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Close up of two people playing Russian Roulette with a dealer in the background

Guide to casino games

Step inside a casino and the atmosphere tingles with excitement. While it’s supposed to be a form of entertainment, it can become harmful. You’re likely to spend more than you win, so it should never be counted on as a way to make money.

Safer Gambling Aotearoa

What are casino games?

Casino games - also called table games - can be played in a casino or online. Gambling activities may include card, dice and random number games played on a table, managed by a croupier or dealer. Some of the best known games include poker, blackjack, baccarat and roulette. These work by allowing customers to purchase chips to bet on the outcomes of a game (such as a round of poker) or an event (such as spinning a roulette wheel).

It’s helpful to know that there’s a clear line between skill and chance-based games. Games of pure chance include roulette, baccarat, money wheel and pokie machines, because the odds are not affected by anything the player does and anything they think they know. With games of partial skill like blackjack and poker, some knowledge and judgement may increase your chances of guessing a winning outcome, but chance does still play a large role in the result.

The following games are pure chance

Close up of Russian Roulette table with poker chips


Close up of poker chips


Close up on out of focus money wheel

Money Wheel

Woman at pokie machine

Pokies Machines

Your brain sees patterns that aren’t there

Your brain is constantly scanning the world for things that are predictable and meaningful so that it knows what to do next. However, it runs into problems when it tries to spot patterns in games that are random. Random means that it’s impossible to predict the future from the past. So in games like roulette, craps, baccarat, keno, wheel of fortune and pokie machines, the brain sees patterns that aren’t there - your mind is literally being tricked. This is also known as ‘gamblers fallacy’.

Take roulette for example. You may see an electronic display that shows the outcomes of the last few spins. It’s tempting to check the displays for patterns and change your bets according to what you see. The reality is, the next spin is unrelated to all previous spins. The little ball has no memory and can’t remember where it last landed. Don't be fooled by any patterns, they’re just an illusion.

Some roulette players may continue playing even if they are consistently losing because they feel it’s their turn to win. If you see that number 23 has not come up for a long time it may seem logical to think it must be coming up soon. But the outcome of the roulette wheel is completely random and does not have a memory. Number 23 has the same chance of winning on any spin.

What is the house advantage?

Do you know about the house advantage? The house is geared to win in the long run because of a mathematical advantage (or the house edge) that the casino enjoys over the player. You may win on occasions, but continual gambling over time will result in losses for you, the gambler.

The house advantage (or “edge”) is the difference between the true odds (or the mathematical odds) and what a casino pays. This varies across games and is usually expressed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more the casino is keeping.

So here’s how the house advantage works in roulette… Roulette wheels feature the numbers 1 to 36, along with a 0 and sometimes also a 00. This means the ball can land on 1 of 37 possibilities (or 1 of 38 possibilities in the case of a 00 wheel). In other words, the true odds are 1 in 37 (or 1 in 38). However, the highest a casino will pay out in roulette for any single bet is $35 for every $1 you bet (maximum payout rate of 35 to 1). Because the payout rate is lower than the true odds, the house has an advantage every time you spin. The house edge on a 00 roulette wheel is 5.26%. This means that every time you bet $1 you’re likely to lose 5 cents. Or put another way - expect to get 95 cents for every $1 you bet!

Tips for staying safe at casinos

  • Set a spending limit.
    • Only gamble with money you can afford to lose. This money should not be needed for basic living expenses, such as food etc.
    • Only take cash. Leave your bank and credit cards at home when you gamble.
    • When you run out of money, don’t borrow from family, friends or others so you can keep gambling.
    • Don’t try and win back money you’ve lost.
  • Set a time limit for your visit to the casino.
    • Consider using the casino’s pre-commitment facility to limit how much time or money you spend gambling. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask one of the casino staff for help.
  • Balance gambling with other leisure activities. Gambling shouldn’t be the only activity you do in your spare time.
  • Know your odds
    • Remember that casino gambling is a form of entertainment, not a way to make money. The odds are always in the casino’s favour.
    • Look for the odds and payouts on games you’re playing so you’re fully informed.
  • Going to a casino with others means you can watch out for one another. But remember not to feel pressured because someone in the group is spending more or playing longer. Know your own limits.
  • Don’t gamble when you’re depressed or feeling low. Decision-making can be more difficult when you’re stressed or upset. Make sure you only gamble when you’re feeling clear headed.
  • Talk about it


  1. The Responsible Gambling Guide (2013). Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
  2. The Mathematics of Roulette (2013).

Related information

Check out these other pages for safer gambling support and guidance.

Pokie machines lit up in blue lights

How pokies work

Pokie machines are designed to get you to keep playing for as long as possible. You can’t beat or cheat them even if you believe you have a system.

Many websites claim that they can tell you how to beat pokies. However, they’re usually created by companies or people that profit from them. The truth is that a lot of time and effort goes into making sure you can't beat or cheat a pokie machine.

Learn about how pokies really work here.

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Online gambling

More access to technology can mean more risks, as we can now gamble almost anywhere, at any time. Keep an eye out for common online gambling traps to keep yourself safe.

Using today's technology, it's possible to gamble almost anywhere, 24/7. From the bedroom to the bathroom, even outdoors, and sadly a lot of us have learnt the hard way just how quickly gambling can go from fun to feeling out of control. Here are some of the traps to watch out for and some tips to keep yourself safe so you don’t lose more time and money than you meant to.

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