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The 10 Casino Gambling Decisions That Lead To Winning Sessions
By Jerry Patterson

This article describes the decisions you make every time you gamble in a casino. If you’re like most gamblers, you may not realize the importance of these decisions and their impact on your chances of winning. Make these decisions correctly and become part of a select few – smart gamblers who know how to win!

If you own your own business or hold a key position in the corporate world, you would not undertake a project without proper preparation and planning. But many businessmen- and women go on a casino junket or travel to a nearby casino for the evening with no preparation or planning whatsoever. “I just want to have some fun,” is their attitude.

The theme of this article is that you can have more fun by exercising a little preparation. It is fun to WIN and go home with the good feelings of taking the casinos’ money home, not leaving yours behind. That’s what these 10 decisions are all about.

Let’s get started. I’ll discuss each decision in the order in which it is made.

Decision 1: Choice of Casino

Shop around a little bit, just like you would if you were buying a new car, and choose a casino that will give you the best deal on comps and that will rate your play to optimize your comps. Establish relations with your casino host and let him or her know if you want to open a credit line and how much action you intend to give the casino. The idea here is to minimize your expenses letting the casino pick up the tab for your room and food; the less you spend, the higher the probability of coming home with a win.

Decision 2: Game and Strategy Selection

To optimize your chances of winning, I recommend playing blackjack, craps, roulette or baccarat because, except for roulette, the house percentage against you is around 1%, much less than in the slot machines or in the other table games the casinos have introduced over the past few years to increase their overall profits.

Tip for Blackjack Players: Learn the basic strategy for playing each hand against any dealer up-card. Most blackjack books contain this strategy or pick up a wallet-sized basic strategy card usually available in the casino’s gift shop. Better yet, pick up either of my books – Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook or Casino Gambling – which contain basic strategy matrices and learning drills and exercises.

If you prefer the high intensity and the excitement of craps to the more casual atmosphere of the blackjack table, I recommend sticking to pass line bets with double odds and making one or two come bets. As an alternative to the come bets, you could place the 6 and 8.

Don’t be tempted to play the high house percentage proposition bets in the middle of the craps table layout. Responding to the stick man’s exhortation of “Who wants the Yo (eleven) or Hard Ways – get your bets in now!” will quickly dissipate any win you might accumulate!

Craps appears complicated, but actually is a simple game to learn. The basics of the bets mentioned above can found in any good book on casino gambling.

To get an edge at roulette you need to learn and understand the concept of a dealer signature or repetitious pattern of spinning the wheel and releasing the ball. I’ll give you a simple-to-use idea for finding and betting on a dealer signature in Decision 6 below.

Baccarat is a no-brainer card game in which you bet on either the player’s hand or the banker’s hand which are played according to house prescribed rules. Keep a score card and record the wins and losses, then look for patterns – choppy or streaky. Most gamblers bet on whether or not these patterns will continue or terminate.

Decision 3: Bankroll and Betting Unit

If you’re a manager of your own company or of a corporate department, you understand the importance of a budget. Why not relate the importance of a corporate or departmental budget to the process of establishing and managing a casino bankroll?

Decide on the level of risk you wish to take and then size your bankroll accordingly. I recommend a 200-unit bankroll, but I realize that aggressive gamblers will use 100 and some even less. For example, if you’re playing with a $5,000 bankroll, your basic betting unit should be $5000 divided by 200 or $25.

The fewer the units you break your bankroll into, the higher the risk of losing, so give this decision some serious consideration before your casino visit.

Decision 4: A Schedule of Casino Play and Other Activities

When you travel for business purposes, do you start with a schedule of where you’re going, and what you will be doing when you get there? Of course you do. Think about your casino visit in the same perspective. Schedule your casino playing sessions around other activities. I recommend NOT jumping right into action upon your arrival. Relax with a nap, a meal, check in with your host, set up a dinner reservations, etc. Consider a workout in the fitness room before your first gambling session.

Decision 5: Casino Orientation

When you walk onto the casino floor to begin your gambling session, it is important to keep your perspective. Most gamblers are mesmerized by the flashing lights, the cornucopia of colors and the incessant sound of the slot machines. This is what the casinos want. Don’t fall for it. Keep a cool and a clear head.

Tip: Walk around the casino floor for five or 10 minutes before sitting down to play. Mentally review your objectives for this gambling session while you observe the games and the gamblers.

Decision 6: Table Selection

For most gamblers, this is an ad hoc decision. They choose the first table they come to with an open seat or space. I suggest that the table selection decision is crucial to your chances of ending up a winner.

Tip for Blackjack Players: Look for evidence of the players winning like stacks of chips in front of them or multiple-chip bets. The non-random shuffle contributes to winning cycles for both the players and the dealer. Whatever you do, avoid the obvious losing table where players exhibit few chips, single-chip bets, and a morose attitude. If you play the shoe game, avoid the open table; there may a reason all the players have departed – a hot dealer! You will find more table selection ideas in either of my two books.

