Guide to casino games

Step inside a casino and the atmosphere tingles with excitement. It seems like you could make a fortune but the maths are not in your favour. Find out how casinos really work, plus tips to play it safe.

What are casino games?

Casino games – also called table games - can be played in a casino or online. Gambling activities may include card, dice and random number games played on a table. These are managed by a representative of the casino known as the croupier or dealer. Some of the best known games include poker, blackjack, baccarat and roulette. Casino games work by allowing customers to purchase chips and to bet these on the outcomes of a game (such as a round of poker) or an event (such as spinning a roulette wheel).

Going to a casino is a form of entertainment, but can become harmful. You’re likely to spend more that you win, so it should never be counted on as a way to make money.

The difference between skill and chance-based games

  1. Games of pure chance. These include roulette, baccarat, money wheel and pokie machines. The odds are not affected by anything the player does or anything they think they know.
  2. Games of partial skill like blackjack and poker. Some knowledge and judgement may increase your chances of guessing a winning outcome but chance still plays a large role in the result. 

The following games arepure chance

  • Roulette
  • Baccarat
  • Money Wheel
  • Pokie Machines

Your brain sees patterns that aren’t there

Your brain is constantly scanning the world for things that are predictable and meaningful so that it knows what to do next. However, it runs into problems when it tries to spot patterns in games that are random. Random means that it’s impossible to predict the future from the past. So in games like roulette, craps, baccarat, keno, wheel of fortune and pokie machines, the brain sees patterns that aren’t there.

Take roulette for example...

You may see an electronic display that shows the outcomes of the last few spins. It’s tempting to check the displays for patterns and change your bets according to what you see. But it doesn’t matter what you bet - the next spin is unrelated to all previous spins. The little ball has no memory and can’t remember where it last landed. Don't be fooled by any patterns, they are just an illusion.

Is it your turn to win?

Some roulette players may continue playing even if they are consistently losing because they feel it is their turn to win. If you see that number 23 has not come up for a long time it may seem logical to think it must come up soon. But the outcome of the roulette wheel is random and it does not have a memory. Number 23 has the same chance of winning on any spin.

What is the house advantage?

The house is geared to win in the long run because of a mathematical advantage (or the house edge) that the casino enjoys over the player. You may win on occasions, but continual gambling over time will result in losses for you, the gambler.

Expect to lose more than you win.

If casino games provided even chances to win, like when you flip a coin with a mate, you’d win half the time and the casino would win the other half. But the odds are stacked towards the casino.

You may have some luck...

...but in the long run you are likely to walk out with less money than you came in with.

 

The house advantage (or “edge”) is the difference between the true odds (or the mathematical odds) and what a casino pays. This varies across games and is usually expressed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more the casino is keeping.1

How the house advantage works in roulette

Roulette wheels feature the numbers 1 to 36, along with a 0 and sometimes a 00 as well. This means the ball can land on 1 of 37 possibilities (or 1 of 38 possibilities in the case of a 00 wheel). In other words the true odds are 1 in 37 (or 1 in 38). However, the highest a casino will pay out in roulette for any single bet is $35 for every $1 you bet (maximum payout rate of 35 to 1). Because the payout rate is lower than the true odds, the house has an advantage every time you spin. The house edge on a 00 roulette wheel is 5.26%. This means that every time you bet $1 you’re likely to lose 5 cents2. Or put another way...

With roulette... expect to get 95 cents for every $1 you bet

Tips for staying safe at casinos

  • Remember that casino gambling is a form of entertainment. It is not a way to make money. The odds are always in the casino’s favour.
  • Set a spending limit. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose. This money should not be needed for basic living expenses, such as food etc.
  • Set a time limit for your visit to the casino.
  • Don’t try and win back money you have lost.
  • Only take cash. Don’t take your bank cards or credit cards with you when you gamble.
  • When you run out of money, don’t borrow from family, friends or others so you can keep gambling.
  • Balance gambling with other leisure activities. Gambling shouldn’t be the only activity you do in your spare time.
  • Going to a casino with others means you can watch out for one another. But remember not to feel pressured just because someone in the group is spending more or playing longer. Know your own limits.
  • Don’t gamble when you’re depressed or feeling low. Decision-making can be more difficult when you’re stressed or upset. Make sure you only gamble when you’re feeling clear headed.
  • Look for the odds and payouts on games you are playing so you are fully informed.
  • When you take a break, leave the gambling area rather that just the immediate game so you can truly break free of the environment.
  • Consider using the casino’s pre-commitment facility to limit how much time or money you spend gambling. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask one of the casino staff for help.
  • For free 24/7 help and support, call the Gambling Helpline team on 0800 654 655.