Playing the Games: What’s Your Poison
Casino games are as diverse as the people who play them – and that’s part of the fun. You may think of craps as a rough-and-tumble game, played by hustlers and wiseguys, but step into a casino and you’re just as likely to spot an
angelic-looking nurse rolling dice next to a cursing cowboy from Texas. And because no game has a precise player profile, don’t restrict yourself to the few games that you think suit you. Give each one a try and see where it takes you.
Although the majority of casino visitors prefer slot machines, chances are, if you’re reading this book, you’re willing to try new ways to gamble. After you read this book and know which games have the best odds, I suggest you take a quick walk around the casino floor to see where you want to start and give several of them a try.
Touring the table games
In a casino, the tables come in all shapes and sizes, from the oval shape of poker tables to the half-round crescent of blackjack to the long rectangle of craps. And the table is just about all they have in common.
Unspoken rules seem to govern the table games. Most casino guests have discovered from experience to avoid the taboos: holding your cards with two hands, touching chips in the betting circle after the cards are dealt, and
throwing the dice so wildly that they flyover the rail and end up in somebody’s drink. Before you worry about
acting proper, this section includes a brief overview of the main table games that you may encounter in a casino.
Poker: Boosted by Internet and TV tournaments
To say that poker is taking over the world may be only a slight exaggeration. Considering its current popularity explosion, Texas Hold’em could replace war as a way to settle regional conflicts. In truth, many factors have con-
tributed to the card game’s wide appeal, including the broad reaches of the Internet and television poker tournaments.
But technology is only one factor. The big draw? Poker is one of the few games where good players consistently win. In poker, you compete against other players rather than the house. And with honed skills and intimate knowledge of the game, you can have a significant edge over those other, less-prepared gamblers.
Hiding your emotions is a requisite skill for successful poker. They don’t call it poker face for nothing So, if you can’t control your nervous ticks when you bluff or if your eyes get as big as saucers when you make a full house, either play your poker online or put a bag over your head.
Blackjack: The best odds
Blackjack (also called 21) has been the most popular table game in casinos for more than 40 years. The card game always draws a loyal crowd because it’s easy to understand, provides good camaraderie, and offers great odds. If
you memorize basic strategy (that is, the optimal way to play every hand), your chances of winning at blackjack are better than at virtually any other game in the casino.
Blackjack also is intriguing because each hand is like a movie clip – with you as the star. Each game has an opening scene (the deai), the simmering suspense (the dealer’s hidden card), the moment of truth when the hero (you!) makes a dramatic choice, and finally the conclusion, where the hero wins or loses. The trick, of course, is to have more happy endings than tragedies.
Craps: Backslaps, high-flyers and cheerleaders
This dice game draws a raucous crowd and has many of the best bets in the casino. Some guests find the noise and the complex layout of craps to be a little intimidating. But before you slink back to your comfort zone, consider
this fact: The house advantage is low in craps, making this game a great bet. Just be sure you stick with the best craps bets.
Furthermore, craps is like a sporting event, with its dramatic swings of luck, high-fives, backslaps, and noisy cheering section. Every roll has a home team (players who bet with the dice) and an opposing team (wrong-way bettors) that gets dirty looks and ridicules from the hometown fans. Now, if they just had those big foam We’re No. 1 fingers, the experience would be complete (but a little hard to roll the dice).
Roulette: The place for eccentric hunches
The spinning wheel of roulette symbolizes the world of casino gambling. This popular, entry-level game is ideal for novice gamblers because it requires absolutely no skill, concentration, or complex strategies. You simply bet on
the number or possible numbers that the ball will land on. A table full of players can be quite sociable, although not as rowdy as a craps game. Roulette gives you a chance to play your eccentric hunches on a single number, a
combination of numbers, or on an even-money wager that can just extend your playing session. Refer to Chapter 9 for more on roulette.
Baccarat: More tuxedo than T-shirt
Although blackjack and poker appeal to the masses, baccarat is a card game that draws a far more upscale and refined crowd. You’re more likely to see tuxedos than T-shirts playing this game. But everyone is welcome, so even if you don’t have a penguin costume in your closet, check out baccarat for a game that’s simple to play Gust bet on the bank) and has fair odds.
Let It Ride, Pai Gow, and other table qames
Beyond the traditional favorites, several other table games have developed a strong following. Today, most casinos intersperse Caribbean Stud poker, Let It Ride, Pai Gow, and Three Card poker tables throughout their pits.
These games are fun diversions when you need a change of pace, but a word of caution: Don’t play too long. These games have odds that may make you wish you’d gotten mugged instead of gone gambling. Unless you have a passion for these games (along with a bottomless bank account), don’t make a habit of playing them.