When you’re ready to visit your first casino you’ll be excited and curious all at the same time. I hope you enjoy yourself and come away with great memories.
Everyone has their own idea of what to expect in a casino.
Wondering how realistic the movies and TV shows are in depicting the casinos?
Many of them are filmed in real casinos. The lights, the sounds, and the huge variety of games–they’re all realistic.
Casino Marina del Sol. Make your first visit to a casino a great entertainment experience.
The action on TV and in the movies, though, is, of course, staged.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could memorize a sequence of actions to follow and win a jackpot at a slot machine (ala Ocean’s Thirteen)?
Of course it would.
But that would also be illegal.
What most people don’t know is that real criminals have enjoyed engineered success like that. They’ve also been arrested and charged with felonies, so I don’t recommend cheating at casino games.
The essence of gambling is taking a risk on the outcome of an unpredictable event. If you cannot predict the outcome and the casino cannot predict the outcome of a game, then it’s a fair transaction.
I say “fair” but you need to understand that the casinos only offer games that provide them with a statistical “edge”. In other words, they expect to win more often than they lose. Worse, they also expect you to put all your winnings back into their games, so even if you win “big” (say, a few thousand dollars) you might leave the casino with nothing.
I wish I could offer you sure-fired ways to win, but I can’t. No one can.
But I can offer you some tips to help you keep your wits — and your winnings — about you as you enjoy the experience.
1. Pick a Great Casino Resort to Visit for the First Time
Over 1,000 commercial and Native American casinos operate in the United States. The difference between a “commercial casino” and a Native American casino should be obvious.
The Native American casinos are all located on native American reservations, and they are owned and operated by those nations.
A commercial casino is operated by a licensed corporation operating in only a few states that allow commercial gambling. Nevada is the most well-known state, but you’ll find commercial casinos in about 18 states.
In addition to traditional casinos, many other establishments provide games of chance where you can bet real money. Depending on state law, you may find slot machines or gaming rooms in a lot of small establishments:
Highway convenience stores
Most of the casinos I have played in were modest to large. I’ve walked into and out of a few small “casinos” that immediately made me feel uncomfortable.
Why did I feel uncomfortable?
Because I like big casinos.
Some people are comfortable in the smaller casinos. They may even prefer to play in those places. If you add occasional casino gambling to your entertainment budget you may gravitate toward the smaller, less grandiose casinos.
Still, I think you should pick a nice resort for your first experience. Get a feel for what it’s like to stay in the hotel for a couple of nights. Enjoy the restaurants and at least one show. Your first casino experience should be about more than sitting at a table and playing cards or pushing a button on a slot machine.
You do get a rush from the suspense of not knowing if you just threw away $5 or if you’ll win $100. The excitement you feel while gambling for the first time is a real thing.
But there’s so much more to look forward to. Some of the larger casinos offer spas, shops, and other non-gambling vacation amenities.
Also, a great casino resort should be located close to other entertainment venues. That includes other casinos, auditoriums, theme parks, and more. I wish my first casino experience had included a trip to a theme park with the family; it would have been more memorable. I’m not even sure I can remember the first time I went into a casino. I know I lost my stake quickly and left within an hour or two.
That’s not the way you should remember the experience.
Go for a robust, full entertainment experience your 1st time out.
2. Join the Casino’s Member Program Immediately
As soon as you walk in the door, find the customer service desk and sign up for the casino’s loyalty program.
Even if you never go back to that casino again, join the program. They’ll explain the rules to you and show you how to claim any rewards you earn.
One of the most common rewards you get from these programs is a free meal or drink. Gambling eats up the time. In fact, casinos are designed to help you lose track of the time.
But you’ll eventually grow thirsty or hungry. You’ll need a break. Instead of spending yet more money, if you have earned enough points you can get a snack or drink at one of the less expensive restaurants.
The membership is free. You can keep the card as a souvenir or throw it away when you’re done. That’s your decision. You can always get a new card next time you visit the casino, too.
Casino members may get special bonus points from time to time. Each casino sets its own rules ahead of time. Check their website to see which days they award extra points and games. These are almost always “off peak” days and times.
In other words, they won’t have a big crowd (usually). You’ll find it’s easier to play the games you want to try and you won’t be as confused by all the noise as you would if you go on the busiest night of the week (usually a Saturday night).
