Avoiding the Pit
If you are playing live poker, you'll need to learn how to avoid the pit. Before you take this statement too literally though, there needs to be some clarification. If your only motivation in playing poker is profit, you should not be playing any other games in the casino. They are built and put in place so that you can lose your money, not for you to win in the long run.
With that said, there's a lot of fun to be had playing many of these games. The important thing isn't that you never play, but that you play with only relatively small amounts and that you are extremely responsible. Many poker players have gone broke because they lost all of their money playing games in the pit.
If you haven't realized it by now, most casinos will earn less in their poker room than with any other area of the casino. You might wonder why they even have a poker room at all if it makes them so little money. One reason is that it does still make them money, just not as much as the other sections of the floor.
The main reason, however, is because poker is used as a tool to funnel players into the other games that are available. The casino doesn't care whether you win or lose when you are playing poker, all that they really want is for you to hit the slot machines or the blackjack tables when there's a break. If you are a serious poker player, you might find other casino games to be of no temptation whatsoever, but this is hardly the case for most people.
When to Most Avoid the Pit
The time of greatest temptation to play casino games will usually be after a bad loss. Just as table games will deliver many big losses, they are also capable of creating a big win. Players look to these games as a quick opportunity to get back to even. You'll undoubtedly feel a great sense of relief if you are able to get lucky on a spin of roulette and walk away with a break even day, but you'll feel even worse if you double your losses. In the end, you are only going to lose more if you chase your losses.
Another reason to stay away from games when you are losing is because you are unlikely to be thinking very clearly. A losing player is going to be frustrated and will often times put all logical thoughts to the side. This is the perfect recipe for losing everything that you have in your pocket. You might start playing a game and say to yourself that you will quit if you lose "x" amount, but this amount may very well multiply with a few more losses. Even the most controlled emotional player will lose his senses and put it all on the line if they become tired enough of losing. Using the pit as a way to chase losses is literally the second worst financial move for your bankroll, sitting only behind handing the money away altogether.
Playing for Fun
There's nothing wrong with playing casino games for fun. If you are in a calm mood and simply want to have fun, hitting the pit can be very enjoyable. The first thing that you can do to ensure that you don't lose too much is to only take a certain amount of money with you. If you only carry around a set amount of funds, there will be a limit to how much you can lose. The next thing that you can do is to ensure that you are playing with small bets. The quickest way to compound your losses is to start off with high wagers, since any losses are going to entice you to bet bigger in order to recoup them.
If you aren't having any fun or don't feel like the games are exciting at all, it probably means that you should quit. Your ultimate goal when playing these games should be to have fun, with making money being an element of the thrill. If you are playing these games solely to make money, you are going to be disappointed on many occasions, because this isn't a viable long term plan for profitability. It may be very cliché, but all gambling should be done responsibly, whether in the poker room or anywhere else in the casino.
The Worst Games to Play
If you are going to play games for fun and entertainment, it's still in your best interest to game select. Many casino games will have much larger house edges than others. If you can stick to the games with the best odds for you as a player, you'll stand to lose much less money in the long run. The important thing to remember at all times is that you are always playing at a disadvantage. No matter what you think, a casino game isn't going to be working in your favor, unless it's broken or you are cheating.
The top game for most players is craps. Craps has a very low house edge if you play under the most optimal of strategies, with less than 2% of all bets going to the house. Of course, the reason that craps is offered is because the majority of players don't adhere to the most optimal craps strategy.
This is also true in the second best game in the casino, blackjack. If you play perfectly, you are only going to be a 1-2% dog in the long run. Make sure to learn the perfect blackjack strategy if you don't have it memorized. Learning how to play either of these games the right way isn't that difficult. Baccarat is another game with a very small house edge, but this game is much less popular than blackjack and craps.
The games with bigger house edges also happen to be a few of the most popular: slots and roulette. Slots can have an edge that ranges from a few percent all the way up to 10 or more percent. The more competitive that casinos are in your area (Las Vegas for example), the greater payback that most machines will have. While there's little arguing that slots can be very fun, they are definitely a big time money drain barring some big hits. Roulette has an edge of around 6%, which makes it about the same or marginally better than slots. Roulette won't leave you in as much control as blackjack though, because your only decision is on which number or section to place your bets.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
Related Poker Articles