Casino games such as roulette and poker have fascinated the crowds for decades and even centuries and now places like Las Vegas and Macau have transformed the idea of gambling completely. From a questionable hobby practiced at shady establishments in the past, it has turned into this glamorous, fun activity for successful, yet adventurous people. But is it possible to make a profit from playing casino games in the long run? Are these stories about casino players making a living just from gambling real? And most of all, doesn’t the house always win?
There are no simple answers to these questions, especially in the past decade or so, when online casinos rose to huge popularity, while players were attempting to devise effective and reliable strategies to win. The potential for being successful in casino gambling would vary, depending on the individual and the particular type of game you look at. There are extremely successful poker players who have won millions while perfecting their skills in a game, where luck, knowledge, and experience all matter. But there are also thousands of people who would visit Las Vegas just to lose a few hundred dollars on the weekend.
In reality, it is possible to profit from casino games in the long run. The opposite is also a possibility, however, to lose your life’s savings while trying to win back the money you have lost. In order to be successful in playing casino games, gambling enthusiasts should learn how to avoid the most common mistakes in casino playing and how to maximize their chances of winning. Before that, however, there are several basic concepts every roulette, poker or slots player should become familiar with.
Chance and the Probability of Winning
The first and most important rule of gambling is very simple – that the house always wins. This suggests that players always lose. But that is not entirely true. In reality, casinos win in the long term – they are incredibly successful businesses that make a profit from their customers over thousands of games and millions of bets made on roulette, baccarat, blackjack and slot machines. Their profit comes from most casino patrons, not from all – a small portion of players generate steady winnings from games with lower risk and better odds.
Typically, people can make a profit by playing skill-based games such as poker, rummy, spades, etc., against other players. In such games, the casino would only charge a small fee for facilitating them. This is when the odds are irrelevant and you can win if you play with a perfect strategy against someone who makes mistakes. Playing against the casino, however, is much more common and in those cases, the odds are always stacked against you. This applies to even skill-based games such as blackjack.
It should be noted that most casino games are based on chance. In these games, the outcome does not depend on one’s decisions but on some random event such as the spinning reels in slot machines or the movement of the ball and the wheel in roulette. In fact, most games do involve elements of both skill and chance – such examples would be blackjack or poker. Whenever the outcome is strongly influenced by chance, we are talking about gambling. And this is where probability and odds become important. Although they may sound like a complicated mathematical theory, they are essential in determining how likely you are to win or to lose.
Let us take, for example, the game of roulette, where every bet has fixed odds and every single number has a 2.70% chance to come out winning. In a single-zero roulette, we have 37 numbers, each equally likely to come out. But that does not mean that when we play 37 rounds, all numbers will win. On the contrary, some numbers will never come out, while others will be hit several times. When we play an infinite number of spins, however, all numbers will eventually come out as winning. After millions of spins, the winning numbers would be evenly distributed among red and black, even and odd, high and low.
Since the odds are always in favor of the casino, players have a better chance of winning in the short term. In the longer term, however, the theoretical odds and probability become more and more a reality.
The odds in every game and the payout offered by the casino determine the exact house edge. The house edge, also known as house advantage, shows what share of the bet the casino would keep on average. In other words, it shows how much a player would lose while playing casino games over a long period of time. The house edge is a built-in advantage created by the particular rules and probabilities against winning in each game. It is typically represented as a percentage.
For instance, the house edge in slot games varies greatly and can be anything from 2% to 10%, so let us take 5% as average. When you bet $100 on a slot game, you can expect to lose 5% of your investment and go out of the casino with $95. This would only work, if you make tiny bets of $0.01 per spin, for example. In contrast, imagine betting $100 in one spin – you will either lose or win. As you can see, the house edge is just a mathematical representation of the advantage the casino has over you. It is a theoretical percentage that is true only for an infinite number of rounds – take any fixed number of spins on a slot machine, and the house edge will never be achieved.
It is worth mentioning that there is a second term used by casinos to show how profitable a game can be. This is the Return to Player (RTP), the share of the bet, which a player can expect to get back as winnings. The RTP is the just the opposite of the house edge, so if a game has 5% edge, this means that the RTP is 95%.
