How to gamble at a casino without losing a lot of money
I love to gamble. It might seem strange for a guy that writes two articles a week about how frugal I am to visit a casino, because it really isn’t a very wise investment, but it isn’t as strange as it seems. Most gambling games are nothing but math and statistics, so I am attracted to it. Even if you aren’t as into stats as I am, the occasional win is very exciting, and it is fun to fantasize about what you would do if you won big.
Now we all know that you are probably going to lose, but if you play smart you should be able to spend less money gambling than you would on a show, and have more fun for that money. Here’s how:
Pick the right game
The key statistic to determine how much you are likely to lose is called the payback percentage. Blackjack has a payback percentage of 98.5% whenyou play with the basic strategy, which means if you bet $100 over many hands you are likely to win $98.50 back and only lose about $1.50. That’s not horribly expensive entertainment, is it? Here are some other good choices:
|Craps (basic bet)||98.6%|
|Pai Gow Poker||97.5%|
|Roulette (red or black)||94.7%|
|Video poker||varies machine to machine|
All of these games have payback percentages much higher than slot machines which are as low as 80%. The worst gamble you can make by the way is the lottery which is usually less than 50%. That is why it is illegal for anybody except the government to run a lottery.
Play low limits
Since you know you are probably going to lose more than you win, it’s a good idea to gamble as little as possible to reduce the size of those losses. To do that look for table games that have the lowest minimum bet, and make sure you don’t bet more than that minimum.
On many table games you will have an option to bet on some kind of bonus that pays extra if certain conditions are met. Never play these bonuses, they are for suckers and have lousy payback percentages. You will probably find that sooner or later you hit whatever combination it takes to get paid the bonus. When this happens people sitting at the table who are bad at math will point out that you made a mistake by not playing the bonus because you could have won a lot of money. Ignore these people and remind yourself that you would lose a lot more than you would win in the long run.
So where do you find the lowest table minimums? The short answer is Downtown. The long answer is that they vary from casino to casino. You can search on cheapovegas.com to find the lowest minimums.
So what do you do if you don’t know how to play table games but want to gamble? You play really low limit slot machines. If you are playing for a nickel per pull you will know you are likely to lose a good percentage of the nickels you put into a machine, but it takes a lot of nickels for it to add up enough to matter.
Know the game
For heavens sake, don’t bet real money on a game that you don’t know how to play. The last time I played black jack I found myself sitting next to a very nice couple who were making very bad decisions that lead to them losing many hands they should have been winning. I don’t normally like to bother people, but I was horrified that these nice people were losing money they shouldn’t have been, so I finally asked if they wanted some advice. They welcomed my advice, so I spent a few minutes teaching them basic strategy, and before long they were winning almost as much as they were losing.
So before you play a game for money, at least know how to play it. All you have to do is a google search along the lines of ” How do I play __________”
So how much does gambling cost?
If you follow these 3 basic rules: Pick games with low house advantages, bet small amounts of money, and know how to play the games you can limit your losses. So how much does it really cost to gamble on average? Less than you might think. The table below shows how many wagers per hour you might expect to play, how much you would expect to wager in an hour if you are betting $5 per hand, and how much you would expect to lose in an hour. Keep in mind this is only an average and can vary wildly. In actual practice there are times when you will win quite a bit in an hour, and times when you will lose quite a bit.
|Blackjack||Craps||Pai Gow Poker|
|Avg loss per hand||70||48||34|
|$ wagered per hour at $5/ hand||$350||$240||$170|
|$ won back per hour||$347.38||$237.64||$165.75|
|$ lost per hour||$2.63||$3.36||$4.25|
Is that less than you thought? Yeah, it’s really pretty cheap entertainment on average. It’s pretty obvious that those huge Las Vegas Casinos weren’t payed for by people paying $2.63/ hour to gamble. They were paid for by people dumb enough to think they could win, people who didn’t know what they were doing, or people that didn’t care how much they lost. If you play smart, you can get your money’s worth.Disclaimer: All the numbers that appear in this article are averages. At times they will be much, much worse. Gambling is not a wise financial decision and you should never gamble more than you can afford to lose. You gamble at your own risk and artofbeingcheap.com assumes no responsiblity for the advice given in this or any other article.
Photo by Gchampeau