7 Casino Gambling Strategy Tips for Beginners

The moment you walk through the door, the casino may appear to you as a place of excitement and adventure offering the potential of won riches. There is a buzz in the air. The movement of people, the atmosphere thick with the thrill of money changing hands through the mechanisms of chance and skill. You've seen it stylized on some of the biggest movies – The Sting, Casino, and often the glamorous setting wherein a certain character announces the name is Bond, James Bond.

The reality is that the house is designed to help you part ways with as much of your money as it can extract from you. The following are some sound initial tactics to help you maintain some control over your casino experience, even before you approach a machine or a dealer:

Wear a watch and keep track of time because casinos typically have no windows or clocks. Creating a timeless environment helps the house create a fantasy of sorts, detaching you from real world obligations and responsibilities. It is an escape, and all you have to do to maintain the escape is keep gambling.

This can get expensive quick, except that, without any sense of time, there is no "quick". There is just the rhythm determined by the table or the slots or whatever you decide to play. And within each series of beats of that rhythm there is a beat where you spend money – in the form of placing chips or inserting a coin. It becomes hypnotic. Compulsive. Expensive.

Maintaining a routine of checking your watch helps you maintain that connection with your real life and so, to some degree, helps you escape the rhythm of placing bets.

Don't drink and bet. There's a buzz in the air, the hostesses are hot and flirty - drinks are on the house! This hopefully speaks for itself. Drinking and gambling is even more destined to lose than drinking and driving. Keep your wits about you, is all.

Establish what you will spend before entering. Take only cash. Leave bank cards in a secure vault at your hotel. For those who have not secured a hard limit for themselves, casinos are happy to oblige by providing a legion of bank ATMs and thereby instant access to… your savings.

Success at a casino, unless you are an international spy unfolding intrigues at Her Majesty's Request, revolves around the possibility of won money. The odds are significantly against that happening but the allure and fun is found in challenging those odds with the slight chance you can walk away a winner. Challenging the odds responsibly ensures you will not emerge a loser. Here are some more tips on how to make that happen.

1. Play what you know

It only makes sense that you have some idea of what is going on when you play. Regardless of outcome, understanding how a game works merely increases the enjoyment of the game and thus adds to your experience.

2. Be selective, not emotional

Unfortunately, if you are not prepared for it. losing can beget losing. What happens is you lose a hand or two. Perhaps you've been losing for several rounds and have made significant strides towards your limit. You then become "determined" to win that money back. Emotions and gambling tend to work as well as alcohol and gambling. One cannot "determine" to beat the house odds. The odds remain stacked against you, no matter how determined you feel.

There are two versions of not being selective: the first is what has been mentioned. It's called "chasing your losses": the more you lose, the more you play to regain said losses thereby creating more losses. And so the doomed and expensive spiral quickly goes.

The second version is in the game itself. Often a beginner will make the mistake of thinking he must proceed with whatever hand is dealt him. Even if that is not your intention be aware that the enthusiasm and excitement of the moment may influence you to play whatever, no matter what. Again, emotional betting increases the odds against.

3. Learn to recognize and play good hands

It's funny how much we learn, or think we learn, from popular culture. Probably the two most popular stereotypes associated with gambling, depicted in popular culture via movies and TV (my favourite is the Newman/Redford classic - The Sting), are the cheat and the bluffer.

For now, as beginners, we won't worry about cheaters. But the bluff is something that anyone can do. Right? You don't even have to really know how to play. Right?

The fact is that bluffing is much more effective, and much more frequent, as a plot device than as part of a winning gambling strategy. Sure, there is the occasional hand where you decide to wing it. But over the volume of hands you are going to be playing you are going to increase your mileage much more effectively by learning how to recognize and strategically play good hands, not bad ones.

And this does tie in with tip 2 in the sense that a rookie might feel that, if the opening deal is far from promising, he is obligated somehow to remain in and at least try to bluff his way through. After all, it is called a poker-face.

If you are that fascinated with the bluff you need to learn to reign in the emotions. Letting go of bad hands and folding early is good practice for that. You'll soon discover that being dealt bad cards is just part of the game and that emotions in no way alter that fact.

4. Poker players: Be aware of table position

Following along with our tips for card players we are going to offer another essential tip to make part of any winning arsenal: the importance of position.

Position is simply where you are seated in relation to the first, or last, action. And this varies throughout a round. For example, while you may start out in the middle position, the folding of players seated before or after you may position you nearer to, or at, either end of the action. It makes a big difference in your chances for success.

The odds of winning at poker increase according to your ability to read and interpret the information presenting itself on the table as it unfolds. Where you are seated determines what information will be available to you when it is your turn to act.

Generally stated, having first position – seated closest to the first action – is not a strong position to play from since most of the deal's information will be revealed after your time to act. You are, in effect, playing blind. To succeed from this position requires you having a hand with strong potential from the start. It stands to reason then that the last position is the strongest position to play from since all information for that round has been revealed by the time the last position acts.

But keep in mind that your position and any inherent advantage or disadvantage may change throughout the course of the game.

