Smart play in the casinos can be habit-forming. Keeping your bet size proportionate to your bankroll, choosing games wisely and avoiding chasing losses with bigger bets should be deeply ingrainedJohn Grochowski is the author of six gaming books including the "Answer Book" series -- The Casino Answer Book, The Video Poker Answer Book, The Craps Answer Book and a revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. His articles cover blackjack, slots and video poker strategy as well as casino etiquette and getting the most bang for your buck in Vegas. John's website is www.casinoanswerman.com in any smart player.
Unfortunately, not-so-smart play can be habit forming, too. From the things I see walking around the casino, and from the feedback I get from readers, I know there are many who aren't strictly betting with their heads.
Let's review a few do's and don'ts that should be fundamental for any player, habits that help make your trip to the casino fun without gobbling your bankroll:
DO learn all you can about the games you choose to play. If you're a blackjack player, learn basic strategy. If you're a craps player, learn which bets give you a fighting chance and which are just donations to the house. If you're a slot player, you're strategy can't change the outcome, but you're still better off if you know what to expect and how the games work. Books, software, even online searches for information can help.
DO play from an entertainment bankroll. Losing is part of the gaming experience, and when the losses come, you don't want to be playing with the mortgage, rent or grocery money. Consider them the cost of a day's entertainment.
DO keep your bet sizes proportionate to your bankroll. If you've brought $100 to play with, you don't want to be playing dollar slots --- a cold streak can wipe out a hundred bucks in less than 10 minutes. With $100 on the slots, better to start off on quarters, and be prepared to move down in denominations if the bankroll slips below $50. Same deal on the tables. If you're trying to make $100 last for a few hours, stay at $5 minimum tables, and be prepared to walk away if the losses come early.
DON'T chase losses. The saddest phrase I hear from players is, "I thought I was DUE to win." Casino odds don't work that way. Past losses have no effect on future outcomes. Trying to make up losses with bigger bets is a fast road to bigger losses.
DON'T borrow money to gamble. Even an advantage player --- a card counter in blackjack, an expert video poker player sticking to the best games or a dice controller in craps --- doesn't get a large enough edge to overcome credit card interest rates. And most of us aren't advantage players. When you pay interest on money used to gamble on games in which the house has an advantage, your bankroll is under attack on two fronts. Borrowing money to play is beyond a bad idea: It's downright dangerous.
DO sign up for player rewards cards wherever you play. They're free, and they'll bring you a little something extra, whether it's just a 2-for-1 buffet once in a while or cash back. You'll earn rewards while you play, and also get offers in the mail for comps designed to attract a return visit.
DON'T bet extra for the sake of comps. Take whatever the casino is willing to give you for your normal play. But don't play an extra hour, or move from quarter slots to dollars, or bet $10 a hand instead of $5 in hopes of earning a meal comp. You may find that free lunch costs far more than if you'd just paid for it.
DO keep part of your winnings. Don't go crazy after a big win just because you're playing with "their money." Remember, as soon as you've won it, it's not "theirs" anymore. It's YOUR money, and you don't have to give it back. You can buy yourself a treat, go out for an evening on the town, put a little away for the kids' or grandkids' educations, pay bills - whatever you want. I've told this story before, partly because it was exciting to me and the experience has stayed with me, and partly because it illustrates what you can do when you treat the money as yours. My first video poker royal flush was at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, during National Finals Rodeo week. "Now ain't them PURTY," a fellow in full cowboy gear drawled as he saw the five high hearts on my screen. My wife and I went Christmas shopping with $100 bills that year. It felt great not to pad any credit card statements. Stash away AT LEAST half of any good-size hit. When you spend it later, it feels just a little nicer to be using money you've taken from the casino. DO go easy on the alcohol. My casino beverage of choice is bottled water, but I'm no fanatic. If you want to have a drink while you play, that's up to you. But keep your intake moderate. There's money on the line and you don't want your judgment impaired. Relax and have a good time but keep a clear head, too. DO have fun. Gambling in a casino is not a way to get rich. It's a way to have a good time. Of course, if we take a little extra home, so much the better. Good luck!
Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com
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