have a blackjack.

Insurance is available any time the dealer has an ace showing, but even money is only available when the dealer has an ace showing and you have a blackjack.

There’s An Exception to Every Rule

Not every blackjack game in every casino offers 3:2 payouts for a blackjack. In some games in some casinos, the payout for a blackjack is only 6:5.

You should NEVER play in such a game, because it gives the house an edge almost 1.4% higher than it would have if it paid the standard amount.

But if you ignore that advice and choose to play in such a game, the even money bet suddenly makes sense.

Here’s why. You still have the 30% probability that the casino will have a blackjack. So, now, you’re looking at winning $120 approximately 70 times out of 100, or $8400.

But if you take even money, you’ll win $100 every time for $10,000 in winnings. In a 6:5 blackjack game, even money is a GREAT bet.

Blackjack Table With a Jack and Ace

The problem is that it doesn’t come up often enough to make up for what it does to the house edge. A good blackjack game might have a house edge of around 0.4% if you play with perfect basic strategy.

Convert that to 1.8%, which is what the 6:5 payout does and, suddenly, that great game becomes pretty mediocre. And that 1.8% accounts for the even money proposition, too.

Conclusion

The basic blackjack strategy should inform your every decision in blackjack, but the correct basic strategy varies based on the rules in place.

The differences between insurance and even money and when it’s appropriate to place such a bet are great examples of this.

Do you ever take even money when it’s available at the casino? If so, do you think this post might have changed your mind about that?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Top 3 Mistakes Every Slots Player Makes

Row of Slot Machines and Man Holding Hands Over Face
Slot machines are popular because they’re easy to play and they offer the chance to win a big prize for a small bet. You can judge how popular slots are by looking around in any casino to see how much floor space is filled with slot machines. The casinos dedicate the most floor space to popular games, and slots dominate most casinos.

The slots also happen to be one of the most profitable games the casinos offer, so the casinos are happy to offer as many machines as they can as long as players keep playing. The same is true for online casinos. They offer as many slot machines as possible, because they know that’s what players want.

Here are the three top mistakes slot machine players make. You can quickly make adjustments and correct all three of them starting today.

1 – You Play Too Many Spins Every Hour

The house edge is higher on slot machines than most other casino games. But this is only part of the problem with playing slots. Slot machine players fall into the trap of not realizing how much they’re risking over time because the amount they bet on a single spin is low.

Slot machines are designed so you can play them as fast as you want. You can hit the spin button as fast as you can and get as many as 600 spins in every hour. This is true whether you play online slots or play at a land based casino.

If you take 600 spins per hour, look at the following information to see how much you’re risking every hour based on the total amount of your bet.

Bet Size Total Wagers Every Hour
.25 $150
.50 $300
$1 $600
$2 $1,200
$5 $3,000
$10 $6,000

As you can see, even if you’re playing on a quarter machine, you’re running a lot of money through the machine every hour when you play fast. If you’re like me and like to chase progressive slots jackpots, many machines have a bet size of $1 or $2 to be eligible for the top jackpot. At this level, you’re really starting to rack up the amount you risk every hour.

With a high house edge, playing slot machines can drain your bankroll faster than most other casino games, even though the bet size is smaller. If you play a table game and bet $20 per hand but only play 50 hands per hour, your risk per hour is $1,000. Compare this to playing 600 spins on a slot machine at $2 a hand. You risk an extra $200 an hour playing slots at a much lower risk per decision.

Once you add in the difference in the house edge between slots and other games, you can see how slots are rougher on your bankroll than most games. Here are some examples for comparison.

Game Approximate House Edge Risk Every Hour Expected Hourly Loss
Slots 5% 600 X $2 = $1,200 $60
Blackjack 1% $20 X 60 = $1,200 $12
Craps 1.5% $20 X 50 = $1,000 $15
Roulette 2.5% $20 X 50 = $1,000 $25

One of the reasons players like to play slots is because they can get lucky and win a big jackpot. The other games on this list generally don’t offer as much upside like slots can. Overall, you lose more playing slots, but you’re never going to win a $100,000 jackpot playing craps or roulette.

One thing you can do to minimize your losses while playing slot machines is to play fewer spins every hour. In other words; slot down when you’re playing slots. You can cut your expected losses in half by playing 300 spins every hour instead of 600. This tactic works for both land based slot machines and when you play online slots.

2 – You Don’t Activate the Bonus Pay Lines

When slot machines started becoming popular, they were much simpler than they are now. They didn’t have as many reels and they only had a few pay lines. Now, with video based slot machines, you can find games with many reels, hundreds of pay lines, special bonus games and games within games, and all kinds of other special features.

Slot machines that offer bonuses, jackpots, and progressive opportunities seem to be available everywhere you can play slots.

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One mistake that many slot machine players make is they don’t read the rules when they sit down to play a new slot machine.

Reading the rules is important, especially if the slot machine has any special features like bonus rounds and jackpots. Some slot machines require extra bets beyond the base game wagers in order to activate the pay lines that unlock bonus rounds, bonus games, and jackpots. If you don’t know the rules, you can play a machine and hit what would be a huge jackpot, but miss out because you didn’t have the correct pay line activated.

The easiest way to avoid making a mistake that costs you a big win is to always activate all of the available pay lines. If this makes the bet size too high for your bankroll, find a machine offering a lower maximum bet.

The good news is that many video slot machines are either designed so you can only make one size bet, which activates all of the pay lines, or are designed so you can hit a single button that automatically makes the max bet.

3 – You Play Online Slots Without a Bonus

I prefer playing most forms of gambling live. I’d rather play poker and blackjack live than play online. But one of the few games that are better online is slot machines. You don’t have to wait for a seat to open up at your favorite slot machines, and you don’t have to worry about anyone sitting down beside you and bothering you.

You also don’t have to load up the card and drive to your local casino or the airport for a trip to Las Vegas or somewhere else. Playing slots online saves you time and money, and you have access to a wider variety of slots games than you have in most casinos.

All of the reasons listed above are good reasons to play online slots, but I haven’t even shared the best one yet. When you play slots online you can get all kinds of deposit and reload bonuses that let you play longer.

When you start looking for bonuses when you play other casino games, it can be difficult because many bonuses aren’t for other casino games. But almost every single online casino bonus you can find is designed for slots play.

I’ve seen slots bonuses of $10,000 and higher, and I’ve never had trouble finding a deposit or reload bonus when I wanted to play online slots. If the casino where I’m playing doesn’t offer one, they usually give me one if I ask, but I can play at dozens of other online casinos that do offer bonuses.

Slot machines don’t have the lowest house edge in online casinos, so I only recommend playing them if you’re trying to win a big jackpot.

To have the best chance to win a big jackpot, you need to be able to take as many spins as you can. This is where a big bonus fits perfectly.

If you’re playing a progressive jackpot slot machine that has a $2 per spin cost, you can take twice as many spins with a $1,000 bankroll as you can with a $500 bankroll. And when you get a 100% matching deposit bonus, you’re doubling your bankroll. Some casinos even offer more than 100% bonus on your deposit.

I never play online slots without a bonus, and I don’t suggest you do so either. Just remember to read the terms and conditions of the slots bonus so you know exactly what you have to do to cash out if you get lucky and hit a huge jackpot.

Conclusion

After reading this list of mistakes that slot players make, you might think that playing slots is a bad idea. While I usually suggest new gamblers start with a game with a lower house edge than slots, the slot machines do have some advantages. The minimum bet is small on most slot machines, and few games in the casino give you a chance to win a progressive jackpot like some slot machines.

If you’re a slots player, use the information in this article to avoid making three big mistakes that almost every slots player makes. Don’t take so many spins per hour, make sure you always have all of the pay lines activated, and never play online slots without a big bonus.

The 5 Worst Card Counting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Blackjack Table and Drinks at a Casino
Counting cards is my favorite advantage play technique, and for most people, it’s way easier than you think. If you can add and subtract by 1, you can count cards.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s just easier than you would think if you watched Rain Man or 21 or something. There’s a common misconception that card counters memorize the cards that have been played or predict which cards are left in the deck.

This is only partially true. Card counters actually track the ratio of high cards to low cards in the deck by giving high cards a value of -1 and low cards a value of +1.

High cards are better for the player because they increase the probability of getting a “natural,” which pays off at 3 to 2 odds. Low cards are worse for the player because they increase your probability of going bust.

So, if you can find a deck that has more 10s and aces in it, you can raise the size of your bet and turn that house edge into a player edge. The trick is to avoid the following five card counting mistakes.

1 – Trying to Count in a Casino Before You’re Ready

Counting cards is easy in theater. The first time I read a book about how to count cards, I thought I was ready to get started. After all, I can recognize a high card from a low card, and I can add and subtract 1 like no one’s business.

The problem is that this is harder to do than I thought. Casinos are loud, distracting places, and blackjack tables get the hands dealt and played faster than you think. Even at a table with four other players, you’ll see 70 hands per hour. That’s more than a hand a minute.

People Playing at Blackjack Table

So, how do you get ready? First, practice at your kitchen table using a single deck of cards. Count through it one card at a time until you wind up with a count of 0 at the end.

Then, time yourself. Try to beat your time every time you practice. Move up to flipping over two cards at a time. Keep timing yourself, and make sure that your count is accurate. As long as you’re using a balanced card counting system, you should always end up with 0 when you get to the end of the deck.

Be sure to practice where there’s some noise. Play the radio, the television, and let the kids play. The casino is a loud, distracting environment, so you shouldn’t practice in a quiet environment.

You should also practice not doing anything that would let anyone know you’re counting. This means you need to be SO good at this that you don’t even look like you’re concentrating.

2 – Having Too Small a Bankroll

The thing about counting cards is that even though you have an edge over the casino, it’s a small edge, and you need to be able to survive a losing streak without going broke.

Card counting is a long-term proposition, and in the short run, anything can happen. Losing streaks can be far longer than you’d ever expect. The bigger your bankroll is compared to your average bet, the less likely you are to run out of money before that happens.

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If you’re aggressive and have a high-risk tolerance, you can get by on a 200-unit bankroll. This means that if you’re betting $5 per hand, you should have at least $1000 set aside for your blackjack endeavors.

But you have a 40% probability of going broke if you do. If you get up to 1000 units, you reduce your probability of going broke to less than 1%.

Of course, these “risk of ruin” figures assume that you actually know how to count cards well enough to get that edge over the house.

3 – Getting Drunk

My niece recently took her driving test, and there was a section on the test about drinking and driving. The test question asked about the first thing that would be impaired when you were drinking.

The correct answer was judgment, not balance, eyesight, reflexes, or anything like that. Counting cards and playing blackjack with an edge over the house requires excellent judgment.

Some of this requirement is obvious. You must be able to count well enough to know when to raise your bets. You must be able to play with perfect basic strategy.

King of Spades Inside Champagne Glass

But some of the less obvious judgment calls have to do with knowing how to behave or recognizing when someone has noticed that you’re counting and it’s time to go. These are things you can’t do if you’re drunk.

My suggestion is to have a firm handle on how much you can drink before your judgment is impaired. Anything beyond one or two drinks is just denial on your part.

4 – Not Knowing Basic Strategy

Of course, good card counters know when to deviate from basic strategy based on the count. But you can’t deviate from basic strategy if you’ve never learned it.

And even if you never deviate from basic strategy, you can make money counting cards just by raising the size of your bets when the count is positive.

If you can’t be bothered to learn basic strategy, you have no business playing blackjack at all, much less trying to count.

It’s easier to learn than you might think, too. There are pages on this site that explain the basics, and you can find charts and tables galore with the correct moves, too.

5 – Staying in One Place for Too Long

Okay, so if you haven’t figured this out yet, you should realize it now. Casinos frown on card counting. And the easiest way to get caught counting cards is to stay in one place for too long.

Counting cards will work a lot better for you if you adopt a hit and run strategy. Never play at a casino more than three times a week. Never spend more than an hour in a given casino. Try to play during different shifts during your three visits.

And pay attention to whether anyone is paying a lot of attention to you and your play. At the first hint of heat, cash out and leave. Don’t wait around to get backed off.

On the other hand, you’re not really a good card counter until you’ve been backed off and barred from at least one casino. It’s inevitable. Even if you stick with a hit and run strategy, you’ll eventually catch some heat. That’s the nature of the endeavor. Try not to let it stress you out.

Luckily, in Vegas anyway, the days of getting dragged into the basement and being roughed up by security are ancient history.

Conclusion

Counting cards is a fun way to make blackjack more interesting, and if you want to play a game with a mathematical edge over the house, this is one way to do it. You just need to understand common card counting mistakes and learn how to avoid them.

This means you must know basic strategy cold, and you must be able to effortlessly and quickly count through a deck while looking like you’re not paying attention.

You also need to stay sober and avoid staying in one place for too long. Common sense goes a long way, but make sure you’re ready before starting your card counting career.

The Rise and Fall of High Stakes Online Poker

Poker Cards on a Laptop Keyboard and Online Poker Screen

Land-based casinos and private home games dominate the world of high stakes poker. Some of these games are absolutely massive, with blinds reaching up to $5,000/$10,000.

