Casinos… Think of Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, bright lights, ritz, glamour, people winning money, but mostly people losing money! You may be intrigued by the idea of going to a casino but don’t really know too much about them – please read on to learn more about the fun of a night out to a casino…
According to Princeton University’s ‘Wordnet’, a casino is ‘a public building for gambling and entertainment’. Don’t be overawed if you do go, relax and enjoy. You will most likely have the chance to play slot machines or one-armed bandits as they are commonly known and perhaps other games of chance and some skill. One major thing that you do need to be aware of, is the way that a casino will look to tilt the odds in its favour, which is more commonly known as the casino’s “edge”. However, some games such as poker are played with players versus players and in this case, the casino cannot get an advantage as it is not effectively playing. In these circumstances, the casino will take a “rake” on the bets that players make against each other live22.
If you have ever been to Las Vegas and gone to one of the casinos there, the first thing that you will notice is the fact that they more often or not have the slot machines (otherwise known as ‘one-armed-bandits’ or ‘fruit machines’) right as you go in. This is because they really don’t require too much understanding to play and it’s not uncommon to see people playing these machines for hours on end. The slot machine will typically involve a lever on the side (the one arm!) and three reels with patterns of symbols on, located in the centre of the machine. The reels revolve as you pull the lever and the idea is to generate rows of matching symbols to win, having paid your required stake via the slot usually on the front of the machine.
There may be times when you will play on a machine which will have extra options available for you to use, often giving the illusion that you will have more control over the reels and a better chance of winning. This may be the case over the short-term, but always remember that playing in casinos is fun, but the house always has the long-term advantage. To give you a quick example…if you were to play a game where you had to bet on what number would lie face up after the roll of a die, then you would expect to see the casino pay six times the amount bet for a win, but in fact the casino would pay five times to maintain its advantage.
This system is often found in famous casino gambling games like Poker, Craps, Roulette or Blackjack.
Blackjack has always been played in casinos because players will play their chips against the House dealer with the successful gambler being paid against pre-determined odds (ie by getting a true ‘Blackjack’ which in other words is a two card combination adding up to 21, the House will pay you 3:2, or 1-1/2 times your initial wager). If you play fair, the chances are that you may end up with a profit, but more often than not, the casino will win, unless you count the cards. Card counting is a black art as far as casinos are concerned and if you are caught, you will be blacklisted worldwide! Effectively, because the playing cards are only used once and then discarded, anyone with a good memory and a highly analytical mind can determine their own odds that a certain card will or will not appear again, tilting the odds in his favour.
Poker is one of the most played games in the world. Its popularity has grown massively over the past couple of years and many casinos would not offer a poker game due to the fact that they were limited to taking a rake (as discussed previously). You may be aware that poker is essentially a playing card game were players are dealt poker cards face down, and then take it in turns to place bets (represented by poker chips with a specific value) based on the strength of the cards that they hold, combined with other community cards placed face up in the middle of the poker table. The player with the strongest combination should win what’s known as the pot (the combined bets of all the players for that hand), however one of the reasons that poker is so popular is the element of ‘bluffing’ where a player may actually have a poor hand, but believes that he can make his opponents believe that he has the strongest combination by means of subtle psychology! This can be as subtle as staring one’s opponent into ‘folding’ his cards, or by moving his entire stack of poker chips into the middle of the table – what’s known as ‘going all in’.
Roulette is a classic casino game, whereby a croupier gently spins a perfectly balanced, wooden roulette wheel with either 37 or 38 recessed ‘pockets’ along the bottom edge of the roulette wheel. As the wheel begins to spin, the croupier will roll a small white ball the opposite way with the intention being for the ball to bounce of raised points on the wall and to finally come to rest in one of the numbered pockets. In European casinos, the wheel’s layout features pockets numbered 1 – 36 and alternate between red and black with the number one, coloured red and zero being coloured green. However in American casinos, you are more likely to see a second double-zero 00 pocket also coloured green.
Again the House pays out against set odds displayed on the cloth covering the roulette table. Typically this will offer 35:1 for single number bets where you bet on one number to win, 2:1 for any column of numbers, and evens for any red, any black, odds or evens.
Craps can be the most fun to play and certainly watch. It’s also the fastest game in the casino with often more than 60 bets per hour. Players will wager bets against the casino on the result of a roll of a die, or the series of rolls of two dice. The great thing about craps is that you don’t have to be rolling the dice to bet, you can bet on how lucky you (hope) the guy rolling is going to be, which is why it can be so entertaining. Essentially, the guy with the dice is called the ‘shooter’ and the basic bet in craps is called the ‘Pass Line’ bet, and by rolling a 7 or 11, the shooter will roll a pass line winner, and can play again. If he rolls 2, 3 or 12, these are known as craps and this is a pass line loss. Any other number becomes the shooter’s point and he continues. It really is a fascinating game with many more rules and options.
At the end of the day, a night out to a casino can be wonderfully entertaining, but casinos have learnt over hundreds of years how to make their games very, very addictive. They are quite happy to let you win a little here and there, but they know that in the long run, it’s you that’s going to be making them happy – do take care!