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Here's where we'll give you some ideas to think about when you visit a casino.


Update November 27, 2017  There are many reasons to open a credit line at a casino. The main reasons include the convenience of not having to take cash when you travel, not having to pay fees at ATMs, and at most casinos when you use your credit you have an interest-free loan for several weeks. There may be other bonuses.

San Manuel Casino in Highland, California is offering new players who set up a credit line a bonus that is paid in free play. When a new player has their credit line approved they will receive 10% of the total credit line in free play.


Update July 14, 2017  From time to time, some casinos will offer a "loss rebate" to new players who sign up for the casino's loyalty card or players club program. Is the loss rebate a smart or advantage play to use? For my opinion, click here.


Update May 16, 2016  There can be times when you need to leave a slot of video poker machine for a short time -- perhaps for a a restroom visit -- or for a longer period of time to have lunch or even to see a show -- and you'd like to hold the machine. Different casinos have different procedures about holding machines, so you should ask what the rules are at the casino you are playing at.

First, let's talk about restroom breaks. You might want to ask a player sitting next to you to hold your machine for you. That's okay to do but don't expect the other player to say yes. The other player might be about to leave. If the player does say yes, then cash-out your credits and do not leave credits on your machine. It's rude to ask another player to be responsible for your credits. I know that I wouldn't want to be responsible for someone else's credits left on a machine and I wouldn't want to risk having a dispute about those credits later should the other player claim some were missing.

You might also ask a slot floor person to hold your machine for you and then you should ask the slot floor person what to do with your credits on the machine. You might be asked to cash-out the credits and take the ticket with you.

If there's no one around, you might cash-out your credits and leave your player's card in the machine and tilt your chair so it is leaning against the machine. This is the "player's universal signal" that the machine is taken. But a warning: it might not work. Some players even leave a jacket or sweater draped over the chair and even that doesn't work sometimes because a player could ignore the signal or a casino employee might remove your article of clothing and turn it into lost-and-found.

In you want to leave the machine for an extended period of time you might find that some casinos allow players to lock-up a machine for up to two hours, or perhaps up to four hours, if it is not too busy in the casino. 


Update May 16, 2016  For our report about tipping in a casino, see our special page "Casino Gaming Tips / Tipping" for some ideas to consider. As you will read, there is no rule about tipping and some players never tip.


Update May 10, 2016  The Cromwell on the Las Vegas Strip offers free gaming lessons in Blackjack and Craps and at the end of the lesson (it usually takes about a half-hour) you get a free $5 match play voucher. A Match Play voucher means that if you bet $5 of your own money, the casino's voucher doubles your bet. If you win, you are paid as if you bet $10 of your own money. A Match Play voucher is not as good as a free betting chip and years ago when I took a free craps lesson at a casino at the end of the "class" each participant was given a free betting chip worth $5.

Even experienced players should not overlook this because there's nothing wrong with taking a free $5 Match Play voucher and it's never to late to learn something or to ask a question about something you've wondered about. Had I been at The Cromwell when the classes were going on I would have sat in. There is always something to learn. If you find another casino offering a free lesson and a free chip, which is better than a Match Play voucher -- take it.

Sign on craps table at Cromwell Casino
offering free craps and blackjack lessons.


Update March 29, 2016  Everyone who has ever been in a casino has wondered if the casino has a plan about where to place its loosest or best paying slot machines. Casinos do have a plan for placing slot machines and to a certain extent the plan does reflect the payouts on the slots.

As recently as 15 years ago, many casinos intentionally placed their loose or better paying slot machines in high traffic areas so that many casino players would see the lights flash and jackpots counted out into the hands of smiling winners. Back then you would find these loose slots near main entrances and on the ends of rows. But in recent years, that strategy changed.

Today, you are more likely going to find the loose and better paying slots deeper inside the casino. Yes, the casino managers want you to walk past the tighter machines to get to the looser machines. And yes, the casino managers are also hoping you never get to the looser machines and you will instead be attracted to a machine that is closer and tighter to your room or to the casino entrance.

It's well known that higher denomination machines have a lower "hold" or profit margin for the casinos. And these higher denomination machines are also deep inside the casino. You will rarely find a "high limit room" near a main entrance of a casino but if you make the trek to the high limit room and you can afford to play the higher denomination machines, you are more likely to find a machine that is more generous.

