Your Gambling Strategy Isn’t Working Because You’re Not Winning Money (What to Do Instead)

by Jeff Harris
on December 30, 2017

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and ask yourself why you enjoy gambling.

Is it for the short-term thrills that come with your money hanging in the balance? Is it because you enjoy using strategy to try and win money?

If the latter describes you, then the obvious goal is to win money. And your strategy isn’t working if you’re not accomplishing this goal.

Keep reading as I discuss how you can fix this problem and win more often. I’ll specifically cover what games you should play, the importance of strategy, advantage play, comps, and bankroll management.

Choose the Highest Paying Games

The first thing that you need to evaluate is whether or not you play the right games. Casino games have different house edges, and your chances of winning decrease dramatically when facing a high house edge.

Here are examples of different casino games and their house advantages:

  • Video poker = 0.27% house edge (Ugly Ducks Deuces Wild)
  • Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (varies based on table rules)
  • Baccarat = 1.06% (banker bet)
  • French roulette = 1.35%
  • Craps = 1.36% (can be lower with odds bets)
  • European roulette = 2.70%
  • Let It Ride = 3.51%
  • Caribbean stud = 5.22%
  • American roulette = 5.26%
  • Big Six = 11.11%
  • Keno = 10% to 40% (depending on payouts)

If your primary goal is to win in gambling, then you need to play the top games on this list.

You can also play skill-based games where you’re competing against other players. But I’ll save this for later in the discussion because it’s harder to become a winning advantage player.

The most practical route is to pick games with a low house edge and hope for a little luck. I can’t help you with the luck aspect, but I can cover more on the games listed above.

Video Poker – Find the Right Games & Paytables

The video poker house edge varies quite a bit based on the specific game and paytable. You can go from having a 0.76% advantage over casinos to facing a 5% house edge or worse based on the machine.

This raises the importance of choosing the best games. Here are some of the highest paying video poker variations:

  • Full pay Deuces Wild – 100.76% payback
  • 10/7 Double Bonus – 100.17%
  • 10/6 Double Double Bonus – 100.07%
  • All Aces (online) – 99.92%
  • Triple Double Bonus – 99.58%
  • 9/6 Jacks or Better – 99.54%
  • 8/5 Bonus Poker – 99.17%

The other key here is that you must find the best available paytables for each game. Every video poker variation has different paytables, and it does you no good to play the lower tables.

One example is the difference between 9/6 Jacks or Better and 9/5 Jacks or Better (JoB).

9/5 JoB only pays one coin less for a flush. But this simple difference is enough to increase the house edge from 0.46% to 1.54%.

Know the paytables for your favorite games so that you don’t choose a lesser version.

One more point worth making is that you can use to find the best video poker games in land based casinos. This site allows you to search what machines are found in each US casino region.

Blackjack – Find the Best Rules

The blackjack house edge depends upon what rules are present at the table. The house advantage can range anywhere from 0.3% to 2.0% based on the rules.

Here’s a look at how everything affects the house edge:

  • 3:2 Natural blackjack payouts – Lowers house edge by 1.40% when compared to 6:5 payouts.
  • Number of decks – House edge decreases by 0.59% when going from 8 deck to single deck blackjack.
  • Double down – Lowers house edge by 0.25% when compared to only doubling down on 9 through 11.
  • Dealer stands on soft 17 – Lowers house edge by 0.20% when compared to the dealer hitting.
  • Double down after splitting (DAS) – Lowers house edge by 0.17% if allowed.
  • Re splitting aces (RSA) – Lowers house edge by 0.08% if allowed.
  • Late surrender – Lowers house edge by 0.07% if allowed.

The goal is to find as many favorable rules as possible within a single game. You’re normally fortunate to find a land based table that offers 3:2 blackjack payouts, 6 decks, DAS, and RAS.

Baccarat – Make the Banker Bet

Baccarat strategy is extremely easy because all you need to do is bet on the banker hand winning. Even with the 5% commission that casinos take out on winning banker hand bets, you’ll only be facing a 1.06% house edge.

