Winning at the casino is the new American dream, it seems to be a dream that comes true for very few – except the owners of the establishments. We’ll assume you are not an owner. Then what can you do to improve your chances of winning a piece of the American casino pie? How can you change your luck?

Let me ask you a couple more questions. Do you spend more than you intended to on most of your visits to the casino, win far less money than you would like to win?

If you answered “yes”, you are solidly in with the vast majority of people who visit casinos. Let’s look at what “yes” answers imply. Remember that what you are really saying is that you don’t seem to have as much control over your “luck” AND YOUR BEHAVIOR at casinos as you would like to have. Why? It’s true – psychology is planned for the casino business!

You must look at the casino as your adversary to make it pay. That’s not to say it can’t be fun – after all, wouldn’t it be more fun to walk away from your casino-adversary with bucks in your pocket and a smile on your face than it is to walk away from your casino-friend with empty pockets?

We all know that casinos are set up to give the casino a mathematical edge. The longer you stay, the poorer your odds of winning are. The casinos, then, use psychological methods to persuade you to stay longer – the longer you stay, the greater the odds that they win. The design of the casinos – the colors, the lighting, the space, the chairs, the smells in the air, everything – is analyzed for maximum comfort and appeal.

Let’s take a critical look at some common casino practices.

The free or cheap meals – an all-around winner for the casino – will bring some people in for a bargain meal. If you are already at the games, a cheap meal conveniently available in the casino will keep you in the building at mealtime. When you are out of change, you don’t have to wait around or walk to the change booth for more coin.

Casinos operators carefully plan their lighting. You may have noticed that when you are in a casino it is difficult to determine whether it is day or night. Remember, they are like you (or your money) so much they want you to extend your visit. Many casino operators add a scent to the air.

Putting in a few “hot” machines is also an application of psychology. Your search for the “hot” machine is motivated by the psychological “promise” of a lucky streak. You’ll stay longer and risk more. Some casinos will give you small denominations as change for large bills or, at the tables, small denominations of chips. What’s the reason? As we all know, it is easier to spend a dollar than it is to spend a twenty.

Now you know that in the eyes of the casino you’re merely a “white rat” from whom they are trying to extract the most they can. What can you do about it? Although occasionally casinos go too far and a practice is outlawed, you really can’t do much about changing their use of tricks.

First, you know that your odds of winning decrease in ratio to the length of your visit at the casino. You will be aware of your surroundings and try to note the tricks the casino is using to influence you. Conscious awareness will make them less effective. Pick your games according to your own system – not according to the casino’s planned influence.

We will discuss a couple of the most popular games.

Slot machines

Most slot machines have three reels. The number of combinations for lining them up depends on the number of symbols on each reel. Most machines have between 20 and 28 symbols per reel. To figure out how many combinations there are, you multiply the number of symbols on each reel times itself as many times as there are reels. The fewest combinations that there probably are on a three reel slot are 20 symbols per reel with 3 reels – so we take 20 times 20 times 20 – or 8000 combinations. Theoretically, a certain winning combination would, on the average, appear once in every 8000 spins of the reels.

Each machine can be set at a rate of payback. Let’s say a quarter machine has a payback of 90 percent (the usual rate on quarter machines is 86 to 90 percent). That would mean that for every 100 quarters dropped into the machine it would pay back 90 quarters. The dollar machines often payback between 97 and 99 percent. The best odds are on the dollar slots. They usually have the greatest payback – as we said, payback is between 97 and 99 coins for each coin played.

Another way to play the slots for better winning odds is to form a slot club with other players. Keep records so you learn the characteristics of each progressive game.