I am in no way an expert gambler, but I have spent enough time in casinos to know how to minimize my losses and even come out on top sometimes. As far as slots I have won 10 taxable jackpots (amounts over $1200USD) to date, and playing craps I’ve walked away from the table with $1000 or more about a dozen times while starting with $100-$200.
Before I get into my list of gambling tips I want to note that gambling should be fun, and that you should not risk more than you can afford to lose. There is no sure fire way to walk into the casinos and take money out as if it were an ATM. So please gamble responsibly.
Tips For Gambling (in no particular order)
- Play table games. Table games have better odds and you stand a better chance in the long run of walking out ahead or even. Many dealers are willing to help you learn the game and some Vegas casinos like the Excalibur even offer lessons during the middle of the day.
- Breaking even is winning. If you can enjoy your time in the casino for a couple of hours and at the end realize you have broken even consider that a win. Many people try to chase winning a big amount just to end up losing all of their money in the end.
- Money Management. Look your probably going to be in Las Vegas for more than one night. If you bring $1000 for gambling and blow $500 of it on the first night of a 5 day trip you’re not likely to enjoy the rest of your trip. Be smart about portioning out your money for the duration of your trip. There are in room safes in every hotel to hold your money if you’re worried about dipping into extra funds while you’re out for the night.
- Play higher denominations. Slot machines are pure luck. There is no proven strategy for winning other than playing higher denominations. By higher denominations I mean instead of playing a penny slot try a nickel or quarter machine, or instead of quarter bump it up to a dollar machine. The reason why is higher denominations offer higher paybacks. For every dollar spent in a slot machine a certain % of that dollar will be paid back over the long run. In some Las Vegas casinos the paybacks for dollar slots can be over 95% as where for a penny slot the paybacks range closer to 85% payback. So in other words the higher the denomination the higher % that machine will pay out.
- Walk out ahead. If you’re lucky enough to win some money than make sure you pocket a good portion of it and don’t touch it. I’ve seen a lot of friends get up a few hundred or even a couple thousand dollars and literally blow it all back trying to win more. When you’re gambling greed can kick in and the urge to win more money can ultimately cause you to lose it all.
- Craps, craps, and more craps. Now while this might be a bit biased with it being my favorite casino game you can’t argue with the fact that it offers the best odds in any casino. you can literally get a 50/50 bet on odds. I highly recommend that you learn how to play this game. As I noted earlier Excalibur offers free lessons during the middle of the day for table games.
- Don’t play for the free drinks. The free drinks they offer in Las Vegas while gaming are a nice bonus if you’re going to be gambling anyways. However if you sit down at a slot machine and spend $20 waiting for your free drink(you should always tip your server $1) then that drink wasn’t free it actually cost you $20! This seems really dumb when you could have went to one of the numerous bars and paid $3.50 for your bud light.
- Play for short periods of time. Always play in shorts bursts. Never just throw $100 into a slot machine and play her for all she’s worth. Slots are called one armed bandits for a reason. If you play long enough you will most certainly lose. However if you can go up to a machine and get lucky and hit for $50 on your first few spins then hop to a different machine and do it again then your luck might just be able to offset the dooming odds.
- Don’t gamble while you’re drunk. Hey I’ve been there. Its a lot of fun and all until you find your wallet the next day or even worse check your bank account… Be responsible while gaming. There’s it nothing wrong with having a few drinks or even getting a little buzz to relax, but you don’t want to be pulling out extra bills at 2am thinking you’re about to hit a hot streak…you probably wont.
- Get a players card. Even if you’re not going to be gambling much there are a lot of players card benefits. Just having one can get you a discounted rate at buffets, shows, and many other things around the resorts. Also they will send you discounted hotel rates through e-mails. You really only need 2 players cards because MGM and Total Rewards make up 90 % of the casinos on the strip. So with these 2 cards you can get all kinds of perks.
Finding loose slots or higher-paying casinos can make your money last longer and improve your winning changes (first part of this page). At the same time, beware of all those casino draws because you may just waste a lot of money for nothing.
Slot machines are great fun and Vegas (especially the most fun casinos or those who keep their casino floor up to date and, above all, with a large variety of machines) offers plenty of fantastic, fun, exciting slot machines.
But you can easily sit at a slot machine and lose hundreds of dollars in a short while without even realizing it… And that’s on just the penny slots! You can lose a lot more at the higher denomination slots! We have developed a basic strategy to maximize our wins but all in all on the Strip you have to be careful if you want to avoid losing large sums of money.