Here’s how the banker wager stacks up to other available baccarat bets:

  • Banker hand = 1.06% house edge
  • Player bet = 1.24%
  • Tie bet = 14.36%

You can further lower the house edge by playing at EZ baccarat tables in Las Vegas casinos.

The main difference is that an EZ baccarat table doesn’t take commissions from winning banker hands, but the catch is that you push when the banker wins with a three card 7.

The end result is a 1.02% house edge on banker bets, which is slightly lower than standard games.

Craps – Make Odds Bets

Craps is an interesting game, because it has a bet with no house edge called “odds.” But you must first make a pass line or don’t pass line bet before placing an odds wager.

Here are the steps to doing so:

1 – Make a pass line or don’t pass line bet on the come out roll (first roll of a new round).

2 – Wait until a point number has been established.

3 – Put an odds bet behind your original wager (there’s no box for odds bets).

4 – Let the dealer know that you’re making an odds wager.

5 – This bet wins based on the same rules as your pass line or don’t pass line wager.

6 – Odds bets pay at true odds of winning (i.e. 2:1 odds on point number = 2:1 payout).

A pass line bet has a 1.41% house edge, while a don’t pass line wager has a 1.36% house advantage.

By themselves, these bets are solid propositions. But odds bets take things to another level by further lowering the house edge.

Here’s a look at how much the house edge decreases based on the size of odds you put behind a pass line wager:

  • 1x odds = 0.848% house edge
  • 2x = 0.606%
  • Full Double Odds = 0.572%
  • 3x = 0.471%
  • 3x 4x 5x = 0.374%
  • 5x = 0.326%
  • 10x = 0.184%
  • 20x = 0.099%
  • 100x = 0.021%

The two catches with taking bigger odds is that casinos need to offer them, and you must have the money to cover larger wagers.

Many casinos stop their odds at 3x or less. And it’s rare to find a casino outside Vegas to offers 10x odds or higher.

When you place a $5 pass line bet, you’ll need another $50 to cover 10x odds. Even with no house edge, this is a risky proposition for some players.

But I advise that you at least take 1x or 2x odds based on how you can lower the house edge under 1%.

French Roulette – Make Even-Money Bets

French roulette is played on a European wheel, which has 37 numbers.

One of these numbers is a single zero pocket, which favors the house on every even-money bet. Dividing the zero pocket by the 37 total numbers (1/37), you can see that European roulette offers a 2.70% house edge.

But French roulette includes the la partage rule, which pays half back on losing even-money bets that land on zero. This reduces the house edge to 1.35% as long as you stick with even-money wagers.

If you can’t find French roulette, keep in mind that European roulette has a reasonable house edge. But anybody can play the French version at Microgaming or Realtime Gaming (RTG) online casinos.

Learn Proper Strategy when Necessary

Three of the five casino games discussed above have really simple strategy. All you must do to achieve perfect strategy in baccarat, craps, and roulette is choose the rights bets/variations.

Blackjack and video poker involve more in-depth strategy in order to lower the house edge. Here’s a quick look at how you can improve with both games.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

The first thing that you must do to boost your chances of winning includes getting a blackjack strategy chart. This shows what action you should take based on your score and the dealer’s upcard.

All you need to do is search with Google or Bing using the keywords, “blackjack strategy chart,” then look in the images. You’ll see a variety of different charts based on the variation (e.g. Atlantic City blackjack, Vegas Strip blackjack, Spanish 21).

Choose the correct chart and use it to know when to hit, stand, double down, split, or late surrender (if allowed).

Another tool that you can use to improve is a blackjack trainer. These are free online programs that correct strategy mistakes as you play.

Simply Google “blackjack trainer,” and you can choose from a variety of different results.

Video Poker Strategy

The quickest way for new video poker players to learn strategy is by looking at a strategy chart. These are available for a few different games, and they show you what hands to keep in order of importance.

