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A Beginners Guide to Navigating the Casino Without Losing Your Shirt

Home | gambling | A Beginners Guide to Navigating the Casino Without Losing Your Shirt

Many are tied to popular movies, TV shows or musical artists – think “Lord of the Rings” or “Pawn Stars” or Dolly Parton – or even games such as Wheel of Fortune, Monopoly and Battleship. In other words, for every $100 put into machines throughout the casino, the machines return an average of about $90 over the long run. Smart gamblers find a game they enjoy and learn the strategies that reduce the house edge as much as possible.

A penny machine is a misnomer.

Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, the most important fact about a casino is this: The house always has the edge, no matter what game you play. The machine itself is the entertainment. So if the dealer’s up-card is weak — especially a Four, Five or Six — it’s better for a player to stand on a “stiff” hand of 12 through 16 than trying to hit and get closer to 21.

“No problem,” he assured her. Some games have surround-sound chairs for what manufacturers call “immersion” gaming.

Many people making their first casino trip or trying out a new game are like that uneasy blackjack player. Slots can account for 70 percent or more of the money casinos make from gambling.

One question all casino visitors ask themselves is how much money to take. The RNG’s sole function is to spit out groups of numbers. About 27 percent of Americans visit a casino at least once a year, according to the American Gaming Association, and that number grows as legalized gambling continues to expand beyond the traditional centers of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Use your players club card whenever you gamble there. She put out the $10 minimum bet and was dealt a two-card 20 for her first hand. Casinos make more money from slots than from any other game. Slot manufacturers spend millions of dollars to make machines that entice people play longer. Never bet with money you need for the mortgage or medical bills. Many players mistakenly think the object of blackjack is to get a hand as close as possible to a total of 21 without going over. The casino gets its cut by collecting a “rake,” typically $4 or $5, out of every pot.

Casinos also offer a variety of “carnival games” that are variations of poker and blackjack. If you “bust” by going over 21, you lose even when the dealer also busts, because the dealer is the last to act. Take what you are comfortable spending. Casinos have evolved into one of the country’s premiere entertainment options. It’s all pure luck, as opposed to skill games such as blackjack and poker. Those who follow basic strategy can reduce the house edge to 0.5 percent or less, making it the closest thing to an even-money game the casino offers. Over the long run, the casino will win because of how the games are structured.

READ: The Downsides of Winning a Powerball Jackpot

“You know what you should do now?” the dealer asked, barely suppressing a smile as he prepared to deliver the punch line. Some want a four-star restaurant and a live musical.

Before you put money into a slot, check the machine’s display to see how much one credit is worth. Never play them. A rule of thumb is that the higher the base denomination, the less the house advantage. A cynical adage holds that casino executives figure that whatever you bring through the door is theirs – you just happen to be holding it for the moment. In some games, all the players on a group, or “bank” of machines might share in a bonus round.  

The house advantage on slots can vary by casino, but typically it’s about 10 percent. The goal is to beat the dealer. They’re generally easy to learn and play.

Blackjack is the most popular card game by far. Dollar machines pay out more than quarter machines, and quarter machines pay out more than nickel machines.

Games with a low house edge include:        

The challenge for bettors is to find a game that they enjoy and that has a house edge they’re comfortable with. “Run! Run for the hills while you’re ahead!”

Blackjack, if you take a few minutes to learn the basic strategy of when to hit or stand.

Video Poker, if you make the effort to look for good pay tables and learn simple guidelines for which cards to keep and throw away.

Baccarat, including the “mini” form found on the main casino form.

Craps, a game that looks more complicated than it actually is.

Many books and Web sites teach basic strategy for blackjack. They want to gamble but they’re not exactly sure what to do.

If you find yourself ahead after a couple of hours of fun, then remember the dealer’s advice for the nervous blackjack player: Run for the hills!

Just bear in mind that you’re there to have fun. The card makes you eligible for offers of discounted or free food, hotel rooms or other amenities based on the amount of your play. Some casinos offer games that pay 6-to-5 for a blackjack. In the short run, anything can happen. The vast majority won’t. Since blackjacks will come at the same rate at each type of game — once in about every 21 hands — playing at 6-to-5 table costs you about $6 an hour.

When you plan a casino trip, figure out how much you’re willing to spend for that night’s entertainment. The number combination generated at the instant you hit the spin button determines what symbols will be displayed and whether you win or lose.. Each number corresponds to a specific symbol on the display. Slot players put their cards into the machine; table game players present their cards to the dealer.

READ: Tips and Tricks for Traveling to Las Vegas

However, that doesn’t mean you should just throw your money away on long shots. Sure, some players will win big. At that game, the player with a blackjack gets paid only $12 for a $10 bet. The answer depends on your own assessment of how much you’re willing to spend for a night at a casino. Her blackjack fling started with a victory.

