Tricks To Make You Savvier The Next Time You Go To The Casino

If you’ve ever gambled or thought about gambling, you may have wondered what it is about casinos that make them such money eaters. Many are unaware of some techniques that keep casinos a nightmare to the ignorant. You may be surprised that card counting is actually legal, or that everything from the lighting to the free food is designed to make you spend more. Even more creepy, the person sitting next to you at a table game may actually be working for the casino, and no we don’t mean the dealer. Read on to see what really goes on behind the scenes at casinos.

Not All Games Are Created Equal

A dealer spin a wheel during a game in a casino
Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images
Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

Some games give the dealer a greater advantage than others. For example, Double Exposure Blackjack gives the house a 9% advantage over the players. Usually, the table games that are outside of traditional casino games (aka carnival games) are the most difficult to win, despite their big payout.

Casino security expert Derk Boss told Fox News that video poker and traditional blackjack are amongst the safer games to play because a player can gain an advantage by paying close attention. He says that by studying the strategies you can reduce the house advantage.

They’re Watching You, Especially When You Do Well

A man shows his excitement while playing poker
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Cameras in casinos are obviously there to prevent cheaters and foul play. But they also are there to see your reaction to a big win. Especially if you win more than the casino deems credible, you may have security breathing down your spine.

One casino worker posted on Reddit that somewhere around $15,000 was the standard amount for concern. However, they also noted that the casino will likely mark you down, but won’t really start to investigate until it happens again. This also goes to show that games are carefully manipulated so that big wins don’t happen again and again.

They’re On The Lookout For These Cheating Tells

A woman look at her hand of hards with a less than discrete facial expression
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Security is on the lookout for a few specific signs of cheaters. Casino surveillance expert Derk Boss says that one sign is two men sitting close together, especially at an otherwise empty table. The behavior is more common in women, but almost never occurs with men unless the two are swapping cards to make one strong hand.

Players who bet very low and then suddenly go in high may have information they’re getting that’s made them hold back. Lastly, if someone is looking around, they not only might be nervous about being watched but probably already know the outcome and don’t need to carefully watch what’s happening.

Poker Rooms Are Less Observed

Players dressed in roaring 20s attire play a game of poker
Michael Bezjian/WireImage
Michael Bezjian/WireImage

Expert Derk Boss says that the security team hardly spends any time analyzing the poker games. Watching for cheaters has everything to do with the casino keeping their money, and little to do with the actual integrity of the game.

This means that when it comes to a game like poker, where players lose to one another rather than the house, the risk to the casino is very low from a financial perspective. Derk adds that serious poker players are better policers than anyone, so cheating doesn’t really go too far either way.

Counting Cards Isn’t As Bad As You Thought

A dealer points to two of the cards he's dealt in poker
Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty Images
Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty Images

Casinos would love if everyone lived in a word where card counting was illegal, but this simply isn’t realistic. For one, you can’t ban something that exists in the mind. Further, card counting is more about skill than it is about getting one over the other competitors, seeing that no interference is involved.

While counting cards only increases a player’s advantage by a couple of percentages, that can mean everything when the odds are neck and neck and is exactly how casinos usually keep their hold over their patrons. While you can’t get chucked into jail, you can get booted out of a casino if they get suspicious.

Chips Are Designed To Be Spent More Than Cash

Someone's hand hover over chips on a roulette table
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Chips have many advantages to casinos, the most obvious being saving everyone from breaking bills. Plus, their unique design makes them hard to counterfeit. For players who do try to sharpie on a more expensive color to a chip, real chips leave markings like crayons and will reveal their true color. They also have an image that appears under a black light, as licenses do.

The more discrete trick of chips is that they don’t seem like actual money. If anything, their clink sound and their shape resemble coins. This gives the illusion that players aren’t really spending their hard-earned cash on a frivolous game.

