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A trip to a casino should always be considered an entertainment outing rather than an attempt to come home with a few more dollars in your pocket. Still, it’s the goal of every gambler to win, and ideally, win big. To win at all, you have to understand how the casino takes your money.

First, Know the Winner’s Rules

1. Don’t drink and gamble: the more free drinks the casino gives you, the greater the probability you’ll lose your stake. Keep a drink in front of you to count cards in blackjack and avoid detection. Order another--even though your first is still full--to let the casino think you’re a tourist rather than someone keeping track of cards.

2. Know the rules of each game and the ideal playing strategy.

3. Don’t have faith in “streaks” or systems: statistically speaking, there are none. Each roll of the dice is an independent event, unaffected by what happened before. Other than counting cards and making wise bets, no system works in a casino.

4. Don’t get caught up in the excitement: ignore the story of the guy who won big. It might be true, but it’s the casino’s way of getting you to loosen up and bet more and to recoup what it lost to that big winner.

5. Don’t ever bet more than you intended.

How Casinos Take Your Money

1. High-payout slot machines: High-denomination machines that advertise a 97.4% payout may actually pay out at that rate. But what’s more important is the loss ratio. Play $5 each time and on average you’ll lose 13 cents a pull. A quarter machine will only take one or two cents a pull, so your stake will last ten times longer. Don’t stake out a machine that hasn’t paid out in a while. The payout is predetermined, but the frequency is random.

2. Blackjack: Don’t be distracted by other losers; they don’t affect the odds. Don’t place an “insurance” bet; it’s a side bet that ensures nothing.

3. Poker: Stay away from high stakes games. The players may look like tourists, but they’re really professionals.

4. Baccarat: Counting cards does not work in this game. Always bet on the banker, not on the player; the odds are better. Never bet on a tie; the house has the edge.

5. Craps: Don’t play the “field bet” even though you may be told it has more winning numbers than losing ones. This is true, but the losing numbers occur more frequently, turning the odds against you. Stick to the best bets, such as the “pass” or “don’t pass” bets. The house edge on these is less that 1.5%.

6. Cash-advance machines: Avoid them. You’ve probably already spent too much. There are also the fees: 6.6% for the casino and 2% for the credit card company.