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Gambling Smartly: Do's and Dont's

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Smart play in the casinos can be habit-forming. Keeping your bet size proportionate to your bankroll, choosing games wisely and avoiding chasing losses with bigger bets should be deeply ingrained in any smart player. Unfortunately, not-so-smart play can be habit forming, too. From the things I see walking around the casino, and from the feedback I get from readers, I know there are many who aren't strictly betting with their heads. As we head into 2006, let's review a few do's and don'ts that should be fundamental for any player, habits that help make your trip to the casino fun without gobbling your bankroll: DO learn all you can about the games you choose to play. If you're a blackjack player, learn basic strategy.

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If you're a craps player, learn which bets give you a fighting chance and which are just donations to the house. If you're a slot player, you're strategy can't change the outcome, but you're still better off if you know what to expect and how the games work. Books, software, even online searches for information can help. DO play from an entertainment bankroll. Losing is part of the gaming experience, and when the losses come, you don't want to be playing with the mortgage, rent or grocery money. Consider them the cost of a day's entertainment. DO keep your bet sizes proportionate to your bankroll.

If you've brought $100 to play with, you don't want to be playing dollar slots --- a cold streak can wipe out a hundred bucks in less than 10 minutes. With $100 on the slots, better to start off on quarters, and be prepared to move down in denominations if the bankroll slips below $50. Same deal on the tables. If you're trying to make $100 last for a few hours, stay at $5 minimum tables, and be prepared to walk away if the losses come early. DON'T chase losses. The saddest phrase I hear from players is, "I thought I was DUE to win." Casino odds don't work that way. Past losses have no effect on future outcomes. Trying to make up losses with bigger bets is a fast road to bigger losses. DON'T borrow money to gamble. Even an advantage player --- a card counter in blackjack, an expert video poker player sticking to the best games or a dice controller in craps --- doesn't get a large enough edge to overcome credit card interest rates.

And most of us aren't advantage players. When you pay interest on money used to gamble on games in which the house has an advantage, your bankroll is under attack on two fronts. Borrowing money to play is beyond a bad idea: It's downright dangerous. DO sign up for player rewards cards wherever you play. They're free, and they'll bring you a little something extra, whether it's just a 2-for-1 buffet once in a while or cash back. You'll earn rewards while you play, and also get offers in the mail for comps designed to attract a return visit. DON'T bet extra for the sake of comps. Take whatever the casino is willing to give you for your normal play. But don't play an extra hour, or move from quarter slots to dollars, or bet $10 a hand instead of $5 in hopes of earning a meal comp. You may find that free lunch costs far more than if you'd just paid for it.

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