QUESTION: Okay, I have been reading you for several decades but I want to know what I can do to become a better player than just the idea that I have to play the right strategies. I play blackjack, craps, and roulette in that order. They are my favorite games. I don’t want to count cards or control the dice or look all over the world for biased wheels and the like. So, what do I do? I love casino playing, so educate me, Frank, can you do that? I wouldn’t mind winning is all I am saying. Educate me.

Frank:  No, I can’t. The three methods of getting a real jump on casino games, card counting at blackjack, dice control at craps, and finding biased wheels (or “off” wheels) are the only real ways to get an edge over the casinos. 

How many players can do that? Mostly an infinitesimal few or none at all. 

The technique of card counting has been around since the mid-1960s thanks to Edward O. Thorp who developed it and wrote a now classic book about the subject (Beat the Dealer). 

Players flocked to the game of blackjack during that time period because they thought it was a beatable game. It really wasn’t. If you don’t play basic strategy and don’t count cards correctly in a real casino, you can’t win in the long run. 

Oh, yes players are still flocking to the game. It is now the number one table game in the casinos, having surpassed craps long, long ago. 

How many of those original players and all the players since those original players have successfully navigated the card counting terrain? Think of a million and more players year after year playing blackjack? Very, very few of them can ever beat the house. 

Card counting is not an easy skill to master and the casinos are not in love with the players who demonstrate such skill. One expert blackjack player I knew once told me that you play blackjack against the dealer but poker against the pit people and the “eye-in-the-sky.” There is a lot of truth to that.

While card counting is not illegal, private businesses have the right to refuse service to customers if they so choose and card counters are merely just such customers. 

Some casinos tell the card-counting customers to play other games but not blackjack or they instruct them to leave the premises immediately. Some states do not allow the casino to ban card counters but the casinos can tell such players they can only bet “X” amount of dollars. Card counters can’t win if their betting choices are limited.

Can you learn card counting? Probably with hard work and dedication. Will you if you do not commit to it fully and unequivocally? Not at all. Most card counters are somewhat obsessed to playing in such a way. Could anyone become so obsessed? I don’t know.

So, what should you do? Learn basic strategy and don’t vary from it. If you can’t memorize it then bring a basic strategy card to the table and refer to it. 

And play the best blackjack games you can find with the best rules – but, sadly, it is harder to find the best blackjack rules today in most casinos. Search for such games and good luck to you. You might find such excellent games on the Internet casinos.

Control your betting amounts. Play at full or nearly full tables so you play a reduced number of decisions. The fewer hands you play, the better it is for you. That is, by the way, the opposite of a card counter who is looking to play as many hands as he or she can. When you have an edge you want to exploit that edge!

That’s about all I can say for someone who does not want to take the card-counting step.

Casino gambling strategies

Now craps. A great game and maybe the most exciting game in the casino. Anyway, I think it is the most exciting game and so do many players. 

For many years it was the number one game in the house but blackjack surpassed it because of Thorp’s book.

Craps cannot be beaten except if a player can influence (sometimes called control) the dice. Influence and control are merely synonyms. The main idea is that a player can change the odds of the game because of his or her method of throwing the dice.

With proper craps betting strategies, meaning making the lowest house edge bets, the player certainly has a chance to beat the casinos. Too many would-be dice controllers make the stupidest bets and think they can overcome the odds on those bets. They can’t.

Too many dice controllers are just gamblers pretending to be dice controllers – these folks are legion and they are long-term (and short- and medium-term) losers. 

Even today’s dice control classes celebrate their students who win outrageous bets as if they won those bets not because of blind luck but because of skill. Dice control cannot be learned in a day, a weekend, a week or less than a month – in fact, it is more like many, many months of hard work. 

Think in terms of practicing for six months or more and making only the lowest house-edge bets. Craps players, who are overwhelmingly gamblers, would find that difficult indeed.

Dice control was created by the late Atlantic City legend, the Captain, and he and "the Arm" and Jimmy P. were the only three players I met pre-2000 who could control the dice. Since then? A small few … a very small few. And plenty who think they can do it but can’t. 

Best betting at craps: So, you are not going to become a dice controller, you’ve stated that. Good. Honesty is a great policy when you risk your hard-earned money at gambling. Now what should you do? How should you bet? What is your philosophy of playing craps?

First off, and let me get this out of the way right away, do not, I repeat do not make any bets with edges over 2 percent. Correct, almost all bets at craps are bad bets, worse even than some slot machines grinding away at slot players’ bankrolls.

It is nutty that so many craps players make so many awful bets. How can they have any chance to beat the game when they just throw their money away? 

