Playing the casinos is a big part of visiting Las Vegas for many travelers.
But if you're intending to visit the city and strike it rich in the casinos, it is likely you'll join the thousands of other such players who leave town disappointed each week.
Vegas' mega-million dollar hotel lobbies and flashy entertainment venues represent significant wealth. Where does all of that wealth come from? Those who lose in the casino contribute a lot of it. The house does well in the gambling stalls. Your odds are far less favorable.
How long are those odds? Vegasclick.com offers tips for winning at table games. It's estimated that the chance of winning at most of these games is just less than 5 percent.
That percentage represents a true definition of the word gamble. Casino owners are acutely aware of this. Years ago, they started promoting the word gaming to replace gambling. The idea then and now is to sanitize the risks and keep customers thinking positively. After all, most games we've played come with decent odds of winning.
These games are different. That might seem obvious, but many a traveler gets caught up in the hoopla and burns through significant cash. For all the media emphasis on high rollers who gamble millions of dollars, remember that much of the Vegas wealth came from average people with limited financial resources. Budget travelers aim to save money, and most of us are not entertained when resources are lost. That might be a harsh assessment. After all, the idea is to be entertained in the casino.
That's why it is vital that visitors to Las Vegas recognize casinos as places of entertainment rather than places for making profits and fortunes.
Even the most determined, avid gamblers observe what can be called "The Cardinal Rule of Las Vegas." Here it is: determine how much money you can afford to lose before arrival on the casino floor and stop playing when that money is gone. To do otherwise is to commit one of the most common Las Vegas mistakes.
Naturally, some people play the games better than others. But even the experts take serious losses, since the element of chance is mixed into the equation.
It pays to know what you're doing. Have a sound strategy for Blackjack and other common games before entering the casino.
But don't be like the tourist who spends a few hours reading about the Chinese language and then expects to communicate perfectly in Beijing. If you're an inexperienced gambler, understand your limitations.
Finally, understand that casinos and hotels in Las Vegas are designed to keep you gambling. The physical design of a casino rarely includes windows, which could provide a distraction. Hotel venues often are only accessible with a walk through the main casino. Parking garages in Las Vegas usually are convenient and sometimes free of charge.
Even the wait staff is carefully trained to keep you at the tables or slots. They'll bring you drinks rather than risk a distraction that could lead customers out of the casino.
Don't expect many safeguards. Those lacking discipline can ruin their financial lives. Consider this: most casinos have ATMs that work with your credit cards and bank debit cards. You can literally spend every penny to your name and max out your credit cards in a casino. That's why the rule about setting a limit and walking away is so important.
Clearly, there is a line between the Las Vegas visitor who wants to experience the casinos as entertainment and compulsive gamblers. But the line can blur for some patrons.
If you find walking away difficult, check out this list of 20 questions from Gamblers Anonymous.