Introduction to Primer
I remember first entering a casino as a beginner slots player. But perhaps you are only just started your slots journey? Here’s your primer for learning how to play slots.
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Entering a Casino for the First Time
My first experience with slot machine gambling was in 2003 at a small tribal casino (Kewadin Casino in Manistique, Michigan) in the upper peninsula. I was taking a long drive back to graduate school in Iowa after visiting family in the lower peninsula and had found a hotel at which to spend the night. A casino was located just down the highway from that hotel.
I wasn’t aware of the casino being there until the hotel provided $20 worth of tokens to play at it. I remember feeling a little nervous about entering a casino for the first time. I mean, what would my family of non-gamblers think? But I gathered up my courage and went on in.
I found it a highly distracting place: loud, flashing lights, and smoke. Then, smoking was more prevalent than today, so much cigarette and cigar smoke was in the air. Smoking at casinos is still true in some states, such as Nevada, although ventilation has improved significantly.
I distinctly remember rapidly spending $20 worth of tokens on slots. Plus, another $50 besides which I could ill afford to lose. At the time, I was a poor graduate student on a research stipend working a side job as a temporary instructor of college physics.
I’d just spent my food money on the trip home. Did I win anything that first time at a casino? No, I don’t think so.
Why don’t I know if I won or not? Frankly, how would I have known if I had? If I did, it wasn’t enough to grab my attention.
Maybe a few numbers changed on the player’s console, and the slot machine made an unusual sound. So? What of it?
From my perspective, it was doing that every time I made a bet anyway. I left the casino after spending $50 I could barely afford to lose. As I continued home on that long road trip, I started thinking about gambling with slot machines.
Since then, I’ve never stopped doing so. After a few months of dwelling on that first experience, I happened to be visiting the Omaha Zoo just over the western border of Iowa in Nebraska. I saw a casino (Lakeside Casino in Osceola, Iowa) on the river.
Hint: it was a riverboat casino. With those months of thinking figuratively behind me, I’d concluded from my first visit that I needed a rule for how much I should allow myself to spend whenever I entered another casino. The careful rule I devised was this: “Take a fixed amount into the casino, say $25, and spend only that plus whatever you make from it.”
With this simple rule and $25 in hand, I entered this second casino at about 2 p.m. on a Saturday and left almost 12 hours later at 1 a.m. Yes, that’s right, 12 hours. Why?
I’d carefully followed my rule. But my error was that I hadn’t prepared for success. This mistake has continued to plague me, by the way.
My simple rule didn’t account for this error: Almost immediately after entering this second casino, I won $500 on a 25-cent slot machine. Doing so left me feeling quite emotional, which inclined me to try to stick firmly to the rule, which I proceeded to do.
As the afternoon and evening passed into the early morning I continued to win additional minor jackpots. Eventually, I spent my $25 along with what I’d won with it. And so, this was my second experience at a casino.
I’d gone from slots gambling for 10 minutes to a marathon 12-hour session. I did try to find a hotel that morning, instead of driving home at such a late hour (and coming as close as I’ve ever gotten to hitting a deer on the highway), but the nearby hotel wouldn’t accept a credit card, only cash. The hotel staff insinuated that people would provide a credit card to the hotel upon arrival but afterward max out their credit limit at the casino.
At check-out, they couldn’t pay their hotel bill the following morning. That shocked me. My point isn’t about my inability to get a hotel room but that this was my first real clue that gambling was complicated.
Playing slot machines consists of more than just the act of making a bet by pushing a button. Slot machine gambling exists in a unique environment where loud sounds, flashing lights, second-hand smoke, and even gambling abuses can occur. How fascinating!
My Initial Gambling Rules
After these first two casino gambling experiences, I spent more and more time thinking about them without much progress in learning how to win. I wasn’t yet thinking about how to win, however. Instead, I mainly was thinking about the potential dangers of what I was getting myself into.
Eventually, I decided to figure out slot machine gambling. I wasn’t expecting to win any significant amount of money. But I hoped not to lose a significant amount of money.
