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Introduction
from the Unofficial Guide to Casino Gambling
by Basil Nestor

Las Vegas generates more than $6 billion a year in gambling revenue. Atlantic City earns nearly $3 billion. Thatís gambling only. Income from hotels, restaurants and peripheral business is not included in those totals. The gambling industry in the U.S. earns more than $50 billion every year. Gambling commerce is measured in hundreds of billions.

And it all starts with your $5 blackjack wager.

We certainly donít want to damage the national economy or depress the stock market, but we think it would be nice for you to win the bet. Thatís why we wrote this book. Glance through the pages and youíll see that we designed it with you in mind. This is essential information, whatever your level of gambling expertise. The guide covers all the major casino contests and most of the minor ones. Itís more than just rules; you get proven strategies for winning and limiting loss, and we also show you how to calculate the cost of your gambling entertainment. Thatís always the bottom line. How much will the entertainment cost?

Along the way, we debunk many of the superstitions, misconceptions and downright strange notions surrounding gambling. You may be surprised how tough it is to jettison those old ideas. Gambling and its lore reach farther into our lives than most of us realize.

Thomas Jefferson gambled and so did Harry Truman. Richard Nixon financed his first political campaign with poker winnings. Julius Caesar used a gambling metaphor ("the die is cast") before crossing the Rubicon and changing the history of the world. Our language is filled with gambling terms. Among them are ubiquitous phrases like pressing your luck, odds on favorite, smart money, sure thing, going bust, sweeten the deal, fold under pressure, passing the buck, and the (eternally poetic) luck of the draw.

Gambling is part of our legends, past and present. Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Steve Wynn and Donald Trump are just a few of the personalities wrapped up in the story of American gambling.

Everyone has a gambling anecdote. Jokes about gambling filter into every corner of our culture. "This guy walks into a bar with a horse and a pack of cards..."

Gambling is (and always has been) all around us. And yet casinos were illegal everywhere in the U.S. except Nevada for most of the 20th century. That created an odd cultural contrast. Everyone knew about gambling, but few people actually did it. The average American played poker with friends and gambled in a casino once or twice in a lifetime. People learned about the games from watching movies.

Then came Atlantic City, riverboats, Native-American casinos, the Internet and now gambling seems to be everywhere, not just conceptually but physically. Most Americans have visited a casino at least once. More than 60% of the adults in the U.S. gamble in some way at least once a year.

Everyone is doing it. Unfortunately, most donít know what theyíre doing. Itís not the playersí fault. The public hasnít been allowed much practice for nearly a century. And of course casinos are happy to explain the rules, but theyíre less eager to explain odds and strategies. In some cases the casinos donít even know the optimal strategies. Why should they?

Gamblers are on their own and it shows.

Most casino games are designed to keep between 1% and 10% of a playerís money. Yet players usually lose 20% or more of every dollar they take into a casino.

Much of the loss can be attributed to the practice of repeatedly risking the same money (pressing bets), but some of it is simply the result of playing badly. Itís amazing, but millions of players lose billions of dollars every year because they make mistakes. They use faulty strategies and flawed systems. They throw away the wrong cards, hit when they should stand, call when they should fold, bet when they should walk away, and otherwise stack the odds to their disfavor.

People could win more (or lose less), but they donít. This bizarre phenomenon is reflected in the latest generation of video poker games that have a certified player advantage. Casinos actually promote these games. Guess what? Players still lose!

Itís obvious that some people donít even try. Theyíve been thoroughly conditioned to believe that players should never win. When they do itís considered a freak aberration, a stroke of rare luck. Hey, thatís gambling right?

No, thatís losing. Gambling is a series of contests. It starts when you pick odds that are favorable (or at least not too unfavorable). The house has an advantage. Sometimes you win. More times they win. Strategy plays a role. This is true to varying degrees for all casino contests, even slot machines.

Of course, there is no amount of expertise or information that can make anyone a guaranteed winner. That wouldnít be gambling, and it wouldnít be fun. Guaranteed money comes from having a job, managing investments or being a wealthy scion. Thatís work. Gambling is entertainment. We pay for entertainment.

The standard and correct advice (usually offered by a sagely elder) is that we should "be prepared to lose it all." Yes, but we shouldnít be too willing. Letís play the games well, lose less, win more, and receive more entertainment for each dollar spent.

This book will help you do that. Sections are organized so that you can go directly to your favorite game or quickly find an answer to a question. Chapters can be read in any order, but we encourage you to start with Part One. The information there about budgeting, calculating costs, and analyzing probabilities applies to every contest covered in the book.

Do you like slots? Machine games are covered in Part Two. We tell you how to find loose slots and how to avoid the tightest ones. Chapters 4 busts machine game myths and gives you winning strategies for video poker. Yes there are machines that pay back more than you put in, but youíve got to play them the right way.

Part Three is about table games. We cover the classics including blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and poker, but youíll also find an entire chapter on newer games like Caribbean Stud Poker, Let It Ride, and pai gow poker. Chapter 7 explains what experienced gamblers call the "best bet in the casino." Itís true. The bet has no house advantage.

When the casino hubbub gets to be too much then youíll want to read Part Four. Itís about waiting games. Keno and sports betting can be inexpensive and entertaining, or they can be the equivalent of attaching your wallet to a vacuum cleaner. It depends on how you play. Weíll explain the strategies and give you tips for avoiding that sucking feeling.

Part Five is about casinos and how they operate. What is a pit boss? What is a marker? We also cover subjects like comps and handling money. Do you want free tickets to see Siegfried & Roy? Read Chapter 14.

The guide also has special sections about gambling on riverboats, cruise ships, Native American casinos and the Internet. These venues are not clones of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. They operate under different rules that could affect your game. Weíll tell you what to expect. The Internet information is particularly important. Donít play online before you read it.

Lastly, youíll want a calculator and a deck of playing cards handy. We do the heavy math, but youíll find it enlightening to occasionally crunch some of these numbers yourself. The playing cards are an excellent tool for demonstrating how the crunched numbers and the real world always agree. The congruity is sometime scary.

Remember, clutching a lucky rabbitís foot is fine, but using a good strategy is a better way to win.

Have a good time!

Basil Nestor
The Unofficial Guide to Casino Gambling
at SmarterBet.com

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