Tip for Craps Players: Use the same table selection criteria as for blackjack because craps tables do go through winning and losing cycles. Keep an eye open for a shooter with a controlled throw – one who sets the dice on certain numbers and throws with the same form and motion each time. You may be betting on a shooter with dice control skills and an edge over the house! My book, Casino Gambling, contains six chapters on craps and dice control.

Tip for Roulette Players: Examine a diagram of the roulette wheel, pick a lucky number and memorize two numbers on either side of it on the wheel, not the layout. For example, 17 with the 32 and 5. Choose roulette tables where four or more of these three numbers show up on the electronic display board. You may be looking at a dealer signature and a possible edge on the next few spins.

Bet a $25 chip on each number straight up (or a $5 chip if you just want to test this idea). If you don’t get a win within four spins walk away. On a win, for the next three spins, bet the same three numbers plus those 180 degrees opposite on the wheel; e.g. for the 17: 18, 6 and 31. Conservative bettors, make three split bets of $25 each: 5/6, 17/18 and 31/32 for a total risk of $75. Aggressive bettors, bet $25 straight up on each of the six numbers. This is a hit and run tactic, so be sure to walk away with a win if you get at least one hit.

Decision 7: Increasing Your Bet Size

The point to remember in making this decision is don’t let your emotions get in the way of making an intelligent wager; i.e., don’t chase any losses or bet up too heavily on a winning streak. This latter point is especially important if you’re a craps player. I have seen players “pressing up” their bets on a “hot shooter” only to leave most of their winnings on the table when the shooter sevens out.

It is very important to bet with a carefully thought out plan in the heat of battle. My advice is to bet up on a series of wins as follows:

Conservative Progression: 1-1-2-2-3-3-4-4-5-5-6-6

Aggressive Progression: 1-1-2-2-2-4-4-4-8-8-8.

In each case, increase your bet to the next unit level in the series on successive wins on “even money” bets: blackjack, craps pass line, baccarat, or roulette “outside” bets. On a loss, revert to a one-unit bet and start over. Study these progressions and you will come to appreciate their value in not only accumulating profits on a winning streak, but also protecting these profits.

How far do you go in each of these progressions? Make this decision before you start play, not in the heat of battle. Notice that each progression gets you a 12-unit profit after six successive wins. Not too shabby! These winning streaks do happen, but I suggest you pick a reasonable level to reach, and then back off to a one-unit bet.

If you find yourself in choppy back-and-forth game, play a mild up-as-you-lose progression; e.g., 1-2-4, reverting to a one-unit bet on any win or after losing three in a row.

Decision 8: Table Departure

If you’re in the business world, how long would it take you to bail out of a losing operation? You would have a plan, wouldn’t you? You need to apply this same kind of thinking to the table you select for play.

Tip 1 for bailing out of a game: Depart on a Stop-loss

This decision concerns how many betting units you will lose before departing this game. I recommend six, no more than 10. So, if your betting unit is $25, leave the game if you’re down $150 and find a better one.

Keep in mind that every unit you save, every unit you don't lose, looks much better later, especially after a losing session because you've cut your losses short.

Tip 2 for table departure: Depart on a Stop-win

A stop-win is the opposite of a stop-loss. I recommend using a “trailing stop loss” to make this decision. Here’s how: When you accumulate a win; e.g., 50% of your buy-in amount, divide your chips into three even piles. Only bet off one pile. Use chips won to keep the piles even. When you lose, only bet the chips from one pile. When that pile is gone, your trailing stop loss has been triggered – leave the game with the other two piles which represent your buy-in and your win.

Decision 9: Documentation of Results

I recommend using a pocket notebook, the kind that fits into a shirt pocket or sports jacket pocket. After leaving a table, cash in your chips and record your win or loss along with any comments you want to make about your table play. You will be pleasantly surprised at the satisfaction this decision gives you after your session ends and you can look back and reconstruct your actions.

Decision 10: Session Termination

There are two good reasons to terminate a gambling session:

1. You have reached the limit of your optimal session time. You need a break to keep your perspective. I have found that, in many years of instructing gamblers, optimal session time is around 90 minutes. Give it a try.

2. Fatigue; you are just plain tired and this is affecting your judgment and play. A good time to terminate, take a break, and assess the situation.

Final Advice

I suggest copying each of these 10 decisions into your pocket notebook. Make notes as appropriate about how you intend to implement each decision. Now you’re playing with a plan of action and have the best chance of coming home a winner!

Jerry Patterson has been playing casino blackjack since 1956 and entered the gaming field full-time in 1978 when the Atlantic City casinos opened. He is the author of five gambling books. Founded in 1978 his gaming company Jerry Patterson Enterprises, Inc (JPE) is the oldest and most successful company in the gambling instruction and services field.
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