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How to Tell If You’re About to Make a Mistake with Your Next Casino Bet

| July 22, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Betting Mistakes

The gambling world is filled with different bets. You can play countless casino games and even find specific wagers within each game.

This makes it difficult to know when you’re placing a good or bad bet. Because of this, many players like to use online resources to research their wagers.

But research doesn’t always help you avoid betting on bad propositions. Gambling involves emotions, which can force you into making a wager that you’ll later regret.

You obviously want to avoid making bad bets so that you stand a better chance of making profits. And I’m going to discuss 5 warning signs that you’re about to place a poor wager so that you can avoid doing so.

1 – You Don’t Know the Bet’s House Edge and Odds of Winning

Two of the most important things that you need to understand before making a bet include the house edge and odds.

The house edge refers to how much money the average player will win back over the long term. If you’re facing a 1% house edge, then you stand to win back $99 for every $100 wagered.

This is a long-term losing proposition for the average player. But you’re still almost on equal ground with a casino in this situation.

What you want to avoid is bets where the house edge is drastically higher. Wagers with high house edges reduce the odds of you winning money.

Here’s a list of popular casino games and their house advantages.

  • Video Poker = 0.46% house edge (9/6 Jacks or Better)
  • Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (based on table rules)
  • Baccarat = 1.06% (banker bet)
  • French Roulette = 1.35%
  • Craps = 1.36% (don’t pass line and don’t come bets)
  • Pai Gow Poker = 1.46%
  • European Roulette = 2.70%
  • Let It Ride = 3.51%
  • Caribbean Stud = 5.22%
  • Keno = 10% to 40% (varies by casino)

You can see that baccarat, blackjack, craps, French roulette, European roulette, and video poker are some of the best wagers in the casino.

But you also must consider each individual wager with any game. Some casino games vary wildly from one bet to the next.

Craps is a perfect example because it features solid main bets along with some of the worst prop bets known to man.

Here are the craps bets.

  • Odds* = 0.0% house edge
  • Don’t pass line/don’t come bet = 1.36%
  • Pass line/come bet = 1.41%
  • Place 6/Place 8 = 1.52%
  • Lay 4/Lay 10 = 2.44%
  • Lay 5/Lay 9 = 3.23%
  • Place 5/Place 9 = 4.0%
  • Lay 6/Lay 8 = 4.0%
  • Buy 4/Buy 10 = 4.76%
  • Buy 5/Buy 9 = 4.76%
  • Buy 6/Buy 8 = 4.76%
  • Field = 5.56%
  • Place 4/Place 10 = 6.67%
  • Hard 6/Hard 8 = 9.09%
  • Big 6/Big 8 = 9.09%
  • Yo (11) = 11.11%
  • 3 = 11.11%
  • 2 or 12 (Hi-Lo) = 11.11%
  • Craps (2, 3, or 12) = 11.11%
  • Hard 4/Hard 10 = 11.11%
  • Horn = 12.5%
  • Whirl World = 13.33%
  • 2 = 13.89%
  • 12 = 13.89%
  • Any 7 = 16.67%

*(available in some casinos)

It doesn’t take a genius to see that some of these wagers are terrible. But certain craps players still like placing risky prop bets due to the large payouts or simply because they don’t know the odds.

This brings me to another point in that you always want to know the odds of winning each wager. Odds are different than the house edge because they refer to your chances of winning a single bet.

A wager can have a good house edge but still have poor odds. While you may have good long-term chances of winning a certain bet, bad odds make it so that wins are few and far in between.

Look at the available roulette bets and notice the vast differences in odds.

  • Single number – 36:1 odds, 35:1 payout
  • Split – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
  • Street – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
  • Corner – 8.25:1 odds, 8:1 payout
  • Six line – 5.17:1 odds, 5:1 payout
  • Column – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
  • Dozen – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
  • Odd/even – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
  • Red/black – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
  • High/low – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout

I’m not saying that players are wrong for wagering on long odds. But they’re also going to lose a lot before these wagers come through.

This is even more excruciating when dealing with a small bankroll and wanting to play for a while. Anybody who wants to sustain a small bankroll should stick with bets that offer high odds of winning.

Examples include baccarat, blackjack, even-money craps bets, and even-money roulette bets. You can also add sports betting to this list if you’re placing informed wagers.

The good news is that it’s easy to look up information on odds and house edges. I suggest doing a quick Google or Bing search on your smartphone for this info before placing any wagers.

2 – You’re Chasing Losses

The absolute worst thing that you can do in gambling is chase losses. This habit is common during a long losing session when you want to win everything back.

You can’t fault a gambler for wanting to leave the table a winner. But betting purely to win back previous losses is a recipe for disaster.

Some players use the logic that they’ve had bad luck early in the session, so they’re due to experience good luck. This sounds nice in theory, but there’s no basis behind it.

