The earliest of games of chance were mainly forms of dice play. Dice may have evolved naturally from the ancient act of divination - the attempt to discover the future or will of the gods. For example, the diviner would cast the special rocks or shells and then "read" the future from them, according to how they fell.
Things have changed. In a typical, modern casino found in major gambling centres around the world you will find the games in this list. Knowing how to play them will increase your opportunities for enjoyment and may even help you protect your bankroll.
Casino games fall within one or more of three categories - table games, electronic games and random number games. The most popular of these are electronic games - the slots, likely because they are the easiest to play.
Next, we take a look at ten casino games every gambler should learn to play.
Blackjack is likely the most commonly played casino bank game. Perhaps this is because the basic rules are relatively simple to learn. The objective is to beat the dealer, which can be done in three ways: obtain 21 on the player's first two cards; obtain a higher score than the dealer, without going over 21; having the dealer exceed 21.
While blackjack is a simple game to learn, it has attracted some serious attention over recent decades. The technique of card counting, invented by Edward O. Thorpe in the late 1950s, proved to be so effective in winning that many casinos considered it a form of cheating.
Blackjack typically offers approximately 70 hands per hour, with a house edge of 0.75%. Popular variations of blackjack include Spanish 21.
Some excellent books have been published on playing the game. They include the aforementioned Thorpe's Beat the Dealer: A Winning Strategy for the Game of Twenty-One, which outlines Thorpe's card counting technique. Note, however, that card counting is an advanced topic. For those seeking a beginner's introduction Avery Cardoza offers Winning Casino Blackjack for The Non-Counter.
Roulette is another popular casino game that originated in Europe in the 19th century and has changed very little since. The basic concept of the game is simple enough. The croupier spins the wheel in one direction and the ball in the direction opposite. Players bet on where the ball will eventually land. A player may choose to bet on a single or range of numbers, whether the ball will fall on an odd or even number or a red or black color.
However, though the concept of the game is simple enough, the strategies for betting can become quite complex. Employing mathematical formulas, roulette players have invented betting systems intended to exploit perceived weakness of the wheel-ball combination. Others have experimented with ways of predicting where the ball will land, including using wearable computers.
Roulette provides, on average, 38 plays per hour and a house edge of 5.3%. Note that the American version of roulette is played with 37 slots, compared to the European version which uses 38. A California version, legalized in 2004, requires the use of cards in place of colored slots.
Craps likely originated in medieval times, though the current form played today in the United States was introduced into New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century. As a casino bank game, it is played with one or more players, betting against the casino.
The basic rules are straight-forward enough: bets are placed on what a player's roll of the dice. The craps table contains many options for betting strategies. As with all casino games, while game rules are simple, your play can get as complex as you wish as you seek to decrease the house edge in your favor.
Craps has long been associated with the potential for dice control. Even in modern casinos where the integrity of dice and tables are maintained, there remains a cult of sorts of experts and players who explore the dark art over controlling how the dice will land.
Craps typically provides around 38 plays per hour. The house edge is approximately 1.58%.
For a look into dice control, renowned and prolific gambling expert Frank Scoblete has published material on his insights and even offers private instruction.
Poker first came alive in the early 19th century in the original capital of American gambling - New Orleans. From there, it spread throughout the Mississippi region via riverboats and eventually into the American frontier. It is, without a doubt, America's most popular table game of choice.
There are many types and variations of the game. Texas Hold'em is the most popular in recent times and is offered in casinos around the world. The 21st century advent of online gaming and video gaming added a new dimension, and many new converts, to the poker fold.
Poker involves luck, but it is also a game of skill and so attracts the interest of the world's best gamblers. Many millions have been won by tournament champions in recent years.
For casino play, poker can provide anywhere from 10 to 30 hands per hour, depending on the dealer. Because you are playing against other players and not the house there is no official house edge with casino poker. However, the house does take a percentage of the pot, which can be around 1.6%, depending on the game.
Baccarat is of European origin, perhaps most famously played by the early James Bond. The 2006 Bond film Casino Royale depicted Texas Hold'em as the game of choice (due to the poker boom in the early 20th century) though the original novel, on which the movie was based, used baccarat.
The most popular version is "punto banco Baccarat", though is often referred to simply as Baccarat. Punto banco Baccarat is purely a game of chance, as the player must accept whatever cards are dealt. Baccarat is extremely popular in Asian casinos, and with high rollers.
World-wide, a variation called EZ Baccarat has been adopted by many casinos. EZ Baccarat tends to offer the player a slightly lower house edge than punto banco Baccarat.
Baccarat is one of the quickest games to play, at around 72 hands per hour. The more hands per hour will enable a player to become experienced quicker, but can also be costlier for the same reason.
