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Best of John Grochowski

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New Year's resolutions for gamblers

19 January 2010

The new year promises to be one of new games, new ways to play, new technology and, of course, some old problems.

To a casino player, the most important of those problems is that sometimes the money just goes too fast. When it does, make sure you're in control, and not let your losing day spiral into bigger problems.

As we enter into 2010, I offer these New Year's resolutions for gamblers:

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.

It makes a huge difference. Average blackjack players face house edges of 2% to 2.5%. Those who take the time to learn basic strategy cut that to half a percent or so, a few tenths more or less depending on house rules. You can face a house edge in craps of 1.41% on pass or come, and less if you take free odds, or you can buck the 16.67% edge on any 7 or other high edges on one-roll propositions.

A little learning is a good thing for slot players, too. You might not be able to reduce the house edge, but you can learn to tell the games designed for extended play from the ones that offset jackpots with fast losses.

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 added to interest on borrowed money and 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.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski