John G. Brokopp — The Thrifty Gambler

Since it's a statistical fact in gaming jurisdictions nationwide that casinos derive approximately 80 percent of their gaming revenues from slot and video poker machines, it's important to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible to keep the playing field as level as we possibly can.

The edge will always tip in favor of the casinos no matter what we do. That's the nature of the business. Some of us will win over the short term, but over the long haul the casinos will always win and players as a collective group will always lose.

I have prepared the following list of tips for average recreational gaming enthusiasts who wish to keep the factors that work against them in slot machine play as minimal as possible. In most cases it takes lots of self control and discipline, but it is the lack of those particular qualities in a majority of players that keeps the casino gaming industry thriving.

This list is geared toward nickel, quarter, fifty-cent, and dollar players. Playing the five-dollar slots requires a greater starting bankroll if you wish to stand any chance of beating the odds that are stacked against you.

n Always play in affordable increments to derive as much mileage as you can from your outing. If you bring $100 to the casino for an evening of play, break your bankroll down into five $20 sessions. If you bring $160, break your bankroll down into eight $20 sessions. You can always put in another twenty dollar bill if you fail to generate profits on your first attempt. Loading up a machine with too much "out of pocket" money at one time creates the temptation to play too much too fast.

n Play at a comfortable pace. The best way to do this is to insert coins, but that takes a lot of patience. Playing off credits at a feverish pace increases the vulnerability of your money to the "house edge". The more you play in a given period of time, the more the casino's advantage is going to work against you and grind away at your bankroll.

n Even though player's club cards exist primarily for the casinos to create data bases, track play, and serve as their most important marketing tool, it is to the player's advantage to always use them. Make the cards work for you by deriving benefits based upon play that's comfortable for you and not increased or more frequent play that the casinos wish to entice from you.

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n Use a money management system. One disciplined approach is to start with a twenty dollar buy-in. Play the entire twenty dollars in one machine. If you have any winnings to collect after playing, cash them out and split the money 50-50: Half in a bucket that you put aside and the other half for another playing session on the same machine. Repeat the process as often as luck will allow. When you have depleted your original buy-in, preserve the profits you have put aside and go on to another machine with your next twenty dollar bill.

n If you make a nice score, cash out the winnings immediately and put them aside. The level at which you do this is an individual matter, but certainly if you hit for $100 or more it's the wisest thing to do. Keeping your winnings on the machine in credit form makes it too easy to play them down and watch them disappear right before your eyes. Keeping them in coin form in a bucket means you'll be less likely to throw caution to the wind. It'll also give you the opportunity to take a break, bring them to the cashier, and see your winnings in the form of cold, hard cash.

John G. Brokopp has 30 years of professional experience as a publicist, handicapper, freelance writer, and casino gambling correspondent. He is the author of two books, "Thrifty Gambling" and "Insider's Guide to Gambling on the Internet." He can be contacted at jgbjet@sbcglobal.net.