For 51 weeks of every year, I write about new games, strategies to get the most out of old favorites and how slot machines work, and I share stories from readers about their casino experiences.
One week a year is reserved for my own little tradition for the new year. I like to stop for a moment to remind myself and readers alike that we’re all in this to have a good time and that we need to apply a little common sense to keep our casino outings from being too costly.
The best times are when the games are hot and the big wins roll our way, of course. But we have to be prepared for the losses and play it smart, so we still can have fun when the losses come, and so the losses don’t sting too much.
To that end, as we enter 2017, I offer my annual New Year’s resolutions for gamblers.
- STAY WITHIN YOUR BANKROLL: Don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose. Before you play, take stock of how much you're willing to spend on your entertainment for the day.
If you have a winning session, great! If not, stick to your limit. If losses approach the amount you're willing to spend, slow down. Take a timeout, get a snack, watch the roulette wheel for a while. If you hit your limit, quit. Period.
Losing sessions are inevitable, and when the losses come, make sure you don't have money earmarked for life's necessities on the line.
- LEARN THE GAMES BEFORE YOU PLAY: A little homework goes a long way in helping to cut the odds against you at casino games. If you play blackjack, learn basic strategy. Craps players should check out house edges on different bets, stick to best plays and avoid the sucker bets. No matter what game you play, do the research, whether through books or online resources.
- KEEP PART OF YOUR WINNINGS: Your winnings aren't "their money." As soon as you've won it, it's yours, and you don't have to give it back.
- NEVER CHASE LOSSES: What's worse than losing money? Losing even more in a desperate attempt to win it back. 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 ease back or quit, not bet more.
- NEVER USE CREDIT CARD CASH ADVANCES TO GAMBLE: 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.
- GO EASY ON THE ALCOHOL: If you want to have a drink while you play, that's your business. But you don't want your judgment impaired with money on the line. Have a good time, but keep a clear head, too.
- KEEP PERSPECTIVE AND PLAY FOR FUN: Gambling in a casino is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Only a handful of blackjack and video poker players have the skill, discipline and bankroll to enable them to make money in the long run. Most of us will lose more than we win at any game.
Most players are best off to treat losses as the price of admission for a day's entertainment. If you take a little extra cash home, so much the better. But even a losing day can be fun if you keep your expectations realistic.
May you have a happy, healthy 2017, and may you keep your bankroll healthy, too.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).