Learning to Gamble the Hard Way: Rookie Casino Mistakes

Casino are their own little worlds with their own rules, customs and traditions. These are not always obvious to newcomers, and many new players find themselves on the wrong end of a rule without even knowing it.

But if the rules find you unawares and you get a friendly talking-to, don't let it put you off. Even the most seasoned gamblers were beginners once and probably made the same mistakes you did.

Here are a few of their rookie mistakes:

Victor: On my first trip to Las Vegas, my wife and I found ourselves at a small casino far from the glitz and glamour of Downtown or The Strip. To give you an idea of the place, the minimum roulette bet was only $1. I decided to give it a go while my wife went off to try her luck on the slot machines.

Despite having no clue what I was doing, things went pretty well for me. I hit a couple of numbers, and it felt great to have a big pile of chips pushed in front of me. Before I knew it, I had turned my original $30 into almost $100! My wife, after losing $20 in the slot machines, came over and we decided to call it a day.

I told the dealer that I wanted to finish and she changed my roulette chips for standard casino chips. Proudly, I left the dealer a $5 tip and with a big smile started to head off in the direction of the cashier's cage, which the dealer had pointed out to me.

Suddenly, my wife yelped “You're not supposed to be back there!” and I looked around to see that I had walked directly behind the table and was standing next to the pit boss! I quickly got out of there and the staff had a good laugh at my expense. Oh well, I still came out a winner.

Cormac: The first time I ever played Caribbean Stud in a casino I saw something that, at the time, seemed incredibly confusing, but now I see that it was right.

One of the guys at the table was accidentally dealt four cards instead of the required five. The pit boss was called over to sort out the problem and help the dealer. The pit boss told the man that his hand would be voided and his bet returned, which he accepted gracefully. Everyone else would play the hand like normal That seemed to be it, but then another player started to get really animated and upset.

He claimed that this situation had happened before and in that case, the entire game was voided and everyone got their money back. He said that, “If the other guy got five cards then we would all have different hands, so we should void everything. That's what they did before.”

To me, this sounded entirely reasonable, but the pit boss said no, because there was no reason to do that and this was the proper procedure. So instead of saying anything, I kept my mouth shut. The other guy, though, was fuming. He played his hand, which wasn't very good, lost, grabbed his chips and stormed off shouting. But I learned that no matter how much you argue, the casino management is always right.

Walter: I was on a mid-west riverboat casino and I was taking a shot at playing roulette for the first time. The table was packed, but I was able to squeeze into a little spot close to the wheel, right by the big clear plastic barrier that protects the wheel.

 In order to make myself a little more comfortable and not be crushed, I put my arm up on the top of the plastic barrier. The dealer stopped what she was doing, looked right at me and asked, “You comfortable?” I gave her a big smile and said, “Sure, as comfortable as I can be.”

 She looked back at me with ice in her eyes and said, “Well, you shouldn't be. You can't have your arm up there, take it down.” Oops.

 The rest of the evening was rather uncomfortable.

About The Author

Journalist and author John Grochowski is one of the foremost experts on casinos in America. He writes a syndicated weekly gambling newspaper column and he is a frequent contributor to gambling magazines, websites, and radio programs. His books include the best-sellers The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

  • "If you turn over a playing card, the chance it will be red is 0.5, or 50%. If the casino was fair, it would pay you $1 for a $1 bet. But if a casino pays you $0.90 instead, it has a 5% edge."

  • "Every reel on a slot machine has a certain number of stops which contain either symbols or nothing. While machines with physical reels usually have 22 stops, virtual slot machines can have hundreds of stops."

  • "Casinos never make rule changes that benefit the player; if you see a new rule, it's bad for you. For example, some casinos are starting to pay 6:5 for blackjacks instead of the better 3:2."

  • "Sic bo is a relatively new game where you bet on the possible combinations of a set of three dice. It's best avoided as the house edge can reach an almost unbelievable 48%."

  • "The roulette wheel is always kept spinning at a constant rate, even if no one is currently playing. The ball is spun in the opposite direction in order to ensure more randomness in the result."