9 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Casino Trip

Your first trip to a casino can be fun and exciting. But it can also create a little bit of fear. Whenever you walk into a new place or situation, it can be hard to know exactly what to expect.

I've put together a list of 9 things you need to know before your first casino trip. It covers many of the simple things you might face, as well as how they work.

You don't need to worry about making a mistake or not knowing what you need to do. Casinos do everything they can to make it easy to get started playing, and you can ask any employee for help. The casinos know that they won't make money unless you can gamble, so they're eager to help with any questions you may have.

Procedures vary from casino to casino, but most of the things you're going to learn below will apply wherever you play.



Some casinos have a security check point at the entrance, and some have many entrances that don't have security. With the rise of crime and the threat of terrorist activities in some areas, more and more casinos are setting up security.

Don't be alarmed if you see that you have to go through security. If you're prepared before you head to the casino, you shouldn't have any problems. Here's a list of tips about what to bring and what not to bring to the casino.

  • Bring your license or other proper identification. Casinos have age restrictions, and even if you haven't been carded for 40 years, you may need you ID for other reasons. If you hit a big jackpot, you'll need it for the paperwork involved. Some security procedures require everyone to have their ID checked before entering. You also might need it to join the slots or players club.
  • Don't bring anything flammable.
  • Don't bring any type of weapon. Even if you can legally carry a gun in your state or jurisdiction, don't bring it to the casino. The same goes for knives or anything else that could be considered dangerous.
  • Don't bring any drugs or illegal items. If you need to bring prescription drugs, make sure they're in a bottle from the pharmacy. It's also a good idea to bring the contact information from the prescribing doctor just in case something needs to be confirmed.

Though I've never been through a casino security system that's as bad as airport security, it's a good idea to avoid taking anything to the casino that you can't take on an airplane.

Everything you've just read about security may make you a little apprehensive, but I've been in dozens of land-based casinos and have never had a single issue with security. It's usually fast and easy. If the security personnel stop you and ask questions, remain calm and friendly.


Exchange Cash for Chips for Table Games

Most casinos have a policy that requires that all bets made on table games use chips instead of cash. They do this for a couple different reasons.

The first reason is because studies have shown that people are more likely to gamble more if they use something other than cash. The other reason is that it reduces the risk of taking counterfeit bills.

In some casinos, you have to find the cashier cage to buy chips, and in others, you can buy chips at the table where you want to play. I always find the cashier cage and buy chips there before I start playing. When you finish playing, you have to exchange your chips for cash at the cage, so you might as well find out where it is and get your chips first.

If you play where you can buy chips at the table, after you sit down, simply place the cash you want to exchange for chips in front of you on the table and wait for the dealer. The dealers have a specific procedure they must follow that includes how they handle the money and when they can sell you chips.

Don't ever try to hand a dealer the money. They have to spread it out on the table so the cameras can see it, and aren't allowed to take it directly from a player. Always count the chips they give you where they place them so if there's a mistake it can be seen by the camera.

I mentioned that one of the reasons the casino prefers using chips is that it helps them avoid taking counterfeit bills. This might not make sense because they exchange chips for the money in one way or another anyway, but by controlling it the way they do, it's easier to spot fake money.

Most cage personnel are trained to spot counterfeit money, and handle so much cash that they know by feel if a bill isn't right. Don't ever try to pass a counterfeit bill at a casino. You're most likely going to end up in jail if you do.

Don't ever buy chips from anyone other than a casino employee. Some people try to counterfeit casino chips, and instead of risking getting caught by playing them, they sell them to unsuspecting gamblers. Also, never cash in anyone else's chips.

The only exception to buying chips from another player is in some poker rooms. It depends on the house rules, but in some of these rooms, you can buy chips from other players at the table after your initial buy in.

This is relatively safe because the player you buy from is already playing with the chips at the table. Until you get to know the procedures where you play, it's best to buy your chips at the cage before you start playing.


Slot Machine Voucher Systems

If your only experience with slot machines is what you've seen on television or in the movies, you might think that you use coins to play, and when you win, the machine dumps coins into a metal tray or hopper below the machine.

Before some of the advances in technology, this was the way most machines worked. But now most casinos have transitioned to a voucher system. You put cash in the machine and then your playing balance is displayed on the screen.

