What do the casinos want from their players? Oh, yes, of course, to win the players’ money in a way that makes the player want to come back to play some more. That’s the game they play with us. I think (I hope) we all know that. The casino has edges on every game and very few players can beat those edges for any prolonged period of time.

I’ve been playing in the casinos for almost 40 years and I have played most games offered, either because I liked them or because I needed to write about them or both. 

Yet, the casino has another goal in mind; one seemingly at odds with making players happy that they are playing the casinos’ games – the casinos want to win a lot of money from every player. The more money, the better! 

What is the casinos’ definition of “a lot?” 

If you bring $100 to the table to play, the casino would love to win that $100. The win could be in $10 increments (or $5 in some casinos), but $100 would be the casinos’ goal. Depending on how the player plays will depend over some period of time how much he or she loses.

Now, what keeps a player playing? The game seems to offer the player opportunities to win. The player has to feel he or she has a shot at the bucks, be they big bucks or just some bucks. The illusion is that winning can happen.

Indeed, winning does happen. Tonight, of course, it could be a winning night for you. This afternoon? Sure thing. Playing this way for weeks at a time? Probably not. Playing this way for a few years? Oh, come on now.

So, the player has to know that the long-term prospects are dim, dimmer, and dimmest. That is the rule. It is the rule of probability and simple math.

Now the player might like craps or playing blackjack or roulette or any of the other table games, or the player might enjoy time (perhaps long periods of time) at the slot machines. A few wins here and there and that player tends to be happy with the game. That player is a caught fish at a beautiful lake. Casinos are – for the most part – beautiful lakes with fish swimming all over the place looking for food (wins). 

High rollers might even play in the great big ocean with the other big fish! Certainly, the ocean is really beautiful and fit for a big fish.

Stupendous Wins Are Coming, Right?

Let's say that as a player, you have won some and lost some more than that; all right, all right, sometimes much more than that. What keeps you coming back for more play? Why bother yourself?

I think it is one word – anticipation. 

People tend to be fantasists, even if they don’t know it. Anticipation of wins, perhaps big wins such as in the state lotteries, will drive players to play. Of course, it is the hope of the win and that hope becomes that anticipation and that anticipation makes the idea of going to the casino (or buying lottery tickets) appealing.

I'm sure that many or most or almost all casino players have that tingle when they know that soon they will be leaving for their favorite playing haunt. The idea that a win is dangling out there, especially for them helps them fuel the car or buy the plane ticket or sign up for that gambling cruise. 

The win is coming; maybe the big win, finally, please, the big win. I deserve a big win, don’t I? I anticipate the big win.

Seriously, my friends, it probably isn’t coming. That’s why when someone wins an amazing amount on a slot machine that is news – often television and newspaper and magazine news. Small wins aren’t news. Losses big or little aren’t really news. Unless something hideously bad happens to the small winning player, he or she will go unnoticed by anyone except him or herself.

How to Play the Games

Okay, enough about the feeling of anticipation and the winning big or medium or little. Let’s talk about how to keep those house edges somewhat at bay so that your losses don’t add up to members of your family scolding you for playing in the houses of Lady Luck.

I am going to give you a primer for slot machines and for some table games in order to keep your play simple and strong enough so that you will have a better chance of coming home with something other than hurt feelings. Maybe a happy something too. 

Sometimes just knowing you played well is enough to make you proud of yourself with or without winning.

Table Games

The number one table game is blackjack. It has been since the mid-1960s when Ed Thorp’s book Beat the Dealer roared onto the gaming best-seller lists. This book taught players how to play blackjack basic strategy, count cards and actually get an edge over the house.

Thousands of players have tried to accomplish this feat; few have succeeded but the idea that blackjack was a game that was a close contest between players and casinos caught on big time. Blackjack soon surpassed craps as the number one game in the casinos and has been so for many decades.

Sadly, too many players do not follow the “basic strategy” for the play of their hands and this diminishes their ability to give the casinos’ blackjack games a run for their money. 

Why players don’t bother to learn “basic strategy” is beyond me. Most casinos (and of course online operators like 888casino) will even allow players to bring a card that shows basic strategy. You almost never see anyone using such cards. Weird isn’t it?

Simple casino gambling

Okay, first things first – play “basic strategy” as if your money was riding on it – because it is!

Make sure you know the statistics of the game. For example, a player will win about 44 percent of the hands, the casino will win about 48 percent of the hands, and the rest of the hands will be ties. 

The casino has allowed certain plays that let players add more money to their bets. You can double down on hands, split pairs, double after splits, and receive a bonus payout for a two-card hand of 21 (a blackjack). Some casinos limit such playing options and techniques so don’t play in those casinos.

