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. Whether you're in Vegas, playing video poker in a bar, or online gambling via an online casino, we've got you covered.

Before you go

Budget

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Set your budget for the amount of money you can spend 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 is 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.

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 Tips

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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.

If you're short on cash or want to play without risking high loses, try out the penny slots (meaning you only need to spend $0.01 to spin each time) at casinos. Some casinos even offer free spins.

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. This is where experienced gamblers hunt for big winnings.

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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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.