Getting good odds at the casino

Paying less than the true odds
Another way the casino makes money is to payout less than the true odds. Take roulette: With 38 numbers on the wheel, your odds of guessing the winning number are 37 to 1. So you bravely place a $100 bet on a single number and hit it. Congratulations! After you quit jumping up and down and kissing the cocktail server, dealer, and anyone else who couldn’t quickly escape, you collect $3,500. But, wait a minute. $3,500 means a payoff of 35 to 1. What happened to the true odds of 37 to 1?The fact is, even though you win, your payoff is less than the true odds. The bottom line? Casinos take $200 out of every $3,800 wagered, which leaves the house with a hefty edge of 5.26 percent.

Muddling the odds
Casinos offer three types of games – games with fixed odds, games with variable odds, and games where skill can affect the odds. They all have different styles of play and appeal to different kinds of gamblers. Although you should naturally gravitate toward the games that are the most fun for you, you need to be clear on the three classes of games. This section looks at the three types more closely Games with fixed odds When the odds are fixed (not subject to change), the bean counters in the back room can calculate exactly how much each of these games wins for every $100 gambled. That’s because, no matter how much gamblers vary their play, the casino has the same edge. The house seldom has a losing day on games with fixed odds, such as Slots, Craps, Keno and Roulette.

Even though the profits fluctuate each day (due to short-term luck), casinos can easily forecast for the long run because they have hundreds of machines and tables all operating at once. Games with flariabfe odds In this classification, the odds change, depending on how well gamblers play their cards or place their bets. Several of these games may yield better odds for smarter players. But the gain in these games can only go so far because over the long run, the odds still strongly favor the house. In other words, even if you play better than anyone else at the table, these games can’t be beaten.
Some examples of these games include
– Pai Gow poker
– Three Card poker
– Let It Ride

Games where skills affect the odds
A few games reward skillful play and allow a tiny minority of gamblers to get an edge over the house. These games are variable-odds games, but they offer an advantage that the others don’t: Gamblers actually have a chance to win money in the long run. But don’t think you can walk in off the street and start pocketing Ben Franklins. Winning requires study, discipline, patience, and practice. Here are the games where skill can get you over the hump:
– Blackjack
– Video poker
– Regular poker
– Sports betting
– Horse racing

The intersection of statistics, probability, and the odds

To be a successful gambler, you must understand the intersection of statistics, probability, and the odds. In simple terms, that means you need to understand how likely something is to happen (statistics), how likely that it can happen to you (probability), and what you’re going to get out of it, if it does happen (odds). With a grasp of these concepts, you’re ready to tackle the casino with realistic expectations, and you can understand why some games should be avoided.

The best example to start with is the coin flip. You probably know that heads and tails each have a 50-50shot at turning up. As I say in the previous section,
you can communicate the probability of the flip in terms of odds. In the case of a two-sided coin, your odds of flipping heads are 1 to 1. In other words, with
two possible events (outcomes), you have one chance to fail and one chance to succeed. Clear as mud? Here’s another example. Consider the roll of a sixsided
die. What are the odds that you’ll roll a 3? The ratio is 1in 6, so the odds are 5 to 1.

Odds are, you’ll hear the word odds used in other contexts. For example, the amount of money a bet pays compared to the initial bet are sometimes called odds too. But don’t confuse payout odds with true odds. True odds refer to the actual chance that a specific occurrence will happen, which is usually different from the casino payout odds.

Coming to terms with the concept of luck

When I told a friend I was writing this article, he laughed and said that “only dummies would ever gamble.” I smiled to myself. Although it’s true that most people who gamble do lose, the real dummies are the ones who take on the casinos without first educating themselves especially on concepts about probability and odds, understanding the house edge, and identifying which games offer the best chance for success.

Unfortunately, too many newbie gamblers rely on luck to guide their experiences. Casinos can be an easy place to burn through money, so your best chance for hanging on to that hard-earned cash is through a little dose of knowledge. But, you wonder, when it comes to striking it rich in the casino, isn’t there such a thing as luck? Technically, the answer is yes – but don’t count on your rabbit’s foot to keep you on the path to riches over the long haul. The term luck can describe many situations, especially in gambling.