The best places to play in Vegas used to be, traditionally, downtown or anywhere off-Strip, if you actually wanted your money to last longer or to improve your chances of winning. But, lately, we noticed that this is not necessarily so. In fact, we have won at Cosmopolitan quite easily and several times (though this may well be an anomaly); we have also won at MGM Grand lately and we often do very well at the Excalibur casino (to name but a few). Off Strip, Gold Coast is hit and miss and the Orleans, once great, seems to have become a bit too ‘greedy’. Silverton (nice and modern) too seems to want to pay for its expansion through its patrons’ donations much faster these days. El Cortez, one of the cheapest (yet perfectly decent and clean) Vegas hotels often advertises having the ‘loosest slots in Vegas’ (by as much as 40 per cent) and about having won the award for best paying casino in Vegas a couple of years ago. In 2013 we did very well at El Cortez but, in 2014 and 2015, there was not one slot machine that paid anything significant (and we played consistently throughout the night to test most of them): this, coupled with the fact that the ‘rewards’ given at El Cortez are not as enticing as the ones given at Mirage (as example of a worthwhile resort in which to play), makes it hard for us to justify playing at El Cortez (sorry!), which is a huge shame because they offer incredibly affordable (and decent!) rooms.
Moreover, the slots at El Cortez are not the newest nor the fanciest (although they do have some new machines and games too, of course), so I would not necessarily recommend you go downtown to try your luck here. Our experience at Golden Nugget casino, which has a very cheerful atmosphere most times given its fan base, has been quite pitiful compared to even Wynn or Venetian on the Strip! Generally speaking, off-Strip casinos should pay out a bit more to entice local traffic but, given our latest experiences, I’d say that keeping to a gambling technique may be better than hoping for lose slots.
As you can imagine there are many rumors surrounding casinos and how they ‘operate’; I was recently playing at a slot machine in casino frequented mainly by locals when I was told by a ‘regular’ that Friday nights are the worst days to gamble at slot machines, because that’s when they are ‘tight’ (it’s payday for many weekly workers). I must admit, I found that I wasn’t winning as easily as I usually do, but frankly those statements belong to the realm ‘rumors’ and we won’t be able to ever substantiate them.
Las Vegas casinos used to be the best places to gamble, where you actually had a good chance to win some real money, though of course in the long run the odds are always in favor of ‘the house’, for obvious reasons, and the slots machines will always pay the ‘house’ more than any player. Vegas slots seem to be far less generous now (perhaps with a few exceptions), which may also be connected to the fact that there seems to be a shift taking place in Vegas: that of slightly moving away from being gamblers-focused in favor of party-goers and other event-based crowds (= quick profits from alcohol and other high-paying events). However, Las Vegas has to maintain the image of the ‘place of dreams’, the place where anybody can live like a king for a few days, on any budget; a tourist destination where you dreams may come true.
Some casinos areas and some games in particular are (in my opinion) not going to wreck your bank account; they are designed to keep people there, happily entertained, in order to ‘welcome’ and attract other potential gamblers. This has been our experience, though more in the past years and less so in the last 12 months; in the long run you will lose money of course, just because in terms of percentage the house is set to make more money than it ‘gives’. Moreover, things are changing often so that nobody ever can a ‘permanently winning strategy’. Stay away from anybody or any site which tells you that you are guaranteed to win if you follow any particular strategy.
It seems that the most agreed upon concept is that playing Black Jack or any other card games gives you better odds at winning than any regular slot machine, as long as you are highly knowledgeable of the card games. If you know what you’re doing it is unlikely that you will lose your money as fast as you can at a slot machine or at a roulette table; those who are ‘set’ at receiving VIP Invitations or comp’d room offers tend to sit at Black Jack games and spend hours on them.
Regular slot machines are great fun and that’s why we all play them; but, generally, ‘professional’ gamblers tend to avoid them, for the very reason that there is absolutely nothing that you can control except guessing at what stage of the ‘cycle’ the machine is, if there is a ‘cycle’ at all (more on this further down), or guessing which machine is slightly ‘loser’ ( = gives better pay outs) than others. Locals who go to casinos daily tend to familiarize themselves with the ‘looser’ slot machines within any casino, but this seems to change over time (after all, it’s only a matter of software – which can be tweaked – though these are suppositions which no gambler can prove).
