Las Vegas Casinos: Playing the Odds and Sticking to a Budget

Players packed tight at the card tables in a Las Vegas casinos

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Playing the casinos is a big part of visiting Las Vegas for many travelers, but so is sticking to a budget. You'll never lack the opportunity to risk losing your money during a stay in Sin City and the opportunities start as soon as you land—there are slot machines all over McCarran Airport.

But if you're intending to visit the city and strike it rich in the casinos, think again. It is likely you'll join the thousands of other such players who leave town disappointed each week. Being realistic and remaining mindful of your budget will go a long way to ensuring you have a great Vegas vacation. The more you know about gambling, the better the chances you'll have to go home with good memories and a little cash in your pocket.

Long Odds

The mega-million dollar hotel lobbies and flashy entertainment venues in Vegas represent significant wealth. Where does all of that wealth come from? Those who lose in the casino are the source of a lot of it. The house (the name for the casino venue) does well at the gambling tables and machines. Your odds are far less favorable. Even if you follow the best tips for winning at table games, the estimated chance of winning is just under 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. Their idea was to sanitize the risks and keep customers thinking positively. After all, most other games we play—sports, board games, video games—come with decent odds of winning.

Maintain Perspective

Many a traveler gets caught up in the hoopla of casino games 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 do not feel entertained when their resources are lost. It is vital that you recognize casinos as places of entertainment when visiting Vegas, rather than places for making profits and fortunes.

Cash Out, Don't Re-Up

Even the most determined, avid gamblers observe what can be called "The Cardinal Rule of Las Vegas": 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 better than others, but even experts take serious losses since the element of chance is mixed into the equation. However, for most people, budgeting your "entertainment" money ahead of playing in the casinos is imperative. And, if you win, cash out and stop playing.

Plan Ahead

If you're an inexperienced gambler, understand your limitations. It pays to know what you're doing. Understand the rules and develop strategies for common games before entering 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.

Defy Vegas Programming

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 or a sobering influence. Hotel rooms 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.

Seek Help

Clearly, there is a line drawn 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 from gambling difficult, you might have a gambling addiction. The National Council on Problem Gambling operates the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700) and help is free.

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