Gambling in Las Vegas

At some point in every American's life, they will hear the term "lost wages" jokingly used in reference to the city of Las Vegas.
It's even used as the background vocal to an old Steely Dan song, "Show Biz Kids":

"You go to Lost Wages,
Lost Wages,
go to Lost Wages"

There's truth to that label. If you're not a professional gambler (someone who earns a living at gaming) but you know basic blackjack strategy, the rules of craps (dice) and optimal video poker play, there's a slightly better than 50% chance you will lose money at gambling in Las Vegas (meaning, you're more likely to LOSE than to win or break even.) If you don't know these strategies, then your chance of losing money increases to anywhere from 75% to 90%. This group of people who are most likely to lose, comprise the majority of visitors to Las Vegas.

These figures are not scientific statistics but my personal opinion based on many visits to Las Vegas, and the following facts:

1) EVERY casino game is designed to have a house advantage.

This is absolutely, undisputedly 100% true. If casino games gave you a 50/50 chance of winning, casinos would not be able to stay in business. Every business has to have a positive cash flow. Look at all the employees working in a casino. Who's paying them? The gambler. Look at all the free drinks being delivered by the cocktail waitresses. Imagine the electric bill for those hundreds of slot machines and video poker machines; and the cost of cooling a 50 million cubic foot area in a city where it's over 90 degrees about half the year. Casino games have to generate revenue, or the casino goes out of business. Additionally, the law allows casinos to have a definite advantage. For example, do you think betting on "red" or "black" at roulette is a 50/50 proposition? It isn't. Roulette wheels all have one or two GREEN slots (0 and 00) as well as red and black. The green slots tilt the advantage to the casino. Even if people stopped betting on the numbers, and just bet on red or black; the casino would come out ahead. The only time a player can have the advantage over the house is under optimal conditions while counting cards at blackjack (when the decks are "rich" with face cards). Oh, but casinos ban known card counters! So, they nearly always have the advantage, with every player. Unknown card counters, and cheaters, are the only exceptions to this rule. While card counting is legal and the only risk involved is being banned from the casino, cheats get lengthy prison sentences.

2) The typical Las Vegas tourist has no clue how to win money.

What evidence is there of this statement? Just walk through any casino. You'll notice that the most prevalent game in every casino is the SLOT MACHINE. And, they're the most popular. And, they are the one game you're LEAST LIKELY to win; except for a few ridiculous novelty games that offer absurdly lower odds like the Wheel of Fortune (the big wheel with $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills glued to it), Casino War (the "War" card game kids play), and the mechanical "sweeper" machines you drop quarters into; which are more like carnival games than casino gaming. The Nevada Gaming Commission strictly regulates all casino games, and specifies the minimum payout level for each game. Slots, video poker, and other electronic games have a computer inside which is set to pay back an exact percentage of the money taken in. All but a few machines are set to pay back LESS THAN 100% of the money taken in; which guarantees the casino's profits. The exceptions are a few casinos which may advertise something like "100% payback" or "103% payback" on a row of slot machines; but even the small print on that ad will tell you that only ONE or more of the machines in that row are set to pay back that much. There are tens of thousands of slot machines in Las Vegas, and maybe 100 (probably less) are set to pay back 100% or more. And, you'll most likely lose anyway. How? 100% payback does not mean you will win back 100% of the money you play. What it means is, if 1,000 people each lose $10, player #1001 might win $10,000. Or 2,000 people each lose $10 and player #2001 wins $20,000. So while 100% payback sounds like a fair deal, it really isn't, since the 100% payback is only guaranteed over the long run, which might be years. There is no game that pays out 100% PER PLAYER. (Unless you "play" the change machine.)

The fact that slot machines are one of the least likely games to pay out, while at the same time being the most popular, proves that most tourists are not knowledgeable about gambling. Or perhaps they're just playing for fun, and don't care about winning. Which is fine! Just don't play slots a lot if you're trying to profit from your play.

3) The average Las Vegas tourist plays casino games while under the influence of alcohol.