The game for a basic strategy player comes in at about a one-half percent house edge. The is an expected loss of 50 cents per $100 wagered – if you play “basic strategy.” Now that is a low house edge in the scheme of things.  

Okay, here are some simple hints on how to play blackjack:

  • Play at full or crowded tables. You want fewer decisions. The more decisions, the better for the casino; the fewer decisions, the better for the player.
  • If you win a hand, do not parlay your bet by putting the win on top of the previous bet thereby doubling that bet – the casino wins 48 percent of the hands! So, flat bet the entire game.
  • Look for the best rules such as: the casino pays 3-to-2 on blackjacks (not 6-to-5), the casino stands on soft 17, doubling allowed on any first two cards, splitting allowed, double on splits allowed.
  • Never take insurance even if you have a blackjack against the dealer’s ace.
  • Always split aces and eights. Never split fives or 10s.
  • Do not give anyone advice on how to play his or her hand. Tell them to ask the dealer. If you give the right advice and the player loses, who will the player blame?
  • Give yourself enough money to play but if things are not going so well, quit, and come back later. The game isn’t going anywhere. 
  • Do not play more than one hand. Why increase your potential losses? You are not increasing your potential wins when the house has the edge on each hand.
  • Save your drinking for after the game. Do not drink during a game as drinks can loosen you up to make silly plays and bet more than you should. Casinos like players who drink it up! That’s why the drinks are usually free.
  • Do not make any side bets at the game.
  • Go to the bathroom during play; not during the shuffle. If you have to wait to get back into the game – that’s fine and dandy. Non-playing time is break-even time.

Blackjack is a terrific game if played well. It can be devastating if the player makes foolish mistakes. There is no reason to play foolishly. Leave that to the other players. You play smart!

Oh Boy, It’s Craps!

Craps was the number-one table game for many decades until the blackjack revolution. 

The game was a favorite along the Mississippi River for generations and it was called crabs, not craps. As it made its way to Northern cities the folks heard the word “crabs” but thought the word was “craps.” So, the North won that regional war and the game was now called craps.

It was a big hit in the big cities. It was a big hit even in the towns and the small towns. 

But craps became the second game to poker in the armed forces during World War II. The greatest craps player of all time and my mentor "the Captain of craps" learned the game in the armed forces. It was he who taught me everything I know about casino playing. I tip my cap to him. He is long gone now. Atlantic City is not the same without him. 

[Please note: I have written several books about craps, always giving the Captain due credit for his thoughts and innovations. The Captain came up with two huge ideas, dice control and the Five-Count. For those players who practice both of these techniques, the game of craps is a new world indeed.]

It is my belief that craps is the most exciting game in the casino. No matter where you are in Lady Luck’s palace you can hear the cheers when a shooter is having a great roll with the dice. You can also hear the moans when everyone is getting clobbered too.

Simple casino gambling

Craps is essentially a communal game as all (or most) of the players are betting with the shooter to hit various numbers and when those numbers get hit the cheers and applause can be deafening. You can hear them everywhere.

But, and this is a big BUT, craps can be a deadly game to one’s bankroll if not played properly. Do most players play properly? Not really.

There are a multitude of bets at craps, almost all of them lousy as can be with house edges to rival slot machines. Yes, some scratch the 20 percent mark and many come close to it.

For some reason, the overwhelming majority of craps players enjoy making multiple bets, almost all of them bad bets, limiting their chances to win on given nights where there aren’t many fair, good or some epic rolls. A quick loss with so many bets losing makes it hard for players to recoup their losses and get into the black.

Yet, craps does have a few, very few, excellent bets and these should be the ones players must make in order to have a chance to beat the casino. You want a chance to beat the casino? Then follow the following:

  • If you desire a way not to have to bet on every shooter, learn the "Five-Count."
  • Only make the pass-line bet for a small amount and back that bet with what you can afford in odds.
  • Make a come bet and place odds on that bet. Perhaps make two come bets backed with odds. I only bet three bets on myself; I bet one bet on all the other shooters. I prefer to wager on me, no one else.
  • Do not drink. 
  • Do not get angry when shooters seven-out quickly. The game is random and short rolls happen all the time.
  • Although the game is random, do not annoy a shooter. Let the shooter relax with the dice and enjoy his or her roll.
  • If you are a woman, please try your hand at craps. There are so few women who play the game and they are a welcome presence at the table.
  • Do not make any side bets or bonus bets. Stick to the basic good bets.

I will have another part to this article. Look for it.

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.