We’ve all got a little gamble in us, or otherwise we wouldn’t be playing poker. But there are ways to enjoy blackjack, slots and other casino games without busting our World Series of Poker budgets. Here’s how.
1. Set a stop loss
If you want to gamble in the pits or at the slots, you should allocate only a certain percentage of your bankroll for these games. And I suggest that the percentage should be low, as your expected value is a negative number given the house edge.
I’d also recommend only using a small amount of the money you allocate toward the pits during each session. For example, if you have $500 to play the games over multiple days of your trip, you shouldn’t blow all $500 in one sitting. Set a stop loss of $100 to $200 so you’ll have more to gamble with on succeeding days.
2. Play games with the best odds
I’m sure you’ve never heard of a professional roulette player, but surely you’ve heard of the MIT blackjack teams. Now while you probably don’t want to form a team and risk getting kicked out of the casinos, it is actually possible to have a slight edge over the casinos in blackjack with just standard solo play. Use the standard plus-minus card counting system and push out higher bets when the count is good for making blackjacks and profitable double-down opportunities. Even if you don’t want to bother with learning card counting, just playing correct basic strategy lessens the house odds to 1 or 2 percent. Just avoid those tables paying 6-to-5 on blackjacks that have sprung up in Vegas like weeds.
Avoid the aforementioned roulette, as well as keno. Slots are a bad bet too, although the payout percentage on $1 or above denominations isn’t terrible. Other good bets besides blackjack include playing pass line with odds in craps (avoid any bets in the middle of the felt) and video poker.
3. Utilize the players clubs
Just as how you’ll always swipe your card at the poker table to earn comps as you play, you should hand your card to the pit boss so you can be rated as you play table games. If you try slots or video poker be sure to insert your card into the readers. While a good number of the casinos on the Strip are owned by either Caesars Entertainment or MGM Resorts International, some are independent. Be sure to ask at the players club if you are unsure which card to use. A bonus: if you’ve never signed up for a card at any particular casino before, you may get a freebie like slot play or a food voucher just for registering.
I also recommended in a previous column about picking up the American Casino Guide or buy a Las Vegas Advisor membership to get some free slot play or table match plays. In addition to this, do a cursory search of the internet before you go. I’ve encountered the occasional freebie in the past by cruising the internet.