What follows is my answer to the following question: “What are the easiest casino games to learn?” I’m also including quick how to play guides for beginners for each of them.
I’ve been involved in and writing about the casino gambling niche since 2002.
But I started just like everyone else — as a beginner.
Here’s what I wish I knew then:
List of the 8 Easiest Casino Games to Learn
In case you’re just looking for a quick answer, here’s a list of the easiest casino games to learn, ranked from easiest to hardest:
- Slot Machines
- Casino War
- Video Poker
I’ll have more to say about each game, including how easy or hard it is to win at each of them, below.
I also have some thoughts about what you should know before entering the casino the first time.
And, you’ll also find some details below about other kinds of gambling games and why they AREN’T considered casino games.
Roulette is my pick for the easiest game to play in the casino. It’s also one of the calmest games in any casino. Some people claim Blaise Pascal invented the game, but I’m not sure if that’s true.
Roulette remains more popular in European casinos than U.S. casinos, but it’s still one of those games you’ll find in any casino you visit, regardless of country.
A roulette game consists of a roulette wheel, which is almost 3 feet in diameter and weighs over 100 pounds. It’s basically a spinning bowl with 37 or 38 colored, numbered pockets.
The pockets are numbered from 1 through 36, and there’s also a 0 and a 00. (On some tables, there’s just a 0.)
The numbers 1 through 36 are colored black or red — 18 of each color, and the 0s are colored green.
The dealer spins a metal ball around the lip of the bowl, while the wheel itself spins in the opposite direction. The ball lands in a pocket.
If you’ve bet on some aspect of where the ball will land, and that result comes up, you win money.
You have a lot of bets to choose from at the roulette table, but the easiest bets to place are the bets on red or black. None of the bets are complicated or hard to figure out.
The house edge is 2.70% for a European roulette wheel — one with a single zero — and 5.26% for the standard American roulette wheel — the one with the 0 and the 00.
Slot machines couldn’t be easier to play. Insert your money, spin the reels, and a few seconds later, you’ve either won or lost.
The bells and whistles on modern slot machines make them seem complicated.
But at the end of the day, you have no control over the game. You don’t have to understand what paylines are or what combinations of symbols matter.
The machine just awards you based on every spin’s entirely random outcome.
That being said, it’s more fun to know what’s going on with the game you’re playing, so learn a little bit about how to play slot machines before sitting down at one.
Also, know this:
The house edge on most slot machines is high, and you don’t know what that number is.
Some games have a house edge of 6% or less, but other slot machine games might have a house edge of 25% or even higher.
Generally, higher denomination games have a lower house edge. Also, slot machine games at major, competitive casinos have better odds, too. The simpler the game is, the better the odds are, too.
Progressives have some of the worst odds in the casino, too. Those are the games with the jackpot tickers that are constantly growing in size.
I don’t recommend slot machines to most gamblers for obvious reasons.
But I can’t answer the question, “what are the easiest casino games to learn” without mentioning slot machines.
Few casino games are that easy to play.
Casino war is the easiest casino card game you can imagine. You get a card, the dealer gets a card, and whoever has the higher card, wins.
The game only gets interesting when you and the dealer have a card of the same value.
In that case, you “go to war.”
The house gets its edge by making you place a 2nd bet to go to war, and when you win, you still only win the amount of the original bet.
Here’s an example:
You bet $50. The dealer gets a 10 and so do you.
You place another $50 bet so you can go to war.
The dealer burns a few cards and exposes a new card for each of you.
If you win, you get a $50 payout.
But if you lose, you’re out $100.
The house edge for casino war is 2.87%.
Blackjack is marginally more complicated than casino war, but it’s still far from hard.
It’s another card game where you play against the dealer. You get 2 cards, and so does the dealer. Each hand is scored according to the value of the cards in the hand.
All the numbered cards are worth whatever their rank is. The 7 of diamonds counts as 7, for example.
The face cards — the jack, queen, and king — are each worth 10 points.
And an ace can be counted as 1 point or 11 points — whichever is better for you.
You win even money on your bet if you get closer to 21 than the dealer.
But if you get 22 points or more, you automatically lose.
The action involves deciding whether to take more cards or stand on the hand you have.
You also have other options, like doubling down or splitting.
Blackjack is a game of chance, but you do have a skill element that affects the house edge. If you can play with perfect basic strategy, you can get the house edge down to 0.5% (or lower).
If you play badly, the house edge might be between 2.5% and 4.5%.
It’s an easy game to learn, but mastering blackjack is something else entirely.
Keno has the distinction of having the worst odds in the casino.
But it still makes the list, because it’s hard to imagine an easier game to play.
It’s basically a privately-run lottery that has drawings several times an hour in the casino.
You can learn everything you need to know about how to play by clicking on “the worst odds in the casino,” above.
The house edge for keno varies based on the casino’s payout structure, but it averages 35%.