Someone may have a lucky run at the baccarat table, or maybe your Aunt Rosemary plays a lucky slot machine that never loses. But in order to have a realistic perspective of your chances in the casino, you need to view luck in rational and mathematical terms: Luck is a temporary fluctuation or deviation from the norm. In the short run, you may perceive that you got real lucky when the dealer busted eight hands in a row at blackjack. But in reality, such an event is just normal fluctuation – also known as a random walk – such as when the stock market drifts one direction or another. For example, in Caribbean Stud poker, for every $100 you wager, you can expect to lose about five bucks. Yet over the short run, anything can happen.

You may get lucky and finish the day ahead – or you may get unlucky and lose far more than $5. In a purely mathematical sense, neither of these results has anything to do with luck. They are simply the normal consequences of fluctuation. For example, try flipping a coin. Half the time it should be tails and half heads. But over a short-term sampling, it can veer far away from 50 percent.

Maintaining a Safe and Secure Environment

In today’s massive casinos, five-star hotels merge with gargantuan, themed buildings, encompassing entire city blocks and housing restaurants, bars, theaters, nightclubs, gaming tables, slot machines, ATMs,snack bars, gift shops, and even the occasional theme park. A casino’s security division, therefore, must function much like the police department of an entire town. This article explains who the security personnel are, lets you in on who’s watching you, and details how you can be proactive to protect yourself when betting your hard-earned money.

Security personnel: The human touch
In the old days, casinos simply had hired muscle watch after the owners’ millions. These days, casino security folks are considered important members of a casino’s floor team. Because it’s a dynamic and demanding job, casino security has become a true career; casinos offer competitive salaries and benefits so they can hire people who are mentally and physically fit. Security staffs have a two-pronged task:
– Protect the casino’s property
– Safeguard the casino’s guests
Unfortunately, a security employee’s job is made less agreeable by the fact that one task doesn’t always go hand in hand with the other. For instance, some guests are also out to separate a casino from its money, either through cheating or through faking an injury in crowded conditions. The responsibilities of security employees range from viewing the rows of surveillance cameras in high-tech rooms to patrolling the casino floors, constantly on vigil for fights, thieves, drunks, and other disturbances.

Surprisingly, security also keeps a close eye on the help – casino employees have initiated many cheating scams over the years. You can easily spot the security staff; they’re always available to help you
resolve a conflict or point you in the right direction. Even though every casino is different, security staff typically wear a uniform that is quasi-military, with a shirt that says SECURITY or at least a nametag or badge that identifies them as such. Other identifying features include a walkie-talkie, a badge, and possibly a gun. Keep the gun in mind the next time you feel the urge to help yourself to the dealer’s chips.
Bigger hotels can have several dozen security officers working at the busiest times of day and a supervisor in each major area of the casino who manages the team. Security supervisors must wear many hats, including the hat of a diplomat. Their staff is on the front lines, both protecting and ejecting guests, and when the occasional temper flares or a misunderstanding arises, the security supervisor must wade in to render an on-the-spot verdict.

Surveilance: The eye in the sky
On-site security personnel at a casino can only see so much when trying to protect the casino and its guests. To assist them in their daily rounds, security personnel rely on electronic surveillance – the eye in the sky. One-way glass conceals thousands of digital cameras in any casino. Some are hidden where you least expect them. Others are prominent, large, and noticeable so that they serve as warnings. Technology is such today that sophisticated cameras can see not only a player’s face but also the cards in his or her hands and even the serial numbers on dollar bills. On-site security personnel can view banks of television screens to identify cheats and save casinos millions of dollars each year.
In the most brazen scenarios, a nickel-and-dime thief reaches over from his machine to grab grandma’s slot tokens. The cameras capture his attempt, and the thief is quickly arrested. In less obvious but equally common situations, security personnel carefully observe, identify, and apprehend cheats and cons.
Although most surveillance is for the detection and prevention of cheating and swindling, the eye in the sky also protects honest gamblers from slick crooks prowling the casino for easy prey. The newer casinos have cameras outside the building, such as in the parking garages, to cast the safety net farther for you.