In fixed-odds games, you’re no more likely to win the next bet than you were the previous wager.

The chances of winning a baccarat banker bet are always 51% (minus 5% commission) no matter how many wagers you’ve lost before.

Nevertheless, players continue making extra bets or even increasing their wager sizes based on the assumption that their luck will change.

This is a bad idea from a bankroll management perspective and can lead to losing money that you can’t afford to part with.

The best way to avoid chasing losses is to set stop-loss limits. This refers to the point where you quit a gambling session after losing so much money.

A stop-loss limit can be based on personal preferences. I recommend that you take your bankroll size into account when setting this number.

Here’s an example.

  • You have a $1,000 bankroll
  • Your stop-loss limit is 15% of your bankroll
  • You’ll quit when reaching losses of $150

You can use either a specific number of bets or the percentage of your bankroll to decide this figure. But the key point is that you set a stop-loss limit and stick with it to avoid chasing losses.

Of course, you must be able to actually quit when reaching your stopping point. And you can use different methods to help in this matter.

An online casino player could limit deposits to what they feel comfortable losing. And they might only send enough funds to their banking option to cover the stop-loss limit.

Here’s an example.

  • You don’t use PayPal for anything besides online gaming
  • You fund the PayPal account with $150
  • You transfer this amount to an online casino, leaving nothing in the PayPal account

The point is to make it inconvenient to go past the amount of money that you’re comfortable losing.

3 – You’re Playing a Skill-Based Game Where You Don’t Know the Strategy

Skill-based games are attractive since you can use your knowledge to lower the house edge. But this is a double-edged sword, because you can also lose more money by not knowing the proper strategy.

If you don’t know much about a skill-based casino game, then this is a bad bet. You could end up losing far more than you would with a non-skilled game like baccarat, slots, or roulette.

Casino games that feature an extensive amount of skill include:

  • Arcade-style casino gaming
  • Blackjack
  • Poker (Texas hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, etc.)
  • Skill-based slot machines
  • Sports betting
  • Three-card poker
  • Video poker

Some of these games have fixed odds and a house advantage. Examples include blackjack, skill-based slot machines, three-card poker, and video poker (except with rare machines).

Others don’t have fixed odds, meaning you’ll win or lose a variable amount of money. Examples are poker and sports betting.

Many people like poker and sports betting for the fact that highly-skilled players can win big. This is why there are plenty of professional poker players and sports bettors.

But if I were to choose a type of skill-based game to play without knowing strategy, I’d pick games with fixed odds. The reason why is because even bad players can limit their losses to a degree.

For example, a bad blackjack player will only surrender around a 4%-5% house edge if they’re trying. Likewise, a novice video poker player on a good game like 9/6 Jacks or Better (0.46% house edge) will face a 5%-8% house advantage.

Bad sports bettors typically don’t lose much more than those who play games with fixed odds. The reason why is because sports lines are crafted to draw equal betting action on each side.

This means that the average bettor only loses the 10% vigorish, which sportsbooks take from the losing side. Anybody in this position is only surrendering a 2.40% edge.

But the problem is that many novice sports bettors overestimate their abilities. This can lead to long losing streaks and chasing losses when you think that your next big win is around the corner.

Poker is the worst game to play when you don’t have strategy knowledge and aren’t actively learning it. This is especially the case when you’re playing cash games, which can see 60-80 hands per hour online.

If you’re the biggest fish at a poker table, then you may be surrendering a 5%-15% edge on every cash-game hand. Add this up, and it’s quite costly when you’re playing no-limit stakes of $1/$2 and above.

Poker tournaments are more forgiving because you’re paying a single buy-in to play an event that could last one hour or longer. But also keep in mind that most poker tournaments only pay the top 10%-20% of the field.

Again, casino games with fixed odds can cost you less when you don’t understand the strategy. But you’re making a bad wager either way because you’re surrendering even more of an edge to the house/other players.

I recommend brushing up on strategy for any skill-based game that you’re interested in.

You can find countless online resources for games like blackjack, poker, sports betting, three-card poker, and video poker.

In the case of blackjack, there’s no need to fear learning strategy. All you must do is look for a blackjack strategy chart and use it to learn optimal basic strategy.

Games like poker, sports betting, and video poker are tougher learn. But some players who like the challenge will also appreciate developing mastery in these forms of gambling.

4 – You’re Making Volatile Bets and Expecting Quick Winnings

Gambling volatility refers to how closely your short-term winnings align with the house edge.

Earlier, I discussed roulette wagers that have long odds of winning. But you’ll find even more volatile bets in the casino, including slot machines and video poker.

The challenge with these games is that they offer a variety of payouts. This means that prizes on the lower end could pay even money while jackpots can be worth thousands of dollars.

Here’s a new generic example of a slots pay table.

