Three Keys to Avoiding the Pitfalls of Vegas Casino Games

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.

Blackjack table

Blackjack is one of the best casino games to play, from an odds perspective. (Image:

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.

Written by
Johnny Kampis
Johnny Kampis -- the author of "The Essential Guide to Vegas during the World Series of Poker" and "Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros" -- has been making the summer trek to Las Vegas from Alabama since 2004. When not playing poker, he's a professional journalist who's written for American Spectator, Fox News, HuffPost,, and many others. He currently writes for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and serves on the FCC's media advisory panel.


alan langley wrote...

i know how to double your money ,fold it twice and put it in your wallet and walk away. )

Polytarp wrote...

I didn’t know what to expect when reading this article but was pleasantly surprised. It’s good!
Perhaps an extension to this article by the same author is possible?
Though dated, “The 10 Best Casino Bets” by Henry Tamburin is something to be aware of.

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