What's more American than Mom, apple pie, and baseball? Would you believe
Mom, apple pie, and casinos? It's true. Americans are visiting casinos
more than they visit Major League baseball parks!
With all this participation, are Americans becoming expert at gambling? Do
they know their odds and the ways to improve their odds the way they used
to know baseball stats? If we are to judge by the billions of dollars
dropped in casinos each year, the answer is a resounding "NO."
If winning at the casino is the new American dream, it seems to be a dream
that comes true for very few - except the owners of the establishments.
We'll assume you are not an owner. Then what can you do to improve your
chances of winning a piece of the American casino pie? How can you change
Would you believe that your "luck" is really only one factor in the game,
that there is a lot more going on here than just plain old-fashioned apple
First, let me ask you a couple more questions. Do you spend more than you
intended to on most of your visits to the casino, stay longer than you had
planned, win far less money than you would like to win? Are you frustrated
by your inability to really get ahead but find yourself going back again
If you answered "yes" to these questions, you are solidly in with the vast
majority of people who visit casinos. But, let's look at what "yes"
answers imply. Notice that what you are really saying is that you don't
seem to have as much control over your "luck" AND YOUR BEHAVIOR at casinos
as you would like to have. Why?
Would you believe good old-fashioned American psychology? It's true -
psychology is planned into the casino business!
First of all, there is the general psychology of society's changing
attitude. Gambling has increased in popularity in good part because it is
no longer perceived as terribly immoral - even the government has given its
approval. Since you're, in effect, looking through society's view of
gambling as an acceptable form of entertainment, it's easy to let your
guard down. It's just an acceptable, harmless way to have some fun. This
is fine, as long as you either have inexhaustible funds to throw away or
you can keep enough control to spend no more than you can afford. But if
you want to make your casino visits PAY, then you must change the way you
look at gambling. To make it pay you must look at the casino as your
adversary. Now, that's not to say it can't be fun - after all, wouldn't it
be more fun to walk away from your casino-adversary with bucks in your
pocket and a smile on your face than it is to walk away from your
casino-friend with empty pockets?
But the psychology part is more involved and complicated than just
analyzing your attitude and society's attitude. Casinos consciously and
deliberately exploit known psychological responses to control your gambling
behavior. Knowing some of their methods will help put you back in control.
We all know that casinos are set up to give the casino a mathematical edge.
They are in the business to make money, after all. What you may not know
is that your mathematical odds of winning are affected by the length of
your visit. The longer you stay, the poorer your odds of winning are.
That's mathematical. The casinos, then, use psychological methods to
persuade you to stay longer - the longer you stay, the greater the odds
that they win.
The design of the casinos - the colors, the lighting, the space, the
chairs, the smells in the air, everything - is analyzed for maximum comfort
and appeal. The operators figure that anything that can keep you playing
just another five minutes each visit can add millions to their take.
Let's take a critical look at some common casino practices.
Special promotions, for instance. Some are designed to get you into the
place, others to keep you there just a little longer.
The free or cheap meals - an all around winner for the casino - will bring
some people in for a bargain meal. How many will leave without dropping at
least some money in the games? Most will end up paying dearly for that
"cheap" meal, but will forget that the next time they want to go out for a
nice, "cheap" meal. But there's another aspect to it. If you are already
at the games, a cheap meal conveniently available in the casino will keep
you in the building at mealtime. You'll be away from the games for a
minimum length of time.
The fairly new bill acceptors on slot machines keep you at your play. When
you are out of change, you don't have to wait around or walk to the change
booth for more coin. This adds to your playing time - your playing time is
money - for the casinos.
Casinos operators carefully plan their lighting. You may have noticed that
when you are in a casino it is difficult to determine whether it is day or
night. This is deliberate. Remember, they like you (or your money) so
much they want you to extend your visit. If they can get you to drop you
usual time consciousness, you'll stay longer.
Colors are chosen to trigger automatic responses. Slot machines are
outfitted in colors that will attract and hold gamblers. Sophisticated
color combinations are used to minimize the time you will spend slot
Many casino operators add a scent to the air. Think that's silly? In an
experimental test the scent was shown to increase substantially the number
of coins customers dropped into the slots - very substantially, about 45
Most of these techniques add greatly to your comfort as well as sometimes
triggering an automatic psychological response. If your visit is pleasant,
you will stay longer, play looser with your bankroll, and come back again.
Other techniques have little or nothing to do with your comfort and are
simply exploitive. You are simply the "white rat" - the unsuspecting
victim of psychological games.
For instance, the payout system of the slots. In the last thirty years,
psychology has even been applied to that. The system of paying tiny
winnings often is that new. How was it done before? Well if you won, you
won a reasonable amount, but the payoffs were infrequent. What is the
advantage of frequent small payoffs? It is the psychological "promise" of
a big win. You will be enticed into staying longer and risking more money.