Slot machines will have certain minimum percentage payouts according to the jurisdiction they are in. But even when you play at a machine with an 85% return it doesn't mean you will be getting an 85% return when you play. Some players get lucky and hit the big jackpots, and some players aren't lucky and will lose everything quickly. It is not unusual to hear that a player went to a high limit machine in a high limit room thinking he would be more likely to win and then the player loses everything he had. And then there are players who can only afford to play low-limit machines with a high casino edge who get lucky and do hit big winners.

The bottom line is that you should use the information about where the better paying slot machines are, but don't count your chickens before they hatch or your jackpots before they hit.


Update March 15, 2016  When I first heard about this promotion at the Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas I thought it was a misunderstanding. The Downtown Grand in Vegas is now offering a no commission, no vig, no fee on the Buy Bets on the 4 and 10 at craps. This means these place bets are paid at true odds with no house advantage. Normally there is a 5% fee or commission or vig and many casinos charge this fee when the bet wins; some casinos charge the 5% when the bet is placed or booked. But now at the Downtown Grand there is no 5% fee, commission or vig.

This should have craps players lining up at the craps pit at the Downtown Grand to play. However, this deal is too good to last forever. When I spoke to the craps pit tonight they told me this is only a short term promotion and probably will end when the March Madness crowds leave Vegas.


Update April 23, 2016  There is the admonition to quit when you're ahead. While many of us go to a casino and will gladly quit when we are showing a profit, math oriented gamblers will question that. This is one of the most controversial debates in casino gambling. This article and discussion has been moved to our page about "quitting" and to read it please click here. 


Update February 28, 2016  This question comes up a lot for both new players and experienced players: what's the best use of free play? It's not a simple question to answer.

Casinos give players free play as an incentive to get you to gamble. It's like a loss leader for a retail store that gives you a discount on certain items hoping you will shop for other, more profitable items. It's very rare for a casino player to just use their free play and not reach into their wallets to play some more. The casinos look at free play as bait to catch big fish, and that means even whales. Yes, casino whales -- the mega high rollers -- are also given free play.

So how do you determine your best use of free play? Ideally you want to use the free play on the bets you are most likely to win. So the first question might be can you use the free play on the games you have the most success at? Then you have to consider your chances of winning and what your return might be with that free play.

If a casino says free play can only be used on slot machines, but you are a blackjack player, that free play is worth less to you than to a slot player. Complicating the matter is that as a blackjack player you expect to have a return close to 99% of what you bet, while the slot machines might have a return of only 85% of the money bet.

In another example, if the free play can't be used on video poker machines with a return of 99% but can only be used on blackjack -- and you're not a blackjack player and don't even know basic strategy, then again the free play is not worth what it would otherwise be.

Even if the free play can be used on your favorite game that you have success at there are still questions to ask. Let's say, for example, you can use the free play at the game of craps and craps is your favorite game. Let's say you are given $500 of free play. Here are some questions to consider:

1.  Can the free play be divided into small chips or vouchers or must you use all $500 as a single bet? Casinos may or may not allow you to divide a free play offer into smaller denomination bets and you could find yourself betting it all as one chip.

2.  Are there restrictions on the type of bet that can be made with the free play? For example in craps can the free play be used on the passline or the don't pass? Pass or don't pass have a very low house edge. Can the free play be used for "odds" on a passline or come bet? The "odds" have no house edge. Can the free play be used to bet the hardways? Hardways -- when two dice are rolled as 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 have some of the higher payouts. Some casinos will restrict free play bets so that they can only be made on even-money bets and that would limit you to the pass or don't pass or the come or don't come at craps.

3.  Can the free-play be used as a "put bet" in craps? Not all casinos allow "put bets" but some do. A put bet is when the player places his money on a box number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) as if it had traveled there after being a come bet. If a casino allows "put bets" and allows free-play to be a "put-bet" then the free play chip or voucher would become a "flat bet" and would be paid even-money on the box numbers. You can use the "put bet" strategy if a casino limits the free play to even-money bets and you want to use the free play on a box number.

4.  Is the free play bet a one-time bet or do you keep the free play bet if it wins so you can bet it again? Some casinos will pay if a free play bet wins, but then they take the free play chip or voucher and this means the free play was a one-use-only bet.

5.  Is the free play good for future visits? Free play chips or vouchers might have an expiration so check that carefully. You might want to save your free play for a future trip.

You might also want to use free play on games you've always wanted to try but not with money out of your own pocket. There's nothing wrong with that strategy either.

