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

Simpsons gambling at slot machines Giphy

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

roulette tips, gif from "South Park" Giphy

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

blackjack tips Giphy

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

Snoop Dogg playing Craps Giphy

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

poker game tips and strategies Giphy

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

at casino's the house always has the advantage Giphy

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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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.