Meeting the Casino’s Cast of Characters

A vast and sometimes complicated hierarchy of employees with a variety of titles, responsibilities, and even different styles of dress populates a casino. These workers simultaneously cater to the needs of the guests and the casino owners. No matter who they are, the casino employees all have one goal in common: to provide you with ample opportunities to try your luck against the unevenly-stacked house odds.

Casino employees are usually pleasant, professional, and well-trained individuals (after all, if you’re treated with courtesy and respect, you’re more likely to stay – and spend -longer). In this section, I introduce you to the pleasant cast of characters you may encounter, and I explain their unique roles. With this knowledge, you’re better equipped to take advantage of their services to your advantage.

In the pits: Serving the table players
As you explore the responsibilities of the various casino personnel, it helps to split the casino into two parts:
– The area where slot machines appear in endless rows.
– The area where you play table games, such as blackjack, craps, or roulette.

The casino arranges the tables in clusters, similar to wagon trains encircled to protect against an attack. These groups of tables are known as pits. Each pit is designed to be an autonomous, fully functioning business, equipped with a variety of table games and a small community of casino personnel that is always willing to usher your dollar bills into the casino coffers.

Pit bosses
Pit bosses are smartly attired, experienced professionals who are responsible for all the gaming operations in their assigned pits. As the name implies, pit bosses are just that: bosses. They supervise floorpersons (see the next section), dealers (see the section “Dealers”), and the garners within their pit.
Theirs is a very detail-oriented job, requiring not only intimate knowledge of all aspects of the games but also the ability to keep track of thousands of dollars flowing through their spheres of influence. Even though the average gambler probably doesn’t have much contact with a pit boss, in the event of a serious dispute, the pit boss is the one who steps in to settle matters. Among other tasks, pit bosses monitor credit markers, or the amount of credit extended to you, and they dispense camps, such as free meals or shows, doled out according to an elaborate formula based on the number of hours you play
and the amount of money you wager.
Winning or losing vast sums of money often ignites supercharged emotions. Another responsibility of the pit boss is to make sure those emotions don’t explode into conflict. The pit boss is there to congratulate as well as to calm, to soothe as well as to strong-arm. The pit boss’s job is part security staff, part supervisor, part gambling expert, and part public relations manager.

Reporting to each pit boss (see the previous section) are several other suits known as floorpersons. The main difference from pit bosses is that floorpersons are in charge of only a couple of tables in the pit and report directly to the pit boss. They dress and act like the pit boss, and you typically can’t distinguish between the two without asking. Both of them make sure that proper casino procedure is followed. These procedures include refilling dealer chip racks, monitoring markers, and handing out comps, all while remaining cool and calm.

For most people, gambling is a social sport. Because the machine games are a more solitary venture, many players prefer the camaraderie of table gaming. Dealers are at the center of this emotional wheel of fun. Excellent customerservice skills are a requirement; after all, dealers stand on the front line when it comes to irate, belligerent, or inebriated gamblers. Even during high-pressure situations, dealers must promote a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.
Dealers have their fingers on the pulse of the casino – figuratively and literally. Their hands, after all, deal the blackjacks and the full houses and take the money you lose or payoff your winners. Theirs is a high-pressure job with a demanding audience. Overseeing several players at a table, dealers must be confident in their gambling knowledge. They must know who wins, who loses, and how much to payout on each hand. Many gamers mistakenly believe that dealers simply shuffle and deal cards, but dealers must also handle dice, chips, and money – accurately and quickly.
Dealers have a wide range of personalities. Some are polite and ebullient, others efficient and brusque. Although finding a compatible dealer doesn’t change the cards or the size of your winnings, it can make your gaming experience more enjoyable and, sometimes, that’s as much as you can ask for. You can spot a good dealer by his or her smile, humor, demeanor, and often the size of the crowd at the table. When you find one you like, sit down, but remember the dealer has no control over the outcome. Most dealers prefer that you win because they make their money primarily from tips.

