Gambling is an integral part of the Las Vegas experience. You wouldn’t go to New York and not visit the Empire State Building. You wouldn’t travel all the way to Memphis and not sample the barbeque. You wouldn’t tour Maui and avoid the beach. The gaming is what made Las Vegas the entertainment capital of the world. You don’t have to be a high roller to enjoy shooting some dice or playing a couple of hands. Read on for some best practices when gambling in Las Vegas.
“Time on Game”
This industry term refers to the amount of time a gambler can play a specific game with a specific amount of money. For example, playing at a $20 minimum roulette table would probably yield less time on game than say a $5 minimum craps table. The gambler is spending at least $20 per spin of the wheel, which occurs frequently. Whereas on the craps table, you’re spending at least $5 on one gambler’s dice rolls, which could last all night (but probably won’t).
Why is this important? Well, the casino always has the edge. They don’t build these palatial resorts by losing money. You shouldn’t expect to pay off your mortgage with your winnings, so what you really should be after is purely entertainment. If you take anything from this slapdash primer to Las Vegas gambling, it should be that. Gambling is meant only for your entertainment. As such, the best way to approach Las Vegas casinos is with entertainment value in mind. The longer you can sit at a table enjoying complimentary drinks and riding a bankroll roller coaster, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of your experience.
So what games offer the most entertainment value for the cost? Let’s start by throwing out the games with the least value. Slot machines are fast paced, which means your money doesn’t last as long, so that’s out. Spins of the roulette wheel occur more frequently than you’d think and the casino’s edge is too high, meaning this is one game in which the casino has a much greater advantage, so that’s out. What you want is fewer hands played per hour. Craps is a good choice but can have a steep learning curve. Look for games like blackjack (more on that in a moment), keno or sports betting to take advantage of real value.
Learn Before You Leap
It’s pretty difficult to repair a car if you don’t know how to repair a car. The more familiar you are with a game, the better you’ll be at it. The Internet is full of sites that explain rules of each game. For instance, the card manufacturer Hoyle has a whole section of its website devoted to rules. Additionally, most casinos offer new gamblers free lessons for games such as craps and blackjack. These controlled, no-pressure environments typically occur in a few different morning sessions. You won’t have to wager your hard-earned cash as fake chips are used. Your hotel’s pit boss can give you more information on gaming lessons.
It’s Not Like Dancing
You don’t get better at gambling the more you drink. Those complimentary adult beverages are great, but the cocktail waitress can also bring you coffee or water. Mix in a couple of those orders during your stint at the tables. Overindulging at the tables may have you feeling like Amarillo Slim, but you’ll be looking like Amarillo Thick … headed. Other gambling no-no’s include stiffing the dealers and cocktail waitresses (especially if you’re new to all this, they’ll be helping you out, so help them out) and using your cellphone at the tables (you could get tossed for this one).
You’re a Natural
As previously mentioned, blackjack is a great game for first timers. The rules are simple. The betting is simple. There are a few important things to keep in mind however. Do your best to avoid tables featuring the dreaded 6-5 payout on natural blackjacks, or a total of 21 with your first two cards. Traditionally, casinos paid out 3-2 on naturals. If you can find a table like that, stick around for a few hands.
The seat at a blackjack table on the dealer’s left is the first dealt to and the first to play. This spot is commonly referred to as first base. As a novice, this is where you should live. Conversely, the seat to the dealer’s far right is the last to play before the dealer takes action and is referred to as third base. There is some pressure on the players sitting in this position as the moves they make have a more direct impact on the dealer’s hand. You don’t want to unknowingly give the dealer a winning hand (other players might boo you), so just don’t sit there.
Side bets, such pair square, which pays modest odds if the player is dealt a pair, are fun, but they’re what the industry refers to as sucker bets. It just doesn’t happen that often, and the odds paid out are never as large as the statistical probability. But yeah, they’re fun.
Also, always split aces.
Oh, the Places You’ll Gamble
Of course you want to play a few hands at one of the iconic Las Vegas casinos such as Caesars Palace or Flamingo, and you should. For those looking for an evening’s worth of gaming enjoyment, there’s no better destination than Downtown Las Vegas. The city’s oldest casinos, Golden Gate, El Cortez and Binion’s, offer some of the lowest minimums and best odds in the city. You’ll also find some unique games at casinos like The D, which boasts a Vintage Vegas gaming floor filled exclusively with traditional coin-in-coin-out machines. They also offer some of the most lucrative players clubs, loyalty programs that reward gamblers with free play, show tickets and meals. The parking downtown is also free for gamblers unlike at some of the Strip properties.
You don’t have to gamble in Las Vegas to have a good time, but for the uninitiated, it’s sort of a rite of passage. As long as you keep this advice in mind and do a little homework in preparation, you won’t be disappointed. Chances are you won’t win, but you’ll have a good time not winning, and isn’t that the point? Do you have some sage gambling wisdom you’d like to share with fellow Vegas travelers? Join the discussion on our Facebook page!