I also know some players who save their free play until just before going home. They will use the free play as their final bets and whatever they win with it goes into their pockets for the ride home.


Update February 23, 2016  It's been about six years now that table game minimums at major "Strip Casinos" in Las Vegas have had reduced table minimums.  In the case of Caesars Palace, for example, the "standard" $25 minimum bet craps and blackjack tables of pre-2008 stock market crash days are gone now, and now you are likely to find $10 minimum bet tables in the Palace Casino at Caesars Palace and in the Forum Casino at Caesars they sometimes have a $5 minimum bet craps table working.  The Palace Casino is the premier casino inside Caesars.  Caesars also has its "Forum Casino" which typically had lower minimum games.

It's not just the table minimums that are getting reduced because of the recession, but Caesars Palace tell me that the casino and the Total Rewards program have been tightening up on "rewards" for players.  There have been reductions in shopping offers, free play offers, gift offers and cuts in cash "show up" money.

Players who several years ago were getting offers valued at $2500 per trip have seen them cut to $250 per trip even if their own play levels have not changed. Part of this is the current competitive gaming environment and some of it is because Caesars has had its own financial problems which led to a bankruptcy filing for one of its main units which includes Caesars Palace.

"There were two reasons for this," a member of the marketing team at Caesars Palace told me about the changes in offers.  "First, player betting is down, and secondly the casino is tightening up."

With the cut in table game minimums, the clientele at Caesars Palace is also changing.  It's definitely younger.  More young players are at the craps tables.  When the craps games had a $25 minimum (or higher) the craps tables were financially out of reach for younger players.  Now, with $10 minimum bet tables -- even on Friday and Saturday nights -- the games are packed with players in their early 20's.  That means casino personnel are busier checking ID cards and driver licenses for their new clientele.

And the drop in table game minimums, and the rush of new, younger players, actually complements some of the other big changes at Caesars Palace including the draw of its nightclub.  The poker room at Caesars has also drawn more of the younger players.  Could the demographics of Caesars be changing from an older, wealthier clientele to a younger and "less rich" clientele? Yes, it's already happened. If that is what is happening, what else might change at Caesars?

The other changes have included changes in the hotel rooms. Gone are the bathrobes and the special soaps and cleansing bars and even the nighttime chocolates and gifts of nuts and waters are gone, too.

And what does this mean for players? Well, if you are real player betting significant amounts, you should be asking up front what kind of offers and services you will be getting in exchange for your patronage, which is also known as "action" in casino parlance.


Update April 3, 2012  I'm not a roulette player but I like to keep up to date with news and trends -- and gossip about the game.  I did play roulette twice -- each time making a small wager on "black."  Each time I doubled my $5 bet and moved on.  Roulette is not my game.  But I do stop and look at the "tote board" which shows the previous results.  It always makes me wonder what the next spin will be?  Will the string of "red numbers" continue or is "black due"?  Of course, that's exactly what the casino wants you to do -- look at the string of previous results to prompt you to make a new bet.  Casino statistics prove that when those "result signs" were first used, roulette betting actually increased.

The results signs also let you see if the same number comes up several times.  This has raised speculation that certain roulette dealers can control the ball and the spin?  Repeating numbers also have led to speculation that certain roulette dealers might have "signature numbers" or numbers that they tend to spin because of the way they spin the wheel and drop the ball.

Are there signature numbers for certain roulette dealers?  Can a roulette dealer control or influence the wheel and the ball to target a number of group of numbers?  I think the answer to both questions is yes -- but like with precision shooting in craps very few roulette dealers can do it.  I know one roulette dealer who can, and he showed me privately.

It happened several years ago when I was invited to a private event at a casino's high limit gaming room.  It was an early morning breakfast event -- and there were no gamblers in the high limit room.  I was the first to arrive, and they were just setting up the breakfast buffet.  The roulette dealers was standing by his wheel at the high limit table and he nodded to me.  I walked over and told him that I was there for the breakfast event -- and his game was too rich for my budget.  So we got into a conversation about the event I was attending and then I had to ask him about his game -- since I wasn't a roulette player at all at the time.  I asked him if it was possible to "target" a section of the wheel or an individual number?  He said, "let's see.  Pick a number."  I did.

He gave the wheel a spin -- which was about what a typical roulette wheel spin would be like -- and he dropped the ball as roulette dealers do, so it would spin counter to the spin of the wheel.  The ball bounced around and it came to a stop one slot off from the number I picked.  The dealer picked up the ball and repeated the process -- again the ball hit just one slot off from the number I picked.  I thanked him for the demonstration.

