The Smart Player’s Guide to Gambling

Gambling is defined by its element of risk – winning or losing.  Most people don’t realize it, but getting up each morning is a gamble. You could trip on the edge of your blanket getting out of bed, fall and crack your skull, and good-bye, you!

However, the risk of such an accident happening is usually pretty low (unless you’re a real klutz, in which case, take better care of yourself!). On the other hand, gambling as a form of entertainment is a pastime that carries big risk by its very nature. Learning how to manage this element of risk is what defines a serious gambler from somebody just out for a fun night.

Most people think a casino is the only place to gamble, but they’re stymied by their own narrow thinking. Investors gamble when they buy stocks, Racers gamble when they get on a horse or fire up their Formula 1 racing cars. All of life and all pursuits in life involve some risk. People still gamble, however, because they believe the risk to be worth the reward. They believe they’ll come out ahead in the end. That’s the motivation behind gambling.

The amount of risk we’re willing to undertake varies with the potential reward; We’ll chance more risk for a bigger reward. Jumping out of an airplane (with a parachute, that is) is an example, a dangerous activity that not many are willing to try. But if someone offered you one million dollars, you might give parachute jumping or skydiving a little more thought. The extra reward makes taking the chance a little more worthwhile.

Once you recognize the inherent risks of living, you realize that games of chance and skill aren’t much different from life’s everyday gambles. Gambling in a casino provides the opportunity for big rewards, risking only money set aside for entertainment. This risk, however, can be assessed logically: anything from a fun night out to a multimillion-dollar jackpot is the potential reward, while your risk comes in the amount of money you’re willing to wager on any given game. The odds equate to the amount of uncertainty involved with each game.

If your goal is to become an expert gambler, whether or not you earn your living this way, one of the most important lessons is to learn the difference between games of skill and games of chance. Gambling’s biggest payoffs are found in games of skill. Thus if you want to win big bucks, you have to learn the necessary skills.

Whenever you take a risk, it’s essential to gather all the information you can, and gambling is no different. To make the most of any gambling experience, you should first know how much you’re willing to spend, and what the chances of a big reward are before you lay down your bet. The goal of these articles is to help you understand the odds and the potential payoff of each game. As mentioned earlier, the first step is understanding the difference between games of chance and games of skill.

Safest (and Riskiest) Ways to Gamble

Gambling games are all “equal opportunity” games or games of chance. This implies that any honest game if played forever, offers you the same chance at a payoff as any other player in the game. Anything you find in a casino is a game of chance, but there is a subset of these pastimes. There are games of chance that also incorporate some skill.

These games of skill offer players the opportunity of increasing the chance for higher payoffs by making smart playing decisions. Learning how to make smart decisions when playing is necessary to become a truly serious and successful player.

The most obvious game of chance in a casino is a slot machine. Slots are the most popular because they offer high payouts for less money wagered, and can also be the most exciting. There’s little a person can do to alter the outcome of a game of chance in their favor. The odds remain the same for every spin.

Most games of chance give all the edge to the house. But some games of chance provide the opportunity for a slight edge to the player, but only if the game mechanics are understood beforehand.

Worst Ways to Gamble

Lotteries – A lottery is a game of numbers, usually used by individual states to generate money. Sponsored by the state government, playing the lottery involves buying a ticket at a supermarket, convenience store, or other location. The numbers are chosen from a limited number pad, and if the numbers on the ticket match the numbers drawn later, the jackpot is awarded.

Bingo – Bingo is another numbers game of chance. The player must be the first to fill in a designated pattern on a game board as each number is called from a field. The field includes 75 numbers.

Keno – Keno is usually found in casino restaurants or specific keno lounges. Another numbers game, players choose between 1 and 20 from an available 80 possible numbers. The rest is hoping the player’s numbers are drawn during gameplay.

Roulette – A spinning wheel provides the chance for Roulette. Players bet on which number the ball will land once the spinning wheel stops.

Slot Machines – Also known as “one-armed bandits,” slot machines helped build Las Vegas. Players bet on each spin of the mechanical reels. People spin the reels hoping for the big jackpot payout, but simply winning back the original bet counts as a win, too!

Best Ways to Gamble

All sports and most card games are considered games of skill. These games require the player to make decisions during gameplay that affect the outcome of the game. A game without such decision-making is not a true game of skill. Because skill is required, you can increase your odds of winning a skill game by being knowledgeable about the game mechanics, and make the right decisions based on proven betting and playing strategies. Professional gamblers stick to games of skill for precisely these reasons.

Casinos try to limit the winning potential of skill games by imposing calculated rules, betting limits and payout schedules. The payout schedule determines how much a winner will be paid out for winning a game.

Poker – There are various forms of poker, usually incorporating five- or seven-card hands. Poker is one of the games of skill in which players bet against each other, rather than against the casino, also known as the “house.” Poker’s objective is to form a hand of cards in order to win the pot of money that players bet. When to bet and when to fold is the most important strategy in this skill game. One of the most popular forms of poker today is a variation known as Texas Hold ‘Em, which involves making your best hand from two “hole” cards that you hold and five cards laid out on the table. High-stakes tournaments for Texas Hold ‘Em have been immensely popular, especially with some celebrities.