High stakes online poker once featured similar limits. However, the internet nosebleeds have dropped off considerably in recent years.

What happened to the high stakes online scene? Keep reading as I discuss the rise of the online nosebleeds along with why they’ve diminished considerably.

The Early Days of High Stakes Internet Poker

The first online poker rooms launched in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this point, many players were scared to even deposit on these sites.

After all, many gamblers were leery of sending their money to offshore poker rooms located thousands of miles away. Eventually, though, players overcame this fear and online poker quickly grew.

The internet high stakes segment grew along with it. Ultimate Bet Poker emerged as the early favorite for elite grinders, such as Prahlad Friedman, Mike Matusow, Patrik Antonius, and Brad Booth.

These tables drew many railbirds who wanted to see the world’s best compete against each other in the biggest online stakes available.

Unfortunately, UB took a serious hit after a massive cheating scandal surfaced. 1994 WSOP champ and UB insider Russ Hamilton was cheating high-stakes players through a “superuser” account.

Russ Hamilton at Poker Table

Hamilton could see his opponents’ hole cards with this program and used it to his advantage. Estimates vary on exactly how much money Hamilton bilked players out of.

But a Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) report suggested that he won $22.1 million. UB was fined $1.5 million and required to repay a portion of players’ losses. Unfortunately, Hamilton never suffered any financial or legal consequences.

In any case, this scandal rocked UB and ruined their reputation. High rollers subsequently gravitated toward Full Tilt Poker by the mid-2000s.

Peak of the Online Poker Nosebleeds

The UB high stakes tables featured some pretty big games taking place on $100/$200 tables. However, their biggest limits looked like low stakes compared to what would follow at Full Tilt.

This online poker giant’s slogan was “Learn, Chat and Play with the Pros.” Full Tilt definitely embodied the latter aspect, because they attracted some of poker’s biggest names.

Antonius, Matusow, Phil Ivey, and Gus Hansen were just some of the famous pros who competed at Full Tilt. In later years, more stars like Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, Dan “Jungleman” Cates, Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, and Ilari Sahamies would emerge.

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$500/$1,000 tables ran regularly at this site. At the absolute peak, $2,000/$4,000 and $3,000/$6,000 games were also available.

Even the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 did little to slow down this site’s nosebleeds. The best and richest players continued competing at dizzying limits.

As mentioned before, UB’s high-stakes action drew plenty of railbirds. However, some of Full Tilt’s biggest games were almost like professional sports matches in terms of spectators.

Many came to see poker’s top players out of curiosity, for strategy purposes, and for entertainment. They were rarely disappointed either by the stakes or table banter.

Sahamies, who rarely plays these days, was especially notable for his trash talking. He routinely taunted opponents after big wins.

The size of the pots were also something to marvel. Blom was involved in several hands that featured pots worth over $1 million.

Speaking of which, nobody better epitomized the hysteria surrounding Full Tilt’s high stakes scene than Blom. The Swede experienced a rapid rise to fame, where his hyper-aggressive play befuddled some of the world’s top players.

What Happened to the Nosebleeds?

Full Tilt’s time at the top of the high-stakes scene would come to an end on April 15th, 2011. Dubbed “Black Friday,” this event saw the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York serve indictments to top brass at the world’s biggest poker sites.

Full Tilt was right in the thick of this event. Board members Ray Bitar, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Rafe Furst, and Howard Lederer were all indicted by former US Attorney Preet Bharara.

Ray Bitar and Full Tilt Poker Logo

Players panicked upon realizing they couldn’t withdraw their funds. Eventually, Full Tilt was revealed to be insolvent and unable to cover an estimated $360 million worth of customers’ funds.

The site tried to continue running until 2012, when they lost their license from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. Even with their efforts to proceed, Full Tilt failed to influence any high-stakes players to keep grinding on their tables.

They eventually went the same way as UB, where they lost their player base after being involved in a scandal.

The good news is that PokerStars would work out a deal with the US Department of Justice. They purchased Full Tilt and avoided having to admit wrongdoing for $731 million. This money helped repay players who were affected by the Black Friday scandal.

PokerStars, meanwhile, was running their own budding high-stakes scene. While their nosebleeds never reached the same stakes as Full Tilt, they did offer some large games in the $200/$400 range.

These tables managed to keep online high stakes going. Stars also reopened Full Tilt and relaunched their nosebleeds as well.

Unfortunately, online poker would never be the same after Black Friday. The concept of sponsoring and featuring high stakes internet poker players was no longer appealing to recreational customers.

Aside from this fact, Amaya Gaming (now Stars Group) purchased PokerStars for $4.9 billion in 2014. The Canadian company took the poker site in a new direction and began focusing more on the recreational crowd.

The Stars Group eventually came to feel that high stakes tables didn’t do much for their brand. They did away with some of the highest limits at both PokerStars and Full Tilt, which effectively killed the big games.

Where Is High Stakes Online Poker Now?

Chances are that the internet poker world will never see cash stakes over $1,000/$2,000 again. However, the top sites still have some pretty big games at $50/$100 and $100/$200 stakes.

The best players are able to make six figures, and even seven figures in some cases, annually. That said, those who want to compete against the world top online grinders for serious money still have an outlet to do so.

The problem, though, is that there’s not enough liquidity to get bigger games going. The largest online poker rooms now have to obtain licensing from various jurisdictions (e.g. UK, France, Spain). In turn, some of these jurisdictions ring-fence their gamblers from other countries’ player pools.

As highlighted before, another problem is that online poker sites are mostly focused on appealing to amateurs. They care little about reviving the high stakes scene that was so big in the mid- and late 2000s.

Most of those who competed on Full Tilt’s nosebleeds are playing at the Aria (Vegas) or Macau. Some also enter high-roller live tournaments, which can feature buy-ins ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

Conclusion

High stakes online poker was really something to marvel at over a decade ago. Some of the world’s top players competed against each other for pots worth up to $1 million.

The biggest winners each year regularly hauled in profits worth several million dollars. For example, Ivey once earned $8.5 million in online poker profits in 2008.

However, those days are long gone. Black Friday destroyed the nosebleeds and temporarily brought internet poker to its knees.

The odds of online poker’s golden days ever returning are next to zero. The scene is much different today.

Industry leaders like PokerStars, 888, partypoker, and Americas Cardroom care much more about recreational players. They’ve subsequently done away with their biggest stakes and only feature tables ranging up to $50/$100.

These limits still allow high rollers to throw some serious chips around. However, they’re a far cry from the games that were heavily rail-birded in the mid-2000s.

Again, we’ll almost assuredly never see online poker games reach this level again. The game has moved in a different direction, one where the richest players exclusively compete in land-based cash games and tournaments.

Nevertheless, the golden age of high stakes online poker will always be an interesting chapter in the game’s history.

Semi-Bluffs in Poker: What They Are and How to Win Money with Them

Man at Poker Table and Overview of Poker Table
Most poker players and non-poker players alike have heard of a bluff. It’s a classic strategy that’s implemented in casinos and online poker where you try to convince your opponent that your hand is better than it is, usually through aggressive betting. If done right, a good bluff will convince your opponent to cut their losses and fold their cards. A bad bluff means you lose. Then, there’s the semi-bluff, which combines elements of bluffing with good poker strategy to, hopefully, put you in position to score a big pot and convince your opponents to fold.

But what is a semi-bluff? Simply put, a semi-bluff is when you go ahead and make a bet when you don’t yet have a winning hand. The classic example of this is when you have four of the cards needed for a flush or a straight, but you go ahead and bet like you have a good hand. This is referred to as a bluff because you don’t have a good hand (like a classic bluff), but it’s only a semi-bluff because there’s a chance that the hand will improve into a valid winner.

Now that you know what a semi-bluff is, let’s look at how to use them to take down a few pots.

When to Semi-Bluff

Before we get too far into the strategy of semi-bluffing, let’s establish some base rules. First, this advice applies only to semi-bluffing. If you’ve made the decision to raise post-flop and you’re hoping to fill a straight or a flush because you have a taller stack, you want to bluff, or you have another strategy, there are different rules for governing those situations and rules for dealing with a semi-bluff. What we discuss below applies only to raising when you are semi-bluffing.

Poker Game and Poker Chips

With that said, when is it a good time to semi-bluff? There are two factors that determine, table position and the overall strength of your hand.

First, let’s look at table position. If you attempt to semi-bluff, it’s always better to be in “the position,” which is the poker player’s term for betting last or near the end of all active players in the round. Really, no matter what you’re doing, it’s better to be in the position in poker than out of it because you can acquire more information about what everyone else is doing and respond accordingly.

For instance, if you’re considering a semi-bluff and everyone else at the table bets aggressively, it gives you the chance to change your mind and check or fold altogether. Conversely, if everyone is betting cautiously before you, your semi-bluff has a better chance of winning you money.

Secondly, analyze the odds of winning the hand before you consider a semi-bluff. If you’re drawing to an inside straight, for instance, your odds of winning the hand are far, far worse than if you’re working toward a flush draw.

More importantly, if you have a pair, even if it’s not a top pair, then your chances of winning the hand are higher than if you had nothing.

Next, compare your odds of winning to the overall pot size to determine your pot odds. Pot odds are calculated as the ratio of your odds of winning the hand to the size of the pot. So, if you estimate you have a 10% chance of winning and there’s $100 in the pot, your pot odds are 10-1. If you estimate that you have a 50% chance of winning a pot of $100, then the pot odds increase to 2-1. It should come as no surprise that you want to semi-bluff when the pot odds are more in your favor.

Unless you feel very confident, don’t semi-bluff with more than 5-1 odds until you really get a feel for the game. In other words, don’t semi-bluff if you feel you have less than a 20% chance of winning.

Lastly, for games like Texas Hold’em, you will need to determine when to semi-bluff. A lot of that depends on your risk tolerance and what’s being shown at the table, but it’s always better to semi-bluff earlier in the hand rather than later. With each new card dealt, the chances of you picking up the winning hand get less and less, and your risk gets higher and higher.

When Not to Semi-Bluff

There are several situations in which you should avoid semi-bluffing. For instance, if you’re not in the position, you should strongly consider avoiding semi-bluffing. If you’re betting first, you simply may not have enough information to semi-bluff reliably. Of course, situations will always vary and you may feel you have enough of a feel for the hand, but it’s always better to semi-bluff in the position.

Secondly, if the pot odds are against you, it’s a bad time to attempt a semi-bluff. At the end of the day, a semi-bluff shares its most important facet with a classic bluff—you are bluffing. You don’t have the cards to win the hand, but you’re betting like you do. There is nothing that a bluff is going to do to change that.

If the odds are massively against you, it’s not wise to attempt a semi-bluff because more than likely, you are just going to be giving your chips to someone else.

Beyond that, there are a few other situations in which attempting a semi-bluff may not be the wisest strategy. First, if you’re on the short stack, think twice before you attempt a semi-bluff unless you are committed to seeing it through and making your semi-bluff a full one. Again, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are times you are on the short stack and it makes strategic sense to bluff out the other team, but be careful. When those chips are gone, so are you.

Also, to be successful with semi-bluffing, use your skills at reading the table. You need to ask yourself how the others at the table are going to react. Will they fold and let you win the pot? Is that what you want them to do? Are they the aggressive bully types who will call no matter what (potentially leaving you with no winning cards and less chips at the end of the hand)? Figure out the table, then come back and get your bluffing game going.

Pay attention to how everyone is betting this particular hand. Are people going against tendency? Do one or more players seem particularly aggressive? If so, expect that your bluff is going to get called and be prepared for it.

Making Money

There are two ways to make money semi-bluffing. The less common way is when you pick up the card you are looking for to complete your straight or your flush. When that happens, bet accordingly and take some money from your opponents.

Poker Chips and a Hand Picking them up

The more common scenario is that you make money by getting one or more of your opponents to make the call, thereby increasing the size of that pot. This allows you to continue betting in later rounds in an increasingly aggressive fashion until you ultimately get the other players at the table to fold their hands altogether.

Or you can bluff into having them think you drew the winning cards and you have the unbeatable hand. The first scenario is the luck of the draw. The second scenario is your skill at the game measured against everyone else’s skill.

Conclusion

If you never learned the term semi-bluff, it’s still likely you could go on to a professional poker career and make decent money. The point, though, is not that you have learned another term to put into your poker vocabulary. Instead, the real goal of knowing about semi-bluffs is understanding there is a whole strategy behind when you should use one and when it’s best to play tight or just fold altogether.

In the end, the right way to employ a semi-bluff will vary from hand to hand and from table to table. Try to semi-bluff when you’re in position and consider avoiding it when you’re not. Semi-bluff when the odds are in your favor, and always make sure you have the chips to back it up.

Doubling Down for Less in Blackjack

Blackjack Table and Woman Holding American Money
“Doubling down for less” is an unusual move at the blackjack table, and it’s usually a mistake. But since most people never do it, it’s a mistake most players never make. This post looks at how doubling down for less works in a game of blackjack and whether it’s a good time.