It makes sense that an experienced dealer could do this.  You get a feel for the spin, for the way the ball will bounce after it hits the wheel.  If you don't believe that a dealer can influence the roulette wheel and ball then you can't believe that Tiger Woods can hit a tiny little white ball so far and have it drop into a little hole under a flag.  And if you don't believe that a dealer can influence the roulette wheel and ball then you can't believe that a baseball pitcher can throw a ball about 90 miles per hour and have it curve and sink into the strike zone.  And if you don't believe that a dealer can influence the roulette wheel and ball then you can't believe that a professional quarterback in the NFC can accurately throw a football to a spot on the field seconds before the receiver gets there to catch it.


Overheard at a Las Vegas poker tournament: 

How do you get a professional poker player to leave your front door?  Pay for the pizza.  (Okay, I didn't get it at first either.  But the idea is that "everyone" is calling themselves a professional poker player these days, including those who earn a living delivering pizza.  Hmm.)

Also overheard at a Las Vegas poker tournament:

What's the difference between a poker player and a 5-year old?  The 5-year old eventually grows out of whining.


Here are ten gaming resolutions that will help you hold on to your money, and might help you put some money into your pockets as you play in casinos.

1.  I will always be a member of the casino's player's club and I will always play with the player's club card so that I can make use of the benefits including comps and cash back and promotions.

2.  I will have a budget for my play and I will stick to it.  I will resist the temptation to play "another twenty dollars" once my budget has been reached.

3.  I will play games that I know how to play.  In the case of video poker, I will know the correct strategy for the type of video poker game, or in the case of table games such as blackjack I will also know the correct strategy before I play.

4.  I will read the "junk mail" that casinos send me and keep track of the offers.  And, I will adjust my scheduled visits if there is a promotion or deal that will save me money.

5.  I will play games that fit my budget.

6.  I will stick to my budget and resist playing another "spin" on a slot machine because the "counter" on the machine says "another spin" would earn me extra credits or comp dollars on my player's card account.

7.  I will walk away when I have a big win, and not put it back into the machine or back onto the table.  Big wins happen rarely, and I will enjoy the next "big win" that comes along.

8.  I will make use of the casino comps and freebies that I have earned.  If free show tickets are available -- I will see the show, even if I don't like it.  If there is a free gift I will pick it up, even if I don't need another blender or toaster or blanket with the casino's name on it.

9.  If I am not having any fun gambling, I will stop gambling, and come back later.  What's the sense of playing if it's no fun?

10.  I will smile at the dealers, smile at the desk clerk, smile at the housekeeping staff, smile at the cashier, smile at other players, and smile at myself.  It will create good karma and while that might not help me win, it will help me enjoy myself.


Harrah's Entertainment, perhaps the largest casino operator on the planet, and the operator of Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Bally's, Harrah's and other prominent casinos, recently mailed out to thousands of players its Total Rewards Magazine for Winter 2008.  The magazine includes articles about entertainment at various resorts, also about shows, and clubs.  And from time to time, the Total Rewards Magazine includes a primer about a particular casino game.

In the Winter 2008 edition (page 30) there is an article titled Craps 101 with "just the basics" of the game.  I read the "basics," and they are flat out wrong.  I can't believe that such a blunder made it into print and got sent to the homes and businesses of thousands of players.

The article correctly points out that if a 7 or 11 is thrown on the first roll it is an instant winner for those who bet "pass."  

But what about the second roll of the dice?  The article says, and this is a direct quote, "now you can bet and roll again.  If instead you roll a 2, 3 or 12, you 'crap out.'  The bet goes to the house, and the next shooter steps up."

Well, the article is correct about the pass line bet going to the house (it's lost) if a roll on another come out bet is 2, 3 or 12.  But the dice do not pass to the next shooter.  The original shooter still has the option to throw the dice again.  

By the way, if you are betting "pass," and a point has already been established, then throwing a 2, 3 or 12 does not affect your passline bet.  It is, in effect, a "neutral number" that does not cause you to lose anything or win anything unless you made those particular side bets called "horn bets."

To "crap out" really means that you threw a 7 after a point is established.  In the game of craps, when a 7 comes before the point is rolled again, the shooter loses his passline bet and loses his turn with the dice.

I am amazed that this mistake about losing your turn from throwing a "craps" made it into print.  By the way, the article also refers to a craps crew member as "croupier" but I have never heard of a craps dealer being called a "croupier."  I've only heard them called "dealer."