Slot machines are the easiest and most popular form of casino gambling. That’s not right. Although each credit is worth only one cent, players can wager as much as $3 a spin by playing multiple pay lines and more than one credit per line.

Regardless of what you might hear elsewhere, there is no strategy for winning at a slot machine. With slots, the outcome is determined by a computer program called a random number generator, or RNG. You should be mentally prepared to lose it all.

Casinos offer a variety of games to entice everyone from those dreaming of a life-changing jackpot to people simply enjoying a night out.

Finding yourself amid the thousands of games, dealing with the noise, lights and other casino distractions, and ogling the vast amounts of money and chips can intimidate anyone.

The black-haired woman nervously thumbed through her purse as she took the end seat at the blackjack table. Players have the option of hitting or standing, while the dealer must follow specific rules — generally, he must hit if the total is 16 or less and stand with a total of 17 through 21. If you go out for dinner and a show, you know how much that’s worth to you. A few favorites:,,, and authors Stanford Wong, Henry Tamburin and Arnold Snyder.

Slot machines appeal to people looking for a pressure-free way to pass the time. She pulled out three $20 bills and gingerly placed them on the felt, confessing to the dealer this was her first time playing the game.

READ: 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Paying Off Debt

When you enter any casino for the first time, head to the players club booth and join. You could hit a big jackpot or you could lose your buy-in within a few minutes.

Poker is popular, but it differs from all other games because you play against other gamblers rather than against the house. That can range from a penny to several hundred dollars. Some folks are comfortable eating at a chain restaurant and catching a matinee. Slot players don’t have to worry about making the “right play” or doing something that could affect other gamblers. Some machines let you choose the value of a credit, such as 25 cents, 50 cents, $1 or $2. This was a friendly table, he said, and he or the other players would be happy to help a novice. As a rule of thumb, the easier a game is to play, the higher the house edge.

One of the built-in advantages for a player is that blackjacks traditionally pay 3-to-2, or $15 for a $10 bet. Those include Three Card Poker, Let It Ride Blackjack Switch and Spanish 21. The process is simple: Push a button; win or lose; repeat

Office Gambling Is Unethical

Home | gambling | Office Gambling Is Unethical

It’s quite another to have a shouting match about something that has nothing to do with one’s job.

This is not a call to civil disobedience, however. “The CEO allows or encourages it.” This is, quite frankly, a cop-out. Betting money on sports (or the Oscars, or anything else) falls in the latter category. Even where they are legal and not in violation of company protocol, however, they’re ethically unintelligent, and we shouldn’t participate in them.

Because pool participants risk violating the law, the rules they have agreed to when they accepted their jobs, or both, the games are of questionable value. For any law or policy, we can and should ask: “Is it right? Is it fair? Is it just?”

The office, however, simply isn’t an appropriate place for gambling. If you’re on the job, it’s just as questionable to spend 45 minutes debating the Cartesian mind-body distinction as it is to play your favorite game app for that long. In other words, in some states, office pools are illegal.

Bottom line: The workplace shouldn’t be a joyless Orwellian nightmare. Before doing so, I must emphasize that I am not an attorney, and nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice. Yes, roulette has terrible odds, but I like the quiet atmosphere and the fact that there is absolutely no skill involved.

A slightly different version of this article was published originally on Bloomberg Businessweek Online.

Arguments about ethics are not entirely dependent on what the law, public policy, and corporate rules and regulations happen to be. David Joffe of the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP.

March Madness office pools involving cash are common, exciting, and potentially lucrative. The law is an important first step in deciding what we should do and why we should do it. Others might be concerned that employees will not give their full attention to their work. Most people lose. “Companies are fighting like mad to bring people together, and office pools are a great way to stimulate watercooler conversations,” said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger Gray & Christmas, to The Business Review in Albany, N.Y., in 2002. Whatever the objections are, they deserve to be taken seriously.

1. One would like to believe that laws, regulations, and policies are always based on what is right, but we know that too often they are shaped by special interests, outdated beliefs, or pure and simple prejudice. A third group may simply view gambling on the job as unseemly. In the right social setting, gambling is a fun way to spend some time and, one hopes, not too much money (provided one does not have an addiction to gambling). When I’m in Las Vegas — to give talks on, of all things, ethics — I usually make time for the roulette tables. But there are lots of stimulating things to talk about that just don’t belong at work.

My argument that it is wrong to participate in office pools is not based on the ethics of gambling as such. What’s the harm in that? Even if there happens to be no legal or policy issues at stake, the harm has to do with how stakeholders would view the business if on-the-job gambling activities were revealed. Whether either activity is your cup of tea is up to you; what isn’t up for grabs is the propriety of doing either at work for a significant amount of time.

Order my books Ethical Intelligence and Is It Still Cheating If I Don’t Get Caught? from your favorite independent bookseller or here.

Book me to speak at your next event here.