Having said this, there are general guidelines which – if followed – can help you win or at least help you avoid losing too much money. We absolutely love Vegas slot machines, no other game thrills us more; so, in order to avoid losing everything and having to go back home on foot, we have devised a set of rules we apply to our own Vegas gambling; using these rules does not guarantee a win but it usually prevents us from losing significant amounts of money:
1 – The first few minutes of your slot machine playing is crucial. Although letting oneself be ‘hypnotized’ by these fun machines is highly entertaining, you must keep an eye on how much money you are losing or winning. The biggest mistake anybody makes is to stay too long at any slot machine; if you do, the statistical odds are highly against you and you are most likely going to lose most (if not all) of your money or most (if not all) of your gains. Getting ‘stuck’ to a machine is the riskiest behavior you can adopt in a casino.
2 – Try go gamble slowly. This is one of my biggest mistakes and I’ve noticed that, when I make this mistake, I tend to lose more money because I enter some sort of ‘automatic’ state whereby I lose control of what’s going on, monetarily speaking. I press the button without even thinking and I do it fast, one spin after the other. This (and when I get ‘stuck’ to a slot machine for a long period of time) is when I lose money. If I avoid doing this, it is extremely rare that I lose money and indeed many times I win or, at least, I walk away with more money than I’d started with.
3 – It’s only a rumor which we cannot confirm nor deny: however, some say that slot machines are programmed in ‘stages’, namely high-paying and low-paying; if this is true you need to watch out for the ‘low’ phases, to avoid losing hundreds of dollars in the false conviction that sooner or later you will be ‘hitting some sort of jackpot’ or high-paying bonus round. Another rumor is that slot machines tend to pay at the beginning and increasingly less so as you keep playing. More on this further down.
4 – Another theory, less predominant these days because of the new, open casino layouts, is that highly-trafficked areas are where the ‘higher-paying’ machines are positioned; this would be because hearing winning sounds would automatically attract more players to the casino floors by associating the casino with winning. On the other hand, the new machines are so visually and audibly exciting that they sound as if they’re ‘dishing out’ hundreds of dollars when in fact it’s only a 70 cents payout! So I’m not so sure this theory is applicable to casinos with modern, ‘noisy’ machines.
5 – Following ‘systems’. Every time I visit a casino I meet a person who’s using a ‘system’ to beat the house. Well, as a newbie I let my friend convince me that his roulette ‘system’ was a winner: that night (years ago) I lost 700 dollars! I never made that mistake again; talking to those following ‘systems’ I have, in my experience, concluded that the old say ‘casinos love fools with a system’ is probably very true. Some people have made a lot of money counting cards (which is theoretically illegal), but as you know it’s something much more difficult and complicated than what a regular Vegas visitor can do or (probably) should do. Advice:
advice: our advice is that you gamble in casinos or resorts which tend to reward gamblers better for their play. Excalibur and Mirage are among our favorites in this respect. I have gambled the same amount of money (playing in the same manner and for the same amount of time) at Mirage (where casino marketing comped me room and buffet entries immediately afterwards), and at Excalibur (where they tend to write off your check out bill or at least reduce it based on your play, provided you speak to the players desk the night before). So, always ask casino marketing what their rules are in this respect, or at least ask them for a general guideline and ask them if they tend to comp you. Avoid those casinos where casino marketing only refers to the point you have accumulated on your players card as a way to determine your comps (freebies): this means they are not flexible and not ‘generous’.
Casinos Draws in Vegas
Many casinos run events where you win the right to a draw or a competition through the amount of points you accumulate playing (using your players card). These casinos are very popular amongst the locals and it’s clearly a way to attract those who can regularly frequent those establishments, keeping them coming week after week. Gold Coast is one of those, with special days where players amass ten times the amounts of points per play, each score contributing to the number of tickets they will have for the weekly draw. It sounds great on paper but, as a visitor, you will have almost no chance of winning.
This is because ‘higher-score’ players will automatically accumulate twice or three times the amount of points (its part of their rules) and, to become a higher-score player you will need to have so many points that only a local can manage to do this, or someone gambling thousands and thousands of dollars in one week’s visit.
Entering and playing for such competitions will keep visitors glued to those slot machines and frankly I think they run the risk of spending too much time and money gambling for nothing. I would not recommend it.
El Cortez has its own draws and daily slot competitions which appear to be managed in a much fairer way for everybody, and gaining the right to participate requires a lot less gambling.