Slot employees: The reel dealers
The average American casino makes nearly two-thirds of its profits from its various slot machines. Much is at stake along the rows and rows of clingclanging slot machines and electronic games. Therefore, casinos are diligent when it comes to maintaining and stocking them for long-term play. Just like the pit bosses and dealers who watch over the table games (see the previous section), the staff members assigned to the slot machines – the slot attendants and the slot supervisors – keep a careful eye on their vast realm.

Slot attendants
The person you’re most likely to deal with if you have a problem or question about your machine is a slot attendant. Slot machine attendants are on constant vigil, ever watchful for the next jackpot or flashing light requesting service. They’re usually wearing a uniform and sometimes push carts with oodles of money so they can give change to bettors in need. The attendants are the perfect people to ask if you’re not sure how to play a particular machine; they know every bell, cherry, and bar like the back of their hand.
Ifyou need change, assistance with a game, or simply a bill that’s just a tad crisper than the one you have, summon a slot attendant, who’s usually at your beck and call. However, if a machine needs repair, the slot attendant calls a slot technician.

Slot supervisors
The slot supervisor rules the realm of the slot machines, managing employees and overseeing the maintenance and upkeep of the machines. The slot supervisor generally has several slot attendants as direct reports. For casual gamblers, slot supervisors normally play a part in your life only if you hit a jackpot that can’t be paid out in coins.

Casino Sportsbooks

In Nevada, most casinos have a sports book, an area devoted to betting on sporting events such as horse races or ball games. In smaller casinos, the sports book may be nothing more than a counter with a tote board hung behind it. But the larger casinos have super-sized rooms full of amenities designed for anyone willing to put his money where his mouth is. Every inch of wall space is used inside a sports book; dozens of megasized, high-definition monitors show games as they’re played, and digital displays listing the current odds, scores, and available bets for the day cover the walls.

The newer places, such as the Wynn in Las Vegas, really roll out the red carpet for bettors. Their sports book features leather sofas, couches, and chairs that are so comfortable, you could fall asleep there.
Not ready to place a bet just yet? No problem. The sports books are open to everyone. And if big ball games don’t excite you, there’s always horse (and dog) racing because mostplaces simulcast horse (and sometimes dog) racing from tracks all around the country.

If you don’t feel like leaving your table to head to the bar, most casinos have servers who take drink orders. You can pay and tip them with chips from the casino or cash. However, if you want to eat, most casinos don’t allow eating at the table. You need to visit one of the many restaurants to chow down.

Table Games: Penetrating the inner circle

Just as the sun is the center of the solar system, the table games rest in the middle of the casino system, attracting visitors ever inward and at the same time providing the main source of energy and vitality to the floor. Table games
are grouped together into areas known in casino lingo as pits. The pits are separated from slot machines, restaurants, and other casino functions by a wide aisle, allowing nonplayers to watch the action and vicariously enjoy the thrill of
turning over the winning card or nailing the winning roll.

Table games you can play include
– Baccarat: The classic card game is often played in a separate room to create a more civilized and secluded atmosphere.
– Blackjack: Determine your own fate with smart decisions and timely double downs.
– Craps: Roll the dice and hear the crowd roar in the most boisterous game on the floor.
– Poker: It’s just like your neighborhood game, except you never have to shuffle.
– Roulette: Pick a number, place your bet, and then watch the spinning wheel go round and round.

If you’re a high roller, the most exclusive gaming tables with the highest betting limits are often in adjoining rooms, separated by glass from the other tables. They feature fancy amenities, such as private cocktail servers or a bar.
But most table games are designed for moderate bettors. The loud, boisterous call of a lively crowd gathered around the craps table can seem like a siren song to players tempted to leave the boredom and repetition of the slots, and that’s no accident. The intimate nature of the poker table beckons would-be strategists, while the smoky haze surrounding a blackjack game cries out to the novice with its lack of intimidation.