I recommend checking out a 9/6 Jacks or Better because it forms the basis of other video poker games. You start from the top of the chart and scan down until finding your hand:

1 – Royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind

2 – 4 cards to a royal flush

3 – Full house, flush, straight, 3 of a kind

4 – 4 cards to a straight flush

5 – 2 pair

6 – High pair (aces through jacks)

7 – 3 cards to a royal flush

8 – 4 cards to a flush

9 – Unsuited K Q J T

10 – Low pair (10s through 2s)

11 – 4 cards to an outside straight w/ 0 to 2 high cards

12 – 3 cards to a straight flush

13 – Suited Q J

14 – 4 cards to an inside straight w/ 4 high cards

15 – Suited K Q, K J

16 – Suited A K, A Q, or A J

17 – 4 cards to an inside straight w/ 3 high cards

18 – 3 cards to a straight flush

19 – Unsuited K Q J

20 – Unsuited Q J

21 -Suited J T

22 – 2 unsuited high cards w/ king high card

23 – Suited Q T

24 – 2 unsuited high cards w/ ace high card

25 – Jack only

26 – Suited K T

27 – Single queen, king, or ace

28 – 3 cards to a straight flush

Strategy charts are a nice introduction to video poker strategy. But you’ll need to use a video poker trainer to learn strategy for the majority of games.

A trainer sees you play video poker like normal. But it also points out correct and incorrect strategy decisions while you play.

This is helpful because you can learn strategy through the repetition of making correct plays, and fixing your mistakes.

Get Good Comps

Comps are both a good and bad thing in casino gaming.

The obvious good point is that comps add to your bottom line and increase potential winnings. But the downside is that players overvalue comps and chase them.

Let me explain why this is a bad idea through an example:

  • You’re playing blackjack.
  • The casino comp rate is 0.1% on total blackjack bets.
  • The house edge is 1.0%
  • You bet $10,000.
  • You’ll theoretically lose $100 (10,000 x 0.01).
  • Your theoretical comps are $10 (10,000 x 0.001).

Don’t ever catch yourself gambling purely for comps, because it’s a losing game.

Nevertheless, you should still look for the best comps, because this does increase your overall winnings. Simple online research will help you find what online and land-based casinos offer the best rewards.

Play Skill-Based Games with Positive Expected Value

Everything I’ve discussed up to this point can help you trim the house edge and boost your odds of winning. But again, you need some luck to win profits over any prolonged time period.

Gamblers who want to consistently win need to play skill-based games with positive expected value (+EV). Here are games where you can earn +EV with enough skill:

  • Blackjack (card counting)
  • Daily fantasy sports (DFS)
  • Poker
  • Sports betting
  • Video poker

Every game requires its own strategy, which you must master to become a successful advantage player. And it takes a lot of skill and experience before you’re capable of making money.

But I’ll offer you a general look at what’s needed to win long-term profits in each of the five games above.

Blackjack (Card Counting)

Card counting is the most famous way to beat a house banked casino game.

The basis of card counting is tracking three groups of cards, including 2-6; 7-9; and 10-A.

You assign 2-6 a count of +1; assign 7-9 a neutral value (0); assign 10-A a count of -1. Tracking these groups and awarding points gives you a running count.

The foundation of card counting is simple enough, but it takes some practice to consistently maintain the count and deal with casino distractions.

You also need the ability to blend in with other players so that the casino doesn’t realize you’re counting cards. Otherwise, they’ll throw you out and possibly ban you from their properties.

Another aspect of card counting involves determining your true count in a multi deck shoe. This requires dividing your running count by the number of remaining decks.

Here’s an example:

  • Your running count is +8.
  • There are 4 decks remaining.
  • Your true count is +2 (8/4).

One more step involves spreading your bets when the true count is in your favor. Here’s how to spread your wagers during a positive true count:

1 – Determine a unit size (e.g. $100).

2 – Figure out your true count (e.g. +4).

3 – Subtract 1 from the true count (4 – 1 = 3).

4 – Multiply this number by your unit size (100 x 3 = 300).

5 – Your bet should be $300, or 3 units.

Sports Casino Online

DFS Exploded in 2015 and has remained popular today.

The main skill to DFS involves determining which players are undervalued against a salary. For example, you might think that a player with a $6,500 salary will score far more points than expected.

