What Casino Games Should I Learn to Play Before My First Trip to Las Vegas?

If you’re a little weary of gambling in Vegas, there are still plenty of options to have fun without gambling at all. But why would you do that? Of course there are numerous shows to choose from, great places to eat, and you could always hole up in your swanky hotel room. But there would still be that lingering feeling of “What if I had played blackjack or roulette and won a boatload of money?”

There are far too many games requiring little to no skill that allow you to be social, get free drinks while you play and allow you to kill time between all the shows and sitting around you would be doing otherwise.

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Craps

Craps is one of the few games that pretty much anyone can get the gist of if they watch one game. If you’re fearful of gambling away your money too quickly, craps may be the game for you. The best thing about craps is that it typically has the lowest minimum bet of any table game in the casino. It also helps that you’re getting to play with a number of other people, up to 16, who are all betting against the house. The game can actually become pretty exciting the longer it takes for a “shooter” to win or “crap out.”

The rules are pretty simple, and knowing them in detail is almost pointless if you’re just in it for the fun. A typical craps table has up to four people working the table and usually has eight people on either side of the table placing bets for or against the shooter, who is the person rolling the dice. If you just bet the Pass Line (meaning you’re betting in favor of the shooter) and take the odds, the house ends up with only a 1.5% advantage.

All in all, craps is a fun game and is much more social than many other games. As long as you can place your bets in accordance with your budget, you can even play for quite a while.

Blackjack

If you enjoy a false sense of control over your destiny, blackjack is probably the game for you. In reality, the game is more luck than anything else, but the ability to decide whether or not you want to hit or stand does give you a bit more control than most games. In addition, these decisions do require knowledge of the game and its strategy.

This is what you need to remember:
• Regardless of what the dealer shows, if you have 17 or more, stand
• If you have two aces or two eights, split your hand, no matter what the dealer shows
• If the dealer shows anything between two and six, and you’re sitting pretty with 13 through 16, stand
• If the dealer shows anything between four and six, and you’ve got a solid 10 or 11, double down
• Hit on anything that doesn’t fall within these rules

Obviously, the game can be a little more complicated than these rules show, but these are the basics so you don’t end up losing all your money or looking silly at the table.

In addition to these strategies, you need to know what the terms mean. “Hit” or “Stand” are pretty obvious — do you want another card or do you not. To split your cards means you are doubling your bet, and your cards will become to new hands acting independently. Doubling down just means you are doubling your bet.

In blackjack, the house has anywhere from a 1%–2% edge, and this is because you must act first. This will lead you to “bust” (go over 21) before the house does.
For more detailed information on strategies for blackjack, read my other post.

Baccarat

Although it may seem like this game is only for high rollers, many casinos have reasonable minimum bets for baccarat (although sometimes they can be high), not to mention it’s one of the simplest games to play.

The object of baccarat is to receive a combination of cards with a sum equal to or closest to nine. The only thing that makes it slightly more complicated is the fact that card values are determined by adding them together and using the right-most digit as the value of the hand. Basically, if you have an five and a seven, your hand value is five. This is determined by adding them together, giving you 15. The right-most digit is five, so that is the value of your hand. Keep in mind, the only cards with value are number cards up to nine, which are counted at face value and aces, which are counted as one; face cards and 10s are worth nothing.

The rest of the game just plays out. The player has the option to bet on the dealer, the player or a tie. A natural win is either an eight or a nine. If this win doesn’t happen in the first hand, the dealer will draw an additional card. If there is still no natural win, the hand with the highest value wins.

In baccarat, the banker has a house advantage of 1.17%, the player has a house advantage of 1.36% and a tie has a house advantage of 14.12%. Given these statistics, it’s wise not to bet on a tie.

Roulette

There are far too many bets you can make at roulette to go into detail about them. Essentially, it is a game of pure chance with just under 6% house edge. So your odds aren’t as good as they are on the aforementioned games, but roulette is so fun and easy to play that it makes no difference.

Basically you can bet on exact numbers, a range of numbers or even colors. Each bet pays out differently, obviously with the most risky bets paying the most. A straight up bet (betting on one number) pays 35:1; split betting (two numbers) pays 17:1; street bets (three numbers) pays 11:1; corner bets (four numbers) pays 8:1. These are the highest paying bets, but your options also involve betting on ranges, including 1–18, 19–36 (both of these ranges pay 1:1), 1–12, 13–24 and 25–36 (these three ranges pay 2:1). Betting on red, black, odd or even pays 1:1.

There are plenty of strategies you’ll find or even overhear at roulette tables. Sometimes people look at the speed and trajectory the ball takes when a particular dealer lets it go. Regardless, it’s still based on luck. The main thing to remember is to stay within your gambling budget. Also, if you want to feel like James Bond, bet 17. That’s what he bet in the movies!

Slots

Play the slots while you’re in Vegas. They’re fun, mindless and are a great way to warm up to playing other games. The main thing you should know about slots is that you have to place the highest bet for a chance at the jackpot.


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