Slot machines: Place them and they will come

As you enter the casino proper, you see hopeful gamblers, often two-deep, standing in line, patiently waiting their turn to reap the spitting, buzzing payoffs from the slot machines. You operate the slot machines by pushing the buttons or yanking down on the lever to the side. Larger casinos hold aisle after aisle of slots, like rows of corn.

Casinos typically place the most profitable slot machines within easy access to the main traffic aisles, such as the foyer, restaurants, and bars, and are extremely careful to place high-hit frequency slots within earshot of the thronging masses.

If you venture farther onto the casino floor, you can see this philosophy in action. Clusters of people sit at the corner slots, sometimes two-deep as the individuals standing in line patiently await their turn to enjoy the spitting, buzzing payoffs. As you venture down the aisles of slots, you may find a few open machines, but not many. As one row ends, another aisle begins. Some of the most popular machines are Double Diamond and Wheel of Fortune. 

Glitzy Casinos

When you step into a modern megacasino, prepare to be dazzled. Blinking lights and ringing bells signal jackpots. Glittering chandeliers and rich furnishings and fabrics often mimic the sequined gowns and dapper dress of the folks at the high-roller tables. Clinking ice chills your drinks, and courteous staff appear to serve your every whim. When you see and hear these characteristics, you know you’ve walked into a fantasy world where every hand you play can be a winner, and every pull on the slot machine may make all your dreams come true.

Lucky gamblers make fortunes every day, but the reality is that most money ends up on the other side of the table. And the casino, or the house, is willing to pour millions of its profits into making sure you walk inside, stay inside, and – most importantly – gamble inside.

Always remember that, in addition to wanting your business, casinos provide a service to you, so you have every right to shop around for the establishment that best serves your needs. To assist you in your shopping, some casinos have Web sites where you can take a 360-degree virtual tour without ever leaving your house. I hope this article accomplishes a similar goal.

When you step foot into a casino and give you not only a glimpse of the razzle-dazzle designed to distract you but also the blueprint of the typical casino. I explain why this goes here, that goes there, and with whom you interact.

The shrewdly packaged allure of the casino starts the minute you pull up to the glittering facade. From neon signs to valets to the smooth hum of the slidingglass doors, the modern casino entrance is designed to attract you. Every possible consideration is given to design, color, and lighting.

The scheme doesn’t end at the front steps, however. As you proceed through the casino’s front door, every square inch of floor space entices you into moving forward. Like a siren call, the sounds of winning jackpots beckon you onward, as do the color schemes, floral arrangements, glittering lights, slot machines, and table games. Ifyou aren’t prepared, you may become disoriented inside a casino. The master plan behind the traffic flow is to bring you (and your wallet) into close proximity with the slot machines or table games at every opportunity. The pulsating pace of the gambling world is seductiveand makes it hard for you to leave a winner.

Feeling overwhelmed – and not a little manipulated? It can be deflating to discover that the sounds, sights, and even smells are devised to lull you into a mesmerized state where you continue emptying your wallet into the casino coffers. But a casino visit doesn’t have to be a Svengali-like experience.

Don’t let the harsh realities of the casino world turn you off. Embrace them, because knowledge is power. And by understanding the psychology of casino design and getting to know the employees who perform their duties within the casino, you put yourself in a better position not only to enjoy the casino as an entertaining leisure activity but also to maintain the level-headedness and critical thinking required to succeed at your gambling ventures. Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to educate yourself before you enter these temples of chance. Ifyou build your understanding of the components of a casino and the people who make it run, you’re more likely to make rational decisions when it comes to the games you choose to play and less likely to part with the contents of your pocketbook because of some subliminal pull.