Another thing that you need to be able to do in DFS involves spotting overlays. An overlay happens when the amount of entry money is less than a guaranteed prize pool, thus giving you +EV.

An example would be only 85 players paid a $100 buy in ($8,500 total) in a $10,000 tournament.

You can use software to help you to find overlays and/or determine the optimal lineups for any given day/week. Or you can always study existing strategy on the internet and use this to determine your own system for picking winners.


Poker offers more opportunities than any other game to become a professional gambler, because millions of people play this game around the globe.

Poker features a number of different variations, including Texas hold’em, Omaha, Omaha Hi Lo, 7 card stud, Badugi, Chinese poker, Crazy Pineapple, HORSE, and Razz. Any aspiring pro should choose one popular game to specialize in, rather than trying to excel in multiple variations.

The main aspect to becoming a successful pro involves how much time you dedicate to strategy and reviewing your sessions.

You can find a wealth of strategy tips through Twitch streams and YouTube videos. The best part is that both of these means are convenient and free.

Many poker pros stream their sessions and discuss strategy through Twitch. Pros also offer YouTube videos on specific situations (e.g. 3 betting or c betting), which is nice for when you’re struggling with a concept.

Sports Betting

Sports wagering is appealing because you only have to win 52.4% of your bets to break even. However, the problem is that sportsbooks are very good at setting lines in hopes of drawing 50% of the action on both sides.

This means that you need to be really good to spot which side of the line has the most value. And even when you can find value, your bet still needs to come through.

Software has become much bigger among serious bettors because it helps you analyze a number of factors to make informed wagers. Of course, you have to pay for the best software and learn how to use it.

You can also place solid bets just by doing the research and really learning the ins and outs of a few teams. Focusing your research helps you hone in on a certain team/league and become successful.

Video Poker

Video poker is the only game where casino will voluntarily spot you an advantage. The only problem is that +EV games are rare in casinos.

I mentioned earlier that you need to use to find machines that offer +EV. You’ll have luck finding full pay Deuces Wild, Double Bonus, and Double Double Bonus in dozens of Nevada casinos.

The other part of this is studying strategy for the specific game you’re playing. And the best way to do this is by using a video poker trainer.

Free trainers cover popular games like Bonus Poker and Jacks or Better. But you’ll need to buy a training program to study +EV games and a number of other variations.

This will cost you around $50, but it’s worth the price if you’ll be playing a lot of video poker.

Bankroll Management

One final piece of the puzzle involves managing your bankroll.

This alone won’t help you beat a house banked game because the casino still has an advantage. But it at least helps you extend your gaming sessions.

In the case of skill-based games like card counting, DFS, poker, and sports betting, bankroll management is the key to surviving short term downswings and eventually making profits.

Let’s look at an example of bankroll management for craps:

  • You’re backing pass line bets with 2x odds (0.61% overall house edge).
  • You wager $1,000 total in an hour.
  • This leads to $6.10 in theoretical losses (1,000 x 0.0061).
  • You could theoretically play for 164 hours at this rate (1,000/6.1).

Now let’s look at an example of mitigating your short-term risk in a skill-based game:

  • You’re a semi pro sports bettor who wins 53% of your bets.
  • You only risk 1% of your bankroll on each game.
  • You want to make $1,500 bets on average.
  • You’ll need a $150,000 bankroll to do this.

Sports betting isn’t the only skill-based game where you need a big bankroll to succeed. The other +EV skill based games that I covered also require a large bankroll in order to stave off short-term downswings.

This makes bankroll size yet another factor that you must consider with trying to become a pro gambler.


If you’re taking heavy losses in gambling, the good news is that there are simple fixes for the problem.

The first step is to evaluate what games you’re playing and their house edge. Baccarat, blackjack, craps, French roulette, and video poker are good choices, because they have low house advantages.

The next step is to figure out what strategy and/or bets are necessary to drop the house edge. This requires learning about the specific game(s) you enjoy playing.

The ultimate thing you can do is become an advantage player in a skill-based game. But just know that you’ll need to put lots of work into the matter and have a significant bankroll.

In summary, keep the tips covered here in mind so you can reverse your gambling losses and win more often.

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