What Is a Casino? What Is Gambling?This site is about casino gambling strategy. (You probably gathered that from the logo, the header tag, and the URL, but heck, these days–you never know.) When I write about something, I like to break it down into its components and really understand the pieces and parts. Once I understand them, I can understand how they’re put together. So this page about casino gambling strategy page starts by defining three words:
Now that’s not the end of what I hope to accomplish on this page. After getting the definitions out of the way, I’m hoping to synthesize those three definitions into something useful–a strategy that you can use to get the most enjoyment out of your gambling hobby.
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What Is a Casino?
A casino is a building where gambling goes on. That’s a broad definition, but it’s an accurate one. It’s also a little bit out-of-date, because now that there is an Internet, a website could also be considered a casino, or even just a software program on a computer or an iPhone. In those cases, the website or software replace the building.
If you think about it for a minute, a lot of places that you didn’t think of as casinos are actually casinos. For example, you can’t turn a corner in the airport in Las Vegas without bumping into a slot machine. That means that the airport there is also a casino.
In a lot of states, video poker machines are commonly found in bars. That makes those bars casinos also.
A bingo hall is also a casino. Playing bingo is gambling, albeit a very socially acceptable form of gambling. Some churches offer bingo, and when they do, they’re not just a church–they’re also a casino.
Some places only offer poker. They’re called cardroom or poker rooms. Even if they don’t offer what you might consider “traditional” casino games like roulette, blackjack, or slot machines, poker cardrooms are still considered casinos.
Even a horsetrack or a dogtrack can be considered a casino.
Why go into this much detail about how many different places fall under the definition of casino? Because it clarifies why the content on this site covers so many diverse subjects.
What Is Gambling?
Gambling is when you wager money on games of chance or skill. It’s not the chance element that makes the activity gambling; it’s the betting of the money on the outcome of something.
For example, if you bet $20 on a game of billiards, you’re gambling, even though it’s a game of skill.
Legal definitions about gambling on games of skill and gambling on games of chance can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but gambling is gambling.
What Is a Strategy?
A strategy is a course of action you decide on in advance. For example, a gambling strategy might be to learn how to play blackjack using perfect strategy by memorizing a basic strategy chart, and then testing yourself with an online basic strategy tutor. The second step in that strategy might be to learn how to count cards by reading a book on the subject, picking a methodology, and practicing at your kitchen table until you can count down an entire deck in 60 seconds or less. The next step in that strategy might be to set aside a bankroll large enough to withstand the effects of standard deviation and avoid going broke. Your final step would be to embark on your new career (or avocation) as a card counter.
But that’s not the only valid gambling strategy. Your strategy might be to set aside $50 out of every paycheck to play the slots with. You make a single trip to a casino once a month with a bankroll of approximately $200. If you lose the $200, you quit for the session, and you return the following month to try it again. If you win $200 or more, you quit winners for the session, have some fun with your winnings, and return the next month with your new $200 bankroll that you’ve accumulated.
The first strategy (the blackjack strategy) is a positive expectation strategy, assuming you can develop the skills involved, and also assuming that you have the self-discipline to follow it. A positive expectation strategy is one which can expect to win money over a long enough period of time. In the short term, anything can happen, but in the long run, gamblers with a positive expectation strategy expect to win more than they lose.
The second strategy (the slot machine strategy) is a negative expectation strategy. Slot machines are a negative expectation game, and even reasonable money management tactics like the one outlined above won’t overcome the game’s built in mathematical disadvantage over the long run.
Is one strategy better than the other?
That depends on your goals as a gambler. If your goal is to earn a living gambling, then you’d want to stick with some kind of strategy and game where you can get a positive expectation. Blackjack, poker, video poker, and sports betting are all gambling games where you can get a positive expectation IF you acquire the necessary skillset.
On the other hand, if your goal is to entertain yourself and occasionally celebrate a big win, and you don’t mind spending the money for that entertainment, the slot machine strategy above would work fine for you. Almost all other gambling and casino games besides the ones I mentioned in the last paragraph are negative expectation games, so you cannot hope to get an edge when playing them. Games like roulette, slot machines, craps, and keno have a negative expectation, and anyone who plays them long enough will experience more losses than wins.
What’s the Difference Between a Gambling Strategy, Gambling Tactics, and Gambling Systems?
I outlined a gambling strategy above, but just to reiterate, a strategy is an approach to an activity.
A tactic is similar to a strategy, but it applies to individual decisions and individual situations. Deciding to become a card counter who uses the Hi-Lo counting method is a gambling strategy decision. Deciding whether or not to double down on an ace during a blackjack game is a tactical decision.
Many games of chance offer no opportunities to make tactical decisions. For example, in baccarat, you have no real effect on the outcome of each hand, no matter what decision you make. In roulette, you can decide what option to bet on, but all of the bets at the table have the same house edge, so the only tactical decision you’re making is whether you want to lose your money quickly or slowly.
In some games, like craps, different bets offer different odds. You can make a tactical decision to only place the bets which offer you the best odds.
A gambling system is a totally different animal though. A gambling system is almost always a scam sold by a con man. Gambling systems usually involve trying to manipulate the odds of a casino game by changing the sizes of your bets based on previous results. I’ll have a lot more to write about that particular subject in a future article, but for now, please trust me. Gambling systems don’t work. PLEASE don’t waste your money on them.
The rest of this site is dedicated to explaining how various casino games and betting games work. We’ll eventually offer analyses of all the casino games (and other gambling games) we can think of, along with some suggestions about what strategic and tactical approaches you might want to take toward those games, depending on your goals.
I don’t judge or look down on people for how they gamble. If you just want to plunk coins into a slot machine and hope for a win, that’s your business. More power to you. If you want to maximize how much money you can win playing poker or blackjack, that’s your business too, and I have enough experience in each subject to provide you with the tips and advice you need to get started in that endeavor.