Casino machine games

Turning to machine games

For some folks, the intimidation factor of table games is too much to bear. Excuse me while I dab the tears from my eyes, but I’m touched when I realize that nearly all casino operators – through the goodness of their hearts – thoughtfully accommodate shy gamblers by supplying acres of go-solo gaming machines.  Even the most timid gambler can enjoy a satisfying time at these machines – no bluffing by other players, no angry gamblers if you hit or stand at the wrong time, and no embarrassment about table rules. The lone gambler squares off against a machine Cor in the case of the loony gambler, against several machines at once).  Just remember that the best and worst that the casino has to offer are often sitting side by side. This section looks more closely at slot machines and video poker, two entirely different beasts. They have very different rules and very different odds. This section also briefly discusses keno and bingo.

Slot machines: From one-armed bandit to roboticts
At one time, slot machines were simple devices. You put a coin in, you pulled a lever, and the reels spun. When they stopped, you heard the soothing sounds of clinking coins … or painful silence. Sure, you spent only a nickel or a quarter, but that silence was so painful that you couldn’t help but put in another coin. If you’ve been in a casino recently, you know how everything about gaming machines has changed. The humble one-armed bandit is now a sophisticated robotic master thief, with enough computing power to fly the space shuttle. This soulless adversary even plays you a little song while it gleefully sucks up all your coins. Sure, the games still have some reminders from the past (like fruit or bells on the paylines), but the level of sophistication grows every day. And today’s slots are the most popular game in the casino, hands down – despite the fact that they offer some of the worst odds in the house.  Slot machines occupy all that space on the casino floor for a good reason – people love to pump money into them, and they’re available in practically any denomination – from pennies to dollars. If you’re a person who just can’t say no to their alluring call, you can pick a worthy game with a better-than-average payout table.

Like slots, video poker offers a solo gambling experience, yet the two games are very different. Slots are primarily about luck, but video poker requires a certain amount of skill and technique. And just because you’ve played some kitchen-table Five Card Draw with your Aunt Beatrice, don’t assume you can break the bank at video poker. Several variations confront the casino guest, and you want to master the strategies before you decide whether to hold ’em or fold ’em.

The strategies for video poker can be a little complicated, but the reward for that extra work is worth it. Video poker offers perhaps the best odds of any game in the house – at least for those who play correctly.

Keno and bingo: Two old standards
Keno and bingo have many similarities, and both have a long history and a loyal following. Keno is a casino staple and a great way to stay in action while sipping on your soup in the coffee shop. Bingo is less common in casinos, although some clubs still offer this venerable game.

There is not much strategy to playing either game other than hoping to get lucky.

Bettinq on ball qames and fast horses
Some people travel across the country to a casino in order to do exactly what they do at home: sit in an easy chair and watch sports on TV. The only differ- ence? In a casino, they’re viewing sporting events and horse races on the massive projection screens in today’s best race and sports books. These plush, high-tech rooms draw fans to cheer their favorite teams or horses. So what’s the major difference between these rooms and your living room? The casino is ready and willing to take your bet on just about any sporting event.

Sports betting:
Currently, only Nevada has casino sports betting. (You can make some sports bets online as well). When you’re in a Nevada casino, you may notice that the employees in the sports book are strangely unemotional when the crowd cheers for one team or another. Why? Because the house takes a vigorish (a small commission) from every wager, virtually ensuring a profit on every bet.

Casino guests can find all kinds of betting opportunities in the wide world of sports, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, boxing, golf, and special events. But being a great sports fan doesn’t make you a natural winner at the sports book. Why? Point spreads and money lines add complex challenges to the process. But understanding how to handicap and analyze sports statistics can simplify that process – and help you improve the odds of winning.

If you love a day at the track, the race book is going to feel like home sweet home. After all, through the modern miracle of simulcasting, you can enjoy a day at several tracks at once, without leaving your cozy chair. Casinos dedicate luxurious space and resources to keep fans happy: leather seats, private work desks, and stacks of publications full of data on the ponies. And just when you think the experience can’t get any better, the cocktail server hands you a double espresso to get your brain into high gear before the race day starts. Comfortable? Good, now you just need to pick some winners.
In both horse racing and sports betting, your understanding of handicapping and external factors can improve your chances of winning. And both kinds of betting favor gamblers who take a contrarian view. When you go against the grain – and you’re right – you win bigger than when you bet with the crowd.