Reason I like Bovada #4:

It's fair and safe

The best way to avoid losing money by gambling is to not gamble in the first place.  That goes double online, because online gambling is mostly unregulated in the U.S.  That means the casinos serving the whole U.S. don't answer to anyone.  If you have a problem with a casino (like they won't pay you), then you're usually out of luck.  I can't count how many players have written to ask me for help because they didn't get paid by some other casino.  (Not that I helped them, it's not what I do—if a dodgy casino won't pay you then you're on your own.)

So if you're intent on gambling online, then the #1 most important thing is to pick a good casino.  The good ones know they make more money with fair games and consistent payouts than the dodgy casinos, because fair play means repeat customers and good word-of-mouth referrals.  It's no coincidence that the most successful online casinos are the ones that focus on their players.

Many casinos try to find excuses to not pay winning players, especially players who have won big.  Outright cheating (rigged games) is pretty rare, but it happens.  Either way, if you have a problem with most U.S.-facing online casinos, you're usually out of luck.

This is another reason why Bovada is the only online casino I've accepted advertising from for over 15 years.  They use industry-standard software, it's absolutely fair, and players get their payouts, consistently.  I have a choice in whom I advertise, so I purposefully picked a casino with a good reputation where I'm confident my readers will have a good experience.

To be clear, Bovada's not perfect.  Once they got duped by a bad vendor (Betsoft) who provided progressive slots whose jackpots weren't winnable.  When I discovered this I alerted Bovada, and they pulled all the Betsoft games from the site, but I thought they were slow to do so and didn't offer proper restitution to affected players. (more on this)  Still, even with this incident, their overall history is better than most; as just one example, there are many other casinos still offering Betsoft's questionable games.

Another good thing about Bovada is that they allow me to mediate if one of my readers clicks over to them, plays the games, and has a problem they can't get Bovada to resolve.  My time is valuable and I wouldn't offer that service if I had to do it very often.  I think I've gotten maybe one or two inquiries from affected players in the 15+ years I've been advertising Bovada.

Bottom line: I'm confident that Bovada is fair and reasonably safe.  You might have a good experience with another casino...and you might not.  I trust Bovada, and that's why I picked them.

Visit Bovada

Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

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Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

12 ways to Gamble Smart

Last update:  March 2021

Licensed from Dan Piraro of Bizarro.

I know, some people consider "gambling smart" to be an oxymoron.  After all, wagering on games where you'll probably lose does sound kind of dumb.  As one person told me, "If I ever feel like gambling, I just drive by the casino and throw some money at it."  So if you don't want to gamble, I don't blame you.  I even made a huge list of other things to do in Vegas.

On the other hand, with proper strategy, you can expect to lose less than $10/hour.  That's about what you'd spend on a movie, and a lot less than many other forms of entertainment.  For someone who can easily afford a $10 loss, I have a hard time calling that stupid.

So if you're intent on gambling, let's learn how to do it right.

1. Set a daily loss limit.

There's a sure-fire way to avoid losing too much:  Set a daily limit for how much you're willing to lose, and when you lose it, stop playing.  I know, you'll say that's either too obvious or no fun, or I'm trying to harsh your mellow.  Whatever, but the fact remains, if you make a loss limit and stick to it, then you'll never get in over your head.

Don't set only a trip limit, because you might lose it all on the first day of your trip.  A trip limit and a daily limit is the way to go.  Set it and respect it!

2. Quit while you're ahead.

You'll do this by setting a session win limit.  Pick an amount that you'd be happy to win, say $50, $100, $300, whatever.  If you get ahead by that much, then stop playing, at least for a while.  If you keep playing, you're likely to just give your winnings back to the house.  You'll have blown not just your winnings, but also the opportunity to feel like a winner for more than a few minutes.  So stop, and do anything besides gambling.  (Here are some ideas.)  Whatever it is you're doing, you'll feel like a winner while you're doing it.  It beats feeling like a loser, which is how you feel if you turn around and give your winnings right back to the casino.

3. Bank your wins.

Set a win goal, and if you hit it, put at least half that money away and don't gamble it.  For example, let's say your win goal is $300, and at some point you're ahead $300.  Sock away at least $150 of that, and don't use it for gambling on this trip.  Even if you lose the rest of your bankroll, you'll still have these winnings when you go home.