If you don’t want to sit in a near-empty casino (and many people don’t), then pick an evening time after most people are off work. The action usually picks up around 8-9 PM in the evenings. If you arrive around 6-7PM, that gives you time to join the member program, try out a few games, and wander through the casino to get a feel for the lay of the place.
3. Take Someone with You on Your First Trip
Honestly, I hate gambling alone for the most boring and practical of reasons.
I’ll explain that below.
Here’s why I think you should go with one or more friends your first time:
It’s more fun to share that experience with someone. You have someone to chat with and you’ll feel less like a stranger. My first (barely memorable) trip to a casino, I went by myself. It’s no wonder I lost my money so quickly and left with hardly an impression. In fact, I didn’t go back to a casino for about two years. I just didn’t enjoy my time in there.
Going with family or friends on your first trip heightens the excitement–especially if at least one or two of your companions have never been to a casino before. Your memory of that first time will be stronger and the shared experience is good for your friendships. When you have a few casino trips under your belt, you’ll tend to head for your favorite game even if you go with a group. Everyone just splits off and does their own thing. A good mentor will invite you to try a few games and sit with you on your first trip, but their excitement won’t be in sync with yours.
Another reason to go with one or more friends on your first trip is that you won’t have a game plan for managing your time. When you’re sitting alone in a crowded casino and you feel the need to visit the men’s or ladies’ room, you’ll agonize over leaving the game you’re playing. Sitting beside a friend is much better when those needs arise. You can feel better about leaving your seat. Ladies, you should keep your wallets or purses with you at all times, but if you have a companion you can leave your valuables with (someone whom you know and trust deeply), you’ll feel a little less anxious about that.
As the casino fills up, regular players quickly claim spots they won’t give up for hours. Some people will leave a chair leaning against a slot machine as a sign that it’s being played, but there’s no casino rule that requires people to honor that claim. In fact, casino employees may come and clean up the slot game and put the chair back. Having at least one buddy to hold a place for you pays off when the place is teeming with people and there’s a line waiting for the game you are playing.
The buddy system also makes it easier for you to get snacks and drinks. Yes, a great casino has servers wandering the floor.
But their services are in high demand at peak times. You could wait 30 minutes to an hour for a drink.
And the servers may quickly prioritize you as a customer if you never tip them.
4. Avoid the High Roller Games
It’s tempting, especially if you have just won a jackpot, to go try your luck at the high roller games. You may read conflicting advice on the internet about whether the high roller games pay better or worse than the main floor games.
That doesn’t matter.
Your first trip to a casino is not the time for you to try being a high roller. A typical high roller game might require you to bet hundreds of dollars for one spin or one hand of cards.
How likely are you to win a jackpot?
I won several jackpots within 30 minutes of walking into a casino. Big, busy casinos may pay out jackpots throughout the day. Any win that requires a casino employee to come and check the machine counts as a “jackpot”.
That could amount to $1,000 or $1,000,000. You’re far likelier to win a $1,000 jackpot than a $1,000,000. The largest jackpot I remember winning was about $8,000 on a $3 bet. Most of the jackpots I won were in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.
By playing the lower stakes games your money will last longer. You really can’t prepare for that first casino visit by playing free casino games on the internet or your PC. It’s just not the same. The lights and sounds are almost overwhelming. (It’s still worthwhile, though.)
If you choose a high end casino (and many Native American casinos fit into that category) for your first experience, you’ll be blown away by everything: the luxurious architecture of the building, the artwork lining the walls, the carpets, the lounges–everything is designed to make you feel like you are living a life of luxury.
Enjoy that feeling, but don’t throw your money at the casino.
Whether you sit at a table game like roulette or blackjack, or play a slot game, or bet on a race, or place bets on a lottery game like keno, you’ll have the opportunity to raise the size of your bets. All these games offer minimum and maximum bet limits. You’ll feel your heart beat hard enough when you go from betting 25 cents to betting 25 dollars.
High roller games are a different level of entertainment, and you should save that first time experience for another day.
5. Make a Simple Plan that Is Easy to Follow
By simple plan, I mean make it impossible for you to impoverish yourself.
From choosing which casino to visit, to deciding where to park, to how much money you’ll bet, you should know before you enter the casino’s parking lot what you are going to do.
Start by setting a budget. This is the most common advice offered to new gamblers.