Yes, those are terrible odds, but keno has one virtue:
It’s hard to put a lot of money into action on the game. Most people only place 6 keno bets per hour.
Craps might seem like one of the most complicated games in the casino, but it’s easier than most people think.
It’s also more fun than almost any other game in the casino.
Craps is a game where you roll dice and bet on what the total will turn out to be. It’s played in rounds.
The first round is called the come-out roll. You have 3 possible outcomes on a come-out roll:
- The shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, and the main bet (the pass line) loses immediately.
- Or, the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, and the main bet (the pass line) wins immediately.
- Or, the shooter rolls any other number and sets a point.
If the shooter rolls a point, he continues rolling the dice until he rolls the point again (winning) or rolls a 7 (losing).
As long as the shooter keeps winning, he keeps shooting. Once he loses, the dice are passed to the next shooter.
The main bet in the game is the pass line bet, which pays off at even money and has great odds.
You can mess with the more complicated craps bets if you like, but that’s unnecessary and even counterproductive.
The simplest craps bets have the lowest house edge.
If you stick with the pass line bet at the craps table, you face a house edge of 1.41%.
Video Poker Games
Think of video poker as being a combination of slot machines, solitaire, and poker.
Like slot machines, you get payouts based on a combination of symbols — in this case, symbols that correspond to a standard 52 (or 53) card deck.
Like solitaire, it’s a card game you play by yourself.
And like poker, you use poker hand rankings to determine winners.
Video poker games use a paytable which is informed by the standard ranking of poker tables.
Depending on the game variation and the payable, the house edge for video poker varies from 0.3% to 10%.
Baccarat and Mini-Baccarat
Baccarat is a simple guessing game with an almost 50% probability of winning, but the action is complicated and hard to follow until you’re familiar with the game.
Like blackjack, baccarat is a game where you compare a hand of cards against another hand of cards to see which hand has the better score.
The rules for hitting in baccarat are set by the game and the casino, and you don’t get to make any meaningful decisions in baccarat.
If you stick with the banker bet at baccarat, the house edge is 1.06%.
It doesn’t get much better than that, but baccarat has one big problem:
It’s a popular game among high rollers, and the minimum bet is usually higher than most low rollers prefer.
For them, the casinos have mini-baccarat, which has the same odds.
Bingo Isn’t Really a Casino Game, but It Sure Is Easy
Everyone’s played bingo, and some Vegas casinos still offer the game. It’s the traditional game where you get a bingo card with a 5X5 grid on it. The bingo caller chooses numbers at random, calls them out, and you mark the numbers on your bingo card.
When you get a winning pattern — like 5 numbers in any row in any direction — you win the jackpot.
Casino bingo offers better odds than standalone bingo halls.
Bingo, even though it’s easy, offers lousy odds. The house edge depends on the venue, but 10% would be the best you could probably hope for.
How the House Edge Works
Contrary to popular belief, casinos don’t cheat and have no control over the outcomes of their games.
Casino games really are random.
The casino makes its money from a concept called the house edge, which Tim explains in his post about expected value and whether or not it can be negative.
In short, the house edge is a statistical expectation based on the difference between the payouts and the odds of winning your bet.
It’s the percentage of each bet that the casino expects you to lose, on average, over time.
For example, if a roulette game has a house edge of 5.26%, and you’re betting $100 per spin, eventually your results will come close to an average loss of $5.26.
The difference is that, even though an even-money bet at the roulette wheel pays off at even odds, the odds of winning aren’t even.
The casino wins that bet 52.67% of the time, while the player wins 47.37% of the time.
I’ll eventually write a more detailed post about how the house edge works, but for now, just know this:
The house edge is an idea of how big the casino’s edge is over the player. The higher the house edge is, the worse the game is for the gambler.
Gambling Machines versus Table Games
You can broadly categorize casino games into 2 types:
- Gambling machines
- Table games
Generally, gambling machines consist of slot machines and video poker games, although video blackjack and keno are growing more popular.
Slot machines are easy but have lousy odds. Video poker games are harder but have better odds.
All gambling machines have this in common though:
They almost force you to put a lot of money into action per hour. That’s because you’ll place more bets per hour on a machine than a table game.
An average slot machine or video poker player makes 500 wagers per hour.
Table games, on the other hand, are marginally harder, but they almost always offer better odds.
And even the table games with the worst odds run much slower than any gambling machine. Even if you’re playing heads-up with the dealer, you won’t usually get in more than 200 bets per hour.
I suggest sticking with the table games, even if you’re a beginner — ESPECIALLY if you’re a beginner.
Michael Bluejay suggests the same thing in his crash course on casino gambling.
Gambling Games that Aren’t Really Casino Games
The lottery, poker, and sports betting are all games that aren’t really casino games.
The distinctions vary for each game.
The lottery is run by organizations other than casinos — usually a lottery corporation that works with the state where you’re playing. Casinos have their own versions of lottery games in the form of keno, though.