An Example of Doubling Down for Less

Suppose you’re betting $100 per hand at the blackjack table, and you get dealt a hard 11 total. Most blackjack players familiar with basic strategy know that the correct move in this situation is to double down.

To double down, you put up more money (the same amount you bet initially) and agree to take only one hit. In this case, if you bet $100, you would put up another $100 and tell the dealer you’re doubling down.

But let’s suppose that the dealer has a 10 showing as her face-up card, and you’re nervous about how good the dealer’s hand might be. You might decide to “double down for less” by putting up $20 or $50 instead of the full $100.

You’re still agreeing to take one, and exactly one, additional card.  You’re also still getting more money into action. Most blackjack players I know don’t even know that this is an option. In fact, I didn’t know about it until I read an article online.

I’ve personally never seen anyone do this. But it’s something you can do. Unfortunately, doubling down for less is also the wrong move to make, and the math behind why isn’t as complicated as you might think.

Why the Math Makes Doubling Down for Less the Wrong Move

You basically have three realistic decisions in the example situation.

  1. You can hit the total of 11.
  2. You can double down on the total of 11.
  3. You can double down for less on the total of 11.

Theoretically, you COULD stand on a hard total of 11, but that’s obviously the wrong play. There’s no downside to getting another card. It’s impossible to bust a total of 11 by taking another card, so it’s ALL upside.

Example of Doubling Down in Blackjack

What Happens If You Just Hit the 11?

You’ll win 56% of the time. This means that your expected value here is excellent. If you win 56 times for every 44 losses, you’ll see a profit of $1200 (on average) over 100 hands. You have 56 wins of $100 each compared to 44 losses of $100 each. That’s an average win per hand of $12.

What Happens If You Double Down on the 11?

You’ll still win most of the time, but the win ratio will drop to 54% because of the extra card. But this time, you’ll have $200 in action on each hand instead of $100 in action on each hand.

54 wins at $200 per win is $10,800. 46 losses at $200 per loss is $9200. Your profit over those 100 hands is $1600 instead of $1200. Even though you’re losing slightly more often, your net profit over 100 hands is significantly higher. You’re winning an average of $16 per hand instead of $12 per hand.

What Happens If You Double Down for Less on the 11?

Your win ratio will be the same, because you’re still taking just one card, 54%. But now, you have less money in action. Let’s assume you double down for less by putting up $50. Now, over 100 hands, you’re looking at 54 X $150 in winnings, or $8100.

You’re also looking at 46 X $150 in losses, or $6900. That’s $1200 in net profits, which is the same profit you’d show if you just took a hit. But $50 isn’t the only amount you could change your bet by.

You could go lower, to $25, or higher, like $75. Would either of those be more optimal? With a $125 bet on the table, you’re looking at 54 X $125, or $6750, in winnings versus 46 X $125, or $5750, in losses.

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Your net win is $1000, or $10 per hand, which means that doubling down for less with an extra bet of $25 provides you with an even lower expectation than just hitting.

What about with a bet of $75? Now, you’re looking at 54 X $175, or $9450, in winnings, and 46 X $175, or $8050, in losses. Your net win is $1400, which is better than what you’d see if you bet $150, but still not as good as if you’d actually doubled down where your net win was $1600.

Any of these can be divided by the 100 hands to get an average win per hand:

  • Just hitting is an average win of $12 per hand.
  • Doubling down is an average win of $16 per hand.
  • Doubling down for less is an average win of less than $16. The less you double down for, the lower the expected win.

The Moral of This Blackjack Story

The more of this blackjack story is similar to the moral of most blackjack stories: You should always stick with basic strategy. The basic strategy for blackjack is the mathematically optimal way of playing those hands. When you deviate from basic strategy, you might be okay in the short term. But in the long run, deviating from basic strategy does one of two things every time.

  1. It increases the amount you’ll lose over time when playing a specific hand a specific way.
  2. It decreases the amount you’ll win over time when playing a specific hand a specific way.
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The ONLY time you should deviate from basic strategy is when you’re counting cards.

Card counting is beyond the scope of this post, except as it relates to the doubling down for less move. But I can tell you this. You would never double down for less no matter what the count was.

I did see someone ask if it would make sense to double down for less if you don’t have enough of a bankroll to double down. For example, what if you’re playing for $100 on that hand, but you only have $50 left on the table besides that?

In that case, then yes, doubling down for less WOULD be the appropriate move. But I’d also suggest that if you only have $150 on the table, you shouldn’t bet $100 of it on a single hand of blackjack. You’d be better off betting $10 per hand so that you could make the correct basic strategy decisions.

Conclusion

Deciding whether doubling down for less in blackjack is a good move is a great example of how the math behind basic strategy works. Once you know the percentage of times you’ll win with a certain move, and the percentage of times you’ll lose with a certain move, you can just do some quick multiplication and division to come up with an average profit or loss per hand.

Did you even know that doubling down for less was an option? Have you ever tried it? I’d love to read your comments below.

2 Roulette Systems Reviewed – Can You Win?

Roulette Wheel and Roulette Table
Have you ever doubled your bet after a loss or let a winning bet ride to try to benefit from a hot streak? If you’ve done either of these things you’ve used one of the systems below.

Roulette players are like gamblers who play other games; they’re always interested in ways to help them win. This often leads to systems that promise riches and easy wins.

The question is can any of these roulette systems actually help you win? I cover two popular roulette systems below and answer the question of if they can help you win.

1 – Double After Loss

The most popular system today is the one that’s been in use the longest. Most systems in existence are based at least in part on the Martingale system. This system is simple; you double your bet after every loss and start over with a small wager after every win.

When you double up after each loss, when you win a spin you win enough to eliminate all of your previous losses and have a profit equal to your base bet that you start each string with. This works great until you lose several spins in a row.

When you lose several spins in a row you’re forced to bet a large amount to win a small amount in overall profit. Eventually, you lose so many spins in a row that you run out of money or hit the table maximum limit.

Dealer at Roulette Table Handling Chips

The double after loss system will never overcome the house edge, so it’s dangerous to use. But if you use it in a smart way it’s no worse than making flat bets.

The truth is that you can use the double after loss system to win for a while. You can even get lucky and win with it for a long time before you hit a series of losses that destroy your bankroll. This system is also fun to use when it’s winning.

But in the long run you can’t beat roulette using the double after loss system. Eventually, you lose a big bet that wipes out all of your previous wins and leaves you worse off than you started.

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If you decide to use the double after loss roulette system, set aside a bankroll that you only use for it.

Never make a bet that doesn’t come from your bankroll. You can add to your bankroll, but never during a playing session.

This way, when you run up against a long losing streak, you only lose your bankroll and you never lose the rent money or the mortgage.  Here’s an example of how this works. You can substitute your preferred bet sizes and starting bankroll, but this gives you an idea.

You start with a $500 bankroll and a base bet of $10 per spin. You always bet on an even money return. Every time you complete a series of bets starting with $10 you win $10 and add it to your bankroll. You win 17 series in a row, so your bankroll is now at $670 and you hit a losing streak.

  • You lose the first bet of $10, for a total loss of $10.
  • You lose the second bet of $20, for a total loss of $30.
  • You lose the third bet of $40, for a total loss of $70.
  • You lose the fourth bet of $80 for a total loss of $150.
  • You lose the fifth bet of $160, for a total loss of $310.

At this point your bankroll is down to $360. This means you have enough to make one more wager in the series, but if you lose it your bankroll will be down to $40. What you decide to do at this point is entirely up to you, but you should seriously consider starting over with your $10 base bet with a bankroll of $360.

This gives you an opportunity to build your bankroll back to $500 by winning several series in a row. When you drop to $40 in a bankroll, it’s difficult to build back up without adding new funds to your bankroll.

Another good option is using all of your wins to build a new bankroll. Using the same parameters of $10 bets starting with $500; every time you win a series you add $10 to a new bankroll. You keep playing with your original $500 bankroll until you lose five bets in a row.

When you lose five bets in a row your original $500 bankroll is down to $190. Add this $190 to your second bankroll and start over. You create a third bankroll with all of your $10 series wins and keep doing this for as long as possible.

This limits your losses to no more than your original $500 bankroll for as long as possible. You still aren’t going to win in the long run, but with a little luck, you can play for a long time before you bust out.

2 – Double After Win

In most ways the double after win system is the opposite of the double after loss system. The biggest difference is there isn’t a built-in stop in the double after win system. In the double after loss roulette system you stop and go back to your original or base bet amount after any win, or you stop when you run out of money.

When you use the double after win system you have to set your stop points before you start. This can be done in two different ways, which I cover later in this section.

Roulette Wheel and Table

The double after win roulette system operates exactly as it sounds. Every time you win a bet you leave your original bet and your winnings in play on the next bet. When you win a few bets in a row your winnings start ramping up quickly.

Most players who use this system make even money bets like the players who use the double after loss system. But you can use this system on any bet available at the roulette table. The reason why most players use the even money bets is because they offer the best odds to win. On a single zero roulette wheel you win 18 out of every 37 spins on average on an even money bet, which means you win 48.65% of the time.

The bet with the longest odds and highest pay out on the roulette wheel is the single number wager. It pays 35 to 1 and the odds of hitting it are 1 out of every 37 spins. In other words, you only have a 2.7% chance to hit a single number wager.

Whether you decide to bet on even money bets or something with longer odds and a higher payout depends on your appetite for risk and reward. You won’t win two or more bets in a row on the longer shots as often as you do on even money wagers, but the reward is much higher.

If you let your win ride on a single number bet after you win one, if you win the second bet in a row you secure a big win. A $10 bet on a single number returns your original wager plus a win of $350. When you bet the $360 total on a single number and win a second bet in a row you win back your $360 and a profit of $12,600.

When you bet on an even money bet and win two in a row you only have $40 on your original $10 bet. But you’re much more likely to win two even money wagers in a row.

The two different ways you can work with a stopping point using the double after win system are setting an amount where you stop any series, or simply stopping when you feel your luck is about to stop. I prefer the first method, but the truth is it doesn’t really matter which way you decide to go.

You need to break your bankroll into small amounts so you have an opportunity to start many series. In the last section, I used an example of $10 bets starting every series with a $500 bankroll. Using these same numbers, you have 50 series starters of $10 each. Every time you lose or reach your preset win number you start a new series with a $10 wager.

The Problem with Gambling Systems

The problem with gambling systems, including both of the roulette systems I covered above, is they never help you overcome the house edge. In the long run you’re still going to lose what the house edge dictates you’re going to lose.

The danger, especially with a system like the Martingale, is that many players use it a few times and win more than they lose and they start believing that it’s the perfect system. But the more times you use any system, the closer you are to disaster.

A player who believes the double after loss system can’t lose will wager more and more following losses, and be tempted to bet money they can’t afford to lose. This eventually ends in disaster, and often bankruptcy.

Conclusion

Can you use either of these roulette systems to win? The answer is no in the long run. You might get lucky in the short term and show a profit, but eventually you’re going to lose. The same thing is true when you don’t use a roulette system. You might get lucky in the short term, but in the long run you’re going to lose.

Why Are Live Dealer Casinos so Popular?

Woman and Man Live Dealers at Casino
The online gaming world used to just feature virtual casino games. If you wanted to play blackjack, your only option was to use a software-generated table with an AI dealer.

Such table games are still available in great abundance. But you can now look forward to live dealer gaming as well.

Live casino games differ from standard virtual table games in the following ways:

  • Action is streamed from either a land-based studio or casino.
  • A human dealer works the table.
  • You can communicate with the dealer via a chat box.
  • Real tables are used.
  • Real cards and other equipment (e.g. roulette wheel) are used.

Some elements of live casinos are the same as virtual gaming. For example, the betting interface is roughly the same between both versions.

For the most part, though, live dealer gaming is very different from regular online casino gambling. Its differences have helped it become more popular among players.

However, the situation regarding live casinos wasn’t always so great. In fact, few people played these games in the beginning.

I’m going to further discuss the slow start for this form of gambling. I’ll also cover what elements have helped it attain a high level of popularity today.

Slow Beginnings for Live Dealer Gaming

Live dealer casinos are nothing new. They’ve been around since the mid-2000s.

Certain internet casinos launched live dealer outfits with an obvious angle: bring the brick-and-mortar experience to the online world.

These casinos were filling an obvious void in online gambling. But they failed to take off right away for a couple of reasons.

  • Consumer internet connections weren’t that great in the mid-2000s. Live tables would sometimes freeze up in the middle of a round.
  • The studios and game play options didn’t make for a fun experience.

As with many new ideas, live casinos struggled mightily due to these setbacks. It took years before they improved to the point where they were accepted on a wide scale basis.

Factors that Have Boosted the Popularity of Live Casinos

Many internet casinos now license live gaming software from various providers (e.g. Evolution). This is a stark contrast from 10 years again, when live casinos were poorly functioning sites with few users.

What sparked this turnaround? The following reasons have all contributed to the rise of live dealer gambling.

Quality Live Casino Studios

The earliest live casinos were rather rudimentary. They featured single cameras at tables and poor virtual interfaces for the betting options.

These outfits have seriously upgraded their technology and presentation. Nowadays, each table features multiple cameras to capture different viewpoints.