Putting in a few "hot" machines is also an application of psychology. Your
search for the "hot" machine is motivated by the psychological "promise" of
a lucky streak. Again, you'll stay longer and risk more.
Some casinos will give you small denominations as change for large bills
or, at the tables, small denominations of chips. The reason? Because, as
we all know, it is easier to spend a dollar than it is to spend a twenty.
Psychological? Of course.
Ever notice how wins are played up? The real coin that's dropped into
metal slot pan when someone wins is deliberate. The noise excites you.
The bells and whistles that attend a really big win are also deliberate
attention-getters and exciting. The casinos make a big deal over wins -
but losing is pretty quiet. The excitement of the noise stirs you to try
to win. But there is more. All the attention given to winning makes it
seem like there is more winning going on than there really is.
OK. Now you know that in the eyes of the casino you're merely a "white
rat" from whom they are trying to extract the most they can. What can you
do about it? Although occasionally casinos go too far and a practice is
outlawed, you really can't do much about changing their use of tricks. But
when you are aware of them, you can guard yourself against reacting
automatically. You can put yourself back in control.
So, is being in control going to change your "luck"? Well, it will help.
But you have to know how to use that control to your advantage.
First, you know that your odds of winning decrease in ratio to the length
of your visit at the casino. So with your new control you will make your
visits shorter. You will be aware of your surroundings and try to note the
tricks the casino is using to influence you. Conscious awareness will make
them less effective. Pick you games according to your own system - not
according to the casino's planned influence.
But you must also be aware of the things you can do to increase your odds
in a given game. We will discuss a couple of the most popular games.
Slot machines - Most slot machines have three reels. The number of
combinations for lining them up depends on the number of symbols on each
reel. Most machines have between 20 and 28 symbols per reel. To figure
out how many combinations there are, you multiply the number of symbols on
each reel times itself as many times as there are reels. For instance, the
fewest combinations that there probably are on a three reel slot are: 20
symbols per reel with 3 reels - so we take 20 times 20 times 20 - or 8000
combinations. So theoretically a certain winning combination would, on the
average, appear once in every 8000 spins of the reels.
Each machine can be set for a rate of payback. Let's say a quarter machine
has a payback of 90 percent (the usual rate on quarter machines is 86 to 90
percent). That would mean that for every 100 quarters dropped into the
machine it would pay back 90 quarters. The dollar machines often pay back
between 97 and 99 percent.
The progressive slots are linked together so that a coin played in any of
the link-up will increase the size of the jackpot. You don't have a chance
at the jackpot unless you play the maximum number of coins. Since the
large jackpot games must reduce the amount paid in smaller winnings, you
would be better off playing other machines unless you are willing to put in
the maximum and go for the jackpot.
The best odds are on the dollar slots. They usually have the greatest
payback - as we said, payback is between 97 and 99 coins for each coin
Some slot methods to increase your odds-
Start out with only an amount of money you can afford to loose. Keep these
coins separate from any other money, including your winnings. Play all
your start-up coins. Now tally up your winnings. If you have less coins
than you started with, go to a different machine, and using these coins
start over. If you have more than you started with, put your start-up
amount in your pocket. Then put an additional percentage in your pocket -
10 percent would be good, but whatever percentage you decide on, make the
decision before you begin playing and stick with it. Now whatever you have
left after pocketing those amount you use for your start-up coins and begin
again. Then in each additional round you will pocket half the winnings.
As you can see, if you come out ahead in the first round and stick to the
method, you will go home a winner. After the first round you will be
playing strictly on winnings. If you don't come out a winner on the first
round, you still have a chance to win and you will loose no more than the
amount you originally decided you could afford to loose. But you need to
be in control - this method will be of no help if you decide to change your
rules in the middle of the game.
Another way to play the slots for better winning odds is to form a slot
club with other players. Each person puts up a predetermined amount - make
sure it is an amount each of you can afford to contribute regularly. The
amounts put up should be the same for each player. Then you track the
progressive games - you should track them for a while BEFORE you make
attempts to win them. Keep records so you learn the characteristics of
each progressive game. From these records, your team decides at what point
each game is pregnant for a payoff. When the jackpot of a given
progressive reaches that predetermined point, a team made up of some or all
of the members takes the club bankroll and plays until they win or go
broke. The key to winning here is to gauge the payoff point.
Slots are not easy to beat and the odds are NEVER in your favor but by
putting yourself in control and using these techniques you will have a
better chance of beating the odds than you had before.
Video poker -
Video poker is a popular variation of the slot machine. But it is not a
slot machine. The odds on a video poker game are greatly dependent on you
skill as a player.
First, choose only those machines that pay full scale winnings. Each
category of payoff is important, but a rule of thumb is 250 coins for a
royal flush or 4000 coins for a royal flush under a 5 coin play. If the
other payoffs are in line with the royal flush payoff, and you are a very
skilled player, theoretically you could have odds VERY slightly in your
favor. But you must know what you are doing.