If you make your win goal, set a new win goal.  If you're lucky you'll be able to bank multiple wins.

4. Calculate your average loss.

Don't fly blind!  Get an idea for how much you'll lose on average.  My Average Loss Calculator makes quick work of that:

Turn your phone sideways for a better calculator!
Average Loss Calculator
Game Rounds / Rolls
Per Hour
Bet per round House Edge Average Avg. Loss for
hour(s) hrs
of play

Video Poker





Play online casino games with fake money!  It's better than losing real money.

5. Don't play slots.

Slots bleed you dry quickly.  Check the average loss calculator above and see what I mean.  If you must play slots, then see my page on slot strategies.

6. Play only Craps, Baccarat, or Blackjack.

As you'll see from the Average Loss Calculator above, these are the only games that won't bleed you dry.  Video poker can be a good bet if (1) you can find a decent machine, like 9/6 Jacks or Better, but those are extremely rare on the strip, and (2) you use the proper strategy.  If you just guess, your loss will be so high that you might as well be playing slots.

7. Use the proper strategy for whatever game you're playing.

The figures shown in the Average Loss Calculator assume that you're making the best plays.  If you make bad bets or bad strategy, your loss will be much higher.  Craps doesn't require any special strategy, except to make only the Pass Line bet (and if you like, the Odds bets).  Baccarat doesn't require any special strategy, either, just don't bet on Ties.  For blackjack, learn the strategy.


8. Bet small and play slowly.

The more you bet the more you'll lose.  And the faster you play, the more you'll lose.  So, bet small and play slowly.  The best way to play slowly is to play at full tables.  It's fun to play with other people, anyway.

You can play blackjack for a mere $1/hand at OYO and the Downtown Grand.  It's 6:5, but for $1 a hand, you certainly can't complain.

9. Don't play on the Strip

Strip casinos have the worst odds and the highest minimums.  You're likely to lose three times as much on blackjack and five times as much on video poker there versus a locals casino.  Near the strip, try the Orleans, Gold Coast, or Palace Station.  Downtown casinos generally offer much better odds than the strip, too, though locals casinos are usually even better.

Craps and baccarat have the same odds everywhere, but the strip casinos still get you with very high table minimums.

The one exception is for high rollers:  High limit rooms typically offer 3:2 blackjack (not the horrible 6:5), and sometimes some decent video poker.  And high rollers won't care about the higher table minimums for craps and baccarat.

10. Get a player's card and use it.

Every casino has a Player's Club desk where you can sign up for a Player's Card, and it's always free.  This is absolutely the best deal in Vegas, for many reasons:

  1. You often get something good just for signing up, like a hat, a deck of cards, or valuable coupons that are actually worth using.
  2. Just by signing up for the card, there's a good chance you'll get mail offers for free or deeply discounted rooms.  Even if you don't gamble at all.
  3. If you do gamble, you can get even more goodies like free meals, show tickets, and rooms.  See my article on getting comps.

11. If you must play slots, play online

I strongly recommend playing just about anything but slots, since slots suck your money away rapidly.  (Of course, if you're betting 25¢ total or less per round, or if you're rich, then more power to ya.)  If you must play slots for any significant amount of money, then it's better to play at an online casino like Bovada, where your money will last three times as long as in a land casino.  Land casinos have to pay rent and utilities on huge casinos, as well as for the physical machines.  Those expenses aren't cheap, and so their slots are a lot tighter than what you get online.  Online casinos typically take about 2-3% of players' slot bets on average, while at land casinos it's usually closer to 8%.

12. If you play table games online, bet less.

Table games in brick-and-mortar casinos are played slowly, but online they're played at lightning speed, and faster play means bigger losses.  If you're playing a game like blackjack online, play for smaller stakes than you would in a land casino.  If you'd bet $5/round in a land casino, bet only $1/round online.

Related articles:

Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

I like Bovada's practice games the best, because you can play right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's why Bovada is the only online casino that gets space on my site.  I hope other casinos will eventually start treating their visitors like human beings rather than walking wallets, but until they do, there's Bovada.  One click and you're in.

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