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Playing your favorite casino game

As all casino players know, there are two kinds of games. You might divide them into "the ones I like" vs "the ones I don't". Or maybe it's a mood thing: "sometimes I like this game and sometimes I like that one". In any case, the world of casino gambling -- online, land based, or whatever -- divides itself right down the middle: there are games of skill and there are games of chance.

Games of chance
The traditional games of chance are Baccarat, Craps, Roulette and Slots. Casino newcomers like Sic Bo, Lotto, Keno and Bingo are expanding the options. Whatever the game, there are two basic rules to every game of chance. The first is that the house always has an advantage, however small. And the second is that the player's role is to predict the future.

House edge is what you play against when you play a game of chance. Some games, like Craps, let you shave that edge pretty thin if you know what you're doing. Others, like Baccarat, specialize in simplifying all decision making and leaving the outcome purely to chance. Each game is different, of course, but it's ever true that your position is improved by knowing your game. Take Baccarat for instance. You might think that bets on player, banker or tie would all be about even. Not so. Tie bets give the house a killer 14% advantage, whereas the player and banker bets drop that edge to less than 2%. Smart bets do not go on Tie.

As to predictions, some games let you use your judgement in making your predictions, while others leave it to Lady Luck to decide all. For example, in Craps you predict the next number up on the dice and bet accordingly. In Baccarat you simply predict who is going to get the winning hand and wait for the results.

It's an unfortunate fact, from the player's point of view, but games of chance are typically riddled with sucker bets. For instance, in Craps a Don't Pass leaves the house with a modest 1.4% edge. A Big 6/Big 8 gives the house a 9.1% edge. And an Any 7 gives the house a 16.7% edge. Your choice, but the Craps table is riddled with bad places to put good money and any way you cut it that's a Sucker bet. Again, smart players learn their game and know where the Sucker traps are. (Sucker bets deserve an article of their own but we'll leave that for a later date.)

Games of skill
Blackjack and the various forms of Poker are the traditional games of skill. Video and Pai Go Poker expand the choices, but are simply variations on the theme. The basic rule of thumb in a game of skill is you pay to play and then adjust your bets once you see what you've got. Generally speaking, the better you know the game, the better your chances of winning. Winning at these games often comes down to mathematical skills and memorizing, techniques which help you reduce and even eliminate the house edge.

The biggest house edge in games of skill is players who don't have the skill. Guesswork and predictions are a lot easier to come by than advanced memorization and the house is betting that you'll take the easy way out. That puts your dollars in their pocket. But if you know your game inside and out -- in other words you've acquired the skill -- the house edge can be dramatically reduced. Smart players face a house edge of 1% or less versus the double-digit odds that guesswork can leave you facing.

And this gives us the line that separates the games of skill from the rest: if you can create a single situation where the odds favor you and not the house, it's a game of skill. Having the skill can give you the edge and that will never happen in a game of chance.

The bottom line
As with all statements that begin with "there are two kinds of ..." the exceptions start popping into your mind immediately. Craps, for example, is a game of chance where a player's skill can dramatically reduce the house's edge. Deuces Wild, on the other hand, is a game of skill with a healthy amount of chance involved. All this is true, but the basic rules still apply. A savvy player in a skill game can reduce the house edge to very near zero, and once the hand is dealt can usually turn the odds in their favor. In games of chance that isn't possible.

On the other hand, the games of skill aren't particularly exciting to watch. Nobody but a poker fan gets a buzz off the poker table. Craps, the king of the chance games, can be a VERY stimulating place to hang out. Whatever your game, learn it, find the ways to trim the house's edge, and enjoy.

Here is a list of some of the best online casinos we can recommend for practising your skills at for free or for playing for real money:
> Platinum Play
> 7 Sultans
> Intercasino
> Colosseum Casino
> Desert Dollar