In 10 years of gaming experience, you see a lot of things. As a Dealer, Pit Boss, Shift Manager, Table Games Manager and Slot Department Manager you meet a lot of different people and different types of people, both as fellow employees and customers.
I've probably had well over 10,000 hours on the gaming floor, not including breaks, weekends, vacation time and time stuck in the office as a Department Manager. In these 10,000+ hours I've learned a lot about the people that play at casinos. Gamblers generally fall into three different categories, and although I've found that a they can progress or regress up and down the scale over time, it's very rare that when in one category you share the features of another category. Each category is a different type of gambler. In my experience, the following are the categories nearly every gambler falls into.
This individual plays for the entertainment value and has no real expectation of winning. I would say that 90% of everyone you see in the casino falls under this category.
Sure, they would like to win. And yes, sometimes they do win.
But the main focus for the recreational gambler is the fun. Fun is what game inventors try and give players. Fun is why slot machines play music and have bonus rounds. It's why table games have side bets and bonus pays. Recreational gamblers will play most games with no plan of attack.
If they play slot machines, they don't really care about the machines hold or where on the floor a looser machine might be placed. If they play table games, they don't study optimal play strategies or compare house advantages between the different games and side bets before playing.
Casinos love recreational gamblers.
Everything is geared towards them, because they pay all the bills, cover all the salaries and receive most of the benefits and comps casinos hand out.
Entire Marketing Departments spend the majority or their time and money trying to get regular recreational gamblers to spend more per visit and occasional recreational gamblers to visit additional times during a month. Statistics are tracked on how many times someone visits during an average month, what days of the week they might prefer playing on, how much they play and even what features of the machine or game they play are similar to other games on the floor. This allows them to market more specific games to meet that individual's preferences.
This individual enjoys the entertainment value in the gambling experience, but thinks there is money to be made if they can just do a little research and concentrate when playing. They might think they can spot patterns in slot machine spins or research which areas of a casino tend to have tighter or looser slots. They also might look up how different denominations pay differently or which specific games are known to pay more frequently.
At table games the semi-pro will probably look up and compare the hold percentages for all the different available games at the casino they plan to play and choose a game with a lower house advantage and/or better side bet odds. This category of player is also the type that suggests how others should play the game and may even get angry when someone doesn't play "by the book".
I would estimate that just under 10%, maybe 9.5%, of all gamblers fall in this category. These players will not win money in the long run, but might lose money slower than the recreational gambler due to purposely picking games that have a lower house advantage.
Casinos like this type of player, but not nearly as much as they like the recreational gambler.
Discount and free offers will still be mailed to the minor leaguer and the Marketing Department will still attempt to sway this group, but the focus is minimal compared to the recreational gambler. Minor league gamblers also tend to request and expect more comps.
They are the ones you see asking for free drinks or mentioning how long they've been playing or how much they've been losing in hopes to get a free buffet. They feel like this reward counteracts some of their monetary losses and they like to subtract comp amounts from losses to come up with a revised loss amount when explaining how they did at the casino.
This group of is obviously in the very small minority.
My guess would be .5% or less of gamblers fall in this category. The main reason is because it is very difficult to beat a casino in the long run. A fair amount of people attempt to be a professional gambler, but most fail and drop back down to the minor league or recreational category.
Another reason this group is so small is that it's not that fun. Strict discipline, money management and consistency are the top priority if you want to be considered a professional. The professional gambler looks for specific conditions, deficiencies or mistakes at all levels of the casino to attempt to gain an advantage.
If playing slots they will choose specific types of games that can, at certain times, be playable at an advantage. Games like "must hit by" amounts that are left just before the amount is reached or video poker machines with very high payback setting are prime targets for a professional. Marketing promotions at table games are also a big hit with professionals.
At many casinos the Marketing Department does not always communicate with the table games department on promotions. And these promotions, without experienced review can lead to player advantages. There are teams of professional gamblers that specifically target marketing promotions and travel around the Country hitting any casino that makes a mistake.
Things like multipliers for certain types of blackjacks, increased odds payouts during certain times and money added to jackpots by the casino are all big factors in swinging the odds from the house to the player. Dealer errors are also another target for the professional. At times dealers can expose cards, misunderstand rules or payouts and just make mistakes. In low house advantage games, all of these issues can swing the odds into the players favor.
The professional gambler knows exactly what to look for and will take advantage of it for as long as it lasts. The final way a professional will attempt to earn money is the most well-known -
Card counting possibilities have been expanded with the tidal wave of side bets that are available now. Many side bets are now more lucrative and easier to exploit with card counting than the basic game of blackjack. The professional gambler is always evolving and adjusting to any changes the casino makes.
Casinos dislike professional gamblers. Once discovered, marketing will not mail offers or promotional information to this group. Surveillance and floor personnel will most likely be on the lookout for this group and when spotted professional gamblers will be asked to leave and most likely banned from the property. Casinos spend a lot of time and money focusing on this very small minority because of the damage they can cause financially to a casino.
As with any grouping of people, not everyone falls right into the middle of these gambler categories. But in my 10 years of experience, these are the three categories that make up a huge majority of gamblers, how they experience gambling and how the casinos feel about them. There is no right or wrong category to fall into and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Pick the one you enjoy and hope for some luck in on top.