Fresh off the heels of finishing my novel, Lost in Las Vegas, about two hapless visitors who get into a world of trouble in Sin City (, the editors at MANjr asked me help their readers avoid getting lost at the Vegas tables.

Okay, you’re getting ready to win your fortune in Las Vegas. But not so fast! Let’s get you prepared with a quick primer on how to beat the casino. My goal is to give you the best chances of walking away with money in your pocket!

First tip is to play the games you enjoy the most. Why play a game where the house has a slightly lesser edge if you don’t have fun playing it? At the same time, winning is more fun than losing, right? You can give yourself the best chance of winning by playing the casino tough. Here’s a quick rundown on how to do that.


Blackjack is the best game to play—if you know what you’re doing. Playing correct “Basic Strategy” will give you about an even game against the house. And using a professional-level counting or non-counting strategy will actually give you an edge!

Best Chance to Win: Play Basic Strategy perfectly and don’t get rattled by losses when good strategy fails. Stick to the correct plays and make all the correct doubling and splitting plays. Always draw to a hard 12 through 16 when the dealer shows a stiff card, a 7 through Ace.

Avoid games that pay only 6 to 5 on blackjacks—you want a 2 to 1 payoff. Don’t play unprepared and never follow your hunches.


Craps is the fastest of the casino games and offers you a chance to win (or lose) a lot of money quickly. It’s a great game that gives the casino only a 0.6% edge if you make the line bets and back them with double odds. But if you choose the lousy bets, craps can be one of the worst casino games.

Best Chance to Win: Stick to only the pass, don’t pass, come, don’t come and free odds bets.

Avoid all the proposition bets in the middle. They give the casino as much as a 16.67% edge. Ouch!


You can find machines that are loose (99+% payback!) or tight ones that seem to hold all your money (only 90% payback or worse). How can you distinguish between the two? You can’t, but there are strategies to find better paying machines. If you hit a massive jackpot, well okay!

Best Chance to Win: Ask slot attendants which machines are paying frequently, and play at casinos that cater to slots players. Play at slot banks packed with players (an indication that they’re paying good), and join slot clubs so you can reap benefits from your action.

Avoid playing near buffet and show lines, and at other locations where impulse coins are donated—and stay clear of morgue-like slot settings.


In Europe single-zero roulette tables are hugely popular and offer en prison (a rule that lets you redo your bet or lose only half of it) if the 0 lands. End result being only a 1.35% house edge. In the short run, you can take the casino. But in the U.S., the wheels have a double zero added to them, giving casinos a massive 5.26% edge. Your chips will bleed dry trying to overcome that edge.

Best Chance to Win: Try to find a single-zero wheel. If only double zero games are available, play small stakes, knowing you’re bucking a big house edge.

Avoid the 5-number bet, an even worse play that costs you 7.89%.

Video Poker

Video poker payout schedules can vary as often as a woman changes her hairdo, but the key on a non-progressive draw poker machine is to look for a jacks-or-better game with a 9-6 payout, meaning that you win 9 times your bet when you hit a full house, and 6 times your bet if you make a flush. (Expect progressives to be 8-5 machines.) With perfect play on a good paytable, the house has only about a 0.5% edge, that’s it!

Best Chance to Win: Shop around to find the best paying machines. You must play the full 5 coins to qualify for the royal jackpot. Find a 25¢ progressive with a $2,200 jackpot or higher—and you have the edge!

Avoid machines with lousy paytables, and never throw away a deuce on deuces-wild machines!

Keno and Video Keno

While the machine version of this age-old game offers much better odds than its slow-moving counterpart, it’s at a price—ironically, you’ll lose more money with the better odds due to the speed of the game. Traditional keno has terrible odds, as high as 35% or so against you.

Best Chance to Win: In the video version, play slowly to avoid having all your money quickly sucked into the machines. In standard keno, play 3-spot to 8-spot tickets for the best odds.

Avoid 1-spot and 2-spot tickets, plus 9-spot and higher tickets on traditional keno. You face big odds at keno, so whatever the variation, play for fun only. On video keno, bad odds and fast play lead to quick losses. So how do you get around this? Play sparingly and make having fun your goal, not profit.

Sports Betting

The line is set by the oddsmakers to divide the betting evenly, not by a team’s chances of winning. The skill you bring to the table determines your long-term results. Short term, anything can happen. Pros win money with hard work and smart decision-making. Amateurs tend to take it on the chin. You’re bucking a 4.54% vig on straight bets (you pay $11 to win $10), so you’ve got to win 52.38% of the time just to break even.

Best Chance to Win: Bet against fan favorites and shop around for the best odds. Make bets sparingly and bet only on your best picks.

Avoid parlays, where the odds get progressively worse. Bet with your head, not your heart.

Three Card Poker

Three card poker offers two games in one, the ante/play game and the pair plus game. The house edge is pretty reasonable if you play correctly—2.02% on the ante/play bet and 2.32% on the pair plus.

Best Chance to Win: Learn the proper strategies and play only games that offer the best paytables. Play only Q-6-4 or better, folding weaker hands.

Avoid games with bad pair plus payouts (you might fight a 7.28% edge as opposed to 2.32%). Skip progressive bets if the jackpots are small.

Five quick winning tips:

  1. Never bet money you cannot afford to lose, either financially or emotionally.
  2. Once you’re a big winner, always walk away a big winner.
  3. Set loss limits before you play and never dig in deeper.
  4. Don’t chase losses with big bets that can turn a session into a disaster.
  5. Use smart money management to ensure that gambling remains fun.

About the Author

Avery Cardoza has written twenty-one books on beating the casino and is the world’s largest publisher of gaming and gambling titles ( Cardoza is also the owner of the legendary Gambler’s Book Club (, home to the world’s largest selection of gaming books. He has just released his exciting novel, Lost in Las Vegas (, an offbeat, dark comedy that follows two hapless vacationers in Las Vegas through a series of misadventures as their world collapses around them and their lives spiral downward into the seedy and treacherous underbelly of Sin City.