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The Non-Gambler’s Guide to Gambling

If you’ve been dragged to a casino and want to have fun without losing all your money in 10 minutes, this article is for you

So your good friend from high school is getting married, and he dragged the boys to Vegas for some classic bachelor party shenanigans. The first order of business, per the groom and friends: Get epicly wasted and spend a bunch of money gambling at the casinos. Sweet!

The problem is, while the other guys are bragging about how they memorized Blackjack strategy and can throw some wicked cubes at the craps table, you have virtually zero gambling experience. So when they break away in different directions, you find yourself alone, idling in the middle of the casino, surrounded by flashing lights and clanging coins, with little to no idea of where to go and what to do.

Well, you could start by pulling out some cash from the ATM — whatever you feel comfortable with, honestly — and paying attention to the following advice from veteran gambling professional Jean Scott, author of The Frugal Gambler Casino Guide.

So I can gamble however much money I want, huh? Sounds iffy!

Yeah. Unless you have a deep understanding of the many technical aspects of gambling, which Scott says requires “a lot of math knowledge and special skills,” your goal should be making your bankroll last longer, rather than winning. In other words, your mission today is to play some games and have some fun, which means wagering any more money than you feel comfortable spending on gambling defeats the purpose.

You’re saying I should go into this knowing for a fact that I’m going to lose?


Ugh, I hate this already.

It’s not for everyone, but you’re here now, so you may as well get into the spirit of things. But not too much! Scott has a few tidbits of advice to keep you from going overboard, which as you can imagine, is a common occurrence at casinos when players become desperate to make their lost money back. “Choose your gambling bankroll from the part of your household budget marked ‘entertainment.’ This is money you sometimes use to eat out at a nice restaurant, or go to a movie,” she explains. “This is not money you set aside for groceries, the mortgage, insurance or the kids’ school clothes.”

Scott also recommends keeping this whole sum of money on your person in cash, rather than, say, bringing your checkbook or debit card along with you to the casino. “Therefore, you can limit this entertainment ‘cost’ to what you can afford,” she says. “Nothing will take the fun out of gambling faster than losing money that has already been earmarked for necessities.”

Once you have your cash, you can start playing by putting it directly into one of the many machines, or you can place it on whichever table game you plan on playing, where the dealer will exchange it for tokens.

Fine, I have my cash. Now what?

Once again, in order to have fun as a gambling novice and not sulk around because you lost all your dough — which is quite possible, by the way, since the casino always has an edge over the player — you should rethink what gambling is. “Accept the fact that the main thing casinos are offering is entertainment,” Scott suggests. “Instead of feeling guilty when you lose, a healthy attitude might be to consider your whole gambling bankroll your ‘cost’ for this entertainment choice. If you go to a movie theater, or play a golf game — whatever you do for entertainment — you would expect to pay.” The same should be expected of gambling.

I get it, I get it, casinos are leeches and I’m stuck here for the night, can I start playing now?

Just a few more quick things first! For starters, Scott highly recommends snagging a Slots Club card, which you can usually get for free from the Players Club desk inside the casino. Basically, you can place these cards in the machines or give them to the dealers at table games, and they collect points as you gamble. If you earn enough points, you can get some freebies, such as a free dinner at the restaurant inside the casino. While Scott mentions that it would be tough to earn enough points to be worthwhile in a single night, since the card itself costs nothing and only takes a couple minutes to score, you might as well snag one in case you come back.

Another important thing to consider before a dealer scolds you is casino etiquette, which can be somewhat stringent. Here are some of the more basic rules: 

  • Only sit at a table game if you actually want to play, and wait until the current hand is over before sitting down.
  • Never take your phone out while sitting at a table, or you will be told to put it away.
  • Only touch your cards with one hand, and never touch your bet once the hand has been dealt, the wheel has been spun and so on.
  • Tip the dealers regularly by handing them chips, and do the same with cocktail waiters and waitresses, who generally serve free drinks so long as you gamble.

Yep, I’m gonna forget all that in two seconds. Now, what should I play?

That mostly depends on what you want to play. Slots are good if you want something easy and relatively mindless, and so is roulette — just place your bet where you think the small white ball is going to land. 

If you want to play something more challenging, like craps or Blackjack, you should at the very least read up on how to play first. If you want to increase your odds of winning, there are hordes of websites that detail specific strategies for these games, although those take time to learn and memorize — and you have a bachelor party to attend.

Roulette sounds simple enough. Why do some tables have a higher minimum bet than others, though?

Good catch! For beginners, the most important thing to know about minimums is, higher ones are riskier. Sure, the more you wager, the more you could win, but that goes both ways, and you could end up losing everything extremely quickly at a high minimum table or machine. As such, Scott recommends sticking to the lowest minimum possible. “If you’ve been playing dollar machines in the past and your bankroll usually didn’t last long enough, then the sensible thing to do is play quarters,” she says. “Going down in denomination is probably the easiest technique to use to stretch your money.”

For example, you could theoretically place $5 on a football game in the sportsbook, and watch the game for two hours while drinking at the bar. Essentially, you just spend 120 minutes having a great time, and you only put $5 on the line! One important thing Scott notes here, though, is that smaller casinos tend to feature more table games with low minimums than the larger casinos on the main Vegas strip, so maybe consider herding your party off the strip if possible.

The $5 roulette table sounds good, especially with the free drinks. Got any other good tips?

Sure, one other thing that can help keep your bankroll intact is playing slower. “Play at full crap tables, where there are fewer dice rolls per hour,” Scott suggests. “On the machines, stop hitting the buttons and pull the handle for a while, or feed the machines with coins instead of using the bill acceptors.” Remember, the slower you play, the longer you can keep on going.

Sounds goo— wait, where’d all my money go? FUUUUUUUUU

Alas, looks like the casino and their edge won this time around. Better luck next time.