The studios themselves also look better than in the past. Rather than blank rooms with casino tables, these studios are fashioned to look like real casinos.

Speaking of which, some providers even operate in brick-and-mortar casinos. For example, Actual Gaming (formerly Vuetec) and MTM Corp both operate from the classy Fitzwilliam Casino in Dublin.

Mobile Compatibility

When live dealer sites first came out, they were originally only available on PCs and Macs. This made sense at the time when considering that mobile phones were still built like small bricks.

Live Dealer Blackjack on Iphone

However, the advent of smart phones changed everything. Smartphone tech allows for better graphics and streaming quality — two crucial elements to the live gaming experience.

Better Internet & PC/Mobile Technology

As mentioned before, internet connections weren’t the greatest when live casinos first launched. But high-speed internet is now available across most of the world.

Players no longer have to worry about games freezing up on them in the middle of a session. Instead, they can enjoy smooth game play at live dealer sites.

PC and mobile technology have also helped to improve this process. Computers, smart phones, and tablets are now able to stream live gambling action without much incident.

Improved Chat Function

One aspect that truly sets live table games apart from their virtual counterparts is communication. You can interact with a real dealer via the chat box.

This process works as follows:

  • You type a question to the dealer.
  • It appears on a large screen in front of the dealer.
  • They respond to you when they get a free second.

Maybe this isn’t as personable as sitting and chatting with the dealer at an actual casino table. However, it’s the most-interactive experience that online gaming currently offers.

More Features

Again, live dealer tables weren’t exactly technological marvels when they were first introduced. Software providers have done a good job at upgrading the features over the years, though.

Here are some of the features that are available at live tables:

  • Bet behind — Sometimes live dealer tables are full. Bet behind allows you to wager on the outcome of a seated player’s results.
  • Card overlays — Virtual card overlays make it easier to see the real card values that are dealt.
  • Fullscreen — Increase the screen size to take up the entire table.
  • Stop/go lights — Green, yellow, and red lights show how much time you have to place bets.
  • Tips — Give your favorite dealer a tip.
  • Virtual chips — Like card overlays, virtual chips enable to you to better see the chip denominations.

Low Stakes

Nothing beats the land-based gambling experience. However, brick-and-mortar casinos require high minimum bets. Plenty of establishments require you to wager at least $25 per hand.

Live dealer software providers differ greatly in this regard. Some only require you to bet $1 to begin playing.

Others may call for $5 minimum wagers, especially regarding blackjack. But this amount is still cheaper than the average brick-and-mortar casino.

Find Your Favorite Dealers

The dealers are quite possibly the biggest draws to live casinos. Not only do they communicate with you, but many of them are also quite attractive.

You can play at different croupiers’ tables and develop a bond with them. Over time, you may find that you prefer one dealer over the others.

Blonde Woman Casino Dealer

In this case, you can check out their schedule to see what shift they’ll be working. Many online casinos provide this information somewhere on their website.

Most live dealer sites also feature dealers who speak a variety of languages. English, French German, Spanish, and Swedish are among the most-popular languages spoken at these casinos.

More Games

Baccarat, blackjack, and roulette have been the staples of live dealer gambling sites. However, this selection has been expanded in recent years.

Here are some of the many games that you can find across the industry:

  • Baccarat
  • Blackjack
  • Caribbean stud
  • Casino hold’em
  • Dragon Tiger
  • Dream Catcher
  • Texas hold’em bonus poker
  • Three-card poker
  • Ultimate Texas hold’em

Beyond the large game variety, certain live games have multiple variations. Blackjack, for example, features a party version, where a host/hostess works with the dealer to keep gamblers entertained.

How Can You Get in on the Live Dealer Gaming Action?

You don’t have to look far to find live dealer casino games these days. Many casinos and providers now feature these options.

It’s important to note that not every gaming site and provider have live games. After all, these outfits are fairly expensive to run and license.

Therefore, the first matter is to find a site that runs live casino games. You can do so by looking for casinos that use software from one or more of the following providers:

This list doesn’t even cover every live operator. Therefore, you can see all of the different options that are available.

Once you choose a casino with live gaming software, the rest of the process is easy. You just deposit and sign up like you normally would at any casino.

From here, you proceed to a casino’s games section. They should have live dealer gaming clearly categorized and separate from their slots and virtual table games.

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Many sites require you to bet real money to play. This differs from virtual table games, which are free to enjoy.

Therefore, a deposit is required before you can play live dealer games. The good news, though, is that live casinos have lower minimum bets than the average land-based establishment.

Conclusion

Live gambling sites may not have started off with a bang. But they’re definitely a major part of the online gaming industry now.

Several factors have contributed to the success of live casinos. Here’s a recap of the main aspects that have helped this style of gambling grow:

  • Better studios; some outfits even operate from brick-and-mortar casinos
  • Live casinos available on smart phones and tablets.
  • Stronger internet connections
  • Improved PC/Mac and mobile phone technology
  • Fun chat feature
  • Added features, including the popular “bet behind”
  • Lower stakes than brick-and-mortar casinos
  • Attractive and entertaining dealers
  • Lots of different games

You can’t perfectly replace the brick-and-mortar casino environment. With the latter, you can touch cards, sit at a real table, talk directly to the dealer, and chat with fellow players.

But live dealer gaming is a suitable alternative when you can’t get to the closest casino. While you may be seeing the action through a screen, the tables, dealers, and cards are real in this situation too.

What’s nice is that you won’t have to work hard to find a live casino either. Plenty of software providers feature their products across numerous gaming sites.

Some casinos even offer free bets that are exclusive to live gamblers. That said, you have extra incentive to try these types of casinos.

3 Ways to Reduce the House Edge

Image Split into 3 Parts, Blackjack Table, Craps Table, and Baccarat Table
The rules of the game are fixed. When you play a casino game the house has its edge and that’s final. You cannot change the theoretical return to the house.

Or can you?

I’ve said before that the house has a “hidden edge”. This is the difference between theoretical return to player and actual return to player based on poor gaming.

But there is another house edge. Call it the “secondary edge”. You run up against this when you’re given two choices of the same game.

Should you play 6:5 blackjack or 3:2 blackjack?

That’s a no-brainer but if there is more than 1 version of a game in the casino, why do people play the version that pays less often?

When the table rules are posted and you can compare the terms of the game variations, curiosity should be the only reason to consider playing a game less likely to pay you. Satisfy your curiosity but go into the game with your eyes open.

You may have heard about a “zero lounge” where the games have little to no house edge. Most people will never find one so I’m not going to include it in my list. You need to be your own zero lounge as much as you can.

What the House Edge Is and Why It’s Acceptable

Every casino game is designed to pay the players out of their own wagers. The rules are set so that over time the house should retain a percentage of those wagers as a sort of commission for running the games.

I like to use roulette to illustrate how this works. If you bet on a single number and win the casino pays you 35-to-1 odds. That sounds like a great return. But in the three types of roulette the probability of the ball landing on any single number is less than 1-in-35:

  • European roulette (37 to 1)
  • American roulette (38 to 1)
  • Sands roulette (39 to 1)

Even without the green slots on the wheel the house is already committed to paying you less than even money on a single number bet. But they do pay even money on outside bets like even/odd or black/red. That’s why they need the green slots, so they always have a statistical advantage.

Also known as single zero roulette, European roulette offers a house edge of 2.7%. If the table uses the la partage rule that refunds half the player’s outside bet when the ball lands on 0, then the house edge drops to 1.35%.

The house edge in American roulette is 5.26% or almost twice the best edge in European roulette.

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Sands roulette, also known as triple zero roulette, has the highest house edge at about 7.69%.

The house edge is important. As players we want to pay the house as little money as possible. But the casino needs to pay its bills. They make their money from running games that allow them to retain a percentage of wagers.

The table games with the lowest overall house edge are baccarat and blackjack, but the casinos can change the rules for these games.

Now, how do we lower the house edge if we can’t change the rules?

We have to work on the “hidden edge” and the “secondary edge” in all games.

1 – Memorize the Basic or Standard Rules of the Game

If you don’t even know basic strategy you’re not going to do well in any game. Baccarat has the simplest choice in strategies (bet on the banker for the lowest house edge). Blackjack strategy is complicated because there are so many possible combinations of cards.

The more complex a game is the more people are drawn to it. Baccarat is probably popular only because of James Bond. Most people who play table games stick with blackjack, craps, and roulette.

James Bond and Bloomberg Playing Baccarat in Movie

Chuck A Luck and its variations offer more complexity in player choices than baccarat but the house edge in those dice games is worse than the edge for many slot games.

When you know the basic game strategy well enough you’ll avoid making the most common mistakes. This reduces or eliminates the “hidden edge”.

When you know the basic rules of the game you’ll also recognize unusual table or house rules right away. If the casino changes how the game is played from the standard version, it’s almost always to make more money from the game.

You might wonder why they need to do this since casinos make most of their money from slot machine games. It doesn’t matter. If they change the payout odds, limits, or minimums the change probably benefits them more than you.

Choosing to play only basic games over house variations reduces or eliminates the “secondary edge”.

2 – Play the Odds in Craps

I know of only one truly even money bet in standard table games: playing the odds in craps.

And like all sweet deals in life, there is a catch. To play the odds in craps you must make a Pass or Don’t Pass bet. Your Odds bet is limited by the amount of your Pass / Don’t Pass bet.

Since the house has an edge on the first bet Taking or Laying the Odds flattens that edge a little bit. Craps experts recommend playing the Odds for that reason.

Most players start with a Pass bet. Pass bets are made on the come out roll, when the black marker on the table reads “Off”. You win even money if the Pass roll is 7 or 11. If the come out roll is 2, 3, or 12 you lose your bet. Any other result sets the the point and the croupier flips the black marker to say “On”.

You can make a Pass bet after the come out roll but it doesn’t pay as well.

Once you’ve survived the come out roll you can Take the Odds, which is an even-money bet that the point will be rolled again before 7 turns up. The payout odds match the probability of any winning number being thrown.

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A few casinos may pay really well on an Odds bet but in the basic game all you need to understand is that Pass + Odds > Pass.

If you make a Don’t Pass bet on the come out roll then you’ll win if the dice tally 2 or 3. You push if the shooter rolls a 12. You lose if any other number is rolled.

Some casinos push on 2 instead of 12.

If you bet Don’t Pass on the come out roll you Lay the Odds, which means you’re betting the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point.

The house edge is slightly better for Don’t Pass than for Pass but gambling writers caution people that “most players” don’t like it when someone bets against them.

On the other hand, this is why people in movies and TV shows shout “come on 7!” when playing craps. They bet Don’t Pass and Lay the Odds (assuming the script follows anything like real craps rules).

3 – Leverage the Dealer Disadvantage in Blackjack

A friend recently told me the house has an edge in blackjack because the player goes first. If you bust out then it doesn’t matter what the dealer’s cards are.

Blackjack experts advise against taking insurance and making progressive bets. These are options are like putting extra money in the casino’s pocket.

The whole game of blackjack is designed to make you pay before the dealer plays. That hardly seems fair.

Blackjack Table and People Playing

Blackjack players hurt themselves by helping the house’s “hidden edge”.

The one disadvantage the dealer has that helps you before the cards are played is a table rule where the dealer must stand on a soft 17. Unfortunately casinos are beginning to replace this rule with the opposite: their dealers must hit on soft 17.

The dealer has slightly better odds if he hits on soft 17. It’s a small percentage difference but if you have a choice between a table where the dealer stands on soft 17 and a table where the dealer hits, consider the 1st table.

Of course, other table or house rules may offset the slight disadvantage in standing on soft 17.

Conclusion

Although there isn’t much a player can do to improve their chances of winning, there is much we can do to hurt our chances of winning. The casino counts on that.

And as many “tell all” articles about casino secrets point out, modern casinos create a relaxing environment and keep the alcohol flowing so their players lose track of time and start making mistakes.

In my opinion the “hidden edge” is where the casino makes most of its money. Eliminating that edge won’t guarantee you’ll win but it improves your chances considerably.

7 Signs You’re Gambling Too Much

Man Sitting at Slot Machine and Blackjack Table
Are you gambling too much? How can you tell if you are? On this page, I’ll be discussing seven signs you might be gambling a little too frequently.

But I want to make something clear before you continue. This article isn’t aimed at problem gamblers. Some gamblers have a real issue on their hands and need to seek help immediately. If you have even the slightest idea that you might have a problem, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

This article is for players who can easily control their gambling, including those who might just need to take a break or back off for a short while. Although the focus is often on gamblers that can’t stop and end up losing everything, the majority of gamblers don’t gamble with money they can’t afford to lose and treat their gambling as a form of entertainment.

But even when you’re a responsible gambler, sometimes you need to watch for one or more of the signs below. Once you notice them, you can either take a break from gambling or gamble less.

1 – Chasing Losses

I hesitated to include chasing losses on this list, but ultimately decided it was too important to skip. Many gamblers chase losses as a habit. But keep in mind, chasing losses doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gambling too much.