Your balance may be shown in dollars or pounds or Euros, or it may be shown in coin denominations for the machines. When you finish playing on a machine, you hit a button, and a paper voucher that shows your balance is created.

You can put the voucher into a different machine and continue playing, or take it to the cashier and exchange it for cash.

Usually all of the machine based games in the casino use the same voucher system. This includes slot machines, video poker machines, video keno machines, and any other games that have been created based on video or machine technology.

If you have an issue with a voucher, immediately summon someone who works for the casino. Don't leave the machine until the problem is fixed. Ask a cocktail waitress to get someone, or use your cell phone to call the casino desk.

It's also important to always remember to hit the button to print your voucher when you get up to leave the machine. This might seem like common sense, but it's not unusual to sit down at a slot machine and see a balance that the last player forgot to cash out.


Don't Get Hustled

The casino industry seems to attract a higher percentage of hustlers, cheats, and criminals than most other businesses. Some of these people try to take advantage of the casino, but some of them focus on the people gambling in the casino.

In the section about buying chips, you learned that some criminals try to make counterfeit chips and sell them to unsuspecting gamblers. But this isn't the only way to get hustled in and around a casino.

Be wary of anyone who approaches you outside the casino for any reason. It doesn't matter how good the opportunity sounds or how sad their story is, the odds are high that they don't have your best interest at heart.

If someone asks you for money for any reason, it's likely they're trying to get money to gamble with. I've heard stories ranging from their car breaking down to needing something to eat to having a sick child. If they say they need money for food, I usually offer to take them into the casino and buy them something to eat, or simply ignore them.

I've yet to have a single person who claimed they needed money for food take me up on an offer to buy them something to eat.

You need to think about your safety ahead of time. If the casino has a valet parking system, the safest way to go into the casino is to use the valet. It's usually directly in front of a casino entrance, and you don't have to wander around a parking lot where you can be approached.

The farther you are from the casino, the higher the likelihood that someone who's up to no good will approach you. Casinos do everything they can to keep players safe, but you should always use common sense.

You might also be hustled by someone else at the game you're playing. Don't ever let anyone touch your chips, and don't make side bets with other players. Poker tables often have players making side bets, but if you don't know what you're doing, you can make bad bets. It's best to politely decline any side bet offers.

I haven't noticed this as much as I used to, but occasionally someone might claim they have a sure thing or sure bet and offer to sell it to you. It doesn't matter how good something sounds - it's always a scam. If you decline and they keep bothering you, immediately tell a casino employee.

Basically, avoid anything and anyone that isn't a casino employee or a game offered by the casino.


Ask the Dealer for Help

The first time you play a casino table game, it can be intimidating. Most of us are afraid that we'll make a mistake and look silly or break the rules.

The first thing to do is relax. Everyone makes mistakes, and as long as you're not trying to do something wrong, everything can be worked out.

When I sit down at a table game that I've never played before, I announce to the dealer that I've never played before. You almost never find a dealer who is unwilling to help.

Ask about the proper betting procedure and how the game works. Many games have rules printed on the table or on a card sitting on the table.

Many times, other players at the table will try to help as well. It's usually okay to listen to the other players, but not all of them know the best strategy. But you can often learn simple rules and procedure from other players.

Never be afraid to ask the dealer to help or to explain something you don't understand. If you happen to be sitting at a table where the dealer isn't helpful, simply take your chips and find another table.

It's best to wait until the current hand is completed before asking the dealer any questions. And don't ever touch a dealer for any reason. I've already mentioned that you don't ever hand any dealer money directly. The same goes for handing them chips.

Even if you're giving the dealer a tip, just place the chip or chips on the table, slide them toward the dealer, remove your hand, and tell the dealer it's for them.


Know the Rules

One of the best things you can do before making your first casino trip is decide what you want to play and learn the rules. You can find books about almost every available casino game and find pages online with detailed rules.