Choosing the Right Casino Games
Casino players who try to make a profit while betting on different games should know that they are more likely to win in some games than in others. As explained above, the house edge can be used as a good tool to choose games where the casino does not have such an advantage. In addition, skill-based games also offer more opportunities to win in the long run – as long as the player uses a proper strategy with minimum mistakes.
And this is the third aspect you should look for in a casino game when you want reliable, long-term profits – simplicity. When you play a relatively simple and easy to understand game such as craps or roulette, you are less likely to make mistakes. Usually, casinos rely on players not paying attention and making mistakes in their strategy. Combining all three – low house edge, strong skill factor, and simplicity should increase your chances of beating the casino in the long run.
As mentioned above, most games have a built-in advantage over the player. That is why experienced casino players prefer poker, where their skills and knowledge cancel out the bad odds, or blackjack, where their decisions can strongly influence the outcome of every round. Discussing poker in this article, however, makes no sense as it is not played against the house and a lot of professional poker players’ success lies in their ability to read their opponent. And while poker is, indeed, in a league of its own, blackjack is considered the best and most profitable casino game.
It is based on both skill and chance, but those who manage to choose a good blackjack table and play perfectly with no mistakes could rely on relatively good winnings over a limited amount of time. An important thing some gamblers tend to overlook is the fact that blackjack does not guarantee winnings. On the contrary, since you play against the casino at odds that are not favorable to you, you are expected to lose in the long run. It could be easily seen by checking the house edge in most versions of single-hand blackjack – it is around 1.5% to 1%.
Video poker is not a classic casino game and it is rarely mentioned by professionals or in casino gambling guides. It is a strange type of game, a mixture between five-card draw poker and automated games such as slots. Indeed, video poker terminals are visually similar to slot machines but rarely have all these flashing lights, bright colors, and loud sound effects. Video poker players know well, however, that the game has little in common with slots and other chance-based games.
In fact, it is played like poker, it has the standard poker rules and hands ranking. But instead of playing against other individuals, you play against the casino – you are dealt 5 cards, which you can keep or replace during a second deal. Then, the computer determines whether your hand is winning or not and what payout you should receive. In this automated game, only you can make decisions as you have no opponent to beat. You can, therefore, use a strategy without facing any obstacles such as a tough poker player against you.
Some video poker variations allow skilled players to gain a mathematical edge over the casino. One of the best examples is the full-pay version of Deuces Wild, which has an expected return of 100.76%. In other words, the house edge in this game is -0.24% and you are expected to win in the long run. Various strategies for winning video poker have been devised and proven successful multiple times. They can be found for free online or in various video poker guides. Players should be warned, however, that full-pay variations of this casino game are hard to find and casinos would often offer reduced payouts for two or three of the hands to cut the RTP.
Craps is a faster-paced game, popular in most of the largest casinos across Europe and Las Vegas. As it is played with a pair of dice, it is widely considered to be purely based on chance. And while this is technically true, you do not bet on the exact numbers that come out – there is one fundamental bet that most players would make. It is called the “pass line” bet and it should be enough for most first-time players to start the game – with it, you simply bet on the player winning.
There are, however, many other bets in craps and each has its own odds and house edge. An experienced player who tend to stick to low-risk bets, however, can play craps at a house edge of around 1.40%. Certain bets, on the other hand, may reach 10%, so they should be avoided as much as possible. Overall, craps is a simple game since all you do is betting on the outcome of the rolling dice and in addition, it has a low house edge. Taking these into account, we can say it is a casino game where players have a chance to generate good winnings over a long period of time.
The one area in most casinos that attracts the largest crowds has always been the slots parlor, even though most people are aware that this game will most probably eat up all their money. What draws them in is the possibility to win a huge jackpot – there are many slot machines with lottery-like progressive jackpots that increase with every bet placed in them. However, hitting the jackpot in such a game is just like winning the lottery where you may play regularly your entire life and never win big. Once again, the odds are against you and often, slot machines come with a house edge of around 10%.
In the past, the odds were determined mechanically while modern slots, whether slot machines in brick-and-mortar casinos or virtual slots online are based on a computer program called Random Number Generator. The outcome of each spin is random and is not affected by any past results, nor does it have any influence on future events. This means that you can spend five hours betting on a given game without any large winning. At the same time, some lucky player can hit the jackpot with the first spin of the reels.