The problem is when you start chasing losses even if it’s something you usually don’t do. Most gambling activities are for fun and not necessarily for profit. And because of a casino house edge, players lose in the long run.

When you chase losses, you simply lose faster. It puts your bankroll in danger, and you need to understand how short term and long term probabilities work. This way, you don’t run out of money.

2 – Losing Sleep

Woman Lying in Bed Awake, Yellow Sleeping Z's
It’s often difficult to link loss of sleep with one particular thing, but if you start having a hard time sleeping, consider whether it has anything to do with gambling. Losing can leave you in a state of unrest, and it’s possible that your sleep patterns are affected by it.

I’m not a doctor or psychologist, so I can’t help cure your sleep issues. But you need to be aware that it’s at least possible gambling could be the reason you’re not sleeping well.

Another possibility is that you’re neglecting sleep because you’d rather gamble.

This is a choice only you can make, but you need to be aware of the choice so you can make an educated decision.

If you’re working full time and have normal responsibilities in your life, it can be challenging to find enough time to gamble as much as you want.

3 – Hiding Your Gambling

This is a big one, so pay attention. Any time you hide your gambling activities from people, especially the people who’re most important in your life, it’s a clear sign that something is going on.

If you’re hiding some or all of your gambling from your spouse and/or loved ones, you need to figure out why you’re doing it. You have to be completely honest about this and dig down to the root cause.

Even if you struggle with figuring out why you’re hiding your gambling, reduce your time spent gambling for a few weeks.

I recommend using this extra time away from your normal gambling activities to figure out why you feel the need to hide your habits. I’m not here to judge, I’m simply here to educate. You might have a legitimate reason to hide your gambling, but it’s usually a sign you may be gambling too much.

4 – Gambling When You’re Tired

Icon of guy Tired Hunched Over with Cord Leading to Empty Battery, Poker Cards SpreadMost people who gamble are guilty of gambling when they’re tired at least a few times. I’ve done it too many times to count, and I usually don’t regret it. Occasionally, I’ll make a bad mistake because I’m tired, but I only continue gambling when I’m tired in situations where I still have an edge.

Here’s an example of when I’m most likely to gamble when tired.

The main thing I enjoy at the casinos is a good game of poker. I’m able to play well enough to be an overall winning player, but I’ve never dedicated enough time and effort to be able to play full time. One of my most profitable strategies is to find games with bad players. This gives me an edge most of the time.

In a game filled with bad players, I tend to play as long as the game is good and I’m able to continue playing better than my opponents. In a good game, I’ll play when I’m tired most of the time. Only when my profitability goes down because of being tired do I quit playing.

You can continue gambling when you’re tired, but try to be aware of when you start making mistakes because you’re tired. Once you start making mistakes, it’s usually time to pack it in and get some rest.

5 – Behind on Your Bills

When you’re a gambler and you’re behind on your bills, it’s time to take a close look at what’s going on in your financial life. The first thing you need to determine is if you’re a winning or losing gambler. If you don’t know the answer, then it’s safe to assume you’re a losing gambler.

Most gamblers lose money in the long run. If you’re doing anything other than counting cards at the blackjack tables, betting on sports, or playing poker, the odds of you being a winning gambler are almost non-existent.

Even if you play poker or bet on sports, the odds that you win in the long run are small. The only way to know for sure is to track all of your play and expenses.

If you find that you’re a breakeven or winning gambler, you probably don’t need to stop gambling until you’re caught up on your bills. But even if you’re a winner, you still might be able to earn more doing something else, like working, rather than gambling.

On the other hand, if you’re like most gamblers and lose more than you win, you need to gamble less until you get your bills taken care of.

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If you need to gamble less, or even stop gambling for a while, there’s no shame in it.

It takes a responsible and educated person to make a decision like this and follow through.

6 – Experiencing Social Issues

It can be difficult to recognize how your gambling can change your social relationships. But if you never think about it, you’re never going to see it happening. Have you noticed more disagreements or strife in your personal relationships lately? Are you fighting with your spouse, friends, co-workers, or boss?

Guy Confused with Hand on Head, Woman Sad, Thought Cloud with Casino Dice and Chips Inside

Gambling isn’t always the cause of social issues, but losing can make you irritable and defensive. As I stated in an earlier section, I’m not able to diagnose and help correct social issues, but I do want to help you understand that gambling can have an impact on them, and I want to help you watch for the signs.

Don’t hesitate to cut back on your habits for a short time if there seems to be more chaos or disagreement in your life.

7 – Losing Too Much Money

This is probably the easiest sign on the list to recognize and act on. If you’re losing more money than you want, it’s time to gamble less. When your losses become too high, it might even be time to stop gambling for a period of time.

I recommend taking a break and spending the time learning how to be a winning gambler. You can find books, articles, and videos that help you develop the skills you need. Look into playing other games like poker, blackjack, or sports betting, and see if you have the skills needed to start winning.

Only two ways exist to stop losing too much money gambling. You either need to stop gambling or learn how to gamble with an edge.

If you’re already a gambler, the odds are that you don’t want to stop. So, why not learn how to come over to the profitable side so you can continue gambling for the rest of your life?

Conclusion

I like to gamble and I don’t plan to stop doing it. But I’ve taken a few breaks over the years and looking back, I don’t regret any of them. The more you gamble and the older you get, the better chance you have of recognizing when you’re gambling too much.

Use the signs listed above to help you learn when you need to slow down or take a break. You can always start gambling more later and, if you use your time wisely when you slow down, you might even learn how to improve your long-term results.

Love Them or Hate Them: 9 Interesting Facts About Slot Machines

Velvet Texture Background, Slot Machine Icon with Magnifying Glass Over It, Slots in Gold Banner
There’s no avoiding the slot machine. Loved by many, reviled by some, they’re undeniably part of the Las Vegas landscape. They’re available in all casinos (in person and online), beckoning the passersby with the siren’s song of coins hitting a bucket. Plus, there’s usually fairly loud music and some flashing lights.

Slot machines form the backbone of the casino, accounting for 80% of its revenue in some cases. Because of this, casinos are always trying to make new and innovative way for casino slots games to bring in gamers and gamblers looking for fun.

Given their importance to the casino, whether you would play them or not, let’s look at nine facts about the slot machine that even the most ardent slot-hater might find interesting.

Slot Machines Have an Interesting History

According to Wikipedia, the precursor to the slot machine was developed in 1891 in Brooklyn. This machine used 50 of the 52 cards of a poker deck and allowed players to try to make a poker hand for a nickel a game.

Black and White Photography of Charles Fey, Icon of Slot Machine Invented by Charles FeyWhile they quickly grew in popularity, engineering in the early 1890s had no good way to standardize the payouts for all of the possible combinations of wins. Therefore, your prize for winning at this machine varied from bar to bar.

All of this changed by 1895 when Charles Fey invented a three-drum machine with just five symbols. Mechanically, it was easier to standardize payouts on this number of combinations and the slot machine was born.

Oh, and also of note, the original five symbols were the suits of poker and the Liberty Bell, which can still be found in slot machines to this day.

The First Video Slot Machine Was Developed in 1976

The first electronic slot machine was invented in 1963, but it wasn’t until the grand year of 1976 that the first video slot machine was created on a 19-inch color screen and Sony logic boards. According to Wikipedia, the first video slot machines were installed in the Las Vegas Hilton before gaining immense popularity that has continued to this day.

Most, if not all, slot machines operating in the US are video slot machines. The computers inside the machine are less open to fraud, more reliable than mechanical parts, and generally cheaper to produce.

There Are $100 Slot Machines

Hundred Dollar Casino Slot Machines, Hundred Dollar Bills Spread Out
Typically, a slot machine will “spin” for a single credit, though betting more credits leads to a higher payout. The cheapest credit possible is a single penny and is actually fairly common, especially in more established casinos. On the other hand, the sky’s the limit on how much a credit might cost to purchase.

There are even reports that some machines may cost as much as $100 per play just to spin the wheels once. That’s a fairly high-risk scenario that should be backed up by a serious bankroll.

If that’s your thing, go for it, but for most people, a slot machine that costs around a quarter to a dollar per credit is much closer to the norm.

Penny Slots Are a Great Way to Stretch a Bankroll

If you’re at the casino and don’t have a lot of money (either because you started off with a small casino bankroll or because you hit a bad run of luck), play the penny slots or the closest thing you can find to them. Modern day video slots have a lot more in common with game apps on your phone than hardcore gambling. This allows slot machine designers to have their slot machines run for a while on each play.

Because it takes a while to watch the animation, make a few choices, or perform some other action, playing slot machines can be a much more drawn-out experience.

This is in comparison to the olden days of dropping in a coin, pulling the arm, collecting the payout, and repeat.

If this sounds dreary, it’s not. Modern slot machines are just as addictive as the apps they resemble, meaning you can get a lot of play for not much money and still have a good time.

Slot Machines Don’t Run Hot and Cold

Icon of Real Casino Slot Machine, Icon with Half Sun and Half SnowflakeIf said to the right person, this “interesting fact” might start a riot. Some slot machine aficionados swear they can detect when a slot machine is about to payout big and when a machine has gone cold. Sadly, there’s no such thing as a streaky slot machine, especially not in the age of electronic slot machines.

Everything inside that machine is controlled by a computerized random number generator. Each time you play, it generates a complex series of numbers according to its own perfected algorithm. Those numbers get turned into whether you win or lose.

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This random number generator has been tweaked over time to promote a certain win percentage, so that it’s fair to the player and fair to the casino house edge.

Any win or loss streaks that the slot machine features is only the luck of the draw. Anything else would be too difficult to program into the algorithm and still keep things fair.

Slot Machines May Return Over 90% of the Money

Even though slot machines account for a significant amount of casino revenue, they still payout over 90% of the money they take in (sometimes as high as 94% percent). This is good news for the slot player.

Even though it’s fun to play video games at a casino, it’s even better when those video games pay off. Of course, just because the slot machine pays out at 90%, that doesn’t mean it pays that money out to you or at one time. A lot of that money is doled out in small amounts or put into a jackpot.

Slot Machines Owe Their Popularity to the Unlikeliest of Sources

American Flag Waving Background, George Bush and Ronald Regan
Slot machines, which are now legal in all but a handful of states, owe their popularity to two men—Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Both men increased taxes and forced businesses to find ways to generate additional revenue. While flat-out gambling like poker was definitely illegal, video slot machines could be reclassified as game rather than gambling. As it became acceptable to install video slot machines outside of casinos, their popularity continued to grow.

Slot Machines Are More Addictive Than Meth

Actually, we made that up. However, video slot machines are becoming increasingly more addictive (as are video game apps). In fact, since the 1990s, more people attend Gamblers Anonymous for slot machines than for playing poker.

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The statistics on how quickly people become addicted to slot machines is frightening, as are the effects of a slot machine player’s addiction.

Not to be too much of a downer, but slot machine players who suffer gambling addiction are more likely to commit suicide than others with a gambling addiction. Therefore, be careful when you start to play, as the effects of playing can be incredibly severe if you can’t control your habits.

There’s Such a Thing as Slot Machine Pros

Guy on Computer Looking Over Paperwork, Computer Displaying Casino Slot GameIn case you are wondering, there are slot machine professionals. We find this to be an interesting career choice as much of playing slots still boils down to the little random number generator inside the machine. The generator is what decides if you’re going to win or not.

With that said, it is nice to know there are slot machine professionals out there to rate existing slot machines, discuss strategies for machines that offer a strategic component, and talk us through the odds of winning.

On the other hand, the general consensus on this is fairly strong: There really is no system to how you play your slots.

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Remember what we said above about there being no hot or cold streaks with slot machines? Well, there’s no real system to guarantee huge profits when you play the slots.

They just don’t work like that.

Instead, be happy that you have a game to play, earn a little money on its payout, and have fun doing it. But if you’re spending $100 a pull, then you better hope you have luck on your side!

Conclusion

Slot machines are a lot more interesting than most people give them credit for. Next time you pass by the slots, even if they’re absolutely not your thing, keep in mind that those machines are paying for the casino. In fact, they’re probably paying out just enough to give someone a good winning story.

6 Ways You Can Maintain Your Poker A-Game Longer

Casino Floor with Gaming Tables in Background, Up Close Guy with Eyebrow Raised and Poker Cards Up to His Face
Many people play online poker as a form of entertainment. Therefore, they don’t always care what mindset they’re in while playing.

But anyone who wants to make real money with poker needs to be in the right mind frame in order to win consistently. After all, nobody should worry about what’s happening elsewhere when they’re in a serious game.

The goal is to play your “A-game” as much as possible. But how do you bring your best to the table and keep yourself in a good mindset?

Everything begins with knowing more about how to maintain your poker A-game. Once you thoroughly understand this concept, then you can figure out ways to give yourself the mental edge.

What Is Your Poker A-Game?

Silhouette of Guy Staring Down at Poker Cards and Poker ChipYour A-game is the point where you’re playing your best poker. In this zone, you make good decisions with hands, focus intently on opponents, and avoid any inclination to tilt.

If everybody played this way all the time, then poker would be a much more difficult game. Realistically, though, you and every other player will have down moments at the table.