Pai gow poker – This card game is played with a 52-card deck, plus one joker. Each player is given a seven-card hand. A hybrid, this game combines elements of a Chinese domino game known as pai gow and traditional American poker. Being able to form a winning five-card poker hand, and another two-card hand is the skill necessary to master pai gow poker.

Blackjack – This game, unlike poker, involves players betting against the house on each hand. Also known as 21, the object of blackjack is to form a hand that adds up to a total higher than the dealer’s hand, but not exceeding 21. A perfect hand in this game is a blackjack, equaling 11 points, and a ten. Together they total 21, the winning combination.

Craps – Craps is a dice game played on a special table. Truly a game of chance, knowing when and how to place bets is a definitely worthy skill to develop, allowing the chance to increase your winnings. Players make bets on the next roll of the dice, with the house paying out depending on the outcome of each roll.

Video Poker – Sharing a lot of similarities with slot machines, video poker machines can be chancy. Knowing which cards to hold in your “hand” and which machines to play are the skills that can help you come out ahead of the risk.

Sports betting – Sports betting is a highly popular form of gambling. Analyzing sports-related information and figuring out betting situations is a necessary skill to get ahead in this game. Betting on the outcome of various sporting events, players can bet on most professional and college matches, including basketball, baseball, and football. The important thing to remember when betting on sports is that you’re up against other professionals who make a job of analyzing all the necessary sports data to determine their bets.

Horse Racing – Similar to sports betting, this game involves betting on the outcome of a race in which horses compete against each other. Picking the winning horse, or a horse that places in one of the top three positions is the objective here. Consulting racing forms, a practice is known as “reading the sheets,” combines with placing bets, evaluating odds, and finding the horse and jockey with a winning edge, as key skills to develop if you’re interested in horse racing.

Daily Fantasy Sports Betting – Also known as DFS, Daily Fantasy Sports gambling sites allow players to assemble virtual teams composed of real sportsmen or women. These teams compete with one another based on the real-life performances of their members. Similar to poker, players can participate in various tournament structures such as head-to-heads, 50/50s (double-ups), and large-scale guaranteed prize pools like the NFL Millionaire Maker at Draftkings, which pays out $1,000,000 to 1st place every week.

eSports Betting – Online eSports betting is a relatively new service offered by some sportsbooks and daily fantasy betting sites that allows players to bet on the outcome of high profile video game tournaments. Just like with sports betting, eSports can be profitable for expert bettors who can gain an edge over oddsmakers who aren’t as experienced.

Baccarat – Originally from France, Baccarat is a pretty simple game. Two hands are dealt, one for the player and one for the dealer. Players then bet on whether the player’s hand or dealer’s hand will be closer to a total of 9. The dealer does most of the work in this straightforward game.

Betting Strategies

The way players place their bets is called a betting strategy. Casinos will usually place restrictions on how much or how little a player may bet for any given game, known as “house limits.” Slot machines even offer a choice, allowing you to play with one, two, three coins, or even more.

Knowing when to bet is crucial. Perhaps the best betting strategy involves lowering your bet when you’re losing (a status gamblers call “cold”), and raising your bet when you’re mostly winning, (the status that gamblers call “hot”). However, not many people are able to remain aware of their actions enough to know if they’re hot or cold. Recognizing and applying that knowledge is necessary to form a winning betting strategy.

Your rate of return is important to a successful betting strategy. To determine your rate of return, simply divide the money you win by the amount you bet. You have an edge over the casino if your rate of return is positive, while a negative return means the edge belongs to the casino. In an effort to increase rates of return, several different betting strategies have been created for various games of chance. Unfortunately, most of them don’t work. Only certain games of skill, like blackjack, have betting strategies that can offer more of an edge while playing.

Beware Gambling’s Downside

Gambling problems don’t start with losing. In fact, more often it’s winning a game of chance or skill that creates a compulsive gambler. Winning is sometimes so enticing that gamblers will wager more and more to achieve the thrill of victory, eventually risking everything in pursuit of a win.

All recreational players need to be aware of this serious downside associated with gambling. Succeeding at games of chance and skill can be thrilling fun and make for an exciting evening, but it’s important to remember it’s still a serious game. People play for money, which can lead to definite real-life consequences.

The best way to avoid the trap of gambling addiction is to know and heed your own limits. If you feel the temptation to play beyond the monetary or time limit you’ve set, resist it. The best thing to do is get up and leave the table or even leave the casino altogether.

Setting realistic goals is perhaps the most important first step to recreational gambling. Set monetary limits, and walk away when you reach them, keeping in mind you played for enjoyment. You’ll set a dangerous precedent for yourself by exceeding your monetary limit. At that point, gambling can begin transforming from a good time to a problem. Keep to your monetary and time limits and have fun.

Gambling can be fun, but you don’t want your gaming to leave the realm of entertainment and become an addiction. Gamblers Anonymous is an excellent organization, offering help to you, or anyone you know, should gambling become a problem. Patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous is set up in a similar 12-step program. The desire to stop gambling is the only membership requirement. Local chapters for Gamblers Anonymous can be found here.

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