Top 5 secrets casinos don’t want you to know
Sometime in the distant future, maybe the year 3225 or so, when historians are studying ancient Western society (or what will be ancient Western society by the time), they will marvel at one particular human enterprise perhaps more than any other: the epic, money-sucking efficiency of casinos.
The way casinos have turned the act of separating us from our money into such a marvel of precision and ingenuity is every bit as awe-inspiring as the Egyptian pyramids.
“I could give you a guaranteed method to go into a casino and come out with a small fortune: go in there with a large one,” laughs Sal Piacente, a former casino dealer and security staffer who now runs UniverSal Game Protection Development, a company that trains casino staff members. He and other casino insiders know that casinos exist to not only take our money, but to keep as much of theirs as possible — both by offering games that are tilted in the house’s favor and by having air-tight security measures designed to catch thieves and cheaters.
So Yahoo Travel talked to Sal and other casino experts with decades of experience in the industry to get some dirty little secrets of casinos. Not only are these secrets juicy — knowing them might help you keep a little bit more of your money during your next casino trip. But probably just a little bit.
1. Some games are way more of a ripoff than others — even by casino standards.
It’s common knowledge that just about every game you’ll find in a casino is tilted in the house’s favor. But Sal says some games are worse than others. “A lot of these games are designed so that the player can’t win,” says Sal. “That’s why the players have to realize they need to stay away from certain games.”
The top of his list: so-called “carnival games,” which are table games other than the traditional casino fare such as blackjack, craps, and baccarat. “Three-card poker, Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud — all these games have high house advantages where the casino has a strong edge,” Sal says. “People like these games because of the bigger payouts: They get paid 9-to-1, 8-to-1, 250-to-1. But you’re going to lose a lot more than you’re going to win in those games.”
Sal has particular disdain for Double Exposure Blackjack, which he considers a particular ripoff, thanks to strict rules on when you can double down and the fact that if you tie with the dealer without a blackjack, the dealer wins. “That’s over a 9 percent house advantage,” Sal says. “The dealer should be wearing a [robber’s] mask when he deals that game!”
2. Some games are “good” games — or at least better.
“There are games tourists can play that they have better chances at,” says Derk Boss, a licensed Nevada private investigator and casino security surveillance expert. For one, he points to traditional blackjack. “You can reduce the house advantages by being a skilled player or studying the game,” he says. He also likes video poker. “That’s a game where there are strategies you can study,” he says. “It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win, but it gives you a much better chance. It’s going to reduce the house advantage and put things a little bit more in your favor.”
3. Everything you see is designed to keep you in the casino.
Anyone who’s spent time in a casino knows they are designed to make sure you’ll lose track of the time (and of the money you’re probably losing). That means no windows and no clocks. “Two in the morning is the exact same thing as two in the afternoon,” says Sal. Some casinos have gone to desperate, and sexy, measures to keep you there and gambling. “They have stripper poles, they have party pits,” Sal says. “You go to Vegas right now, it looks like a gentlemen’s club. You see girls dancing on the poles. It keeps the guys at the table.”
And don’t be fooled by the “free” food and drink offers you might get. Those have the same purpose. “I love when people say, ‘Sal, they gave me a $20 buffet for free!’” Sal says, laughing. “You sat at a blackjack table, you lost $200 and they gave you a $20 buffet.” That’s what you all a good return on investment.
4. Security is probably watching you… for your entire stay.
If you’re in a casino, you can assume you’re being watched. “Casinos are very well-covered with surveillance cameras,” says Derk. “Once someone arrives at our property, if we needed to put together their movements over their entire stay, we could easily do so. We would be able to track their movements on the property just about wherever they went — except for like the bathroom and into their hotel room.”
Casinos generally use surveillance to look out for criminals who prey on tourists and the cheaters. And, yes, Derk says they can actually zoom in on your cards if they wanted to. So somewhere in the casino, in a locked, high-tech room, a security guard you’ll never see might be telling you to “hit.”
5. And if you win big, they’re definitely watching you.
You can bet on it: if you hit a big jackpot, or get on a major hot streak, security has its eyes on you. “When someone is winning a lot of money, they’re always going to get checked by us,” Derk says. “They’re not going to know it, of course. Say a guy wins $100,000 on a blackjack game. I just want to make sure that it’s legal, that he didn’t cheat, that he didn’t count cards or something like that.”
Derk says in that instance, security will do a player evaluation: They will review his/her play on video for signs of cheating or card counting. Then they’ll check out the player. “We have a database of bad guys that are out there and what kind of scams they pull, so we’re gonna check for that,” Derk says.
Slot winners get the same scrutiny. “Say someone wins $500,000 on a slot machine jackpot,” says Derk. “We’re going to review it but we’re just going to make sure everything’s okay — that they didn’t open the machine or do something to it.”
But don’t worry: Security isn’t out to harass winners. “As long as it’s legitimate, we’re okay and we move on,” Derk says. “We want people to win money or else they won’t play.”