Slot machines are the popular game of choice for over 50% of casino visitors polled. Traditionally, slot machines were stand-alone. Winning payouts was the accumulation of coins inserted in previous plays, minus the house edge. Linked machines amalgamate all bets, thus hiking potential payouts.
Slots are easy to play, come in a range of prices - from penny slots and up, offer a huge selection of variations and, thanks to the introduction of linked machines, can provide the casual gambler's quickest and easiest route to life-changing winnings.
The first linked - or, networked - machines arrived in the 1990s. Produced by IGT, Megabucks can still be found in many North American casinos. The largest payout for a networked machine win was worth over US$39 million, after a mere $100 worth of play by the winner. Networked machines typically payout in the 7 figure range.
The player should be aware that machines can and do make errors. This occurs when a quirk in the game algorithm indicates a payout that the play results do not support. When this occurs, be aware the casino is not obligated to pay out the indicated amount.
Also important for the slot player to note that for many networked machines there is often a minimum bet size required to be eligible for mega winnings.
The average plays per hour will depend on the machine and type of play. However, they tend to be the highest in the casino and can be hundreds per hour. For this reason, a casino visitor is wise to commence slots play with a clear and limited budget in place.
Generally, governing state casino commissions require casinos provide an average payout percentage to their players of at least 80%. Top payout averages tend to provide at least 91% to 95%.
Keno is a random number game and is essentially played like a lottery. Players select numbers out of a typical range of 1 to 80. Then, twenty numbers from the original range are selected. Payouts - or, "paytables" - are based on what numbers a player selected that matched the generated numbers and the amount waged.
Payouts vary according to the casino. For example, often the size of payout depends on the amount of numbers matched - the more numbers the player matched, the greater the payout. However, some casinos provide payouts for smaller amount of matching numbers - for example, 0 matches on a 20 number ticket can also provide a payout.
Because keno - both live and video versions - is a random number game, there is no skill involved. Pure chance dictates and so a player's odds of winning are very low. Each number has a 1 in 80 chance of being drawn.
Video keno does tend to provide higher payout percentages than live keno. But, video keno is also faster to play, thus allowing for more games per hour and thereby increasing overall losses.
As the name suggests, Pai Gow is a game with Chinese origins, though is finding increasing popularity throughout North American and world casinos. Pai Gow translates to "make nine" as, with a few exceptions, the best result a hand can generate is 9.
Pai Gow is typically played with dominos. However, some American casinos replace dominos with cards, though the concept of the game remains intact. Similar to Baccarat, scoring in Pai Gow factors only the right, single digit of the value of any hand. For example, if the first domino's value is 7 and the second domino's value is 9, then the value of the hand is 6, since 6 is the right digit of the actual total of 16.
Pai Gow played with dominos is one of the slower games and provide 30 hands per hour, though the house edge is 1.65%. For Pai Gow poker, these average increase slightly to 34 hands per hour and 1.96% house edge.
Video poker is one major proponents of the poker boom of the last couple of decades and is so unique from live, table poker that it deserves its own entry in this list.
Video poker became popular as a more user-friendly form of poker by being less intimidating than live poker (you play video poker solo) while offering a wide variation of gameplay and betting options. Today, some brands of video poker are based on popular themes from movies and television series.
Video poker is based on five card draw. To begin, the player inserts the initial coin or credit, then presses a button. Five cards are dealt on the machine screen, from which the player selects which cards to keep and presses the button to resume play.
Multiple levels allow the player to increase levels of strategy, betting and provide bonus options which, particularly with progressive machines, can lead to impressive payouts.
Let It Ride is a variation of five-card stud, involving three player-held cards and two community cards. Players begin the game with a wage, then have two opportunities during the round to remove, or not, one-third of the original wager. If a player decides to leave the original wager in the pot, he is said to have "let it ride".
This game gained popularity during the 1990s due to its reputation as being a more relaxed pace than other forms of casino poker. The reducing waging concept also facilitates a relaxed mode as you can place clear limits on what your contribution to the pot will be.
Let It Ride also gained a reputation for maintaining a house edge that is higher than other poker games. The average hands per hour is 52, while the house edge is 2.4%. Note that that house edge will vary according to what is played and can be as high as 3.51% or more.
Knowing how to get the most entertainment from your casino bankroll involves knowing when to walk away - therefore, deeper understanding of how a game is played will help you understand when to walk away and why. For sure, spontaneous play can be exciting also but ends up a costlier, shorter slide.
There are many guides available for getting up to decent speed on these games. One I can highly recommend is Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling (Winning Ways) by Andrew Brisman. Written in a clear and easy to understand style, Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling is the book that other experts stated they wish they had written.