My gambling strategy: Have fun, be smart
August 20, 2013 3:00 AM
by Marc Meltzer
I’m concerned with one of two things when I walk into a casino – having fun and playing smart. Through my many visits to casinos I think I’m at a place where I can do both on most trips.
The casino and I have an understanding. When I walk into the casino I know they have the advantage in just about every game I’m going to play.
I’ve tried to learn the correct strategy to gain a few percentage points here and there but that’s about all I’m going to get. I may even have a small advantage of 1%-2% playing certain blackjack and video poker games.
I always want to win when we’re in the casino but never at the cost of having a good time. As much as there’s a difference in value playing 6:5 blackjack versus 3:2 blackjack there’s a value in enjoying myself with friends vs. having a second job counting cards.
Sometimes fun is worth giving up 2% of a $200 buy-in at blackjack. In the short term that’s $4 for every $200 I’m playing. Over time it adds up but I manage my gambling bankroll effectively so I’m okay giving up this money sometimes. Some people aren’t. My time has a value in everything I do, including when I’m in a casino.
When I look at the big picture of money management and deciding what games to play in the casino I think it’s important to know the house advantage the casino has before choosing a game. Let’s take a look at the approximate house advantage for the games I play in the casino for comparison.
3 Card Poker – 5.32%; Blackjack (3:2) – .66%; Blackjack (6:5) – 2.01%; Craps – 1.41%; Mississippi Stud Poker – 4.91%; Pai Gow Poker – 1.20%; Video Poker: Jacks or Better – 9/6 = .46%, 8/6 = 1.61%, 7/6 = 2.76%; Video Poker: Bonus Poker – 8/5 = .83%, 7/5 = 1.98%, 6/5 = 3.13%
All of the house advantages above are based on playing with correct strategy. Some games like blackjack have multiple variables so the house advantages are an approximation. I usually play with optimal strategy but when I’m with company there’s no guaranteeing the strategy is perfect. In fact, it probably won’t be perfect.
If possible I’ll stick to with better odds at craps, 3:2 blackjack and the better video poker games, but this isn’t always possible. If friends are in Las Vegas visiting me it’s very likely I’ll end up playing somewhere with 6:5 blackjack and 6/5 bonus poker. They want to gamble and don’t care so much about the odds. I want to hang with my friends, and adjust my bankroll accordingly.
If I end up at a casino with better odds my bankroll will increase as I feel comfortable. I’m not a high roller so the difference can be as simple as changing from a $5 or $10 bet to a $15 or $25 bet in blackjack or from quarters to dollars in video poker.
A $4 loss for every $100 played won’t change my life/trip/weekend/vacation. At some point it all adds up but I can’t let the next 30 years of gambling affect my fun today.
I do my homework so I know what I’m in for at every casino before I walk in. Like GI Joe said, knowing is half the battle.
Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at www.AC2LV.com Contact Marc at MarcMeltzer@GamingToday.com.