A Beginner’s Guide to Las Vegas Casinos

Las Vegas, Tips and Guides,

Las Vegas is a holiday destination that is on bucket lists all over the world: home of neon lights, glamorous shows, and of course, casinos. We’ve all seen it in films and on TV, but going yourself to a Vegas casino is an entirely different prospect. And a perfect way to do so is via a cruise deal on a Las Vegas holiday that stops off in ‘Sin City’ for a few days, allowing you to soak up all that is on offer. But for those that have never been, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with what to expect. So with that in mind, we have put together a beginner’s guide to Las Vegas casinos, preparing you to have the best time possible once you’ve stepped through the doors. 

Las Vegas sign

Take it all in

You’ll likely be very excited when you arrive at your first Vegas casino, and it will be easy to become overwhelmed. Robbie Strazynski of Card Player Lifestyle – a must-visit news and resource website for poker players and fans – says that taking your time and doing a little exploring will do first-timers a world of good.

“I think the best advice to a first-time visitor to a Las Vegas casino is ‘keep your hands in your pockets and take it all in for a while’. The sensory stimulation in a Las Vegas casino, even for veterans, can be overwhelming. Bells, whistles, lights, sounds, jackpots, exuberant players shouting at the tops of their lungs after a big win - it's almost surreal. You can certainly be tempted to jump right in to the deep end and start betting. What I remember doing on my first Vegas visit, however, is just taking the first hour or so to walk around the casino and take it all in. Slots games galore, a sea of table games, video poker parlours, the bingo hall, a packed and rowdy sports book... there's SO much to see.

“Not to jinx anything, but if you DO jump right in and end up losing a bit, that can unfortunately take away some of the magic from your initial experience and ‘Vegas high’. There will be plenty of time to play; the casino isn't disappearing into a mirage. Allow yourself to be entertained and internalize the amazing experience of walking around the adult playground that is the Las Vegas casino for a bit.... THEN get your gamble on and start betting on your favourite games.”

Know your financial limitations

roulette table las vegas

You might already be aware that the odds won’t be stacked in your favour when playing at a casino, after all, the house will want to be making money, not surrendering it all to you. So with this in mind, be sure not to start playing at a Vegas casino without first knowing how much money you are willing to play with. This is advice that comes courtesy of Erwan Mevel of Las Vegas Jaunt, a site that offers top advice to help you prepare for your next Vegas trip. Erwan says:

“Try to decide exactly how much money you’re ready to spend gambling, and set yourself a hard limit.

“The house always wins as the old saying goes, so keep in mind that casinos have a mathematical edge on every game they offer, which is why you should always consider your gambling budget as an entertainment expense. Of course this doesn’t mean you’re going to end up a loser every time. Everyone has a chance to win the big jackpot!

“But whether you win or lose, try to not go over the amount you budgeted and make the mistake of trying to ‘win back’ your losses because you’re more likely to lose even more.”

Another important factor to remember is the table limits. Understanding these limits will be vital in you holding onto your cash. The table minimum equates to the lowest amount of money that you can bet for each round of play. This is usually signposted nearby the table. Try and target the games with lower table minimums, as this will help you play for longer, instead of blowing it all right away.

Don’t be scared, enjoy yourself!

For the uninitiated, and at times even seasoned pros, casinos can be a little intimidating. There is some serious business going on at these establishments, but also, importantly, a lot of fun. There may be many well-dressed members of staff, cameras, and security guards populating the place, but don’t let that impede what should be a wonderful time.

You might be under the impression that everyone at the casino knows what they’re doing except for you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many are in the exact same position as yourself, and just wanting to have a good time. And besides, there is plenty more to Vegas than gambling.

Jonathan Little (who you can follow on Twitter @JonathanLittle), is a professional poker player and owner of JonathanLittlePoker.com. Jonathan knows a thing or two about casinos, but despite the seriousness of his business, his first advice for beginners is to have fun.

“Enjoy the experience!” Jonathan told us. “Most Las Vegas casinos feature lots of unique, exciting attractions. For example, Bellagio has their awe-inspiring fountain show as well as their lush indoor garden, which they change every season. Understand that you will not see all the casinos in one trip, so take your time and soak in everything you encounter. If you have more than a few days in Las Vegas, make a point to visit the strip as well as downtown. That way, you can see the new mega resorts as well as some of the first casinos ever built in Las Vegas.”

Roulette 30, a complete resource for all things roulette, has some similar advice for first-timers, telling us that it’s important to just have fun.