. “Office pools build morale and camaraderie.” Next to the thrill of winning, this is the most popular justification for office pools. But they can violate corporate policies and the law.

Watch an excerpt from my keynote speech on ethical intelligence here.

When examining the propriety of office pools, it is thus important to look at the relevant law. But this isn’t the main reason we shouldn’t place bets at work.

But before you conclude that office pools have few legal consequences, consider this: Some employees, including those at the management level, have been fired (and in at least one case, arrested) for participating in these games, on the grounds the practice was either illegal or in violation of company policy.

But what about the folks who just place their bets and get back to work–what’s the problem there? Let’s look at some frequently marshaled defenses of office pools and why these claims are mistaken.

3. Yes, it is true that these laws are rarely enforced, and yes, it makes sense for police to investigate homicides, bank robberies, sexual assaults, and other serious crimes before they pursue rumors that employees in the local coffee shop are betting on the Louisville Cardinals over the Kansas Jayhawks.

The High Cost of Low Living

Besides, winning a sporting event is extremely important to some of us, and arguments about sports can out of hand. Things that interfere with doing our jobs well should be done before or after work. For all of the problems in the legal system, it is hard to imagine that a civilized society could survive for long without laws and the serious consequences of failing to honor them.

If even a small percentage of customers, board members, and shareholders is likely to be troubled by the practice of on-site betting, that alone is sufficient cause for concern. After all, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron thought it was perfectly fine to play with employee pension funds as if they were Monopoly money, but no one today is saying that their leadership roles made what they did O.K. Based on my research, however, I’ve discovered the legality of office pools in which employees bet cash on professional or college sports teams varies from state to state. For example, we are legally required to file a federal tax return each year, so anyone who wishes to be a citizen in good standing (or at least not to become a member of the prison population) wisely chooses to pay his or her taxes. An action can be legal but wrong, or it can be illegal but ethically required. Some of the best moments in our lives occur at work with close colleagues. “If the stakes are high, the result of the pool could create disharmony in the workplace, and the problems could escalate,” says employment law expert B. “It’s harmless fun.” At the beginning of March Madness, you kick in a few dollars, then follow your team over the coming weeks and months. The fact that the head of an organization sanctions a practice says little or nothing about whether the practice is justifiable or not. A few win. It’s called a workplace for a reason: It’s the place where we’re supposed to work. When David Frost asked former President Richard Nixon in 1977 if it is acceptable for a President to do something illegal, Nixon replied, “Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Nixon was mistaken, and so is any corporate leader who believes that “if I say it’s all right, then it must be all right.”

The issue isn’t whether a particular activity is high- or lowbrow. The same goes for talking politics at work , having sex, drinking single malt whisky, surfing the Web for bargains, or yakking with friends on our smartphones.

2. Some stakeholders may have religious objections to it. But it’s ethically intelligent to draw the line between fun that’s appropriate in the workplace and good times that are better had elsewhere. It’s one thing to have a heated discussion about a project on which you and a colleague are working

How to Fix a Game

Home | gambling | How to Fix a Game

So in my calculations, on a random given night, I’d say about $50 million. If not, you can do it [albeit illegally] with your corner-store bookie at just about any bar in any sports city in America. They’ve always been under question for getting teams to shave points. Let’s say he wants a final score where both teams tally more than 205 points and he needs 59 points in the fourth quarter to make that happen. If he has fixed the total and has a number he’s thinking of, he can get the team in the bonus earlier in the quarter. The man who gives wagering advice on his Web site,, is the self-proclaimed “most honest man in the business.” Describe for me the average individual who bets on an NBA game?

BL: I think it will have a solid impact on people betting the NBA. If the final margin is six points, then I’ll win both. Brandon, explain what types of bets can be made on the NBA.

BL: Totally with the fouls he calls. This is just the first guy to get caught.

BL: You see a lot of calls in the NBA, “Hey — he didn’t even touch him.” But he’s [under suspicion] because they will go back and watch every game he officiated, know the spread, know the totals, they’ll watch the fourth quarter and they’ll know exactly what games he [allegedly] fixed. Now he’s going to be dropping dimes on them. What are the various ways that a bettor can place his bets? So what do you think, given your experience, might have happened with Tim Donaghy?

BL: Most of the time, when you bet with a bookie, you can bet on credit. If someone gets injured or doesn’t show up or is having a terrible night or whatever, you can’t do it. You can bet whether it’s going to be a high-scoring or low-scoring game with the over/under. One hundred percent, no questions asked, they’ll know exactly.

He never has lost a Super Bowl in his career, going 15-0-2. Because the guys in the key positions who could get something done, your quarterbacks and running backs, are making millions and aren’t going to risk it all to help some friend make $100,000. That’s pretty much it. What role does a bookie play in placing bets? What sort of an effect do you think this scandal will have on NBA wagering and sports wagering as a whole?