And keno IS a real casino game.
Poker is a game where you compete with the other players at the table. Since the casino isn’t risking any money, poker isn’t really a casino game. Casinos make money from their poker rooms, though.
They don’t do it by winning players’ money, though.
They win money by collecting a percentage of each pot called “the rake.”
Sports betting is so much bigger and more complicated than casino betting it’s hard to imagine anyone putting it into the same category as a casino game.
But many casinos have sportsbooks on site, and the casino makes money from the “vig.”
This usually equates to having to risk more money than you stand to win on a bet you’re expected to win 50% of the time.
Free Casino Game Lessons
Most casinos offer free casino game lessons. You should take these lessons if you want to learn a game. The casinos generally conduct these games during slow periods.
The teachers are dealers, and they’re invariably personable and entertaining.
You can (and should) ignore any advice they give you about game strategies. Most casino dealers don’t understand the correct strategy for most casino games, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be in the casinos’ interest for them to share that.
Also, you won’t find free casino game lessons for games like slot machines or video poker. You’re on your own when learning how to play gambling machines.
And since bingo isn’t really a casino game, you won’t find lessons for it, either.
But you can usually easily find free casino game lessons for the following easiest casino games:
You probably won’t need to take a class or a lesson in how to play casino war. The game just isn’t complicated enough for that.
You shouldn’t need lessons for bingo, either.
Learning to Play Casino Games Online
You can also learn to play casino games online. Any online casino worth its salt offers free versions of all its games.
Use these games to improve your skills and understand how the action works on these games before sitting down in a real, land-based casino.
But remember this:
The only reason online casinos offer these free games is to entice you to play for real money.
Don’t gamble for real money online unless you’ve thought carefully about it, first.
Some Harder Casino Games Worth Considering
It’s in the casino’s interest to offer games that are easy to play.
So, keep in mind when visiting the casino that most games ARE easy to play, even the more complicated ones.
A few harder (but still easy) casino games to try include the following games:
- 3 Card Poker
- Caribbean Stud Poker
- Mississippi Stud
- Pai Gow Poker
- Spanish 21
- Ultimate Texas Hold’em
You’ll notice that these are all card games, and some of them are “poker” games.
But they’re not really poker games because you’re playing against the casino instead of against the other players.
By definition, you compete with other players in a “real” poker game.
You can find countless casino card games besides the one listed there, and most of them are fun and offer reasonable odds. None of them offer odds as good as you’ll find at the blackjack tables, though.
The Nature of Random Games and the Element of Skill
II covered the house edge earlier and how the casino makes its money, but I want to make sure you come away from this post understanding that all casino games are random.
Every bet is a bet on an independent event. What happened on previous events doesn’t affect what happens on the next event.
You can’t predict that the roulette ball will land on red on the next spin based on what happened on the last spin.
Even in blackjack, where the cards that have already been dealt affect the odds, you’re still getting a random hand from a random deck of cards.
Yes, some casino games have a skill element.
This doesn’t make those games less random.
It just means that your decisions have an effect on the mathematical expectation. The best examples are blackjack and video poker.
In blackjack, making the right decisions based on your total and the dealer’s face-up card improves your odds (i.e. lowering the house edge.)
In video poker, making the right decisions about which cards to keep and throw away improves your odds — again, lowering the house edge.
And in other casino games, like roulette or slot machines, your decisions have no effect on the odds behind the game.
Which Casino Games Have the Best and Worst Odds?
The blackjack and video poker games have the best odds in the casino, but they also demand skillful decisions.
The house edge for blackjack is 0.5% with perfect basic strategy and good game conditions.
The house edge for video poker is 0.5% with a good payable and appropriate strategy.
The keno games have the worst odds in the casino, but you can also place a lot of sucker bets at the craps table.
The house edge for the keno games is 35% or higher.
The worst bets at the craps table have a house edge of over 16%.
Casino Games to Avoid
You’ll choose which casino games to play based on your own set of goals, but I suggest doing some thinking about the cost of your entertainment.
For example, if you play a slot machine at the airport, you face a house edge of 25%, probably.
The same slot machine at a casino on the Las Vegas Strip might have a house edge of only 5%.
The same entertainment costs 5 times as much when played at the airport.
So, I suggest avoiding any casino game at an airport, a casino cruise, or a convenience store.
Those games have notoriously bad odds.
The Dangers of Addiction
Gambling addiction is a process addiction that can ruin your life.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re immune to gambling addiction just because you’ve never gambled before.
It can sneak up on you.
If you fear that your gambling is out of control, seek help sooner rather than later.
Conclusion – What Are the Easiest Casino Games to Learn?
The truth is, ALL casino games are easy to learn. I’ve listed the 8 easiest above, but casinos don’t offer games that are hard to play. No one would play them.
Let me know in the comments if you think I left anything off the list.