This is probably why casinos give gamblers FREE DRINKS. It's the primary rule of every professional gambler to NEVER play while intoxicated. Because it impairs your judgment and helps you lose. If you've ever gambled while you're drunk, you know this. You get bolder with your wagers and care less about losing.

Winning for Dummies slot machines

4) The typical Las Vegas tourist believes in "luck".

People overall are very superstitious. You'll notice most tall buildings don't label their 13th floor as the 13th floor. They skip from 12 to 14. That's how superstitious we are. The truth is, it's absurd to believe that a certain number is "luckier" or "more evil" than any other number. When you throw the dice across the table, they don't know whether or not you're wearing your lucky hat. They're inanimate objects, same as the slot machines and decks of cards. There is honestly no way a human can magically interact with these objects in such a manner as to increase their luck. Kissing the dice or saying a "magic word" doesn't work. Did someone tell you something like "Every time I wear my red socks, I win $100 in the casino. Every time." ?? It isn't true. People like to spout surprising nonsense like that. It makes them feel all mystical and "special", like those fake psychics and televangelists. Don't let them fool you. You might win 7 or 8 times in a row wearing red socks, but it ISN'T BECAUSE you're wearing red socks. And, eventually, you will lose while wearing red socks. There is no lucky charm or magic bracelet. Casinos make money on this idea. A person wins $1,000 slot jackpot while wearing a certain hat. So they go back to Las Vegas over and over again, with their lucky hat, losing more money than they would have if they'd never had the lucky hat.
Security apparel
Low priced Security staff apparel

Wheel of Fortune slot machines

5) Gambling scams are prevalent.

Some people have earned good incomes selling books or "systems" about how to beat the slots, how to pick winning lottery numbers, how to win at roulette, sports wagering, etc. The contradiction at work here is that if they were winning so much money at gambling, WHY WOULD THEY SELL A BOOK ABOUT IT? It's a contradiction. Don't buy into it. You'll just be another sucker contributing $19.95. The main casino games you have a realistic chance at beating are video poker, blackjack, and craps; and this is done by learning the games and following the mathematically correct strategies. Roulette and slot machines are sucker games, and as such, are the subject of many sucker books. Any book that claims to teach you how to win at slots or roulette is simply full of misleading information. Anyone who really figured out a way to beat these games certainly would not tell anyone about it; as doing so would "kill the goose."

There ARE legitimate books about gambling you should read. Known professional gamblers who make a regular income at gambling and write about blackjack strategies or how to play poker aren't scamming you. The scammers are people no one has ever heard of, or people who describe the impossible. (Beating slots, roulette, and most other casino games with a system is impossible.)


#1. Do not go to Las Vegas expecting to or even hoping to win money. This could ruin your vacation. You should view your "gambling money" the same way you view your "airfare", "hotel cost", "food money", "gas money", and "entertainment money." Once it's spent, it's gone. Don't break out the VISA and cash advance yourself $500 at 8% interest (plus a hefty fee) to chase your lost $500, because you'll only end up $1,000 in the hole. And the hole will keep getting deeper and deeper the longer you chase your losses. Sure, there is a CHANCE that you could win back your money, and more. But it's very unlikely. In addition to not gambling while intoxicated, another primary rule of professional gamblers is "never play with scared money." Which means, you don't gamble money that you can't afford to lose.

#2. If you want a greater chance of winning, just play three games: BLACKJACK, VIDEO POKER, and CRAPS and more importantly, take the time to LEARN THE CORRECT STRATEGIES for these games. If you have 12 and the dealer is showing a 6 at the blackjack table, do you take a hit? No. It would be mathematically incorrect to do so, since the most likely outcome is a dealer bust (going over 21.) At video poker, if you have AH AC AS KS QS, do you keep the three aces and draw for four of a kind, or do you keep the suited A-K-Q and draw for the royal flush? That depends on the machine you're playing. If it's an "Aces Bonus" game you go for the four aces. If it's a straight "Jacks or Better" game you go for the royal flush. A "Deuces Wild" game? I don't know!

Most of us can benefit from educating ourselves about mathematically correct gaming strategies.

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