Typically, the expected return in slots would vary dramatically across different games. Most online casinos offer an average return of 95% to 97%, although there are certain games where the RTP is around 99%. However, many game developers and online casinos do not publish the return percentages. When it comes to slot machines in land-based casinos, there is no way for players to know the RTP, which is sometimes as low as 90% (or even lower).
Another well-known casino game is, of course, roulette. It has been played for more than two centuries, with plenty of people being known to “crack” it. Up until a few decades ago, the roulette wheels were purely mechanical and due to manufacturing defects or wear and tear, they used to become biased. Some players would then take advantage of these flaws, finding out the number or group of numbers that would come out more frequently.
Today, most casinos make sure the wheels are not biased in any way or replace them altogether with electronic wheels that use RNG. A random result, instead of physical laws, determines where the ball would land. In other words, the idea that there is some relation between the spins is just a misconception – no number is ever “due” to win even after 100 spins. This makes the various roulette systems practically obsolete as most of them are based on the concept that following several losses, you are expected to win, and vice versa.
This is why winning at roulette could be a little tricky. In the long term, the casino will always win because of the house edge, which is 2.70% for European/French roulette and 5.26% for American roulette. If you play for a limited amount of time, however, you have the chance to generate a small profit by making more conservative bets such as red/black, even/odd or high/low. Combination bets and placing call bets is also a successful tactic – this way your bet would cover a larger area of the wheel. You may need a larger bankroll, however, because these bets cost more.
Mistakes to Avoid
Many casino enthusiasts tend to ignore gambling tips and professional advice, thinking that the house will win in the end. Many would simply accept the defeat and consider gambling a form of relatively costly form of entertainment. Well, both ideas are true – the house always wins and gambling should be first and foremost seen as entertainment rather than a way to earn a livelihood. However, it is always better to try to maximize your winnings and prevent financial losses as much as possible. In addition, the house wins but that is true only in the long term, longer than you can imagine. In the short term, casinos sometimes lose.
These are just a couple of examples of how myths and misconceptions have entered the world of gambling. The truth is that there are successful casino players who manage to make sustainable profits from their hobby. To do that, you should try avoiding common mistakes such as believing in myths and superstitions, trying to win back the money you have lost, etc.
This is a belief quite common among gamblers that if an event is very common in the present, it should happen less frequently in the future. It applies to various types of casino games but is completely false. For instance, many casino players think that a slot game which has not paid out a jackpot in a long time is now due to pay. Things are similar with roulette where some players will be certain that a black number would come out after five red numbers.
However, in automated, chance-based games where no bias is possible and the outcome of each round is random, this concept is flawed. Modern casino games use RNG, which stands for Random Number Generator, as we mentioned above. This program generates long sequences of numbers and with the help of the so-called seed value, one of these numbers is randomly chosen when the player pushes the Spin button on the slot game. Each number is associated with a symbol and a particular position on the reels, which makes the forming winning combinations truly random.
The process is similar in roulette, video poker, virtual craps, baccarat, and poker. In fact, the RNG determines the outcome in all electronic, automated casino games, whether they are in online casinos or in brick-and-mortar gambling establishments. When you play online roulette, there is no connection between the current spin of the wheel and the past 100 spins. Every round is individual, which means there are no “hot” and “cold” numbers.
Losing and winning streaks also do not exist – well, they do, but there is no way to predict how long they will be as the probability of every single number to come out remains the same in every spin. People tend to believe that slot machines are due to pay out the jackpot after a certain amount of time. But slots cannot be due and they are not pre-programmed to pay out the jackpot after 10,000 spins or after 3 months, for example.
Blindly Trusting the RTP
Some casino players make the silly mistake to choose games by looking only at the expected return. The RTP percentage shows what portion of the total bet a player would get back in the form of winnings. As we already explained, this is a theoretical percentage that is true for an unlimited number of game rounds. But the statistical data changes on the actual casino floor or in the virtual casino room where chance becomes a factor.