BL: If he has action on the game and wants something in particular to happen, I’d say 75 percent. An official, though, could do it. Or you can do it offshore with offshore sports books. That’s where you’d be able to tell. Wagering on the NBA has already been dropping because of the intensity of play. And you don’t want your money on that. You can bet the first-half and second-half winner or loser. But that number has been declining.

BL: If you’re in the state of Nevada, you can do it 100 percent legal at any sports book. I don’t get it. And it was a mob bookie that supposedly turned him in. He was their meal ticket. There are a lot of individual prop bets, but normally those are only in the playoffs or for major regular-season televised games.. He has his own line, his own money. To get into the various intricacies, most players want to have multiple bookies because lines can vary. He couldn’t take that chance. Different bookies will have different lines. This will only have even a greater impact and keep people away from betting the NBA.

BL: He’s basically the sports book. What you have to understand is that gambling is always designed to keep people watching.

BL: In our country, so that’s just Vegas and the bookmakers … That was the worst thing they ever could have done. I guarantee you there are. It’s going to come out.

And it’s going to be fascinating to see how this all plays out because [if the allegations are true, it’s my opinion that] he’s going to cut a deal and rat on everybody. You can bet the first, second, third or fourth quarter. If he puts both teams in the penalty with 8:00 to go and every foul is a free throw, it’s not too hard to have a 60-point quarter.

Brandon Lang: You can bet on who’s going to win, by how many points. I’m telling you — it would have to be the total, not the winners or losers. I don’t believe that’s ever been done in the NBA.

BL: The mob has had its hands in fixing and shaving games going back to the late ’40s. I think, without question, there are more officials out there who have shaved points. You needed the NBA to connect Monday Night Football to the following Saturday’s games. I have to wire that offshore sports book $1,000 so I have $1,000 in my account to play with. That’s legally and illegally. The fact that they finally got to an official — well, at least an official who got caught — isn’t surprising. He runs his own book. A random December night in the United States of America. There was a time, in the winter, when the NBA and NHL were the only real betting options between football games each week. If I have a guy in New York who has the Knicks as a 6.5 point favorite against the Nuggets and I have another guy in Florida who has the Knicks at 5.5, I’m going to take my bookie in New York and take Denver and then take New York with the bookie in Florida and lay the 5.5 points. With your bookie, you typically settle up once a week. Because really, college and pro football — that’s what people live for. But manipulating the total you can control from the very tip. With NBA referee Tim Donaghy under investigation for allegedly betting on NBA games the past two seasons — including games he officiated — senior writer Wayne Drehs asked Lang to explain how sports gambling works in America and how Donaghy and his bookies might have been able to take advantage.] Given your expertise in watching and wagering on games, what influence does a referee or official have in the gambling outcome?

BL: They’re college students, middle-aged businessmen — they’re the people who crave action every single night. And that’s when people get in trouble. If you need an over, a referee can dictate a high- or low-scoring game just by how he’s calling it. When you bet offshore, you have to post up that money. In the NFL, there’s a task force that on Monday reviews every critical call that came anywhere near the point spread. Whatever risk they had with him, turning him in was a bad move. Then you start getting behind, you start chasing and the next thing you know you just lost $7,000 and you don’t have it. As soon as I double my money, I can ask them to send $1,000 back or all $2,000, whatever. We never used to have a MAC game on Tuesday night followed by a Conference USA game on Wednesday, an SEC game on Thursday and an ACC contest on Friday. In Vegas and offshore, you have to post your money before you gamble with it. On a December night in the regular season, how much money would you guess is bet on the NBA — legally and illegally — in our country? What sort of precedent is there for scandals like this in the betting world? And does this surprise you?

[Editor’s note: Brandon Lang, whose life story was immortalized by Matthew McConaughey in the 2005 film, “Two for the Money,” considers himself the best big-game handicapper in the country. It’s credit —

usually somebody vouches for you, they’ll give you a $5,000 line or something like that. I’ve been asked for years if games could be fixed. And I always told people not by players. So explain then, how a referee could control the outcome of a game so that he or associates of his could win a bet? How does placing a legal bet in Las Vegas differ from placing a bet offshore or with the bar bookie you refer to?

They just have to look at the fourth quarter. You can bet over/under on rebounds for a guy like Tim Duncan. Listen, this is just the first guy to get caught. You can’t dictate a side, especially in the NBA. On some nights, these guys just don’t seem to care. They turned him in, now he’s going to give them all the evidence, spill everything and then go in the witness protection program. And why bet two or three NBA games where guys don’t always seem to show up every night when you have a college football game on Tuesday where you know the players are going to give maximum energy and effort?

If it’s a televised game or the playoffs, you can bet the over/under on total points for a player, say whether or not LeBron James is going to score 30. you figure on any given night, you have an average of eight games