“Have fun. Don't try to be a gambler. Play with entertainment money and do not exceed your predetermined budget. Watch other people and high rollers play - it's free and it's fun.”

And because there are various chips with different denominations, Roulette 30 say to “always play with the lowest denomination chips.”

Begin with games of chance

Las Vegas slot machines

When you first decide to start playing, it’s a good idea to ease yourself in and start off by playing games of chance instead of skill. The slot machines require very little effort and skill from the player involved, all you have to do is feed in some money after all, and then push a button to see if you’ve been successful.

You will likely grow tired of the slots quickly, however, so gradually progressing to a game like roulette is a sensible step. Roulette is a great first introduction to the table based games, and even first-timers will be aware of the game’s iconic status. In a similar vein to the slots, there is not much skill required here. All you need is lady luck on your side when placing your chips on the board and hoping the ball lands wherever you picked!

Roulette 30 have some great advice for how to best enjoy the game for those that are new to it and the Vegas casino scene.

“Understanding the rules of roulette is a plus,” they begin, also advising players to “watch the electronic boards next to roulette tables. These boards show the recently hit numbers. Bet on some of these numbers, as roulette numbers tend to repeat and hit in clusters.”

Roulette 30 also want to remind players to “protect your money from pickpockets.” This is indeed an important thing to keep in mind, so be aware of your surroundings, act sensibly, but don’t let it spoil your good time!

Play skill based games once you know the rules

Once you’ve grown comfortable with your surroundings and perhaps become a little more confident, it will be time to advance to the skill based games. These more intimidating table games, such as blackjack, craps, and poker, require some knowledge of the various rules at play, and a little grasp of the strategy it takes to be successful.

Erwan from Las Vegas Jaunt says: “Most casino games have pretty simple rules and it should take you no more than 15 or 20 minutes to get the gist of it.

“Still, it’s easy to get lost on the different bets available on a craps table, for example, when you’re looking at the table for the first time. Don’t worry, most casinos offer free lessons in the morning, ask a dealer or a pit boss for the schedule. They will usually teach you the most popular games (blackjack, roulette or craps) at no risk since you’ll be playing with ‘play money’. You can also do your homework online and check out websites like Wizard of Vegas that will teach you the rules and basic strategy for almost any game. Once you’re comfortable with your game of choice you can go and try your luck on a real table!”

Additionally, simply playing and practising around the kitchen table with friends and family can be a great way to familiarise yourself with the rules so you’re not mystified at the casino itself.

Tips for the poker tables

poke cards and chips

A game that many have dreams of conquering before touching down in Vegas is, of course, poker. A challenge of nerves and skill, it can seem quite daunting for beginners, but Robbie from Card Player Lifestyle luckily has some top tips for those wanting to give it go and not become broke in the process.

“Start off by playing a low buy-in tournament. If you're a first time Vegas visitor, you probably want your money (your gambling bankroll) to last for a while so you can have the full enjoyable gaming experience. Sitting down at poker cash tables might make those funds disappear a lot faster than you'd hope for, as fortunes can quite literally change on the turn of a card.

“Buying in to a tournament, however, means you can often get in a couple hours of play for a low fee. Even if you don't cash and make it into the money, for just $100 or less you're guaranteed a fun time. If you DO make it into the money, even better! Pretty much every casino with a poker room in Las Vegas runs low buy-in daily tournaments. Pick your favourite, and get ready for a fun ride!”

Playing at small stakes tournaments is definitely a wise choice for beginners, and this advice is cemented by Jonathan Little, and he should know, being a seasoned pro who regularly travels the high stakes poker tournament circuit.

“If you are playing poker for the first time, I suggest you play the smallest stakes possible,” says Jonathan, “where you will, for the most part, play against other tourists. You should also consider buying in for a relatively low amount. If you play $1/$2 no-limit, you can buy in for $40 at most casinos. While $40 may or may not last too long, you will certainly get to experience poker in a Las Vegas casino.

“Alternatively, you can also buy into a small stake tournament for $50 or less. This will allow you to play for a while knowing that you will lose $50, at most. I suggest you play at Bellagio or Aria, where you are almost certain to be playing in the same room as some of the best players in the world. Sneak a peek in Bellagio's Bobby's Room for one of the biggest poker games in the world.

“If you have a bit of time to study poker in advance, check out my short books ‘Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments’ or ‘Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Cash Games’. They both provide lots of quick, actionable advice to help you beat the players you are likely to encounter. Good luck and have fun!”

