Netfalls Remy Musser/shutterstockGambling can be fun, but it's designed to part you from your hard-earned cash. If you find yourself in Vegas and would rather not donate to the local casinos, check out these must-see Las Vegas attractions that have nothing to do with gambling. Still going to hit the tables? Try Blackjack, or Twenty-One. The exact origins of this game are as mysterious as the hand you get dealt at a table. The game is thought to date back to similar French or Spanish card games of the 1700s, but the name Blackjack didn't debut until the game made its way to Nevada in 1931. Since then its popularity has only grown to include various versions and live online games. That's not surprising when you consider that according to Blackjackapprenticeship.com, it's the only casino game that is beatable. If you know how to count cards that is—and can do it without getting caught.
The thing is counting cards isn't illegal per se (unless you are using a phone or some other device) but casinos are really sore losers. Even Hollywood stars aren't immune. According to the NY Daily News and Details magazine the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas asked Ben Affleck to leave for that very reason. "I took some time to learn the game and became a decent blackjack player," said Affleck. "And once I became decent, the casinos asked me not to play blackjack. I mean, the fact that being good at the game is against the rules at the casinos should tell you something about casinos."
If counting cards (and getting thrown out of casinos) is not your thing, Blackjack still gives you an edge over other casino games because you can strategize to win. But not all Blackjack games are created equal. According to Fox News, Sal Piacente who trains casino staff warned about games like Double Exposure Blackjack where you can't double down, so if you tie with the dealer without 21, the dealer wins. "That's over a 9 percent house advantage," Sal said. "The dealer should be wearing a [robber's] mask when he deals that game!"
Andrey Popov/shutterstockWhile casinos scrutinize players in every other area of the casino, poker players get more leeway because casinos don't have as much money at stake. That's because players are betting their own bucks and the house gets a cut no matter who wins. So casino employees can relax—the poker players tend to police themselves. While it's helpful to know how a con artist may try to win your trust, it's pretty tough to scam a savvy poker player. What's more, they are the experts when it comes to "tells"—they excel at reading people and their actions because it's a key strategy to the game. If you've mastered a poker face and you've got the cash to ante up at the table, you might have greater success at poker than playing other games on the casino floor. On the other hand, if you think Texas Hold 'Em and Omaha are, say, names of convenience stores, you might be wise to avoid the poker tables until you're no longer a novice to the game. Start increasing your knowledge with this guide to 7-Card Stud strategy.
Berni/shutterstockThe quickest way to empty your pockets is playing slots. Losing money is never fun and it's even less so when you skipped the magic show just to watch your money disappear into a machine. According to Wizardofodds.com, the easier the game, the worse the odds to win. Whether you're pressing a button or pulling a lever, figuring out how to play the slots is fairly simple and that does not bode well for your pocket book. Between the high house edge and fast rate of play, there is no faster way to lose your money. If graduating from the slot machines to more complicated table games is not something you're willing to do, Michael Bluejay of Vegasclick.com recommends video poker as a good alternative if you're willing to learn the proper strategy.
Derk Boss, a licensed Nevada private investigator and casino security surveillance expert agrees. "That's a game where there are strategies you can study," he told Fox News. "It doesn't guarantee you're going to win, but it gives you a much better chance. It's going to reduce the house advantage and put things a little bit more in your favor."
Matt Apps/shutterstockAccording to Vegasclick.com's Average Loss Calculator, over a 10-hour period betting $5 a round, you'll lose about $30 playing craps. On a $1.50 a pull slot machine, you'll lose upward of $630 over the same amount of time. And Craps is far more exciting than pulling a handle all by your lonesome. But it's one big party at the craps table—you can easily spot them by looking for the area where a crowd is hooting, hollering, and clapping. Beware though, the energy and excitement can be contagious and you might end up betting more than you anticipated just to stay at the table. According to New 5 Cleveland, craps offers the second best odds on the floor, with a nearly 50-50 chance of your taking home some dough.
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welcomia/shutterstockStay far away from the large progressive slots with multi-millions dollar jackpots, such as Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks.
"The casino's take on those machines is much higher," says Bluejay of Vegasclick.com. "You're looking at losing an average of $500 an hour on Megabucks. If you want to play a game like Megabucks, you need to either be comfortable losing that kind of money, or else limit your play."
Each time someone tries their luck at one of these machines the jackpot increases. That's true whether the machine is part of a network of slots or a one-off machine with its own progressive jackpot. Just remember that the only way the machines can accumulate those huge jackpots is to rarely pay out. You have the chance to win big, but odds are that you're going to lose your money and lose it much faster than at a table game or even at a regular slot machine.
Penny slots & having fun
Supachai Katiyasurin/shutterstockBut what if you want to gamble and you're apprehensive about playing at a table? What slot machine is your best bet for having fun without going broke?
"Asking what slot is best to play is like asking what knife is best to stab yourself with," says Michael Bluejay of Vegasclick.com. "It's the wrong question. A better question is, what games give me the best chance of winning, or what games take my money the slowest so I can play longer? The answer will never be slots."
The one exception Bluejay told us about is penny slots. "If you're playing a penny at a time—which my wife and I actually do—we can afford to lose more." Bluejay says he's also partial to the old three-reel electromechanical machines, because they were his first introduction to slots decades ago, and because they're simple. "Also they still have slightly better odds than their video counterparts."
But in the end, Bluejay enjoys playing whatever his wife's playing. "We play together and the enjoyment for me isn't the slot itself as much as it is seeing her happy."
Airports, cruise ships and resorts
cloki/shutterstockAccording to Wizard of Odds slot survey, the worst slot odds are at the airport. Being confined to a cruise ship isn't much better due to the lack of competition. "The places with the most competition have the best odds, which is why Vegas, with its nearly 100 casinos, offers better odds than anywhere else. Though again 'better' is a relative term: It's like being in school and bragging about having the highest score among all the failing grades," says Bluejay. Even with the best odds in the country in Vegas, you're still going to lose a lot of money. Check out these six things casinos don't want you to know about your odds.