The TITO System Is Even Worse Than Chips

Patrons play slot machines in a casino
Abdullah Pope/AFP/Getty Images
Abdullah Pope/AFP/Getty Images

TITO stands for ticket in, ticket out. The name illustrates how simple the system is. You insert a ticket or card into a slot machine, and you get it back when you’ve had enough of the game. Chips at least have the advantage of forcing the patron to throw them in and watch their pile dwindle.

These cards are kind of like Amazon’s automatic payment. You just keep clicking on whatever you want, and by the time you check your card balance you don’t even know what you spent. That’s the goal of the casinos, anyways.

They Hide The Passage Of Time

Read chandeliers line a casino hallway that separates slot machines from table games
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

There’s a reason casino’s don’t have decorative wall clocks. There’s also a reason they’re so dark all the time. Casinos don’t have clocks or windows so that, hopefully, people will lose themselves in the games. They say time flies when you’re having fun, but that’s particularly true when normal indicators aren’t around to remind you of the time.

They even prevent your hunger from tipping you off by including large buffets in the casino. Often they’ll get guests complimentary buffet passes just to get the investment return by way of the guest losing at more games.

Effects Make You Think You’re Going To Win

Fingers linger over a
Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Casinos are similar to arcades in that every game has features to grab your attention, and the result is a mass of stimulus that excites the guest from the moment they walk into the door. Remember stepping into a Chuck E. Cheese when you were a kid and immediately begging for coins? That’s the effect they’re going for.

A “loss disguised as a win” is a phenomenon where the sounds and lights stimulate the brain’s reward system despite the fact you just lost. Further, some machines will show a win of a smaller amount than was bet. In other words, you lost $100 but won a Chuck E. Cheese slinky.

They’re Made To Be Difficult To Navigate Through

An overrun casino is packed with games tables and crowds of people
Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images
Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images

On top of being overstimulating and ridden with alcohol at every turn, another way to keep you off your game it to create a layout that is as confusing as possible. Some casinos will create a maze-like design just to keep visitors essentially trapped.

It doesn’t take a lot of confusion to delay an inebriated person long enough for them to spot another game to play. On top of that, complimentary drinks and buffets help assuage patrons to believe they have all they need.

Some Casinos Use The “Playground Design”

Men sit at a bar overlooking an open concept gambling area in a casino
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images

These expansive casinos don’t try to crowd you into confusion, but rather do the exact opposite. Luxurious components such as high ceilings and wide halls give the impression of being in a place worth exploring to completion.

Warm and soothing lighting make the visitors feel at home, while the palace-like space feels like being in an actual palace. Every design choice is meant to make you feel like a kid in a playground. Rather than feeling lost, you feel like you want to get to everything your eyes land on.

The Sounds Don’t Clash Because Of This Secret

Patrons have deserted rows of slot machines for the surrounding table games
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images

With all of the various games going on, it’s a wonder that walking into a casino doesn’t feel like a whirlwind of insanity. The chatter at the games tables is minor in comparison to the dinging slot machines lined up in long rows.

The sounds of all these slot machines don’t clash because everything, from the soundtracks to the bells and whistles, are written in C major. Without clashing notes, the sounds can more easily fuse together like an exciting hum that motivates rather than aggravates.

They Use Faster Dealers At Night

A small group of men surround a dealer in a dimly lit room
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

A dealer on Reddit by the name of Pandalungs says that one of the only secrets they really hid at her casino was the fact that faster dealers were used later at night. The dealer writes, “I was called ‘TK’ for a bit because I could kill a table pretty fast. I would joke with the players and call them pansies if they didn’t bet more, and I would deal it fast.”

The “Table Killer” is the dealer who pushes the most bets per hour, both moving fast and pressuring the visitors to make impulsive decisions. It’s a sure-fire way to get the guest to feel they’ve had enough.

Some People Are Way Too Committed

An older woman sits at a slot machine beside and older man at another slot machine in a casino
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

Reddit user devatoo ranted in one post about all of the insane experiences that have happened while they were working at a casino. Amongst the lengthy list was someone passing out after chain-smoking for hours, an insulin syringe injected as a lucky charm, and a man dropping dead at a poker table, only to have his winnings stolen by other players.

