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The Casino Games to Play If You Don’t Want to Lose All Your Money

Any casino game could take your money if you're not careful, but these are the games with the best odds—and the ones that will suck your wallet dry.

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Good odds: Blackjack

Gambling can be fun, but it’s designed to part you from your hard-earned cash. If you’re going to hit the tables, stick with blackjack, aka twenty-one. The exact origins of this game are as mysterious as the hand you get dealt at a table. The game’s popularity has grown to include various versions and live online games, which isn’t surprising when you consider that according to blackjackapprenticeship.com, it’s the only beatable casino game—if you know how to count cards without getting caught. Counting cards isn’t illegal per se (unless you are using a phone or some other device), but casinos are really sore losers and might ask you to stop playing if you get too good. If counting cards (or 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, warns about games in which you can’t double down, like Double Exposure Blackjack. If you tie with the dealer without 21, the dealer wins. “That’s over a 9 percent house advantage,” Sal says. “The dealer should be wearing a [robber’s] mask when he deals that game!” Learn which other sneaky “money-saving deals” are actually scams.

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Good odds: Poker

While 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 around the table. What’s more, dealers 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 casino games. 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 while you’re still a novice to the game, because the competition can be tough. 

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Good odds: Video poker

The 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, which does not bode well for your pocketbook, and the quick rate between each play means your wallet empties fast. If you don’t want to deal with complicated table games, 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 tells 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.” Of course, your best bet is to skip the casino games and head to these 10 must-see Las Vegas attractions that don’t involve gambling.

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Good odds: Craps

According to Vegasclick.com’s Average Loss Calculator, over a ten-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. Plus, craps is far more exciting than pulling a handle all by your lonesome. 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 taking home some dough.

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Good odds: Penny slots (played for fun)

But 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 Bluejay. “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.” Penny slots are the exception, Bluejay says. “If you’re playing a penny at a time—which my wife and I actually do—we can afford to lose more,” he says. Bluejay says he’s also partial to the old three-reel electromechanical machines because they were his first introduction to slots decades ago, plus they’re simple and have slightly better odds than the video versions. 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,” he says.

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Bad odds: Casino games at airports, cruise ships, and resorts

According to Wizard of Odds slot survey, the worst slot odds are at the airport. Playing casino games on a cruise ship isn’t much better because the companies know your gambling options are limited to the ones onboard. “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,” says Bluejay. “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.” Even with the best odds in the country in Vegas, you’re still going to lose a lot of money. Games in which you’re playing a teddy bear aren’t much better—this is how all your favorite carnival games are rigged.

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Bad odds: Progressive slots

Stay far away from the large progressive slots with multi-million dollar jackpots, such as Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks. “The casino’s take on those machines is much higher,” says Bluejay. “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 casino games, the jackpot increases, whether the machine is part of a network of slots or is 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. Instead, you could also put your money on these 13 bizarre things you can legally bet on.