Poker is a mentally draining game and can also be frustrating, too. If you’re at the table for hours and experience a couple of poker bad beats, then you could devolve into your C-game.

In most circumstances, it may not be possible to maintain your poker A-game 100% of the time. The hope, though, is to stay in this mindset as much as possible.

Unfortunately, you can’t always maintain your top form naturally. Instead, you need to make a concentrated effort at playing your best.

How Can You Get Into Your A-Game?

Big Group of People Around Poker Table, Casino Colored Chips Icon in Corner
Many professional athletes talk about being “in the zone” when they’re playing at peak performance and everything is going right. Your poker A-game is essentially the same thing.

However, unlike being in the zone in an athletic sport, you can work to maintain your poker A-game on a more consistent basis. You don’t need to rely on subconsciously shooting a basketball perfectly, for example, to get into the poker zone.

Poker is a mind sport. If you come into each session properly prepared, then you have a strong chance of bringing your A-game to the table. The only question is, how do you do this?

At a very basic level, you need to know proper strategy. When you learn the fundamentals, you have a stronger chance at elevating your play.

Luckily, you can learn through a large number of methods. Articles, books, coaching, training videos, and poker Twitch streams are all available in great abundance.

Another aspect that’ll help you maintain your poker A-game is to eliminate leaks from your play. Leaks are consistent mistakes that cost you money over time.

When you consciously work to get rid of these problems, you can play better poker on a regular basis. That said, you should analyze your play after each session and figure out what you could have done better in tough situations.

Finally, you should look to play against tougher competition at your given stakes. I’m not saying you should always seek out skilled grinders, because you make money by being at tables with worse players.

However, you’ll be more into a game and concentrate better when you know the competition is tough. At this point, you’ll be properly motivated to take your skills to the next level.

Dan “Jungleman” Cates, one of the world’s best high-stakes poker players, once struggled to master online $0.50/$1 No Limit Texas hold’em games.

He changed his fortunes by applying “reverse game selection,” where one seeks out the toughest competition at their stakes. After doing this, he set on the path to becoming one of the best poker players ever.

Your A-game is likely nowhere near Cates’ peak. But the key is to bring out the best in yourself from time to time, even if you’re only playing micro-stakes poker.

Tips for Prolonging Your A-Game

Again, you can’t expect to play at your peak level during every minute of every session. But you can maintain your poker A-game more often by using the following tips.

1 – Get Enough Sleep

Time Clock with Sleep Z's Coming From ClockI’m sure that you know sleep is important to perform your best every day. But do you get enough?

If you’re like many adults, you probably forego sleep so you can get more done during the day. But skipping out on sleep isn’t going to help your poker skills. In fact, it will make things much tougher on you.

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You should be logging at least seven hours of sleep per night in order to play your best.

You may need even more rest after a lengthy session so that you can come back refreshed the next day.

2 – Maintain a Healthy Diet

Laptop Computer on Desk, Office Supplies Spread Out, Green Apple on Laptop, Poker Game on Computer Screen
Poker is a sedentary game that can involve long hours. If you’re highly focused on becoming a better player, chances are you have less time to prepare healthy meals.

But taking just 20 to 30 minutes per day to make healthy food can have a huge effect on your poker game. According to research, a good diet helps you focus better and have more mental energy.

In contrast, surviving on fast food and energy drinks is a recipe for disaster. You’ll experience more crashes and mental fog at the poker table as a result.

3 – Slowly Increase Your Playing Volume

Purple Bar Graph with Green Arrow on Top Leading to Top Increased BarYou may dream of playing 10 hours of winning poker per day. At the right stakes, this volume can make you a lot of money.

However, you don’t want to force going from 300 hands per day to 3,000. Otherwise, you’ll be more likely to make mistakes and this quick jump certainly won’t help you maintain your poker a-game.

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A better approach is to gradually increase the volume of hands you play each day.

You can set short-term goals, such as playing 100 extra hands each day for an entire week (e.g. increase from 300 to 400).

4 – Eliminate Distractions

Caution Sign Displaying No Cell Phone Zone in Red and WhiteYou can’t play your best poker when constantly talking to friends and/or scrolling through your phone every few seconds. Instead, you have to reduce the number of distractions around you.

Regardless of whether you’re in a land-based casino or playing on an online casino at home, turn your phone off during a session. You should only check your phone during short breaks.

Unfortunately, some elements will be out of your hands in a casino setting. For example, you can’t turn off annoying players at the table.

But you can do plenty to control your setting at home. You should block out anything that doesn’t have to do with poker before playing online.

5 – Consider Meditating

Guy Meditating Sitting Down Outdoors, Poker Icons Floating in Circle Leading to Man in Zen
Many people stereotype meditation as a simple means of calming oneself. However, it has more benefits than just developing a calming presence.

It can also help you ignore distractions and have a longer attention span. The more you meditate, the better you’ll be able to focus during a poker session.

Plenty of pros have adopted this practice. Therefore, you should consider trying meditation at least once or twice to see if it helps your game.

6 – Have an Adequate Bankroll

Colored Casino Chips Stacked, Hundred Dollar Bills Rolled Up with Band on Top of ChipsYou can’t play your best poker if you’re worried about being on your last bullet. Having an adequate bankroll management plan for your given stakes can ease your mind.

The size of the bankroll you need depends upon what stakes you’re playing. You should have at least 25 cash-game buy-ins and 75-125 tournament buy-ins.

If you’re playing $1/$2 NL hold’em, for example, then you need at least $5,000 (2 x 100 x 25). This amount gives you a better opportunity of surviving downswings.

The discrepancy in tourney buy-ins is based on whether you’re playing large or small multi-table tournaments (MTTs). You need more buy-ins for larger MTTs, because they involve more variance.

Make Your A-Game Better Over Time

Your A-game can only go so far as an amateur player. You should strive to boost your poker performance by continually learning strategy and bettering your skills.

As discussed before, the basics are a great place to begin. I personally recommend watching training videos and/or pro players’ Twitch streams.

The only downside to training videos is that you have to pay $30 (or so) per month as a subscription fee. But you may find it worth joining a training site for a few months to learn various concepts.

Guy Sitting in Desk with Laptop, Laptop Displaying Poker Game with Twitch Logo Over ScreenThe nice thing about learning poker strategy through Twitch streams is that they’re completely free. You can look over a pro’s shoulder while they play online sessions and get into their mindset.

Strategy articles are yet another great source for tips. These are excellent resources if you’re a beginner who’s looking to develop a solid strategy foundation.

Of course, becoming a better poker player doesn’t stop with simply learning strategy. You also want to analyze your sessions after the fact and constantly observe opponents.

With enough time and experience, you’ll notice patterns on how opponents handle given situations. You can then take advantage of these patterns and win on a more-consistent basis.

Conclusion

One of your biggest poker goals should be to maintain your poker A-game in every session. After all, your A-game represents the peak of your current poker skills.

Of course, accomplishing this feat is easier said than done. You can’t just expect to naturally play your best every single time out.

Instead, you should make a concentrated effort to be prepared before each session. Your sleep, diet, playing volume, environment, and bankroll all have an impact in this matter.

Some of these aspects are part of a healthy lifestyle anyway. You should strive to get quality sleep and maintain a good diet aside from poker.

Other factors relate specifically to the game itself. These include steadily increasing your playing volume, setting up a distraction-free area at home, and having an adequate bankroll.

You might also consider adding meditation to your daily activities. Meditating can gradually increase your attention span over time.

You may not always maintain your poker A-game in every moment. But you’ll have a better chance at doing so by following the tips in this post.

5 Slot Machine Rules and Strategies Most Players Don’t Know About

Row of Casino Slot Machines Background Image, Slot Reels Displaying 7, Jackpot Logo, Icon of Yellow Lightbulb
When playing slots, there are no decisions to make after the reels start spinning. Without these human elements to worry about, the rules of slots are simple enough on the surface — put some money in the machine, press the “SPIN” button, and wait to see what happens.

In reality, though, you’ll notice that the modern slots you can play have evolved from the old 3-reel “spin and stare” dynamic.

Today’s slots use advanced video technology to shower players with an endless stream of graphics, animations, and sound effects. These modern slots have been designed to offer side-screen bonus games, free spins, scatter pays, wild symbols, and even skill-based elements like target shooting, memorization, and trivia.

When you throw in payline counts that can run from one to 100, a new payout format that ups your “ways to win” to 243 or 1,024, and topline progressive jackpots that require a precise wager amount to be triggered, it turns out slot players have a lot on their plate.

With so many rules to factor in, successful players try to apply certain slot strategies to give themselves a fighting chance against the house.

The idea of slot strategy might sound like a misnomer, but only when you don’t have a good grasp on the game’s nuances.

To help you navigate the maze of rules and strategies needed to thrive as a modern slot enthusiast, check out the list below for a bunch of slots strategies that most players don’t know much about.

1 – Betting the Maximum Number of Coins Is Always the Best Approach

Take a look down below at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine from IGT and pay close attention to the placard below the wheel and jackpot amount display.

Up Close View of Wheel of Fortune Slot Machine Placard

As you can see, this version of the wildly popular Wheel of Fortune game distinguishes between “1st Coin Winners” and “2nd Coin Winners.”

On the left, as you’re reading the paytable, notice how the 1st Coin Winner table offers a top payout of $10,000 if you land three Wheel of Fortune logo symbols. That’s a pretty sweet return on a $5 per spin bet, which is this particular machine’s coin denomination.

But over to the right, those 2nd Coin Winners score much more than 10 dimes — they trigger Wheel of Fortune’s famous progressive jackpot.

At the time this photo was taken, IGT’s $5 Wheel jackpot kitty had climbed to $3,070,893 and change.

That massive haul clocks in at 307 times what you’d win for a single coin wager, and all you have to do to earn it is bet a second $5 coin.

Reels on Wheel of Fortune Casino Slot MachineAnd I do mean “have to” because even when you line up three Wheel logos perfectly to trigger the jackpot, you can’t collect the seven-figure payday unless a max bet was in play.

On a $5 machine reading “Play 2 Credits” like the one in the photo, a max bet obviously comes to $10. Other versions of the Wheel of Fortune game read “Play 3 Credits” instead, but no matter how many credits the max bet comes to, just multiply that number by the coin denomination to figure out your per-spin cost.

Betting the max on today’s top-rated online slots is also the only way to activate the game’s full complement of bonus features, including side-screen games, prize multipliers, free spin rounds, and stacked or wild symbols.

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Without these features in play, you’ll be spinning with one hand tied behind your back, as the game’s payback percentage plummets without all of those additional ways to win.

And on a final note, don’t let that $5 -> $10 example scare you off the max-betting path. You can always find the same game using a lower coin denomination nearby, and online slots make it easy to toggle between bet sizes with a few mouse clicks. You can bet pennies, nickels, quarters, or dollars. Just make sure you’re always multiplying that coin denomination by the machine’s max bet to unlock the biggest jackpots and best bonus features.

2 – You Can Track Progressive Jackpots to Ensure You’re Always Playing for Max Value

Casino Slot Machine, Gold Coins Falling Into Pile Behind Slot MachineSpeaking of the Wheel of Fortune progressive jackpot, the top prize amount is seeded with a different starting amount — based on coin denomination — right after a lucky winner cashes in.

For the $0.25 machines, that starting seed is $200,000, and players must max-bet three coins ($0.75) to be eligible. The starting seed climbs to $1 million on both $1 and $5 machines, which both require a two-coin max bet.

But check out the list below, which highlights the most recent Wheel of Fortune jackpots at the quarter stakes, and see if you notice a curious disparity in payout amounts.


Recent Wheel of Forture Jackpots (Quarter Stakes)
DATE CASINO JACKPOT
2/22/2019 McCarran Airport $485,673.54
1/22/2019 Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino $262,696.85
1/15/2019 Excalibur Hotel and Casino $406,718.17
12/14/2018 Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino $1,023,743.22
9/21/2018 Palazzo Hotel & Casino $374,769.07
9/3/2018 Green Valley Ranch Casino & Hotel $294,780.30
8/25/2018 Harrah’s Las Vegas $254,347.80
8/19/2018 Rio Hotel & Casino $265,866.77

As you can see, four of the eight jackpots topped out under $300,000, while two climbed a bit higher to between $370,000 and $485,000.

But on Christmas Eve of last year, one lucky winner walked away with a hair over $1 million — all on a $0.75 wager.

That juiced-up jackpot of more than five times the seed amount was only made possible because of a long gap in between wins. It took more than three months after the $374,000 was hit before a Wheel machine at the Cosmopolitan casino triggered the jackpot.

Conversely, the player who scooped a jackpot only a week after the Excalibur paid out $406,718 on January 15 “only” received $262,696.

Think about it like this: one jackpot winner earned more than $800,000 over the seed amount, while another had to settle for a premium of just $62,000.

If you want to give your progressive slot spins as much earning power as possible, use the handy Nevada jackpot tracker above to see exactly how much time has passed — and how much money has been added — between jackpots. When you see a game that hasn’t hit in a good long while, target those machines until they finally hit.