It’s also the most important. If you only have $200 to gamble, don’t take your credit cards, check books, or debit cards into the casino with you. Don’t leave them in your car, either. Make it as hard to get more money as you possibly can.
If you walk into a casino with $200 and find yourself wishing you had more, give yourself a moment to realize what just happened: you just paid $200 for (hopefully) an evening’s entertainment. At this point, it’s time to cash in your comps and go home.
Plan for when and how you will leave the casino.
Don’t leave desperate, frustrated, and broke.
No casino owes you anything more than the experience you’re willing to pay for. They provide a safe entertainment experience, not a guaranteed income. The games are designed to give a little bit but take a little bit more.
The casino will let you bet everything you have on the first throw of the dice, but they’re prepared to wait out even the most stingy and conservative players.
So there’s no need for an elaborate “strategy”. Set one rule:
You leave when you have X dollars.
Maybe that means you lose everything you take in.
Maybe that means you triple your money.
But take a watch with you, or make sure your smart phone keeps proper time. Set an alarm to tell yourself when it’s time to go–especially if you’re visiting a local casino and you have to be somewhere the next day. The casino is not going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Is it past your bedtime?”
You’ll be shocked to realize just how late it is when you finally leave the casino (assuming you don’t lose all your money quickly like I did my first time).
6. Do Not Try to Take Pictures or Videos of the Games
You have undoubtedly seen a lot of photographs and videos taken from inside casinos. People post them all over the Internet.
So why shouldn’t you do that?
The reason is actually quite simple:
Someone who works for the casino may ask you to stop, or they may force you to leave. Casinos used to be more tolerant of inside photography, but things have changed over the years.
It’s probably safe to take pictures when you are away from the games. If in doubt, ask a casino employee what the rules are. I’d be surprised if any casino agrees to let you take video or pictures of a slot game. That is because eastern European criminals were caught using a supercomputer to rig slot machine games.
The story about the phone cameras and slot machine games is too long to include here.
But suffice to say that several people were arrested at American casinos for sending live video back to the supercomputer. The casinos do not want you to take video of those games why they are spinning. It might be okay to take a picture after the reels have stopped and you have a jackpot.
Ask before you get into trouble.
Obey the rules.
The casinos usually post signs with rules around their floors to help people quickly see what is and is not acceptable behavior.
But you can also always ask a casino employee what is allowed.
If you must take a phone call, step away from the game. This is also considered courteous to other players.
By the same token, keep texting to a minimum–especially if you’re playing a table game. Concentrate on what you are supposed to be doing at the casino.
Step aside and find a semi-private space for phone calls and text messages.
7. Do Not Drink or Use Drugs While Gambling
No matter how well you think you can “handle it,” the casino is counting on players getting at least a little bit tipsy. They make sure it’s easy to get alcohol even if other types of drugs are not available. As you become more inebriated, your judgment becomes impaired. Just as you should not drink and drive, so you should not drink and gamble.
And that goes for over-the-counter medications that can make you drowsy.
It also goes for prescription medications that can make you dizzy or drowsy. It might feel good to you when you’re stoned, but you won’t like waking up in jail or completely broke because you blew your rent money.
Don’t try to prove you can “handle it”. Prove you can manage yourself and have a good time without the help of alcohol or drugs.
If you’re feeling so sick that you need strong cough medicine or antihistamines the day you’re supposed to go to the casino, it’s better if you delay that first-time experience until you’re feeling better. You really don’tt need to sit in a casino for 6-8 hours if you’re sick. Not only will that drain you (and if there is cigarette smoke you’ll worsen any breathing problems you have), you could make other people sick.
Visit the casino when you are well, sober, and ready to have a great time with a few trusty friends or family.
And on a budget, naturally.
There’s so much more I wish someone had told me before I went into a casino for the first time. You devote most of your forethought to learning games so you can “be ready” for that first time experience.
You know what?
All that practice goes out the window. You’re overwhelmed. You just want to get in there and play, play, and win, win.
But in reality, you’re never ready for that first visit.
Your first time experience should not be about winning. You should not visit a casino because you’re short on money and need a quick cash injection. Don’t burn your first time like that. Save it for when you can relax, enjoy the company, and marvel at the environmental experience of being inside a huge, glitzy casino.
Be safe, have fun, and create memories you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
Best of all, teach yourself good gambling habits early in your experience. Make sure you’re there for the entertainment.
You’ll have more fun that way.