Understanding Casino Games

roulette table and players

Maybe I’m old school, but I still love visiting a casino with friends now and then, or even hosting a poker night in my apartment. There’s just something refreshing about good drinks, good friends, and good games. But too many times I’ve had buddies join in who had no idea what to do when they actually approached a popular game like poker, blackjack, or even roulette. It’s as if they think, “Oh, I’ve seen Rounders and Ocean’s 11, it’ll just kick in when I take my seat.”

Not exactly!

It doesn’t bother me that a lot of people don’t know how the most basic casino games work. At this point, most of us are playing these games online and in apps anyway, and everything is streamlined and simplified to be idiot-proof. But if you’re like me and have an appreciation for the actual games and the thrill of gambling, read on for a basic explanation of some of the most popular games.

Poker

In certain ways, all poker games are the same. They all involve the same scoring scale (for lack of a better term), they all use 52-card decks, and every hand in poker consists of five cards, even if different games see different numbers of cards initially dealt to players. But beyond these similarities, there are some pretty significant differences between common types of poker. One of the best rundowns I’ve found of the different games is at SpadesGaming, a company that sells home card tables and has some basic information on casino games. Reading their explanations can give you a thorough understanding, but I’ll summarize three of the most popular types of poker here.

Texas Hold’em
This is by far the most popular type of poker at casinos today, and really it’s the only one a lot of people need to know. In Texas Hold’em, each player is dealt two cards to begin with, and then must decide whether or not to match the “big blind”—essentially, the fee to stay in the hand. One player each hand—the player two seats to the left of the “dealer” (also a rotating position) starts with the big blind. The player one seat to the left of the dealer, meanwhile, starts with a “small blind”—half the amount of the big blind. Once cards are dealt, players must decide whether or not to buy-in by matching the big blind, starting with the player to the left of the big blind. During this stage, players can also raise, setting a new limit for everyone else to match. After the initial round of betting comes the “flop,” meaning three communal cards are placed in the middle of the table, to be connected to any player’s hand. Another round of betting follows before the “turn”—a fourth card in the middle. Players have one more chance to bet before the “river,” the fifth communal card, is dealt, and then players show their hands and the best one takes the pot.

Omaha Hi-Lo
Omaha Hi-Lo is effectively the same game as Texas Hold’em in execution, with a few key differences. The first is that instead of being dealt two cards to begin with, players receive four each but can only use two of them, in combination with three communal cards, to form a final hand. The other difference is that the final betting pot is actually split between the highest and lowest hands, meaning there is some strategy to staying in the game with weak cards. If only a single player is left at the river, he or she takes the whole pot.

7-Card Stud
Seven-Card Stud used to be very popular in casinos, and though it’s now largely obsolete, many view it as a better strategy game. At the beginning of a game, each player (usually eight total) is dealt three cards, with two being face-down. The player with the weakest face-up card starts off the initial betting round with a pre-determined, small opening betting amount. After this betting round, a fourth card is dealt to each player, face-up, followed by another betting round, and the same process repeats for a fifth and sixth card, with the seventh being dealt face-down. At that point players must show their best hands. Betting can be somewhat complex in 7-Card Stud, with lower and higher limits involved. For example, in a 5-10 game, $5 is essentially the buy-in for the betting rounds until the fifth card is dealt, at which point the higher limit of $10 becomes the base bet.

Roulette

Many people probably don’t even realize that there are different types of roulette. I know a lot of my friends don’t! After all, how much more complicated can it get dropping a ball into a spinning wheel to see where it lands? Well, for the most part, that’s the game. However, as explained at Intercasino’s site, there are subtle differences between different brands of the game, most of which have to do with the odds. You may well come across any one of these types of games, and unless you’re paying close attention you won’t know the difference. Luckily, I’m here to summarize the differences again!

European Roulette
In European Roulette, the wheel has 37 slots where the ball can land. Of these slots, 18 are red and 18 are black, and one is a green zero. Basically, this means there are three ways for a player to bet with just under a 50% chance of winning: betting on red or black, betting on even or odd, and betting on high (18-36) or low (1-17). These would all be 50/50 bets were it not for the green zero giving the house a slight edge.

American Roulette
American Roulette works the exact same way as European Roulette, with the exception that an extra slot is added, marked with a double zero. Naturally, this gives the house slightly better odds and makes American Roulette a slightly worse game for players than European.

Common Draw Roulette
This is a version of the game that’s become popular online. It essentially involves a European Roulette wheel spinning over and over again, with players making successive bets on a time limit.

Blackjack

Blackjack is a very different game and requires less explanation in terms of different rules. The format of the game is simple: you’re dealt two cards (one face-down), as is every other player and the dealer. Each player’s objective is to beat the dealer’s total without going over 21. This is done by “hitting” or “staying”—hit meaning you are dealt another card—with betting rounds in between.

There aren’t so much different types of the game as different ways to weigh strategy based on how many cards are in play. Unlike poker or roulette, blackjack has a sort of mathematical formula that can be followed to ensure the best probability of winning. Each combination of cards yields a “correct” decision based on how many players are involved and how many cards are in play. That doesn’t mean you’ll always win, but it does mean you can always make the highest probability decision. “Correct” decisions vary, however, if multiple card decks are in play.

So there you have it. Hopefully with this guide in hand, you can be a more successful gambler! Or at the very least, the next time you’re at a buddy’s poker night—or, you know, an actual casino—you’ll be ready to seem like you know what you’re doing.

  

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