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Best of John Grochowski

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New Year's Resolutions

24 February 2004

"How ya doin', Scrooge?"

My old friend Bob was on the phone, with a greeting that was a little out of the ordinary. Scrooge? Me?

"Yeah, you. I know what you're up to."

What? I've denied no one fuel for the fire, nor uttered a single "humbug."

"No, but you're about to. The day after Christmas, you're going to spend your whole column telling everyone to be careful in the casinos. You're going to tell them not to bet money they can't afford, and not to chase losses, and not to overdo the alcohol, aren't you?"

Well, yeah. All that's important. If you're going to play in casinos, play in a manner that's not going to hurt you. It bears repeating at least once a year, so I do it in the last column of each December as a set of New Year's resolutions.

"I know - no need to get defensive. Just teasing."

Bob, as it happens is one of the most disciplined players I know. He and his wife both like to play video poker, but they set aside an entertainment budget and stick to it rigidly. On a losing day, they leave when they reach their limit and never dip into other funds.

Some of the resolutions I propose every year may sound a bit tedious and seem to be looking at the negative side, but showing resolve in avoiding a few pitfalls can help keep casino visits fun and entertaining without too much damage to our bankrolls.

Resolve to stay within your bankroll: Decide before you play how much you're willing to spend on the day's entertainment. If you've decided you can afford to lose up to $50, slow down as you approach that figure. Take a timeout, get a snack, watch the roulette wheel for a while. If you hit that $50 limit, quit. Period.

Resolve to keep part of your winnings: Don't go crazy after a big win just because you're playing with "their money." Remember, as soon as you've won it, it's not "theirs" anymore. It's YOUR money, and you don't have to give it back. You can buy yourself a treat, go out for an evening on the town, put a little away for the kids' or grandkids' educations, pay bills - whatever you want.

The first time I ever hit a video poker royal flush for $1,000, my wife and I went Christmas shopping with $100 bills. It felt great not to pad any credit card statements that year. Stash away AT LEAST half of any good-size hit. When you spend it later, it feels just a little nicer to be using money you've taken from the casino.

Resolve to play only with money you can afford to lose: For most players, the house edge on casino games will inevitably grind down our bankrolls. We'll win sometimes but lose more often.

When the losses come, make sure you don't have money earmarked for food, clothing, school, the rent or mortgage on the line. Play with money budgeted for entertainment, not for life's necessities.

Resolve to learn the games before you play: A little homework goes a long way in helping to cut the odds against you at casino games. Learn basic strategy in blackjack and for each video poker game you play. Know the rules and best bets in craps. No matter your game of choice, buy a good book and read about the best methods of play.

Resolve never to use credit card cash advances for gambling money: Think the house edge is high on some games? Try comparing it to credit card interest rates. The house edge, interest on borrowed money, ATM fees - that's a tough combination to overcome.

Resolve never to chase losses: What's worse than losing money? Losing even more in a desperate attempt to win it back. A woman who lost $8,000 on the same $5 slot machine once wanted me to investigate to see if there was something wrong with the machine. She thought she was due to win, so she kept betting and betting.

Casino games don't work that way. The same house edge that's at work during initial losses remains at work if you keep betting. You're never "due" to win, and wins and losses don't have to even out in the time we play. A losing streak means it's time to cut back or quit, not bet more.

Resolve to go easy on the alcohol: My casino beverage of choice is bottled water, but I'm no fanatic. If you want to have a drink while you play, that's up to you. But keep your intake moderate. There's money on the line and you don't want your judgment impaired. Relax and have a good time but keep a clear head, too.

Resolve to keep perspective and play for fun: Gambling in a casino is not a way to get rich. It's a way to have a good time. If we take a little extra home, so much the better.

Even a losing day can be fun if you keep your expectations realistic. Sometimes you'll win, but often, small winning streaks and a few near-misses will be the highlights of the day.

As for Bob, he wants to have the final word.

"Tell everyone to play smart, have fun and have a happy New Year."

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski