I recently read the list on 10 Tricks Casinos Use on You, and found it interesting. As someone who has worked in the casino industry, I was well-aware of these subtle, but powerful, Jedi mind-tricks, and I’ve developed a few defenses of my own that I wanted to share. These are in no particular order.
This may seem like basic advice, but you’d be surprised how many people actually think they have an edge over the House. Regardless of how good you are, or how much experience you have, or what technique you use, the casinos have been at this for a lot longer than you have. The odds are stacked in their favor, and while you may win in the short term, you will eventually lose. Knowing this can keep help keep your head clear.
I used to be asked which machine paid out the most often in the casino, and my answer was always the same; “The one with the letters A-T-M on the front.” When you decide to go to the casino, you must assume that you are going to lose, and treat it as such. Decide beforehand how much money you can afford to spend on the evening’s entertainment, and take no more than that amount in cash. Leave your checkbook and credit cards in the room or at home. When you have played through the cash in your pocket, leave.
This seems, again, like an obvious point, but it is something that gamblers often forget. Always be aware of your win-loss ratio. At any time, you should know exactly how much you have spent and how much you have won since you began this session. It doesn’t seem like much when you’re playing quarter slots until you realize that you’ve been shoving five-dollar bills into the machine!
The casinos love to quote the old adage, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins,” but the opposite is true when it comes to gambling. My wife and I have a standing rule: we play only what we intended to play before we arrived (see #2), and, if at any time, we reach double the amount we came in with (or greater), we cash out and leave. Just as small losses add up quickly, so do small wins. We go to the casino to eat about once every two months or so, and when we go, we usually bring a little extra cash (often $5 or $10) to play in the machines. In general, we lose or break even, but we have won (and walked out) often enough that, over the course of three years, we’re up by about $25.
There’s a reason that few casinos have clocks or windows. Compensate for this by wearing a watch or carrying a timepiece and referring to it often. At any point, you should know exactly how long you have been sitting at the table or the machine. If you’ve been at the same location for more than 15 minutes and you haven’t at least broken even, it’s time to cut your loses and go. Sometimes, in addition to limiting the amount of money I bring with me, I also set my watch alarm to 30 minutes or so. When the alarm goes off, regardless of whether I’m up or down, I leave.
Alcohol dulls the senses and impairs judgment; that’s why they keep offering you those free drinks. Fortunately, combating this tactic is as easy as saying, “No thanks.” Of course, the waitress will keep tempting you. After all, her job is to keep you there at the table or in front of the machine. If you need an excuse, you can always claim to be the designated driver and they will usually leave you alone. Just remember, they can’t force you to accept the alcohol.
All too often while working the floor, I would see people sitting in the same location for hours on end. Sometimes (it happens much more often than you think), these people would not even leave to take a bathroom break, instead simply urinating (or worse) right there in the seat. Sometimes they would shift to another seat, but more often, they simply sat in their own filth and kept playing. Such is the drive of greed. Get up once in a while and walk around. Go to the restaurant (if there is one) or snack bar and get a soft drink. Use that time to check your win-loss ratio (see #3), and if you find that you’re ahead, it might be time to go.
There’s no shortage of people trying to sell you on time-tested methods for beating the casino. Everyone seems to have a “system” that they claim works for them, but if you ask around, you’ll find that they made their money selling books, not playing casinos. If all of these systems worked as well as they say, how would casinos still be in business? And doesn’t it stand to reason that the casino operators have read these books too? There is no perfect system that can defeat the odds that are weighted in favor of the house, and it’s a waste of money to try. Gambling is largely luck, and you have no control over that factor. What’s more, most casinos write the rules such that the odds go to them.
Many slot machines today offer varying levels of payout with the number of coins played. Of particular importance to note are linked machines that are placed in different casinos across the country, and tied to a central mega-jackpot. Often, in order to win the big money, you must play the maximum number of coins playable. I have been witness to two occasions in which someone got the winning combination (and won a small jackpot), but was “cheated out of” the big money because they did not play the maximum number of coins. By law, this information must be made clear on the face of the machine, but casinos are good at hiding it amongst the colorful designs and other eye-candy.
Cashiers in casinos have been trained (or machines, where they replace humans, have been programmed) to provide you with the largest possible denominations of bills when giving cash outs. This is because they know that you have to pass through the maze to get back out, and you might be tempted by the lure of a particular machine. You sit down to play just “one more dollar,” only to discover that the smallest bill you have is a five…
It would be wrong to say that no one ever wins. In fact, casinos are filled with winners, sometimes big winners. But stop and ask some of these people how much they have spent trying to get to that point and the numbers become a little more revealing. It is very rare to win huge amounts of cash without having paid excessive amounts to achieve that goal. Ever notice that casino winners (in large part) tend to be in the ages of 50 and upwards? Who else has all day to spend in front of a slot machine, shoving coins into it?
Sometimes, you get lucky. I’ve had days when I’ve walked into a casino with two dollars and come out two hours later with $20. There have also been days when I’ve gone in with $20 and come out in 15 minutes with nothing. The best way to win? Don’t play. But if you must, then these tips will at least help balance the odds a little.