These are the most popular casino games in the United States:
All of these games have their pros and cons, and not every casino game is right for every casino gambler. These reviews explain which games are best for which player temperaments.
Blackjack is the card game where everyone thinks the goal is to get as close as you can to 21 without going over.
The actual goal is to beat the dealer. You can do this in three ways:
Blackjack offers some of the best odds in the casino, but it's played at a fast pace. If you're not careful, you might still lose more per hour than in some other games—especially if you don't learn the correct strategy.
It's easy to start playing. Just find an open seat, place some money on the table, and start playing. Pick up a strategy card in the casino gift shop if you don't already know basic strategy.
Other players are eager to tell you how to play your hands, but most don't know the correct play. If you want to enjoy the great odds, learn how to play based on the strategy card. Don't listen to other players.
If you're willing to work at it, blackjack is one of the few games offered by the casinos where you can get an edge. You have to play flawless strategy and learn how to count cards. Most people aren't interested in doing the work required to get this edge.
Slot machines come in all shapes and sizes. You'll find three reel fruit machines, fancy video slots with progressive jackpots, machines with in-game movies, games with up to 243 pay lines, and everything in between.
Slots also offer one of the widest ranges of potential return percentages. Most return percentages aren't made public. You can't figure them by yourself like table games and video poker machines.
Unless you're lucky enough to win a big jackpot, your chances of beating the slots in the long run are slim. Most players never hit a progressive jackpot, but millions of people still enjoy the slots every year.
Slot machines don't require much thought or effort. You choose how much to bet and hit the button. You can play as fast or as slow as you want, and you can socialize with other players or play by yourself. These are all pros for the right kinds of gamblers and cons for the wrong kinds of gamblers.
Video poker offers more options than any other game in the casino besides slot machines. You can find many different games, and each game could have multiple pay tables.
Some video poker games and pay tables have a house edge of less than 1%, making them good choices for long term play. But others have a house edge of 5% or more.
Educate yourself before you go to the casino so you know the best pay tables and the best strategies. If you don't find the best machines and use the correct strategies you end up giving the casino too high of an advantage.
The two games to consider first are Deuces Wild and Jacks or Better. The Deuces Wild variation you want to look at is called Not So Ugly Ducks (NSUD) and the Jacks or Better version is a 9 / 6 machine.
You can find strategy cards for popular video poker machines, just like blackjack strategy cards, and you should use them unless you've already memorized the best strategy.
Video poker can be played as fast or as slow as you want, so consider slowing down your play to make your bankroll last longer.
Many players aren't willing to learn the best strategy for each video poker game, or they find it too boring to play hour after hour. Most of the top pay outs are low compared to top paying slot machines, which also drives some players away.
A common top pay out for a quarter machine is $1,000, and a top pay out for many $1 machines is $4,000. While neither of those amounts is anything to sneeze at, the top pay outs for some slot machines are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions.
But even the worst video poker games offer a better return than the best slot machines.
Roulette is the game with the ivory ball that spins around a wheel with 37 or 38 numbers.
The house edge is 5.26% on a wheel that has a zero and double zero. It's 2.7% on a single zero wheel. Roulette plays slowly, so you may lose less per hour at roulette than at other games with lower house edges and a faster rate of play.
The first time you see a roulette table with all of the possible wagers it can be a little intimidating. Though you can pick a single number where you hope the ball will land, you can also place a wide range of other bets.
You can bet on red, black, odd, even, row, column, two numbers, four numbers, or thirds. Don't worry if you don't know what all that means. The dealer or other players can answer any questions you have.
But here's the best way to get started.
Simply place a bet on black or red. Half the numbers are red and half are black (except zero and double zero) so you have almost a 50% chance of being right. The black or red bet pays even money if you win. If you bet $10 on red and it lands on red, you get back your $10 and a profit of $10.
If you want to place a longer odds bet you can wager on a single number. The ball only lands on a single number one out of 37 or 38 times, but the payout is 35 to 1 when it does.
Roulette is a leisurely game with a high social element. Players at the roulette table love to talk with each other.
If you don't like the looks of the roulette table, you'll hate the craps table. Not only are craps tables usually filled with excited and loud players, the betting options look like a foreign language.
You can place craps bets on dozens of possibilities.
But here's the good news:
You only need to know how to place two bets to get in the action and reduce the house edge as low as possible.
Simply place a bet on the don't pass line or the pass line.
The best bet at the craps table is the don't pass line, followed closely by the pass line. The edge is slightly less than 1.4% for the don't pass and slightly over 1.4% for the pass line. You should take the full odds bet after either bet to reduce the house edge even more. Ignore all of the other bets offered on the table--none of them offer odds as good as these.
When you bet on the pass line, if the roll is a 7 or an 11, you win even money on your bet. If the roll is a 2, 3, or 12 you lose your bet. If any other number is rolled it sets a point, and the shooter continues to roll the dice.
When the point is rolled before a 7, you win your bet. If a 7 is rolled before the point number is rolled, you lose your bet.
A don't pass bet is the opposite. If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, you lose your bet. When a 2 or 3 is rolled, you win. A roll of 12 results in a tie. Every other number sets a point. If a point is set and the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point, you win. If the point is rolled again, you lose.
Most players play the pass line bet because they feel like you're working against the other players if you play the don't pass line. The difference in percentages is small, so you don't give up much by playing the pass line, but it's slightly worse than the don't pass wager.
Craps is one of the best games in the casino, but only if you're into excitement. If you're looking for a calmer or more solitary game, stick with roulette, slots, or video poker.
Baccarat combines a low house edge without having to think about strategy.
Your only decisions are how much to bet and whether to bet on the banker, player, or a tie. The dealer takes care of everything else.
The best bet on the baccarat table is on the banker, offering a house edge of just over 1%. The player bet is slightly higher, but the tie bet is so high you should never take it. The tie bet has a house edge of 9 to 14% depending on the payouts—which varies from casino to casino.
If you want an easy to play game that offers a low house edge you should find a baccarat table. It plays as easily as slot machines and offers a much lower edge. Slot machines almost always offer a chance at a higher pay out, so you need to decide if you want to play longer or have a chance at a bigger win.
Most baccarat games are played for high stakes, but if you can find a mini-baccarat game, you can enjoy the same game for lower stakes.
Texas hold'em is the poker game that took the gambling world by storm in the early 2000s. If you've ever watched a poker tournament on television it's probably been no limit Texas hold'em.
Poker games like Texas hold'em have a special place on this list because you don't play against the casino; you compete against the other players. The casino makes money by taking a percentage of each pot.
If you can develop your skills enough to beat the other players, you can win in the long run.
Few things are better than playing poker and winning money consistently.
To be a long term winner you have to study the game, practice, and work hard. You can't just watch a few games on television and start playing and hope to win.
Most casinos have poker rooms and some areas have stand-alone poker clubs.
Hold'em is a community card game, which means players combine their hole cards with cards that are turned face up in the middle of the table to form their best hand. At the end of every Texas hold'em hand, the community board will have five cards. Each player remaining in the hand uses their hole cards along with the community cards to form a five card poker hand.
Texas hold'em is a social game played with other players, and it's relatively slow. But it requires a lot of thinking and hard work to play at even a moderately successful level.
Casinos are filled with great games, each offering a little something different. Try more than one game to see what you like and dislike about each.
You don't have to play the same game every time you go to the casino.