Other Reddit users have reported seeing people in adult diapers at the slot machines. Shocking as that sounds, it isn’t uncommon to hear stories about people soiling themselves while gambling. If you see someone in a diaper, you should feel lucky they came equipped.

Casinos Can Hire Professions To Do This

A player inticates to the dealer that he'll stay with a raised hand while holding a Jack and Five in the other hand
LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Many industries hire people to come in secretly and check on things. In restaurants, for example, secret shoppers are diners who come in to make sure that the level of service is up to company standards. Casinos have their own version of this.

Anonymous professional players can be brought in to casinos to keep a closer eye on the patrons and make sure there isn’t any dirty work happening, or simply to bring more people to empty tables. Only around half a million gambling professionals exist in the nation according to the New York Times, so you know they’re good. Plus, they don’t use their own money, so their skill won’t be deterred by the game’s outcomes.

You’re Like A Rat In Their Experiment

A man sits alone in a row of slot machines
Vitaly NevarTASS via Getty Images
Vitaly NevarTASS via Getty Images

Surveillance professional Derk Boss says that they could easily track someone’s every move throughout their entire stay at a casino, aside from the bathroom and hotel room. The purpose of such meticulous security isn’t just about cheating.

Every gambler is like a subject being experimented on by scientists, in this case, the casino operators. In order to keep that careful advantage over players, casinos have to study the people coming in: how they play, where they are attracted, how long they stay somewhere before moving on. Not only does this help keep the house dominating, but it also gives away tricks that may help keep guests longer and spending more.

Instead Of Tipping The Dealer Directly, You Can Do This

Patrons gathered around a game table pay no attention as one man addresses the dealer
LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images
LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

Dealers sometimes prefer to have a guest offer a bet as a tip. A player would simply place a second bet in the amount of their chosen chips, and inform the dealer that the bet is their tip. The second bet remains separate from the player’s own personal bet.

Some casinos don’t allow this form of tipping, and the patron will be notified by the dealer or a manager. For those that do allow it, though, it can be a way for the dealer to make an even bigger tip than the patron initially intended.

Smoking Bans Have A Huge Negative Impact On Casinos

A man sits at a slot machine alone in a luxurious casino
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images

For whatever reason, smokers and casinos go together like peanut butter and jelly. Since many gamblers do smoke, bans that prohibit smoke from closed spaces can do a lot of harm to a casino’s profitability. All this effort that goes into keeping gamblers put can be undone by the strong urge to get their nicotine fix.

A casino worker of ten years posted that the smoking law was the biggest changed they’d experienced within the casino, as it dropped 20 million in profits in just one quarter. Tribal casinos can, and often do, end up lifting the ban.

Casinos Have To Be As Careful About Their Dealers As They Are Their Patrons

A man smiles to a younger, female dealer while she looked down at the chips on the table
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images
Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images

Former casino dealer and security staffer Sal Piacente says the most common cheating cases aren’t sophisticated, just a dealer sneaking a chip. As such, all dealers have to show empty hands when they leave a table.

Dealers’ outfits are not only issued by the casino but often are without pockets. Additionally, aprons that are worn above the waist prevent items from being tucked into a waistband. Some dealers will even cheat with a player, which is all the more reason security needs to keep their eyes on both.

The Slots In The Front Are The Ones To Avoid

A man and woman sit before four slot machines that show singer Cher on the screen
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

While it seems like all of the loud, blinking machines are equally random, their placement is actually vital. Like most business establishments, the most popular or money-earning products go in front. Slot machines that are the easiest to get to probably yield the casino the most profit, meaning they yield you the least profit.

Also, the more fancy the slot machine, the least it probably pays. Since the big video slots are more expensive for the casino, they need them to be programmed at a ratio that gives out more losses to casino patrons.