At the time, my primary motivation was to develop better control over my emotions while gambling at a casino. When there, I was feeling overwhelmed by my intense feelings. I wouldn’t say I liked feeling ruled, at times almost controlled, by my feelings.
If my reaction to these strong emotions was a personal weakness, I knew I wouldn’t just find myself exposing this behavior at a casino. I could potentially be surprised by it at any other time. For example, perhaps while living my life or when working professionally?
I felt I needed to understand and, if I could, address it. So, with this reasoning in mind for gaining additional slot machine gambling experiences, I took a long look around where I lived for any nearby casinos within driving distance. As it happened, there was a casino resort relatively nearby.
This local casino (Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa) had table games, floors of slot machines, a high-limit slot room, and horse racing. And, oh, the splendor of the buffet! To all my senses, it was simply delightful.
So, with that limited assessment of a gambling establishment, about every month or more, I’d take about $25 from my monthly stipend to go there with the full expectation of gambling it all away on slot machines. But would I? For what happened next, see The World’s Oldest Winning Slots Strategy.
But that’s my story. Let’s talk about your story instead.
The Changing State of Gambling, in Brief
Legal large-scale gambling in the U.S. started in Nevada in 1931. There was Las Vegas, of course, but also Reno, Lake Tahoe, and others. It stayed there until legalized in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1978.
Legalized gambling in Atlantic City provided casinos convenient to gamblers on the east coast. And this gambling balance between Nevada and Atlantic City continued until around the end of the 1980s. At that point, everything started changing more and more rapidly.
Basically, in 1988 tribal casinos became permitted by federal law. Although tribes did need to negotiate state-tribal compacts with the state their reservations were located within. These negotiations typically took years.
Another substantial change happened in the early 1990s when riverboat casinos became legal in several midwestern states. Initially, state law required these casinos to travel on water, or at least unmoor from a dock, before gambling could occur. In the mid-90s, online gambling started up outside of the U.S.
This development got out of control fast until various legal restrictions began protecting players. For a while, this protection was to block online gambling in the continental U.S. By doing so, the U.S. Senate was protecting players and land-based casinos hurt by online gambling from outside the U.S.
Not long after, Canada did much the same. Besides tribal gaming, this was the limit of federal laws restricting gambling in the U.S. until the banning and recent unbanning of sports betting at the national level. What all this means is simple.
Gambling has become prevalent in the U.S., especially the most popular type of gambling there is: slot machine casino gambling. As it were, there is another side of the coin to all this growth and expansion of gambling. All through these changes to the gaming industry in the U.S. and abroad, the gambling technology was also growing and expanding.
For example, the impact of microchips and the internet was profound to slots. For a concise article capturing these near-constant technological developments of slot machines, see Ultimate Guide to Slot Machine History. I think slot machine casino gambling has changed a lot in the last few decades.
Further, these changes will keep on happening. Knowing what has happened in the past will help us understand the future. The most significant changes occurring now are related to slot machines no longer being entirely random.
Frankly, there are degrees of randomness. In the past, most casinos controlled the odds of winning on a slot machine by having slot mechanics physically adjust the odds on a regular schedule, perhaps two weeks long. Nowadays, at casinos built or heavily renovated since 2012, this is automated.
Doing so both reduced the casino labor force and provided a near real-time understanding of the casino’s performance for its operator. And therein lies the secret to winning at slot machine casino gambling. But all that is a bit much for the beginner slot player.
What you need to know is that slot machines’ randomness isn’t always fully random. There are patterns to this randomness, and if you know to look for them, you can find them.
Beginning Your Slots Journey
Maybe you’ve yet to visit a casino. Perhaps you have visited a casino and wondered what the heck just happened. You might even have gone many times but want to restart your slots journey for one of several reasons.
Having just started your slots journey, you may not know how much playing slots has changed so much in the last few years. That’s fine, as more than a few regular slots players haven’t kept up with all the latest changes. Or, rather, what the changes mean.
