Like the old Kenny Rogers song says, you have to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. That may sound like great advice in a song, but if you’re trying to learn poker from Kenny Rogers, you’re looking for help in all the wrong places.
Without meaning any disrespect to Mr. Rogers, good advice is hard to come by because we’re all at different levels of knowledge and understanding. If you’re still not sure of what the difference is between the flop and the river, you won’t get much following a description of game play that sounds like “Bill was stacked and the action folded to the button. He called after the blind folded and checked when the pot came out all low.”
It’s like being an American listening to a Scot on amphetamines who’s talking fast in a mix of Gaelic and British slang. You have no idea what the other person is talking about.
Here’s a collection of some of the best advice you could ever get about gambling.
1 – Study the Game’s Jargon
I’ve watched too many people try to jump into conversations where they couldn’t follow the jargon. It’s easy to be swept up in other people’s excitement, but if you have no idea of what they’re talking about, you can’t use their advice for much.
When you’re studying the basic game rules, pay attention to the special phrases players use. Write the definitions out on index cards and read them aloud five times over if you have to.
Learning how to talk like a pro takes time and practice. I took a math class where the instructor tossed out phrases right and left that I couldn’t understand. When I asked him about those phrases after class, he took out my textbook and said, “There’s a glossary in the back — don’t be embarrassed to read it because that’s how we all learn the jargon.”
Reading a glossary may feel like the most boring way to learn a game, but you’ll pick up the nuances faster if you can follow the conversation without having to stop and ask what every other word means.
2 – Practice Good Money Management
This is one of the most important skills in our everyday lives that translates directly to good gambling. If your gambling mentors don’t talk about managing your bankroll at least a third of the time they explain the game, you should look for more mentors.
Everyone is out of the game when they have no money. The best gamblers in the world are the biggest losers when they go broke. And everyone goes bust.
Good money management is crucial to good gambling skills, and every great player knows that. They make it look easy because they have large stacks of chips, but they have to calculate the numbers on every wager just like the rest of the world.
Set up a gambling budget and practice getting the most out of it.
3 – Master the Art of Conservative Play
Regardless of the game, conservative playing strategies are necessary for several reasons. You may begin playing with a small bankroll or find yourself running low on cash. Conservative play may be your only path to success.
When playing poker, for example, using a conservative strategy to open gives you time to study your opponents and may lead them to underestimate your willingness to be aggressive later in the game.
Conservative gambling isn’t timid; it’s smart. It’s how you stay in the game, and it’s how to be flexible in a narrow field.
4 – Don’t Attract Attention
Players who make a scene wear out their welcome very quickly. Whether you’re unhappy with how a game works or feel the casino has let you down, always be calm. Be courteous and respectful. The casino is an organization run by employees; it’s not the unfortunate person who must listen to your complaints.
By the same token, if you’re an advantage player, then learn to stay under the radar. That doesn’t mean wear disguises and use fake identifies. It does mean don’t vary your bets so much.
In blackjack, the advantage players are notorious for raising their bets when their counts favor their chances. Casinos know all about that. Counting cards may not be illegal, but a casino can ask you to leave just because they don’t like you.
So be the likeable player everyone wants to see. Fade into the crowd and don’t become a beacon of advantage player tells.
And if you win big, never flash the cash.
5 – Resist Temptation of Any Kind
If you want to be a successful gambler, you must be a pious soul. If you can’t be 100%, then work toward it.
There are the obvious temptations like cheating. Cheating happens all the time. Most of it is petty theft, but sooner or later, cheaters are caught. You don’t need the embarrassment.
There are other temptations. A casino is a house built on a foundation of temptation. Everything looks appealing from the carpets to the cocktail servers to the crazy side bets they offer.
If a casino is tempting you in any way whatsoever other than to lay your money down and play the game, assume they have a better edge on the offer than you can see.
Keep your head down, your eyes on the chips and cards, and just play the game.
That advice sound so simple, and yet the casino floors are littered with the casualties of temptation. It’s a war out there, and your job is to win it, not give in to temptation.
6 – Don’t Go Pro Until You Can Live a Month Without Winning
An old gambler once told me he had been a professional player for about ten years. He described those years as feast or famine. His friends always bought new cars when they won big.
And he knew they were having lean months when they showed up in run-down junk heaps because they had hocked (or lost) their brand-new cars.
If you don’t have money in the bank you don’t need to spend on bills, then you’re not ready to go pro unless someone puts you on a steady paycheck.
The temptation to go pro hits everyone with two or three big nights under their belts. It feels like everything is easy. So you sign up for an expensive tournament, pay the huge fee, and crap out in one of the first two rounds.
Avoid the humiliation of the humbling experience. A good goal is to build up a bankroll that can carry you through months of living expenses and gambling costs before you decide to quit your day job.
Professional gambling is expensive and requires a real commitment of time and work.
7 – Leverage Bonuses Against Negative Expectations
Every game where you bet against the house is designed with a negative expectation built into the odds. That means that for every dollar you wager, your expected return is less than $1. That’s a negative expectation.
The only way to beat negative expectations (other than to get lucky by pure random chance) is to leverage a bonus offer against the expectation.
Say a casino offers you a 200% match on your money. That’s a very good deal. It offsets up to 100% of your negative expectations. In other words, if you deposit $100 and they match you with $200, you can break even if you lose only $200 in the playthrough.
If you lose anything less than the $200 matching bonus, you come out ahead.
The casinos do everything they can to keep you playing. That is because the games are designed to gradually reduce your bankroll despite the variances that occur from your wins and losses.
After 100 games, you’ll be poorer for the play unless you managed to hang onto some of your matching bonus.
Instead of looking for systems that beat the casino — none exist — the best gambling advice you’ll ever get sets reasonable expectations and teaches you to manage your money well.
We should all learn the limits of reasonable play. Those limits are different for everyone. They depend on factors like how much money you have, how much time you dedicate to playing, how well you know the game, and how quickly the casinos’ or other players’ psychological tricks sway your judgment.
There’s a lot to learn about being a good gambler. Good gambling really has very little to do with betting systems. It’s all about knowing the rules, the language of the game, and where the boundaries are.
The best advice helps you see these things clearly.
Once you’ve got these gambling tips under your belt, give them a try, but make sure you’re using the best gambling sites to do so.