Friday, October 16, 2009

5 reasons people lose money at casinos (Part 1 of 5): Not learning how to play the games properly

You wouldn't expect to speed down the highway without first learning how to drive, or dive into the deep end of the swimming pool without first learning to swim.

So don't expect to win money if you don't know how to play the casino game you've sat down at. I'm not saying it's impossible to win money--everyone has spells of blind luck now and then. But if you seriously plan on winning at the casino regularly, you should make sure you know how to optimise your game.

People usually estimate the casino's edge as being around 1-5% for each game. That only applies if you play correctly! If you pay haphazardly, the casino's edge will rise dramatically! 

Blackjack: As I've said time and again, the serious recreational player should at least be familiar with (even better to have perfectly memorised) the basic strategy table. Memorising basic strategy should reduce the casino's edge to less than 1%. Without a knowledge of basic strategy, you will bust on hands you could easily have won, fail to hit when you clearly should, and worst of all, miss out on chances to win double the amount when the odds are clearly in your favour. Trust me, your game will improve significantly once you memorise basic strategy. If casinos offer blackjack games without card shuffling machines, more avid players may want to learn card counting as well. 

Roulette: Some people say there is no strategy one can employ to reduce the house edge in roulette. Others swear by exploitable biases, which is basically a fancy way of saying that where the ball lands is not random (ie. the croupier's spin can be predicted--more on that here). Whether you believe in closing your eyes and praying to the gods to pick your numbers or you painstakingly try to analyse where the ball will next land, you should make sure you are familiar with the paybacks each square offers. Know which squares pay 36:1 and which only pay 2:1. Take the card with the diagram of the wheel and table and study it so you know what you're betting on, and avoid stupid mistakes like betting on 36 individual numbers. 

Baccarat: Unfortunately, there is no strategy that can be employed to reduce the house's edge in baccarat. No, really, there isn't. No player is better/worse off than another in terms of odds (unless someone decides to donate to the casino by betting on both banker and player at the same time). Some people argue that the banker has a very very slight advantage. This is offset by commissions that must be paid to the banker if you bet on him at some casinos (eg. Long Jie cruise). Some people try to follow trends but those occur purely by chance, so it's up to you and your gut feeling. This also means baccarat is the game that requires the least thinking. Yay? 

Texas Hold'em Poker: This is probably the game that will get you killed if you go in unprepared. Poker is a legitimate sport, so if you don't know how to calculate pot odds, analyse starting hands, analyse the board and know when to play tightly/loosely/passively/aggressively (or even know what these terms mean), you're playing with fire. If the game is no limit and you don't have a few hundred bucks worth of chips at a very minimum, forget it! My advice to you is: spend some months practising online (with real money, not Facebook poker), at pubs (if it's legal where you live) or with friends before you even attempt playing at the casino. To put it bluntly, the players at the casino are too pro already (unless your bankroll is enormous, and even then...).

Read Part 2 of this series!

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