The article also gives misleading and confusing information about what a "come bet" is.  The article calls the come bet "wagers on numbers other than the point."  And that's not true.  The come bet has nothing to do with the "point," it is just another "come out" bet.

When you are taking a trip or vacation at a casino resort, you don't want to carry a lot of cash.  Here's the best alternative... a casino credit line. 

You don't have to be a high roller to get a casino credit line in Vegas or at casinos around the country, including many Indian casinos. Credit lines are open to all players (gamblers) and frankly, a credit line at a casino can be a very good thing to have.

The first reason for having a credit line is personal security. With a credit line you do not have to carry cash to a casino, and you also don't have to worry about writing and cashing checks, or using ATM cards, or even going through the process of ordering travelers checks. Keep in mind that many casinos have high ATM fees, with some casino ATM machines charging $4 or $5 per transaction, in addition to a foreign ATM fee that your own bank might charge. Some banks charge $2 for using an ATM from another institutiion, including casino ATM's.

With a casino credit line, you ask for a "marker" (which is in effect a cash advance) either at the cage (the casino cashier) or at the table where you wish to play. Usually you have to establish your casino credit in advance. Most casinos will send you a credit application through the mail, or you can access a credit application on most casino websites. Casinos will grant you a credit line equal to the amount of cash you regularly have in your checking account or other bank account. Casinos might check your overall credit file, but this is not necessarily a rule. Sometimes your casino credit line will show up on your general credit file, and sometimes it will not. Most casinos will check with a central casino credit organization to see if you have credit accounts at other casinos and to make sure your accounts are in good standing, and that your credit lines do not exceed your ability to pay.
If you are planning a trip to a casino, and you want to have a credit line, it's a good idea to apply for the account a couple of weeks in advance.

Credit lines, and markers (a marker is what an IOU is called in a casino), are given to players so they can make bets. Unlike a cash advance on a MasterCard or Visa credit card, a casino credit line is not to be used to buy a piece of jewelry in a gift shop, or to make your next car or mortgage payment. (But we've heard of stories where players have done just that-- taken out a marker of several thousand dollars in cash claiming they were going to play slot machines, when in fact they were taking the cash out of the casino to make a car payment.)

Casinos want to protect themselves against players who take out markers but don't gamble, so if you go to the cage to cash in chips, you might be asked if you have any outstanding markers? The cashier might also ask for your ID and check your credit account to see if you do have any outstanding markers. At most casinos, if you cash chips worth $1,000 or more, they will ask about markers. Sometimes they will ask about markers if you casn in $500 chips. If you are trying to "hide" your markers, then only cash in $100 or "black" chips (black is generally the color designated for $100 chips), and cash them in small amounts.

One of the best advantages for using markers and casino credit is that there is no interest on the marker or loan, and most casinos will give you a full thirty days to pay your marker with no interest and no cash transaction fees. You can't get a deal like that with any credit card!
I was curious to find out what would happen if you could not pay your marker within 30 days? What would happen?

I checked with several major casinos in Las Vegas and were told that if a player had a problem paying his markers within 30 days, the casino might be able to give the player various types of assistance.

The "help" is always on a case-by-case basis. First, the casino will want to verify that the player did indeed lose money gambling, and did not take a marker for a purpose outside the casino-- such as that car payment idea. Second, if the player has had a good history of play and paying back markers in the past, the player might be granted additional time to pay the marker-- and I was told the extra time would be granted with zero interest.

But keep in mind that when you sign a marker you are in fact signing a check that can be used to draw money out of your bank account-- so a marker is not a free ride and it is a legal and financial obligation.

Just remember the important points: it's better to borrow the casino's cash to gamble than to use your own; it's safer to get your cash from the cage or from the table game, than to carry the cash to the casino from home; it's cheaper to use a marker than to use the ATM.

But taking out a marker is taking out a loan-- and it's money you must be able to repay, win or lose in the casino.

Best of luck!  Hit a royal!  Alan Mendelson

Here on our new media website "Moneyman" Alan Mendelson who is the original Best Deals TV Show reporter on KCAL9 and consumer advocate, shows you the best deals on TV, and the best buys, bargains and where savvy shoppers go to save, and how to get the most for "your money" with the best of Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County. Some content on is paid advertising. The Best Buys TV Show is a paid infomercial program which may also include news and information which is not sponsored or paid for by advertisers.

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