In a video poker variation with an expected return of over 100%, no individual player would ever reach the exact RTP percentage. Some players will win, while others will lose even if they play 100,000 hands on the same game. It would not be correct to expect a game or its random number generator to adjust the win-loss ratio so that the actual payout reaches the mathematical RTP percentages. The RNG software will work in the same manner no matter how much hands you have played, ten or ten thousand.
That is why it is a mistake to blindly trust the RTP or house edge percentages when choosing a potentially profitable game to play. They should be used as just an indication for what we could expect from a game of roulette, blackjack or video poker.
Relying on Questionable Strategies
Another common mistake among gamblers is to use a strategy that has not been properly tested and proved as effective. There are many strategies for blackjack and video poker, for instance, and one could easily check their effectiveness online. In poker, the strategies are even more complicated and take time and experience to master. Not to mention that when playing against a skillful, really tough opponent, using basic strategy is simply not enough to win.
When it comes to strategies for roulette or slots, however, things are very different. Since these games are based on chance rather than skill, players do not make decisions that influence the outcome. Any playing strategy is, then, obsolete and such tactics should be called betting systems. These are methods for adjusting the size of the bet depending on whether you have won or lost in the previous round. Often, these systems also tell you when to increase or decrease the size of your bet, or when it should stay the same. The purpose is to maximize your winnings or if you lose, to be able to recover your losses by winning higher bets.
While the logic behind these concepts is seemingly solid, it turns out to be flawed. Most of the roulette betting systems have been proven ineffective in the long run. Professional gamblers and math experts warn that if you use them long enough, you will certainly lose money. If used properly and for a limited amount of time, however, they could be quite useful in making small profits.
One of the most common and dangerous mistakes in gambling is chasing losses. Many players would try to win back the money they have lost, believing that the next bet would be successful. But as we mentioned before, there is no guarantee that you will win after a chain of losses. Sometimes, there are winning or losing streaks, which can easily force you to bet all your money away.
Players should understand that it is fine to lose when playing casino games. This is the idea of gambling – you bet money on an event that cannot be predicted and while the promise of huge profits is really compelling, the financial loss is just as likely. Knowing when to quit is key to every gambler’s success. If you lose a large amount of money, you should stop playing. Even if you double the bet in the hope of recovering the lost money, there is no guarantee that you will win. Moreover, if you lose, you will substantially more.
Tips for Successful Gambling
We have already outlined the basic rules for successful and profitable gambling in the previous sections. Players should look for the right casino games to play – games with a low house edge, games where skills and knowledge can at least partially influence the outcome, and games with relatively simple rules that are not too complicated to grasp. It is also important to see gambling as a form of entertainment where a small fee is paid to participate. But there are a few other things players should pay attention to if they wish to win in casino games in the long term.
This term has become one of the basics for professional gamblers. It encompasses everything from setting up a fixed daily budget to having a pre-determined limit to the losing sessions. You should decide on either a limit to the number of lost bets or a limit to the amount of cash you lose per game session. Once you reach the limit, you should quit playing instead of chasing your losses.
Taking Advantage of Casino Bonuses
Las Vegas casinos often offer food vouchers, room discounts, and other bonuses to their patrons. There are also various gifts designed to award regular or VIP players. Online casinos, on the other hand, usually have welcome bonuses for those who register an account and make a real-money deposit. Gambling sites also run regular promotions and offer reload bonuses, free spins by mail, etc.
Taking advantage of such promotional offers could be beneficial, but players should also be careful with the different conditions and requirements they need to meet before claiming a bonus or withdrawing the bonus-related winnings.
Getting Edge over the Casino
There are only a few forms of gambling where the player can get a mathematical advantage over the casino. This is also called advantage play and is most common among blackjack players. These are very skilled, experienced players who are able to count the cards even in games where multiple decks are used. However, card counting is very hard and requires concentration and good mathematical knowledge. More importantly, it is not tolerated in casinos and players who are caught counting the cards are usually banned from gambling establishments.
There are also advantage players in other casino games. These are the really good poker players, the dice controllers at craps, and those who take advantage of any possible bias in roulette. Getting an edge over the casino, however, is not easy – it can be achieved only by skillful individuals who have a deep understanding of all the intricacies of the casino game they play.