  • 10,000 coins (jackpot)
  • 1,000 coins
  • 500 coins
  • 200 coins
  • 100 coins
  • 50 coins
  • 20 coins
  • 10 coins
  • 5 coins

The jackpot is worth 2,000x the lowest payout in this example. And this creates lots of volatility, because these games must adjust by paying on a less-frequent basis.

Some players enjoy this volatility because they dream of winning a big slots jackpot or royal flush hand. And this is fine if you’re prepared for the wild variance that’ll ensue.

But slot machines and video poker become a bad bet when somebody enters the situation hoping to earn quick profits. The reason why is because it makes bankroll management difficult if you have no idea when your next win is coming.

A good way to handle bankroll management for volatile games is to prepare for the worst. The most that the average slots player will lose in an hour is around 350 bets.

If you’re wagering $1 per spin, then this puts the worst-case scenario at losing $350 an hour. Here’s the math on how long your bankroll will last under the circumstances.

  • You have a $1,500 bankroll
  • You’re betting $1 per spin
  • You lose $350 per hour on average
  • 1,500/350 = 4.29
  • Your bankroll will theoretically last 4.29 hours

Again, some players are comfortable facing this type of volatility. They have a large enough bankroll to handle the losses and are prepared to face long odds.

But don’t enter a land-based or online casino with $50 and expect to spin the reels for hours or play countless video poker hands. These games involve plenty of luck and can see you take on big short-term losses.

I especially recommend avoiding progressive slot machines if you’re trying to stretch out your bankroll. Odds are that you won’t win the jackpot, meaning you’re playing a game with low base payback.

The Megabucks progressive slot machine in Las Vegas is a good example. The base payback is 88%, which increases as the progressive jackpot grows.

The problem is that your odds of winning the jackpot are roughly 1 in 50 million.

Considering that a qualifying jackpot spin is $3, this is a significant amount to bet on a game with 88% base payback.

If you never win the jackpot – which is the case for almost every Megabucks player – then you’re going to lose an average of $0.36 on every bet.

This is $216 if you’re performing 600 spins an hour. I highly suggest avoiding Megabucks if you’re not prepared to do this.

5 – You’re Betting to Earn More Comps

Brick-and-mortar online casinos give comps to players to retain their loyalty. The goal is to reward players for their betting volume in the form of cashback, free slots play, free bets, and VIP service.

You obviously want to take advantage of comps if you enjoy playing casino games. But you must also avoid falling into the trap of playing just to accumulate more rewards.

Some players will extend their session in order to collect a better comp. But this is almost the equivalent of chasing losses because the risk isn’t worth the reward.

Some players scoff at the notion that going for more comps is the same as chasing losses. But the math shows that these are roughly equal scenarios.

Here’s an example.

  • You bet $3,000 over a session
  • You’re playing an online slot with a 5% house edge
  • 3,000 x 0.05 = 150
  • You’ll theoretically lose $150
  • The comp rate is 0.1%
  • 3,000 x 0.001 = 3
  • You’ll earn $3 in comps

The problem with comps is that casinos have done the math on what they can afford to give away in freebies and still make a healthy profit. This is why they’re only willing to comp around 0.1% of wagers for slots and table-game players.

If you’re playing a penny slot machine with a 10% house edge, then you’re only getting comped on one-hundredth of your theoretical losses. Even if you’re playing an online slot with a 5% house edge, you’re only receiving rewards on one-fiftieth of your losses.

Few gamblers would continue playing casino games when they’re not in the mood just to collect such small amounts. This is in essence like spending $100 on Chuck-E-Cheese games, only to cash in your tickets for a stuffed bear worth $2.

The upside is that you can move up to higher VIP levels based on your playing volume. You’ll earn a bigger comp rate when advancing levels, such 0.2% or more.

But you’ll also run into the same problem in that your rewards aren’t worth the value of theoretical losses.

I suggest that you only play casino games for entertainment and let the rewards come naturally.


Bad bets come in many different forms. This makes the key knowing general traits that make up a bad wager.

The easiest way to spot poor wagers is by the house edge. A high house advantage indicates that you’re likely to lose money in the long run.

Another example includes when you play skill-based games without knowing the strategy. This puts you at a bigger disadvantage than skilled players.

Other signs can be dependent upon the individual. For example, placing bets with high volatility is a bad decision when you want to make a small bankroll last.

Emotions can also lead you to making poor bets. This is especially the case when you chase losses or go after extra comps when you’d rather stop playing.

Being able to identify bad bets is an important trait to winning in casino games. At worst, you’ll be able to minimize losses by placing fewer bad wagers.

If you’d like to utilize what you’ve learned here, be sure to check out our recommended online casinos. Gambling on the web with the wrong companies is even worse than making bad bets, so use our recommendations and ensure you’re playing with safe and reputable operators.



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