So, let us begin your journey together. Your first step? Well, it’s not visiting a casino.
Your first step is to search for info online. Maybe that’s how you found me? Most people have several casinos near them.
In Iowa, for instance, every resident has at least one casino within an hour’s drive. What about you? How many casinos are near you?
I shouldn’t explain how to use Google, but here’s a hint: Type “casinos near me” in Google. Doing so will show a map with all the casinos in your area. Cool, huh?
Or use my Online Resource for U.S. Casino Slots Enthusiasts with links to my state-by-state slots review articles, including lists of state’s casinos with their websites and a state map! What you want to do is visit the websites of casinos near you. See what they have to offer that you might like.
Don’t focus entirely on gambling. For instance, you’ll probably want a nice meal occasionally, right? So, look at what nearby casinos offer that might interest you.
That’s all the preparation you’ll need to start, besides The Golden Rule of Slots.
The Golden Rule
There is a danger to gambling for the first time. I’m not a medical professional, so I cannot explain this danger as well as I would like. But this is the danger: You don’t know how you will involuntarily react to gambling until you do it the first time.
It’s kind of like that first alcoholic drink. With it, some people immediately realize they are an alcoholic. It can ruin lives, and doing something about it with success will be a life-long endeavor.
I don’t mean to scare you. Not at all. Many people find recreational gambling to be quite entertaining.
But others find out they are compulsive gamblers. This self-awareness can be hard on everyone. So, I have a few things to share about it.
First, please understand that casinos reprimand employees or fire them if they tell a patron they are spending too much money and should go home. That’s just the sad truth. On the other hand, advertisements all over casinos explain how to get help.
Second, I don’t encourage non-gamblers to gamble. I assume anyone who finds me is deliberately looking for information on slots gambling. But, if you decide you want to bet, I take it as my responsibility to explain how to do it.
Third, there truly is a Golden Rule. Here it is: Don’t spend any money at a casino that you cannot afford to lose comfortably. That means you’re spending disposable income, which is money left over after paying all your bills and an additional amount put into your savings account.
Journey into the Unknown, Together
I suppose we should also discuss how a slot machine operates. Most newcomers sit down at a slot machine, put some money in, and start pushing some buttons. But what do the controls do?
There are several physical components to slot machines, including various interfaces with the player. Read about the typical features of a slot machine in How Slot Machines Work from a Player’s Perspective. The schematic of a slot machine found in it takes the mystery out of how all the buttons, panels, and interfaces work on a slot machine.
Another thing you’ll want to do is get a player’s club card from the casino. At its simplest, this is like your grocery card. In exchange for your contact information, you can earn points by spending money on gambling. They’ll also make some exciting offers.
You’ll get free stuff from the casino, most likely starting when you sign up. Sometimes, in the long term, it’s often the only way gamblers profit. Here’s another article explaining these casino rewards clubs called 7 Advantages of Rewards Clubs for Playing Slots.
So, let’s recap what I’ve pulled together for you to start at slots:
- Go to the websites of casinos near you to understand their differences relative to your wants and needs.
- Check to ensure you have some disposable income if you want to play slots.
- Visit your casino and get a player’s club card at the front counter or kiosk.
- Pick a slot machine, make a bet, and see what happens next.
So, what does happen next? One example would be what happened to me, as explained. Or something similar.
If I had one wish for you, it would be this. I hope you don’t win. That’s probably shocking, but it is for the best.
If you win big on your first visit to a casino, it sets an unrealistic expectation you might take years to recover from, if ever. I hope you win big on your second visit to a casino. That’s what happened to me.
Once you’ve visited the casino a few times, maybe you’ll want to know more about why casinos are the way they are. If so, I have plenty of articles about them. But that may be too soon.
When you’re ready, they’ll be waiting here for you. I hope you have a great time at the casino playing slots. Have fun, be safe, and make smart choices.
Summary of Primer
Too often, a beginner slots player gets lost. There is a lot going on for beginners. With this primer, a newbie slots enthusiast no longer starts from scratch.
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