Casinos are rarely as lavish or exciting as the movies make them out to be. Movies like Ocean's 11, Casino, Rounders, and James Bond make it seem like an exhilarating experience. Growing up on such movies tainted my first experience gambling in a casino. I walked in thinking I was about to have hours of fun on my $100 budget. Instead, I lost it all on the slots in about 10 minutes. Ouch! We've put together some best practices and tips to give you a better understanding and increased chances to win while making the most of your first casino experience.

Before you go

Budget

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Set your budget before you go, and stick to it. If you cannot afford to lose the money you bring, then you shouldn't be gambling. We recommend you leave your credit and debit cards at home, if possible, so as not to be tempted to play more money.

Research

The most important thing to understand before you even set foot inside the casino is this: The house always has the advantage. Your chances of walking out richer are very low. But, by playing smart and doing your homework beforehand, you can raise your chances of getting ahead.

While it's best you learn how to play the games at home before going to the casino, it's possible to walk in and play any game without having any prior knowledge of how it works. You can approach tables and let the dealer know you want to play but don't know how, and they will instruct you on the basics to play. However, as proper etiquette, it's best to try this at the least crowded table so as not to disrupt current players.

Rules

It's no fun getting yelled at by a pit boss or dealer for doing something wrong. And because of cheating, the rules in casinos can be strict. Never take your phone out when playing a table. Never sit at a table unless you are playing. And when it comes to your chips, never touch them once they are on the tablet; and likewise, don't touch your chip earnings until the dealer is done handing them all to you. When tipping, always do so in chips, never cash. It's customary to tip on each win and then again when you leave the table.

Rewards Programs

Many casinos have incentive/rewards programs you can join and are often free. They offer things such as bonus chips, free plays, vouchers for dining or hotels, and so on. It's always best practice to check out the website of the casino you plan to visit beforehand to see if they offer any incentives.

Slots

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Although the slot machines are the easiest and most popular games to play at casinos, they have the highest house edge (the casino's advantage to each game). Slot machines usually have a typical house edge of anywhere as low as 2% and as high as 15%. The good news for beginners: Everyone has the same chance of winning, so there's zero skill required to play. However, having a better understanding of the types of slots and strategies used may help you walk away happy.

It can be overwhelming walking into a casino and seeing hundreds of different brightly lit flashing slot machines all around you. Which one do you choose? Is one better than the other? To start, it's good to know the different types of slot machines found in a casino. They are the classic three-line slots, five real slots with multiple pay lines, and progressive slots. With progressive slots, the jackpot continuously grows until someone hits it, similar to the lottery. An important takeaway from progressive slots is to make sure you are betting enough to hit the jackpot, as some of them may have minimum bets that can never win the jackpot.

Each slot type has its advantages. If you are simply looking for the highest payout chance, progressive slots are best; however, they have a higher house edge. You're more likely to lose your bankroll (budgeted gambling money) quickly on a progressive slot. If you're looking to sit and enjoy your time at the slots, a three-line or five-line is best.

Tables Games

Table games are the livelihood of any casino. Although many table game options can be found within casinos, roulette, blackjack, craps, and baccarat are considered the best starter games because of their low house edge.

Roulette

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Roulette is one of the oldest and most popular casino games that is quick to learn and requires no skill. Understanding odds and probabilities are vital to playing well at the roulette wheel. There are two types of bets to place in roulette: inside bets and outside bets.

Inside bets are wagers on specific numbers on the table. The odds of winning on an inside bet single number are only 2.7%. To increase your chances, you can split your bet anywhere up to six corresponding numbers on the board.

Outside bets include betting on even/odd numbers, red/black, high/low, dozens, and columns. The lowest risk comes with betting either even/odd or red/black, but this type of bet comes with a lower payout.

Other than understanding odds and probabilities, casino experts always advise playing at a European roulette table over an American roulette table, if possible. Your chances of winning on a European table are higher than at its American counterpart, because American roulette has an extra slot number.

Blackjack

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Blackjack is widely considered a good starting point for beginners at card games. It's important to understand when you should hit, stand, split, or double down to get the most out of the game. To start, you should always play tables that have 3:2 payouts over the 6:5 payout tables. It's never wise to take the insurance side bet, split tens, or hit on or after 17. Doubling down, which is doubling your bet in the middle of the hand, can be a wise move if your cards total 11 and the dealer has a 6 or less when you have a soft (card plus an ace) 16,17, or 18, or a hard (no ace) 9 or 10. It's not recommended to double down, however, if the dealer is holding an ace.

Craps

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Craps is a popular dice game played at the casino that is also easy to learn. The best strategies for beginners are the pass/don't pass and come/don't come strategy. The pass or come will give you the lowest risk.

Baccarat

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Baccarat is mainly a game of luck with a little strategy, but it has a fairly low house edge. One aspect that makes this game a good starting point for beginners is that you only have three betting options. You can bet on the banker winning, the player winning, or a tie. The house edge is highest on tie bets, so it's recommended never to bet this way. Statistics show that the banker has the higher odds of winning, so even though a bet on the banker takes a small commission of your winnings, it's still best to bet on the banker.

Poker Games

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Poker games can often intimidate first-timers at the casino, but in all probability, you're not going to be playing against poker stars like you would see on ESPN. You are more likely to be playing against beginners just like yourself. With some understanding of the different poker games and basic tips, you can better your chances of winning at poker games.

Look for tables with stakes/buy-ins that correspond to your bankroll. It wouldn't make much sense to enter a table with high stakes and buy-ins if you don't have a high budget. A great betting strategy is to start conservative and not to bluff. That way you play it safe at first, and if you make it far, you can start being riskier and have better chances at bluffing. It's also important to study your opponents and learn their betting tendencies.

The Bottom Line

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It's most important to understand one key aspect to gamble at any casino: The house always has the advantage. If you can manage your budget and understand your odds of winning at each game, then you have a better chance of walking away with cash. But more importantly, it's vital to know that hot streaks don't last. In the words of Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em, know when to talk away, know when to run."

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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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