5. Understand the house edge

The house edge is simply the mathematical formula that is worked into all games of chance. It is this formula that ensures the house will win in the long run after all bets and wins and losses even out. And because of the sums of money involved the house wins a lot.

But, within this same inevitability lies the potential for any particular player, at any particular game, to win. Even win big.

Also, there is no way to predict when the losses and wins will take place, only that, after all has evened out, they will favour the house. For the player, this means that any particular game may be the game that is available to be won.

The reality is that no one knows where or when a game may be won, but only that they do and will exist.

What the beginner gambler may successfully apply from these facts is that, while it is certainly possible to win over any given short-term, in the longer-term he will lose. It is clearly possible to win a hand or two. It is possible to get on a hot streak and win big over several, increasing bets. But, the odds of the house edge dictates that the longer the player keeps extending that hot streak the greater the likelihood that the next hand or round will be a bust. And it will keep being a bust.

So, if you win, play conservative. The longer you stay at the table hoping to revive a winning streak the more you will lose. The inverse is also true. Some players sit through long droughts, anticipating the law of averages to change luck to their favour. And it may. But after so many losing hands to get there they must win relatively much larger pots to get back their losses. Even then, the winning rounds will be quite few before the losing starts again.

In short, don't chase what you cannot see. If you have some winnings, aim to walk away soon. You got lucky, is all.

6. Play slow and extend the fun

Casinos can be seductive. Everything about them is designed to separate you from your money. Going into a casino, as a beginner is exciting. You may not have a particular game that you are drawn to or understand substantially more than the others. You have likely gleaned by now that you will likely leave with less money than when you entered. So, how can you make the most of your experience and get the most out of your money?

One way is to look for games that are not quickly over. Referred to as "most bang for the buck", playing a game that takes longer to finish provides more entertainment value for the cost to play.

Not surprisingly, each game comes with a speed limit of sorts – that is, the time it takes to play a bet. As a general rule, casinos charge more per play for games of chance – those with little to no learning curve – than games of skill.

Machines of any kind are the quickest. They are also the easiest and are considered in the industry as games of chance vs games of skill. Requiring no skill or strategy they are expensive, are quickest to play and are attractive to beginners.

Speedy or fast play is bad news for the gambler. Recall what we said above about house odds – over the longer term the house wins. The longer-term is counted in number of games played. The longer you play between payouts the greater you will lose. It follows that, the quicker the game, the more games you will play over a shorter period of time. The result is that you will lose more over a shorter period of time. This means that either your entertainment dollar doesn't take you very far or you get more dollars.

Roulette is a little better than machines in this sense. Similarly, because it requires no skill, it will be attractive to beginners. But its payouts are more meager than machines and spins are over fairly quick. Money can be lost quite quickly. Again, either little bang for the buck or… more bucks.

Unfortunately, for the beginner, the games that offer more entertainment per dollar through longer playing time also, as expected, have the highest learning curves. Baccarat, Blackjack and poker fall into this category. However, even if you don't know the game that well, finding a table with a lot of players will extend each hand. You will thus extend the mileage of your entertainment dollar.

The best casino bet in terms of length of play and control of outcome is the sports bet. Sports bets tend to payout better than the other games mentioned (with a lower house edge than the others, with the exception of Baccarat). The second advantage is that it takes up to three hours to play a game. You won't find that kind of bang for the buck anywhere else. And, while you may not have influence over the outcome (unless you have some "gonneck-shuns" *wink*), you can quickly read up on, or use your existing sports knowledge, to place knowledgeable bets and so influence the chances of winning.

7. Share the memory

Successful gaming is about having fun. Sure, the potential for a winning streak and a payout is the excitement. But, ultimately, it is a source of entertainment, not much different than paying a few hundred dollars for a pair of decent seats at a sporting event or concert. In their most recent tour, concert tickets for The Rolling Stones were listed at $600 per seat. Maybe that helps with some perspective. Or, a night out with a friend at the movies, including parking, dinner and drinks after can easily run over $100.

But with all these activities they are usually best experienced when shared with someone else. My tips for sharing your beginner casino experience include:

Make sure they have at least the same level of interest as you. You don't want to be dragging someone around. Nor do you want them to be bored and more vulnerable to distractions like endless free drinks.

Know their personality. Are they reliable? Mature? You don't want to discover their quietly-hidden-up-til-now compulsive disorder. Or, more to the point, how good is your communication with the person? When you say "let's go" will they hear you? That's really all you need to know.

Create a strategy that you both agree on before going in. Both agree to your own "house rules" suggested above – leave bank cards and plastic secured elsewhere, take a limited amount of cash, keep track of time and decide how long you want to stay.

These rules, I feel, are doubly important when it involves another person. It is human nature for the participation of another to either even out, or enhance as the case may be, the strengths and flaws of the other. Two people going in with certain positive ground rules in place are more likely to have a good time. Likewise for those going in without guidelines or limits. It may not even be intentional to be reckless but take seriously the fact that casinos are designed to remove money from you. With two people on the same path you are simply doubling the odds of a particular outcome.


Casinos can be a fun and affordable form of entertainment, if approached wisely with awareness and a plan in place. The tips in this article can help form a useful strategy for getting the most of a casino.