Beat the Odds at the Casino With These Tips

Bill Zender is the greatest gambling insider. The former professional card counter, trader, and casino floor supervisor shares his secrets–and explains why the top-paying machine is obviously the ATM.

1. Identify the clumsiest traders.

Zender estimates there are more than 100 professional blackjack card counters on the planet. If you happen to be among these, you could nab a 1.5 percentage advantage. Save your energy, Zender advises; rather, keep a look out for the sloppy blackjack dealer who will accidentally flash the face-down card. Zender once made a living exploiting this, keeping a notebook of 35 weak traders from 16 unique casinos. The strategy is known as “card holing,” and it may provide you a 6 to 9 percent advantage over the house. (That’s like standing in front of an ATM that spits out the twenties!) The best part? “It is totally legal,” Zender says.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Recently, casinos have sexed up their table games with bikini-clad traders and resident pole dancers. These places are known as Party Pits, and on the surface, they seem like Vegas being Vegas–booze, sin, skin. But look closer. While all those twirling legs keep you distracted, you will likely don’t note that the casino trimmed the payouts at these tables from 3/2 to 6/5. Meaning that a $100 bet wins just $120, compared to the conventional $150. This basically doubles the house’s edge.

3. Know when to say when.

The house always enjoys a 5% advantage at roulette. You’ve got a good chance of winning that first spin. And the second. And the third. But if you should play roulette forever, the home would take away all of your chips. Every casino has calculated the stage at which they are guaranteed success, and that magical number is 30,000 hands. (This is the reason why they lure us back with lobster and luxury suites.) So if you are winning, stop.

4. Harness the laws of nature.

A roulette wheel is a mechanical tool. With time, the wheel may become unbalanced or the frets dividing the amounts may suffer wear and tear. The more a wheel is used, the more worn it gets–and the longer it may privilege certain amounts. In 1873, Joseph Jagger discovered a wonky wheel in Monte Carlo and wager on the biased numbers. He came away with $400,000–that is $7.8 million in today’s dough!

5. Go big or go bankrupt.

“The slot machine is most likely two, three times more expensive to players compared to table games,” states Zender. Avoid them. If you insist on cranking a handle, concentrate on slots which cost $5 or more and play the maximum bet. On penny stocks, the chances are jacked up in the house’s favor by 15 to 20 percent. You may also throw those coins in a fountain. Do not forget to make a wish.

6. Do not play Keno.

Really, just don’t. Your odds are terrible. At some casinos, the house includes a 35 % advantage. No gambler has matched all 20 numbers on a 20-spot ticket. The odds of it happening are 1 in 3,535,316,142,212,174,336. (That is 3.5 quintillion!)

7. Practice makes perfect.

If there’s an exception to the adage that the house always wins, it is in video poker. Normally, the house has just a 0.46% edge (while some variations lean in the gambler’s favor). The pay table is posted right on the machine, and the payoff is large. The catch? To cash out, you will need to play at a specialist level. Casinos make gains on video poker since most players simply aren’t proficient enough. So study up.

8. Steer clear of the light.

If you understand what you’re looking for, it’s easy to see where the chances are the worst. Casinos make the matches with the lousiest chances the most attractive by amping up them with flashing lights and bright colors. At craps, for example, the craziest stakes –” the area, “Any 7”–are the most colorful. So as a rule of thumb, to better your chances, stick to the darkened side of the room.

9. Invest in a wonderful watch.

There is a reason you probably won’t find any windows or clocks on the house floor. Casinos want you to lose track of time so you play for as long as you can. Some casinos prohibit dealers from sporting watches for this reason. As soon as you’re up a little, it may be a great time to leave the ground and go treat yourself to a new timepiece.

10. Purchase your own drinks.

The reality is, nothing is free–which includes free booze. Every casino has something they call a “participant reinvestment” fund. It forecasts the amount of money you will lose and then yields a cut of that in the kind of comps, which, to the casual flooring visitor, means watery fantastic cocktails. The worse your odds, the better your chances of landing a free beverage. Cheers!