For instance, when you are playing Video Jacks or Better - Keep any full
house or better. Hold a flush or straight except when drawing to a four
card royal flush. With a four card flush, three card royal flush, four
card straight, three card straight flush, three of a kind, two pair,
single pair empty your hand to these holds and draw to fill. Draw three to
two high cards and draw four to one high card. Always play the maximum
coins to take advantage of the bonus for a royal flush.
Black Jack -
Black Jack is another very popular casino game in which it is possible to
tip the odds VERY slightly in your favor, if you know what you are doing.
It takes a serious and determined player to master the strategies to
accomplish this, however. NEVER think that because you can tip the odds in
your favor that you will win all of the time. EVERYONE looses some of the
time so NEVER play with money you can't afford to loose.
Blackjack, as played in the world's casinos, has a number of variations -
certain rules that apply in one casino may not apply in another. You will
have to learn to adjust your game, if you travel from one casino to
another. Some of the variations highly favor the casino, so to keep the
odds favorable, you must avoid those variations and options that cut your
OK. Most of the Black Jack games you will find are multiple-deck games. A
single deck does give you slightly better odds. We will assume you are
playing in a single deck game. With your new control, we will also assume
you are playing with a bankroll that you have determined you can afford to
loose. Now, you will need some real strategy to lower the odds against
First since the ace is countable as either one or 11, any hand you hold
that contains an ace is a special hand - it can be counted low, with the
ace as one, or it can be counted high, with the ace as 11. This two-way
hand follows needs some special strategy rules.
First, start out counting it as a high hand. Then if the dealer's showing
card is an eight, nine, ten, or ace, you should stand on a count of 19 or
more and draw to a count of 18 or less. But if the dealer's showing card
is a two, three, four, five, or six, stand on a count of 18 or more and
draw to a count of 17 or less.
Using this strategy for a two-way hand, you will never stand until your
count is 18 or more. When you draw to a two-way hand, if your high count
goes over 21, you then begin a low count. At this point you will, in
effect, no longer have an optional two-way hand so you will begin using the
strategy for a regular hand.
The strategy for a regular hand is a bit more involved. Whether you stand
or draw is always determined by the dealer's showing card.
If the dealer is showing a two, three, or four, you stand on 13 or more.
If the dealer is showing a five or six, you stand on 12 or more.
If the dealer is showing a seven, eight, or nine, you stand on 17 or more.
If the dealer is showing a ten or ace, you stand on 16 or more.
Notice that in using this strategy, you will always draw to a count of two
to 11 and always stand on a count of 17 or more as long as you are not
holding a two-way hand.
When you are offered the option of doubling down use it in this manner:
When you are holding nine, double down when the dealer is showing a two,
three, four, five, or six. When you are holding ten, double down unless
the dealer is showing a 10-count or an ace. When you are holding an
eleven, always double down. When you are holding a two-way hand with a
count of 12, 13, 14, 15,16, or 17, double down when the dealer is showing a
When you are offered the option of splitting pairs:
Split twos and threes when the dealer is showing an eight, nine, ten, or
ace. Never split fours, fives, sixes, or tens. Split sevens when the
dealer is showing two, three, four, five, six, seven, or eight. Split
eights unless the dealer is showing a nine or ten. Split nines unless the
dealer is showing a seven, ten, or ace. Never split tens. Always split
aces when it is an option.
When you are offered the option of doubling down:
When you are holding a count of ten double down unless the dealer is
showing a 10-count or an ace. When you are holding a count of eleven
always double down. If you are holding a two-way hand with a count of 12,
13, 14, 15, 16, or 17, double down when the dealer is showing a six. Don't
double down on other counts.
If you are offered the option of early surrender:
When the dealer is showing an ace, surrender 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
unless you have a two-way hand. When the dealer is showing a 10-count,
surrender 14, 15, 16 unless you have a two way hand. When the dealer is
showing 9, surrender 6, 7, 9, 10.
If you are offered the option of insurance bets:
Don't use it unless you are a skilled card counter.
There have been some new options offered recently in some casinos. Be very
wary of these, especially the ones with attractive pay-offs. Most of them
have very poor odds for you.
It is a good idea to find a table where the casino is not doing too well.
When you find a winning table, play it. There is, of course, no guarantee
that the house loosing streak will continue.
You must exercise control. When you are having a day when the cards just
aren't working, leave the table and go home. Under no circumstances
increase your bets in hope of recovering losses. When you are having a
good day and your cards are running strong, go ahead, increase your bets.
When things begin to sour, leave the table and go home. Using this method,
you will always cut your losses and always retain a portion of your
No strategy will work well if you don't know every rule. You must study
and practice your strategy so that you can make the right decisions at the
table. And remember, your bankroll should never exceed what you can afford
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