This strategy is especially effective because, at a certain interval of multiples over the seed amount, an extremely high jackpot reward actually increases the game’s overall payback percentage.

3 – Shopping Around for Venues Offering the Highest Possible Payback Percentage

Woman Playing Slot Machine in Casino, Yellow Cycling Arrows in Circle, RTP Text in Green
As for those payback percentages, the internet makes it possible to Google many popular casino games, including slots, to find out their exact rate.

You might see this figure expressed as the Return to Player rate, or RTP for short.

Simply put, the higher payback percentage a slot game offers, the more bang for your gambling buck you’ll receive over the long run.

After all, would you rather play a NetEnt slot like Devil’s Delight with its 97.6% payback or another NetEnt product called Mega Joker, which offers only 76.9% payback?

4 – All Paylines Need to Be Played for You to Enjoy Every Bonus Feature…

This is a variation on the max-bet rule, but whenever you’re playing a slot with multiple paylines, never risk a single cent without activating every last one of them.

Slot Machine Screen with 10 Paylines, Bonus Text in Green on Top of ScreenOn a 10-payline game like Big Bang, for example, the interface will allow you to choose just a single payline by default. Thus, a $0.10 coin denomination would put a dime on that payline, and that payline only, for each spin.

But with 10 paylines on the screen, every spin you make will produce winning combinations that don’t produce a payout.

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That’s because these combos land along one of those nine paylines you neglected to activate.

Only by turning on all 10 paylines, which ups the ante to $1.00 at the dime stakes ($0.10 x 10), can you collect on every winner the reels produce.

5 – …Unless You’re Playing a “Ways to Win” Model Like Aristocrat’s Reel Power

With that said, a version of slot gameplay known as “ways to win” removes the concept of paylines from the equation.

The most well-known “ways to win” slot brand is Reel Power, which was designed by leading software provider Aristocrat to provide 243 unique ways to win.

Reel Power slots, which can also offer 1,024 ways to win, use the following relationship between credits wagered and ways to win:

Ways to Win on Reel Power Slots
1 Reel 1 Credit 3 Ways
2 Reels  3 Credits 9 Ways
3 Reels 7 Credits 27 Ways
4 Reels 15 Credits 81 Ways
5 Reels 25 Credits 243 Ways

Conclusion

Slot machines might not be known for their rules and strategies, but that doesn’t mean sharp players shouldn’t know them well.

By working within all the rules and exploiting their associated loopholes, the best slot players turn every spin into the most advantageous play possible for that particular game or machine.

And by applying sound strategies whenever the opportunity presents itself, successful slot spinners never back a bad bet when a better option is on the board.

Can You Beat Roulette With the “Big Number” Strategy?

Different Numbers Scattered in Background, Roulette Table Layout, Roulette Wheel, Stacked Casino Chips
Not long ago, I read an article by a famous gambling writer who suggested the “big number” strategy for the game of roulette. He had an interesting warning at the beginning of his article:

He pointed out that you couldn’t get a mathematical edge at roulette using this strategy.

But then he also said that the system was fun to play.

So far, no problem.

But then he suggested that if you combine the big number roulette strategy with his money management advice, you “might” reduce the overall negative expectation of the game.

And that’s where we run into trouble.

This is math we’re talking about, and “negative expectation” is a specific term related to the probability compared to the amount you risk and the amount you stand to win.

A strategy will either reduce the negative expectation or it won’t. There’s no “might” in math.

If you’ve read about this strategy, and even if you haven’t, here’s a post about whether you can beat roulette with the big number strategy.

What Is the Big Number Roulette Strategy and How Do You Use It?

In the original article I read, the author called the big number strategy more of a trick than an actual system. I don’t think it’s necessary to make such a distinction, but here it is for people who care:

A system is a complicated approach to a game.

A trick is a simple, fast approach to a game.

The big number trick is a strategy where you place a single number bet in roulette. That’s a bet that wins if the ball lands on the specific number you bet on, and it wins 35 to 1. If you bet $100 on a single number and hit, you win $3500.
Roulette Table and Wheel in Background, Two Rows of Digits in Green Circles, Woman with Hand on Mouth Thinking

Most roulette games have a scoreboard that displays the last 20 numbers that came up. Because of the nature of random events and standard deviation, some numbers will have hit more often than they should have.

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In fact, if any number has hit more than once in the last 20 outcomes, you have a statistical anomaly. Remember, there are 38 possible numbers.

Your job with the big number strategy is to choose the number that has come up repeatedly more often than any other number. You just bet on that number.

If there’s a tie, you bet both numbers.

If another number gets hit more times than the big number, it becomes the new big number, and you start betting on it instead.

Here’s an example:

The number 7 has come up three times in the last 20 spins, but so has the number 10.

Your job is to bet on both 7 and 10 until some other number has been hit four times, or until one of those numbers gets hit a fourth time.

If 7 comes up on the next spin, you collect your winnings, but you also stop betting on the 10. It’s not the big number anymore.

The First Principle of Money Management Use in the Big Number Trick

Casino Roulette Wheel, Hundred Dollar Bills Spread Out Behind Roulette WheelYou must decide how much money you’re taking to the table with you, and then you have to decide how much you want to bet on each spin. You should think about how long you want to play when deciding this. You should also consider your overall goals for the session.

Once you’ve decided on a bet size, that’s the amount you bet on a single number.

If you have two numbers tied for a big number, you’ll bet half that amount on each – this way you’ll still only have that much in action on each spin.

Most people bet the table minimum here, but you can bet more if you like.

There’s not really a right or wrong way to size your bets in roulette. It all just depends on your goals and risk tolerance.

When Do You Stop Betting on a Number?

The author from the other article suggests that you should stop betting on a big number once it disappears from the scoreboard. He also suggests that if there aren’t any numbers that have come up more than once on the scoreboard, you wait until one has to place a bet.

I like this suggestion, actually, even though it doesn’t affect the house’s edge over you. That’s because your average hourly loss is based largely on how much you’re betting per hour. Any time you sit out for a spin of the wheel, you’ve reduced the statistical amount of money you stand to lose.

And that’s always a good thing.

Other Options Related to the Big Number Trick

Roulette Table with Multiple Players Reaching to Play, Roulette Wheel Faded in Background
Different players take different approaches to try to beat the roulette house edge and the game itself. Most of the time they try to bet against the trend.

In other words, if black has come up several times in a row, most roulette players will bet on red to try to capitalize on the likelihood that black won’t continue to come up.

The big number trick takes the opposite approach. When something has come up repeatedly, the big number player keeps betting it in the hopes that it will come up again.

In fact, you can use the big number strategy with different bets than just the single number bet. For example, you could use the big number strategy to inform you as to which outside bet to place.

The outside bets hit more often, which can make this strategy more interesting if you get bored losing all the time. The house still has the same mathematical edge, but you’ll win more often.

The only thing is that the size of your winnings will be smaller. The outside bets either pay even money or 2 to 1 odds.

All the Numbers Have Specific Characteristics

Take the number 26, for example. It has specific characteristics you can bet on.

For one thing, it’s an even number. If it’s come up twice in the last 20 spins, you could bet that the next spin will land on even.

For another thing, it’s also a black number. You could bet on even AND on black.

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It’s also in the top third of the numbers (24 through 36), which is another bet you could place.

You could, theoretically, place the following bets:

  1. Even (pays off at even money)
  2. Black (also pays off at even money)
  3. Top third (pays off at 2 to 1)
  4. Single number bet (pays off 35 to 1)

If you hit the 26, you’ll win all four bets. But even if you miss the 26 – which, let’s face it, will be most of the time – you still have plenty of opportunities to win at least a little something.

The Problems With This Strategy

The first problem with this strategy is one that most of my readers are already familiar with. It’s called the Gambler’s Fallacy.

This is the belief that previous results affect future results in some way.

The probability of a number hitting on the roulette wheel is easy to calculate regardless of the situation. You have 38 possible outcomes, and only one of them is that number.

That makes the probability 1/38, or 37 to 1.

This probability doesn’t change based on what happened on any of the 20 previous spins of the wheel.

There are still 38 possible outcomes, and only one of them is the specified number.

How the House Gets Its Edge and Why the Big Number Strategy Doesn’t Beat It

Money Bills Wallpaper, Faded Roulette Table and Wheel
The house edge in roulette comes from the difference between the payout odds and the odds of winning.

The odds of winning a single number bet are always 37 to 1. That doesn’t change based on what happened previously.

The payout odds are 35 to 1.

If you make 38 spins and see statistically perfect results, you’ll lose two units net, assuming you bet the same amount each time.

Over 38 spins, that’s 5.26% of each bet (on average).

That number does not and cannot change just because a number has come up previously.

It also doesn’t change because of any kind of money management techniques. You’ll find plenty of advice about when to quit like when you’ve won a specific amount, when you’ve lost a specific amount, etc.

But none of that changes the house edge, either.

If you play long enough, you’ll lose an average of 5.26% of the money you’ve bet, period.

Conclusion

And so, here’s my conclusion:

Yes, you can beat roulette with the big number strategy.

But if you do, it’s just dumb luck. Playing with this strategy isn’t superior to any other way to play roulette, but it’s worth a shot.

Why Twitch Is So Great for Learning Poker Strategy

Background Image of Live Twitch Poker Stream, Twitch Streaming Logo, Circles with Poker Initials
The poker world is filled with plenty of popular strategy resources. These include articles, books, coaching, heads-up displays (HUDs), and training videos.

Twitch, and live streaming in general, entered the fray in the mid-2010s. Many people have since discovered that Twitch is one of the best ways to learn poker strategy.

But what is it that makes Twitch such a good strategy tool to use for your next game of poker? You can find out as I discuss everything it has to offer in terms of pro players and content.

Twitch Allows You to Look Over a Pro’s Shoulder

Twitch started out as Justin.tv, a platform for people to stream their video game play through. The service has since branched out to other areas, including everything from cooking to talk shows.

Poker players have also found Twitch to be extremely useful for live streaming their sessions. Professionals can now broadcast their sessions via this service. Many amateurs tune in to watch pro players in hopes of improving their own games.

You can see how a grinder handles certain situations through Twitch, whether they’re 3-betting or folding. They often explain why they make certain moves, which gives you a better understanding of their mindset.

You can also ask them questions via the chat box, which creates an interactive element. They’ll normally respond when they get a chance.

Hundreds of poker pros now use Twitch on either a regular or semi-regular basis. Some of these players stand out among others, due to their high skill level and consistent streaming. Here are a few of the most popular poker Twitch streamers.

Jason Somerville (Run It Up TV)

Photo of Twitch Poker Player Jason SomervilleJason Somerville is the most successful poker streamer to date. He began his channel under his nickname, “JCarver,” before changing it to Run It Up TV.

The WSOP champ now has over 250,000 subscribers, a number that continues to grow every month. Somerville gives players an opportunity to play against him through Run It Up home games.

Jaime Staples (PokerStaples)

Photo of Twitch Poker Player Jaime StaplesJaime Staples has managed to garner well over 100,000 subscribers for his channel. He boasts nearly 300 videos and is one of the most active streamers.

The Canadian poker pro gained further fame for his channel when he won a $150,000 weight-loss bet with Bill Perkins. That said, Staples knows how to keep things interesting, whether he’s playing poker or making big prop bets.

Randy Lew (nanonoko)

Photo Twitch Poker Player Randy LewRandy “nanonoko” Lew is famous for his insane multi-tabling abilities. Therefore, many viewers like seeing the method to his madness through Twitch.

Lew doesn’t log as much volume as he used to. But nanonoko still plays up to 20 tables simultaneously, showing the skills that helped him set a world record with 14,500 hands in eight hours.

Lex Veldhuis (LexVeldhuis)

Photo of Twitch Poker Player Lex VeldhuisGiven that it’s both a popular video gaming and poker platform, Twitch was made for Lex Veldhuis. The Dutch poker pro started out as a StarCraft pro before turning to poker in the early 2000s.

He’s since found a great deal of success in both live tournaments and online cash games. Veldhuis streams his online tourney and cash sessions full-time, meaning he’s easy to catch on Twitch.

Parker Talbot (TonkaaaaP)

Photo of Twitch Poker Player Parker TalbotParker Talbot is no doubt one of the best online poker players who also streams his sessions. He’s earned over $3 million in profits from online cash games and continues to be a profitable player today.

Winning isn’t the only thing that makes TonkaaaaP popular. He’s also quite colorful during his sessions. Some players may not like his animated style, but Talbot has close to 100,000 subscribers, so he must be doing something right.

Enjoy the Entertainment Aspect While Learning

Watching poker pros through Twitch isn’t just about learning strategy. It’s also a fun way to study the game while being entertained at the same time.

The best Twitch streamers are not only good at poker but also at entertaining their audiences. They can explain strategy without being too dry and have interesting stories to tell.

You simply can’t get the same entertainment aspect when studying poker strategy through other means, such as articles, books, and training videos.

I’m not saying that Twitch poker streamers are exciting 100% of the time. But they offer an enjoyable alternative to learning strategy through other means.

