I’m going on my first trip to a casino in the next couple of weeks. I am not much of a gambler but I want to have fun. I’ve decided to gamble only $500 for the weekend. What games would you suggest to a guy who just wants to have fun, but at the same time doesn’t want to just hand his money over to the casino? One game I am interested in is craps. Could you give me some advice on which bets to make on the game and not lose my entire bankroll in 15 minutes? Any other games I should consider would also be appreciated. Frank P.

Let’s start with craps, Frank. First off, no need to be intimidated – you need to know how to play only two wagers: a Pass Line bet or Placing the 6 or 8. Both of these wagers have a low house advantage of less than 1.5%, making them arguably the best bets in the casino. If you have any questions on how to make a pass line bet, or placing the 6 or 8, ask your friendly dealer (preferably during the first two hours of his shift) how to make these wagers.


Likewise, stay away from those center-of-the-layout proposition bets (hardways, field bets, one number rolls, etc.). The dealer who is barking their performance is just inducing play on wagers that are all “house bets,” carrying a casino advantage as high as 16%. But craps, Frank, is not the only game with decent wagers the casino provides.


Here are a few other first-timer recommendations:


Slots: Yes, Frank, you’re reading it right, SLOTS. But only “liberal” slot machines, i.e. those in casinos that advertise a higher payback percentage – like a 98.5% return – on selected machines. Be forewarned, these high payback slots are usually only found where casino competition is fierce. And then there’s this: when you do find a casino advertising liberal paybacks, find out which machines those are. Just ask, they’ll tell.

Video Poker: There is no such thing as a bad video poker machine, only lousy pay tables. Here is another opportunity where playing perfect basic strategy on a machine with a decent pay schedule can reduce the house advantage to well under one percent. Look for a 9/6 (nine for a full house, six for a flush) non-progressive machine or an 8/5 machine with a progressive meter attached that reads at least $440 on a nickel, $2,200 on a quarter and $8,800 on a dollar. If you cannot find the above and decide to play anyhow, stick with video poker. Even poor play on a video poker machine will have a better payback than can be had on most “reel” slot machines.

Mini-Baccarat: Mini-Baccarat, or Sbobet baccarat for that matter, is one of the easiest casino games to play (you do not even have to know the rules because correct hitting is predetermined), and the stakes are relatively low on a mini-baccarat table. The house advantage is either 1.17% when betting the bank hand or 1.36% with a player hand wager. Skip the tie bet: Why? House advantage 14%.

Blackjack: If you are going to take a shot at blackjack, visit the gift shop and purchase a blackjack basic strategy card. Basic strategy is how you play your hand against the dealer’s “up card.” Playing correctly with a strategy card will bring the house advantage down to less than one percent.

Thunderstruck, Frank? Need a little help digging out from this overload of information? Allow me to arm you, or any other reader who wants one, with a FREE, yep you’re reading it right, FREE Casino Pocket laminated WIN Card that lists not only all the “Best Bets” in a casino, but a roll call of money management techniques that let you hold on to your winnings. Just drop me a note enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to:

Mark Pilarski

ATTN: Best Bets

P.O. Box 1234

Traverse City, MI 49685.

Hey, folks, better do it before the postal rates goes up; every nickel counts – maybe as much as $440.


Gambling thought of the week: “Despite what many paranoid counters think, floor personnel do not spend all their time trying to ferret out counters.” Barry Meadow (Blackjack Autumn)