More advice for saving money

Erwan from Las Vegas Jaunt has some valuable advice for not blowing one’s money all at once, advising gamblers/players to seek out games with a low house edge.

“Not all casino games have the same house edge. Low denomination slot machines will often offer the highest house edge on the floor with 10%-15% (This means that in the long run, for every $100 you bet you would theoretically lose $10-$15). On the other hand, a game like blackjack can offer a house edge as low as 0.5% when playing the correct strategy.

“Among the low house edge games we could recommend: Blackjack, craps (a pass line bet has only a 1.41% house edge), and baccarat (banker bet has a 1.06% house edge).

“We highly encourage you to learn and try to play craps since it’s for sure the most social game on the casino floor as most players find themselves betting with the shooter thus rooting for him. You’ll often see players jumping up and down and giving each other high fives constantly.”

Erwan also has some tips for saving money when playing blackjack, and suggests, much like Jonathan Little, to head downtown.

“For a few years now the Strip casinos have regularly been increasing the minimum bets on their tables. It’s now difficult to play blackjack for under $15 a hand on the Strip and in most resorts you’re even more likely to find the lowest tables at $25 a hand if you’re there on a weekend.

“On top of that, the low limit tables will often offer different rules that will increase the house edge. Regarding blackjack, this means that you should stay away from 6/5 tables. What that means is that if you hit a blackjack you only get paid 6 to 5 on your bet when the standard rule would pay you 3 to 2.

“If you’re looking for some low limit action with good rules, you should definitely go check out the casinos on Fremont Street, also known as Downtown Vegas. Downtown Vegas is where it all began, and historic casinos like Golden Nugget, 4 Queens, and Binion’s are still standing. There you will still find a range of games with good rules at $5 and $10 minimums. Even if you’re not gambling, Fremont Street is a must-go anyway to feel a very different atmosphere from the Strip.

“With free concerts and cheap drinks, Fremont Street Experience is like a huge block party with people literally dancing in the streets. The 4-block-long pedestrian street is covered by a video display canopy made up of 12.5 million LED lamps which offers a nightly sound and light show beginning at 8 p.m.”

Always follow casino etiquette 

casino room floor

Vegas is of course a place to have a great time and really let loose, but while in the casinos, it is important to stay on their good side and follow casino etiquette. Really all that is needed from you is common courtesy and the basic manners that you would display in everyday life, but there are also a few specific rules to know.

For example:

  • Seats at the tables are for players only, so don’t sit down just anywhere because you have sore feet, unless you are willing to play of course
  • There is no mobile phone usage allowed at the tables
  • You must wait until the current game is finished before jumping in and playing
  • If you are lucky enough to win, wait until the dealer pushes your winnings towards you instead of eagerly grabbing them
  • The amount you tip is based on your own discretion but it is important to tip your dealer to some degree. This is essential to remember for those of us that don’t come from a tipping culture. Half of your minimum bet every hour is a good guideline

Enjoy the free drinks!

First timers may not be aware of this fact, but at Las Vegas casinos things aren’t quite as expensive as one might imagine, especially in the realm of drinks. And if one wants the best chance of winning, looking to older establishments could be a smart move. These two facts were highlighted to us by Wanderluststyle, a travel and lifestyle blog run by Hawaii based couple Reid and Maryrose.

“For first time visitors to a Vegas casino, we highly suggest going to old casinos (downtown Las Vegas) for more chance of winning. Also, as long as you're playing a casino game, drinks are free!”

No, you didn’t misread that, drinks are indeed free at Vegas casinos, as long as you’re placing bets then waiters and waitresses will come and take your order. This not only keeps the customers happy, but encourages visitors to continue playing for extended periods of time. Just remember to tip a dollar or two per drink and then enjoy the refreshments!

And as you can see, heading downtown comes highly recommended, with many in the know suggesting you do so. Rely on the knowledge and experience of others and follow this top advice.

Have fun but quit while you’re ahead

Of course, the most important thing to remember during your time at a Las Vegas casino is to have fun. This is why you are there after all! There is so much to see and do during your visit so you should try not to get too wrapped up in the high stakes thrills on offer. To ensure that you continue to have fun, it’s crucial that players know when to stop. Make sure to quit while you’re ahead, and not get too greedy. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush after all.

A good way to protect your bank account, and to make sure you leave the casino with a smile on your face, is to try and set aside half of your winnings every time you win big. Don’t ever gamble this portion of your winnings, that way you have a guaranteed win and always something to leave cheerful about.