Make a list of all the craps bets that players can make and you will see that an amazing number of them just plain stink. You even have some that are coming in at 20 percent or more mark and many more scratching that 15 to 20 percent mark. Yes, these are slot machine edges and they cost the players making them to go down the drain.

Okay, two things: make pass-line bets and take the odds when the bet is on a number. Come bets are good too. Make them and also take the odds when they are on a number. You can also place either the 6 or 8. 

Casino gambling strategies

What have you got here now? The pass-line and come bets come in at 1.41 percent against you. That means over some time (little, medium, or long) you will lose $1.41 per $100 wagered – that’s about 14 cents per $10 wagered. The odds are just toppers to those bets and they have no house edge. You can make them if you want as long as you can afford them. You are better off with higher odds and lower pass-line and come bets.

The place bets of the 6 or 8 come in with house edges of 1.52 percent or $1.52 per $100 wagered or 15 cents per $10 wagered. These are good bets in the casino scheme of things.

And what about the darkside bets, those bets called “don’t bets” where you are rooting for the 7 to appear during the point-cycle of the game, in which case that will end a shooter’s roll? Do you want to be a darksider? The house edge is about 1.36 percent or a loss of $1.36 per $100 wagered. That’s quite good.

A drawback here. The other players might hate you and show their disdain for your method of darksider play. (Some can get obnoxious too.) If that doesn’t bother you then feel free to go with the darksider wagers and to heck with the other players – who, by the way, are called rightsiders. Darksiders are also called “don’t” players.

And that, my friend, is almost that when it comes to betting craps. Making the other bets is a waste of time and a serious waste of your money.

Now, do you want the ultimate radical way to play craps? Here goes: only make one bet! Do not go on multiple numbers as almost all other craps players do. This will cut your losses tremendously.

Your third game, roulette has been number two or three for centuries – actually number one for more centuries than not. 

The game means “little wheel” and was created by scientist, philosopher, and theologian Blaise Pascal who was looking to discover a perpetual motion machine. He failed in that (as have all other researchers) but he did hit upon roulette which may wind up lasting perpetually in the world’s casinos. 

When the game appeared in casinos in the late 1600’s, it became a smash hit. Players loved it and many couldn’t stop playing it – until, of course, they went broke. Noblemen were the worst of all because they had enough money to play and play and play until…they had little money left.  

Playing roulette is the ultimate numbers game with bets of all sorts that deal with numbers – colored numbers, high and low numbers, individual numbers, groups of numbers. Players have so many, many options at this game it is a wonder they can make any decisions at all.

There are now three types of roulette games out there in the casino world.  The single-zero games (0) which come in with an edge of 2.7 percent; the double-zero game (0, 00) which comes in with an edge of 5.26 percent, and the triple-zero game (0, 00, 000) which comes in with a 7.69 percent house edge.

[Please note: The various roulette games also have names associated with them. The single-zero game is called the European or French game. The double-zero game is called the American game. The triple-zero game is called “why would you ever play this game?” Interestingly enough, the American game was created in Europe and the European and French game was created in America. The triple-zero game was created where Satan lives.]

Casino gambling strategies

The payback on a single-number winner is 35-to-1. That is for all the games. Note how awful the triple-zero game becomes because of such a winning payout. 

The potentially bad thing about roulette is the fact that if you bet just one number you can go through a long, long losing streak. That can be a downer to many players not only because it costs them a lot of money but because the game starts to get annoying.

The best bets to make are the even-money bets. There are only three of these bets: the red/black, the odd/even, and the high/low. They are called “even-money” because they pay even-money, not because they are 50/50 propositions. 

In fact, the casinos will win more of these bets than will the player. For example, in the double-zero games, the casino will win 20 times and lose 18 times. 

The house edge remains the same for the players who make these bets but the losing streaks are far less severe than they are in the “let us pick a single number in honor of grandma’s 100th birthday.” To me, preserving money is a key staple of gambling.

Oh, yes, there are many other bets too but you are in decent territory making the even-money bets your main wagers. Losing streaks stink.

You are better off playing at a full or nearly full table because you will face fewer decisions. More decisions are better for the casino because it has an edge. If you have an edge? Then you’d want more decisions. That is a simple rule.

Finally, are there “biased” or “off” wheels today? Probably not. The roulette wheels are seemingly perfect, at least the relatively new ones. So, gamble on them cautiously.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Frank Scoblete grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He spent the ‘60s getting an education; the ‘70s in editing, writing and publishing; the ‘80s in theatre, and the ‘90s and the 2000s in casino gambling.

Along the way he taught English for 33 years. He has authored 35 books; his most recent publisher is Triumph Books, a division of Random House. He lives in Long Island. Frank wrote the Ultimate Roulette Strategy Guide and he's a well known casino specialist.