Some even put themselves through difficult challenges in order to spice things up. For example, Arlie Shaban once streamed for 1,000 hours total in 25 days. Watching somebody in the midst of one of these challenges makes the experience even more entertaining.

Engage With the Streamers

Live Poker Twitch Stream by Lex Veldhuis
You can’t just walk up to poker pros and start asking them a bunch of questions without invading their personal space. Twitch, however, gives you the opportunity to chat with them in an appropriate arena.

Engaging with the pros is easy. You begin by creating a Twitch account and watching an active stream.

You’ll then be able to type questions/comments to the pro in the chat box. Poker streamers run on a delay ranging from 3 to 10 minutes, but they’ll likely get around to answering you at some point.

The only thing you need to worry about is asking relevant questions. As long as everything you’re saying is appropriate and relates to poker, then you have a good chance of interacting with pros.

You should actually push yourself to engage with them as much as possible. The goal is to get the most out of each Twitch session as you can.

You won’t get a lengthy one-on-one with the pro in question. But you might spark up a conversation between the other rail birds.

The best conversations lead to a strategy discussion that can help improve all of your games. This aspect also creates a sense of community, where players help each other.

Of course, you do want to use some discretion during this process. Not everybody who comments on hands knows what they’re talking about.

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Furthermore, you also have to be aware that the pro will mainly be concentrating on their play. They don’t have time to give you an expert coaching lesson during the session.

A good way to get around this problem is by waiting until they’re done playing and have more time to address everybody. You can then shoot them questions about previous hands, and they’ll have more time to compose their thoughts/comments.

Learning Poker Strategy Through Twitch Is Free

Some methods for improving at poker cost money, including books, coaching, and training sites. The cost for books and training isn’t usually very expensive, but these options still cost money, nonetheless.

Coaching can be very expensive depending upon which pro you’re learning from. You’ll end up spending hundreds of dollars per hour to learn from the best.

Twitch Streaming Chat Icon, Text Reading Free Inside Purple Sticker IconTwitch, on the other hand, is completely free. You only have to spend your time to watch experienced pros grind online.

Of course, some Twitch content is only available through subscription. For example, you might have to spend $5 or $10 to watch a specific segment of a pro’s session.

But Twitch offers so much free poker content that you don’t necessarily have to pay for a subscription to anything. The pros already make money by sharing in advertising revenue with the site.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Twitch Streams

You don’t need any specific plan of attack when watching Twitch streams. Instead, you can simply choose some well-known pros and check out their streams to pick up tips.

But you can learn so much more from Twitch by going in with a smart plan. Here are some tips for how you can get the most out of watching other poker players’ livestreams.

Watch a Variety of Successful Players

Every poker pro has their specific strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, you want to watch multiple successful players to get a full range of tips and advice.

Some pros are really good at preflop play, while others are excellent at post-flop decisions.

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Watching more than one player helps you get different ideas for how to handle each situation.

You especially want to differentiate between players who specialize in cash games, sit and go’s, and multi-table tournaments. While pros are usually good at all of these mediums, they likely excel at one type of poker over the others.

Take Notes

Black Composition Notebook with Twitch Logo, PencilYou can pick up lots of tips just by intently watching poker pros on Twitch. However, you’re likely to forget much of what you learned over time.

Rather than simply viewing these streams, you should take notes and be more active when learning strategy. Notes serve as perfect references for remembering what you’ve learned weeks or months down the road.

For example, you might see a pro make an excellent check-raise on the turn. You can then jot down each scenario and the explanation behind their decision. Even if you eventually become a pro poker player, there are some tips you just won’t want to forget.

Check Out the VODs

Twitch livestreams give you an opportunity to interact with a poker pro. You can therefore ask questions and make comments in the moment.

However, you don’t have to catch streams live. Many pros make their content available through video on demand (VOD).

VODs allow you to watch streams that have already played.

The advantage to doing so is that you can skip irrelevant or boring parts and go straight to the good stuff.

These replays are also excellent for when you want to re-watch a specific hand or series of hands. It’s easier to take notes when you’re able to view the same content as many times as necessary.

Be Entertained – But Also Serious

I’ve mentioned several times how Twitch offers an entertaining way to study poker strategy. You can see how pros play the game and even interact with them and other viewers.

Guy Sitting at Desk with Computer On, Thought Bubble with Poker Cards and Casino Chips InsideBut your sole focus shouldn’t be the entertainment aspect. You also need to keep a serious mindset about the matter.

Don’t just mindlessly watch a Twitch stream while casually observing how pros play. Instead, you should think about every hand analytically and what you would do in each situation.

Get the Most Out of Your Time

Twitch features so many different poker streamers that you could literally spend all day on this site. Of course, you eventually need to play yourself and put what you’ve learned into practice.

Therefore, you can’t spend all day watching others play poker and expect to improve.

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You instead want to make good use of your time and learn as much as you can within 1-3 hours.

Everything from taking notes to looking at hands analytically will help you get the most out of your time. You may even want to limit yourself to a specific amount of time while watching Twitch. Doing so creates a greater sense of urgency and helps you pay closer attention.

Conclusion

You can learn poker strategy through plenty of means, but you should definitely consider dedicating the bulk of your time to learning through Twitch.

This livestreaming service offers a number of advantages over other methods of studying poker strategy. First off, you can learn how to play better by watching real pros.

Many professional players now stream their sessions via Twitch. Their content is free and doesn’t require a subscription in the majority of cases.

Learning poker through Twitch is also more entertaining than other methods. Livestreaming gives pros a chance to tell stories and thoroughly explain their decisions. In cases like Parker Talbot, they can even showcase their colorful personalities.

You also have an opportunity to engage with the pros while they’re streaming. Just type questions and comments in the chat box and wait for their response.

Yet one more advantage is the fact that Twitch is free. You don’t have to spend anything to watch these pros, unless you feel like paying for the occasional subscription content.

You’ll pick up plenty of tips just by watching professionals through Twitch. However, you should go the extra mile to ensure that you get the absolute most out of your learning sessions.

Watching a variety of pros, taking notes, and checking out VODs are all ways to improve. You also want to take a serious mindset into each session, rather than viewing livestreams solely for entertainment.

I’m not saying that other poker strategy methods like articles, books, and training videos don’t have their usefulness too. But you should strongly consider at least trying Twitch if you haven’t done so already.

5 Ways to Be a Better Blackjack Player

Dealer Placing Cards on Blackjack Table, Blackjack Logo with Cards Behind
Ask anybody who doesn’t gamble seriously to name the first casino game that comes to mind. You’ll inevitably hear blackjack mentioned first and foremost.

Perhaps the ubiquity of playing the game of blackjack stems from childhood games of Twenty-One, which is one of the first card games a child becomes acquainted with. Or maybe blackjack has become so popular because of its penetration in wider pop culture.

With so many Hollywood films famously showing audiences the art of card counting — from a savant’s coming out party in “Rain Man” (1988) to a team of MIT math whizzes toppling Sin City casinos in “21” (2008) — plenty of people who have never visited Las Vegas still know the ins and outs of blackjack.

But while anybody can learn how to hit, stand, split, and double down, blackjack offers gamblers the rarest of opportunities found in any casino — the ability to apply skill and strategy.

Knowing how to make the game’s four primary plays is one thing, but knowing when and why to use one option over the others forms the basis of blackjack’s basic strategy.

In the list below, we’ll dive into the intricacies of optimal play using basic strategy, along with four more easy and efficient ways anybody can become a better blackjack player.

1 – Brush Up on Basic Strategy Until It Becomes Second Nature

Dealer Staring Down Blackjack Table, Hand Holding Blackjack Strategy Chart
While counting cards to gain an advantage over the house definitely looks cool on the silver screen, reality is a different story.

Between the ever-present pit bosses who watch a winning player’s every move to the sheer difficulty of applying blackjack card counting practices in the casino setting, this classic advantage play technique is seldom utilized outside of the professional ranks.

For the rest of us recreational players, the most powerful weapon you can wield at the blackjack table is a series of guidelines known as basic strategy.

To make a long story short, a group of four bona fide mathematical experts back in the 1950s came together for the common pursuit of blackjack perfection.

After realizing that the partial information provided by seeing the dealer’s exposed “up” card turned the game into a math formula, the pals — who were later dubbed the “Four Horsemen” by grateful blackjack enthusiasts — used computers to crunch the numbers.

As they discovered, the relationship between the dealer’s up card and player totals creates a matrix of optimal decisions that offer the best possible odds given the scenario.

In other words, when you know your hand’s total and the dealer’s up card, you’ll always know the perfect play to make.

This crucial information was later published within a book entitled “Playing Blackjack to Win,” and some 60 years later, you can find this basic strategy data condensed into handheld charts.

Blackjack Basic Strategy ChartMemorizing the basic strategy chart is an essential first step, forming the foundation of elite blackjack play. To wit, the average player making decisions based on gut instinct alone faces a house edge of 1.50%. Meanwhile, their neighbor in the next seat over who knows their basic strategy like the back of their hand enjoys a significantly lower house edge of 0.50%.

The color-coded basic strategy chart linked to above can be intimidating at first glance, but most regulars boil things down to five easily memorized rules:

  • If your total is 12 through 16 and the dealer’s up card is 2 through 6, stand
  • If your total is 12 through 16 and the dealer’s up card is 7 through ace, hit
  • Always split two aces and two 8s
  • Always double down on 11 against dealer up cards of 2 through 10
  • If your total is “soft” with A-2, A-3, A-4, A-5, or A-6, always hit (or double down when allowed)

The best thing about basic strategy play is that, unlike card counting, the casinos don’t mind if you take advantage of these tips.

In fact, every casino gift shop gladly sells pocket-sized basic strategy charts that players can pull out and consult right there at the table.

You won’t need to bring a card along, though, because when you stick to the five rules listed above, basic strategy becomes a breeze.

2 – Only Play on Tables That Pay Back 3 to 2 on Blackjacks

Back in a bygone era of casino gambling, the standard payout for making blackjack with an ace and a 10-value card on the deal came to 3 to 2 on your bet. In other words, for every dollar you wagered, landing a natural blackjack would bring back a cool $1.50 profit.

At some point, however, the corporate casino overlords who came to dominate the Las Vegas Strip realized that they could skim a bit off the top, so to speak. By adjusting the payout for hitting blackjack — making it 6 to 5 instead of 3 to 2 — the casino operators instantly siphoned $0.30 off every dollar paid back on blackjacks.

Red Casino Chips StackedUnder the new 6 to 5 payout scheme, which has regrettably become the industry norm across Sin City and the rest of the country, every dollar you bet brings back just $1.20 on blackjack rather than the original $1.50 rate. Thirty cents may sound like chump change, but remember, that’s per dollar.

If you’re betting $10, playing on a 6 to 5 table produces a $12 payout, while the old 3 to 2 system would generate $15 in profit. That’s $3 swiped straight from your pocket, and for the high-rolling $100 per hand crowd, they’re losing $30 every time the deck delivers a blackjack.

Fortunately for sharp bettors, 3 to 2 blackjack tables can still be found here and there, but only if you know where to look.

When playing on the Strip, you’ll typically find 3 to 2 games in high-limit areas, as casinos charge a higher minimum bet in exchange for the superior payout odds.

The table below lists casinos on the Strip spreading 3 to 2 tables, along with the minimum bet.

Aria$50, $100

CASINO MINIMUM BET Bellagio $25, $100 Caesars Palace $10, $100, $200 Circus Circus $15 Cromwell $25, $100 Encore $25, $100 Excalibur $10, $25 Flamingo $5, $25, $100 Harrah’s $10, $25, $50, $100 Linq $10, $50 Luxor $25, $50 Mandalay Bay $25, $200 MGM Grand $25, $100 Mirage $25, $50, $100 New York-New York $10, $25, $50

 

And of course, once you venture outside of Las Vegas Boulevard, the “Off-Strip” casinos spread 3 to 2 tables at the usual $5 minimum stakes.

3 – Stick to the Script When It Comes to Responsible Bankroll Management

This tip is just plain old common sense, so we’ll keep it short and sweet… don’t bet above your limitations and be sure to properly manage your blackjack bankroll.

That means setting loss limits and sticking to them, only bringing money to the casino you can afford to lose, and recognizing when it isn’t your day and walking away.

4 – Don’t Be a Sucker by Falling for the Insurance Side Bet Scheme

Blackjack Table, Hands Placed By Card, Red Arrow Pointing to Insurance on Table
One of the most common “leaks” plaguing uninformed blackjack players is the insurance side bet.

Basically, when the dealer’s up card is an ace, they’ll pause and ask each player whether they’d like to buy insurance. Appropriately named, this side bet — which can total 1.5x your original wager at the maximum — is an insurance policy against the dealer holding a blackjack. If their down card is indeed a 10-value to form blackjack, you’ll lose your original bet, but the insurance bet is paid out at 2 to 1.

This might seem like an attractive option to protect against the dealer hitting the game’s top hand, but the insurance bet carries a house edge of over 6%. Knowing this, players should never take the bait.

5 – Take Advantage of the Surrender Option – But Only When It’s the Optimal Play

Check out the t