If you want to start with games that are simple to play, here are a few options:

  • Baccarat - The rules look complicated, but the dealer takes care of everything. All you need to do is choose one of three bets and decide how much you want to bet. Start with the table minimum bet, usually from $5 to $20, and make a bet on the banker.The dealer deals two hands, one for the banker and one for the player, and follows the rules to complete the hand. Then the dealer collects losing bets and pays out winning bets.When you bet on the banker hand and win, the house collects a commission. The dealer takes care of this as well. Just make sure you're playing at a mini or midi baccarat table; these are the most common baccarat tables in the casino.
  • Slot Machines - When you play slots, all you have to do is put money in the machine and push a button or pull a lever. The machine takes care of everything else.
  • Keno - Playing keno is easy, and it's one of the slowest games in the casino. You can pick a group of numbers or let the casino automatically assign a random group of numbers. Find the keno desk and get a betting slip to mark your choices. Then hand your bet and the slip to the person running the keno game and wait for the next draw.
  • Roulette - All you need to do to place a bet on roulette is wait until the end of a spin and the payouts, then place a chip on one of the available betting spaces. Start with a minimum wager on black or red and wait for the wheel to stop spinning. The person running the game handles all of the payouts.

Other games are slightly more complicated, but if you learn the rules before you go, you can quickly get started. To learn more, you can play most casino games for free online. Blackjack and craps are both popular table-based games that you can easily learn.

You can also play on one of the video poker machines. They're almost as easy to play as slot machines, but you need to make decisions about which cards to hold, return for new ones, or draw.

Some games have the same rules from casino to casino, but some have slight rule variations. Blackjack is played the same way from table to table and from casino to casino, but some of the rules change. These are simple once you learn about them, and you can see the current rules posted at the table.

Don't forget that you can always ask the dealer about the rules or anything that's not clear.


Set Your Budget and Stick to It

It's easy to get excited when you win while playing casino games. The games are designed so you win sometimes and lose sometimes. On the hands or spins you win, it triggers good feelings.

The casino games are designed to take your money, but they're also designed to keep you playing for as long as possible. The wins keep you wanting more.

The best way to keep from getting carried away and gambling too much is to set a strict budget for play. Decide how much you're willing to lose before your trip, and stop playing if you reach your limit. It's tempting to get more money out to try to win, but try to avoid this pitfall.

When you make a plan and stick to it, you can enjoy your casino trip without losing too much money. But even as you learn the best strategies for the games you play, you're going to find that sometimes you win, but most of the time, you're going to lose.

Gambling should be a form of entertainment, just like going out to eat or to seeing a show. Treat it like this and stick to your budget, and you can safely enjoy your experience.


Don't Expect to Win

Everyone who plays in the casino wants to win, but in the long run, most people lose. In the last section, I mentioned that gambling should be a form of entertainment. When you understand how casino games work, and play with a budget, you can protect yourself.

Casino games are designed with a built-in house edge. Over the long run, this house edge creates a profit for the casino. In the short term, you can win or lose, but over time, the games take your money.

Some games take your money faster than others. This depends on the overall house edge and how fast the games play. Games that have a high house edge and play fast are the worst games to play.

Slot machines have a higher house edge than many games, and you can take hundreds of spins per hour. Keno has a high house edge, but it plays slow, often with 12 or fewer draws per hour.

Pai Gow Poker has a lower house edge than most slot machines do, and is one of the slowest games in the casino. If you learn to find games with good rules and use the proper strategy, blackjack has a lower house edge than most games. It plays slower than slot machines as well, so it's not a bad choice.

But all of these games will take your money if you play long enough. Don't expect to win any time that you go to the casino. This way you won't be disappointed if you don't win, and can be pleasantly surprised if you do.


Sign up for the Players Club First

The first thing you should do any time you visit a new casino is find the players club desk and sign up for a card. You then insert the card in slot machines or video poker machines before you play, and put it in the table when you sit down to play table games.

The casino tracks your play and gives you rewards for playing. These rewards are called comps, and you can earn free meals, free nights in the hotel, and many other things, depending on how much you play.

It's free to sign up for the club, and there's no reason to avoid earning free stuff for playing. You're going to be gambling anyway, so take advantage of the comps.

Different players clubs offer different levels of comps, but they're all designed to pay back a percentage of the money the casino takes in. When you sign up, you can ask how much you need to play to earn certain comps, but most of the clubs don't tell you specific details.

The good news is that you earn comps whether you win or lose. The casino bases the comp levels on your expected loss, not on your actual losses.

You don't want to miss out on earning comps on any of your play, so always sign up before you play. Once you sign up and get a card, you can use it on every trip to the casino.


Don't worry about making a mistake or looking silly on your first trip to the casino. Use these 9 things you need to know before your first casino trip to avoid the most common mistakes new players make. You can have fun and forget about worrying, if you follow the advice on this page.