With every new year comes the usual resolutions, most of which will be abandoned by February: eating better, losing weight, quitting tobacco, and so on. Here's one that you should definitely stick with if you enjoy online casinos: becoming a sharper and more profitable gambler.
So how do you go about doing that? The five following tips are a great jumping-off point no matter what your game is.
1. Track the Long Game
Accurately tracking your wins and losses over time is an absolutely vital bit of bankroll management for professional gamblers, but it's also very helpful to the casual player. The casinos look at each game in terms of its lifetime value to them; why shouldn't you do the same?
In terms of basic money management, this will help you to have as accurate a picture of your spending and available budget as possible. In addition to tracking wins and losses, it also helps to track your comps and offers to see where you're getting the best value for your play at your favourite games.
Treat all of your various sessions at one particular game as if it is one long game. The best thing to do is to track your money wagered and money won/lost at each "instance" of each game type you play. What do we mean by "instance"? Well, for example, let's say you play two different types of Deuces Wild video poker at one casino. Each game has slight differences in its rules and pay table. Since the pay tables are different, each game has a different expected return over time - so they should be treated as different games for the purposes of bookkeeping.
Also, track the offers you get from each casino in terms of the actual value. Free play or free spins given to you with no strings attached are easy to track; the actual value is whatever the "face value" is. If they have wagering requirements, things get a bit more complicated - you have to calculate out the expected value left over after meeting the requirement.
At this point, you can see why most gamblers don't do this - it's a significant added amount of work. And if you're a casual Sunday punter who always sticks to a fixed budget, it's probably overkill for you. However, if you're serious about becoming a better gambler - in other words, consistently winning more money - this is a vital step. It allows you to see which online casinos are giving you the best value for your pound at your preferred games, so you can concentrate your play there.
2. Keep on Top of New Developments
There is certainly a lot to be said for focusing on a low-edge game like blackjack or video poker and becoming an expert. However, it's also important to test other waters here and there. The biggest opportunities are often found in new and emerging games that haven't been fully "field-tested" by the casinos yet.
For example, new slots are being released all the time. Slot developers usually tune these to favour the house, but once in a while they don't get things quite right - especially when complex bonus rounds are involved. New slots are occasionally "exploitable" for a time, at least until the developer quietly patches them or simply removes them from circulation if things get too bad. You won't see any big fanfare about such games, however; coming across them is a matter of scouring the internet and doing some experimenting of your own.
Skill-based games are also looming large on the horizon. Online casinos have been slower to adopt these, but they have been claiming increasing space on brick-and-mortar casino floors in places like Vegas in recent years. Skill-based games have the potential to turn gambling on its ear, and it's a segment of the casino industry well worth keeping up with.
Keeping up with online casino news also keeps you poised to be among the first to take advantage of all sorts of new developments - virtual reality casinos, casino openings with temporary celebratory offers, new and innovative types of games being released, and even more possibilities.
3. Try A More Complex Game
A good general rule of thumb is that the more complex a game is, the more it will return to you over time.
If you're just looking to have a good time, there's nothing wrong with just playing the slots that appeal to you. But if you decide to become a more serious and profit-minded gambler, you'll need to take the step of learning tougher and more complicated games.
You can roughly divide casino games into tiers in terms of how complex and favourable to the player they are.
Tier I (lowest complexity): Slots, keno, bingo, roulette, craps
Tier II (medium complexity): Blackjack, video poker, baccarat
Tier III (high complexity): Poker, sports betting
Tier I games are those that are almost purely based on chance and require no learning or skill to play. The player can take some small pro-active measures to change their odds, such as knowing the payback rates and volatility of different slots and if different bet sizes change the odds. However, these games all basically come down to hoping that the gods of gambling bless you and that the numbers fall your way.
Tier II games are those at which the casino retains a natural edge over the player, but it's significantly smaller than it is at pure games of chance. To whittle the edge down to as little as possible, the player needs to learn the game and how to make the optimal play in any given situation. With the right combination of conditions and bonus offers, these games can sometimes be "flipped" to provide a slight edge to the player for a while.
Tier III games are based on skill and knowledge. One player with a significant skill advantage over another will reliably beat them in the long run.
As you go up in tiers, the time you have to put in to get good increases. But so does your long-term expectation of profit.
4. Learn How to Read Pay Tables
Even experienced gamblers are often guilty of ignoring pay tables in their hurry to play their favourite game. Good pay tables make a large difference in the size of your gambling bankroll over time, however.
The format of each game's pay table is different, but in most cases it comes down to the amount you win for each type of bet you can make. Video poker has perhaps the most straightforward pay table system, so let's use that as an example. The most favourable version you are likely to encounter online has a payback rate of 99.96%; in other words, for every £100 played you would expect to theoretically lose a mere four pence. There is another common variant at which the payback rate is 98.9%, meaning you expect to lose a bit over a pound playing at the same clip. What's the difference between these two pay tables? Just a few small tweaks to payouts - five of a kind pays only 12x your bet instead of 15x, a straight flush pays 9x instead of 10x, and while a four-of-a-kind has increased to 5x it comes at the cost of the more-common full house being dropped from 4x to 3x.
Reading pay tables is for the most part a matter of memorizing what the favourable ones look like, or at least having them on hand to reference.
5. Get Proper Sleep!
Getting a full night of sleep is important for many health-related reasons, but some studies have come out that indicate it has a direct impact on your gambling performance.
Specifically, as this 2011 study reveals, a tired brain tends to be too aggressive in betting and more willing to chase losses in a reckless way. Other studies indicate that it slows your ability to evaluate incoming information, which can have a severe negative impact in games that require you to make a quick decision. And if you're thinking that you can solve all this with some tea or coffee, think again - there are yet more studies indicating that while caffeine may make you feel more alert, it probably doesn't compensate for your impaired judgment when in a groggy state.
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