Eight Casino Games and the Psychology of Why People Play Them

Las Vegas casinos are an absolute blast. Each has a slew of games of chance to choose from, and there’s something for everyone.

One of the great things about casino games is each differs in why they’re appealing, and players of various games often have very different reasons for playing.

The psychology of gambling is one of the best parts. Well, that and hand pays. And free drinks. But mostly psychology!

Here, then, are eight of the most popular casino games and why players play them.

1. Craps: When You Enjoy Meeting New People

Craps, referred to as “dice” by the cool kids, has some of the best odds in the casino. But that’s not really why most people play the game. Craps is social! Because most players have money riding on the same bet, it’s a team game and the camaraderie is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. If you have a hot roll at a dice table, you’re guaranteed to have a new batch of lifelong friends.

Casino Royale

Remember when crowding around a dice table was a thing?

2. Roulette: When You Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

One of the reasons roulette is so popular is it requires virtually no skill. Just put your chips on the numbers and hope Lady Luck is on your side! People sometimes get bent out of shape because a roulette table will have three zeroes. While this is a disadvantage to players, critics don’t seem to understand these two words: Who cares? People who play roulette are having a great time. It’s not about rules or odds. It’s about fun.

Roulette

You don’t have to play all your hunches. Hunches can be real jerks sometimes.

3. Baccarat: When You Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

Baccarat pretty much has two bets: You bet on the “player” or the “banker.” So, pretty much like a coin toss. The dealer does the rest. Whales love baccarat and fortunes have been won and lost playing this game. Ultimately, though, it’s pretty much a 50/50 game and what’s not to love about a game that takes five seconds to learn?

Baccarat

We learned baccarat at Lucky Dragon. Which closed shortly thereafter. They should’ve put quotation marks around the “Lucky.”

4. Keno: When You Really, Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble

Remember how we said craps has some of the best odds in a casino? Well, keno has some of the worst. The house advantage (also called the “house edge”) for live keno is around 25 percent (and can be as high as 35 percent). In layperson’s terms, that’s an avalanche of suck. Still, keno can provide a low-cost form of enjoyment and, as we’ve said, that’s really the point of gambling, not merely the financial ROI. The strategy in keno involves: 1) Marking numbers. That’s the whole list. Just as with the lottery, winning it out of your hands, so just enjoy the ride.

world's largest keno board

Will you please grow up?

5. Blackjack: When You Like Math

Blackjack, unlike some games we’ve mentioned, involves a degree of skill. That means a player with knowledge of the game (basic strategy) tends to do better than one without. One of the biggest barriers to blackjack is it involves math. Every hand involves addition. Dealers do a lot of the heavy lifting, but it’s still up to players to make a decision, whether to hit or stand, for every hand. If you’re not up for sum math, blackjack may not prove to be of value.

blackjack

Getting a blackjack keeps the math to a minimum.

6. Sports Betting: When You Want To Have Skin in the Game

Lots of people who aren’t this blog absolutely love sports! And many of the people who love sports enjoy betting on sports. Here’s why: Sports betting makes sports a lot less boring. Rooting for your favorite team is one thing, but having money on the line inspires a whole new level of enthusiasm. Proof? During the pandemic, as major sports were shutting down, sports bettors shifted their attention to offbeat sports including ping pong and Belarusian soccer. No, really. The sports themselves don’t matter all that much, it’s all about the wagering action.

Circa sportsbook

If you’re into sports, the new Circa resort has a metric hell-ton of it.

7. Slots: When You Want an Escape

It’s a scientific fact playing slot machines can put gamblers into a trance-like state. Slots are a great way to escape our daily lives, to enter the “zone” where our concerns are set aside while we take a mental vacation. Slot players often lose track of time (casinos aren’t mad about that) as well as their surroundings. Slots are like self-hypnosis, where worries melt away and we’re freed up to reap the rewards of our labor and dispose of our disposable income. Everything in moderation, of course, but slots are a popular diversion from all the WTF in our everyday lives.

Cosmopolitan high limit slots

Cosmo is one of our favorite mental vacation destinations.

8. Video Poker: When You Love to Drink

Video poker has some of the best returns in a casino, but that’s not really why people play and it’s just one small part of the experience. The best part is the drinking! When you sit at a casino video poker bar, it’s expected you’ll play a reasonable amount per hand (in most places it’s a dollar per hand), but if you do, the drinks flow freely. Video poker provides a great value, and while there’s always a risk of “decision fatigue,” video poker players almost always have a great time because Las Vegas never runs out of libations.

Vital Vegas royal flush

We’ve gotten two royals in 20 years, so we’re definitely in it for the hooch.

There are lot of other casino games, of course, but the number eight is lucky, so we don’t want to screw with our mojo. As soon as this story goes live, we’re heading to the casino! Shocker.

We’d love to hear why you play your favorite casino game. Do you prefer solitude or interaction? Math or no math? Do the odds matter most or is the experience that gets your blood pumping?

Whatever game you play, Vegas is the place to do it. Otherwise, it would be Vital Des Moines, and that would just be awkward.

28 thoughts on “Eight Casino Games and the Psychology of Why People Play Them

  1. Mark

    I like to dabble in the college sports betting…particularly football, because you can track the spread movement all week. There are other factors the ‘books can’t figure in, when they set the line. I’ve done rather well, over the past 30 years.
    Same for video poker, but only certain VP, under certain conditions. The beautiful thing about VP is, you can see how much you get paid, for winning hands, independent of a computer. Just play the best paytables, know the correct strategy for each paytable, and watch your drinking. Again, we’ve done well. My wife plays faster than I do, but damn if she doesn’t win more money, though. A great game for pacing yourself.

    Reply
  2. Paul

    Let’s not forget about Pai Gow when you love to drink. You win or lose so slowly. Half the hands are a push. Pretty good odds too. Progressive jackpots can be fun, though it makes the odds worse. Also a bit social, potentially. Not as much as craps, but a heck of a lot more than video poker.

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    “3. Baccarat: When You Really Don’t Want to Learn How to Gamble”.

    this is by far the most wrong and inaccurate sentence. Baccarat is the ULTIMATE gambler game. Baccarat is probably the only true gambling game in the casino. The commission the house charge on Banker winnings is just a mere bribery for the house’s services ,everything else is 50/50 chances,so what’s not to love about that ? James Bond played baccarat, whales play baccarat. I love to play and deal this game.

    Reply
    1. Peter7Andrews

      Given that there never seems to be room at a dice table, I’m, going to have to take the dive at sit at Baccarat and have an evening

      Since I got booted from twitter, I’ve missed posting @ vitalvegas and this site suits me better now.

      Reply
  4. Mike Alexakis

    I play live poker mostly, with a little craps and video poker on the side… Whatever you play, play it with discipline, accept your winnings when they come, set a strict loss amount for each session, as well as a win amount. Casinos take every advantage they can against you, players need to do the same to them. Go ahead and play roulette if that is fun for you, just do so knowing that house has a giant advantage over you mathematically in that game. One of the very first things I do at the live poker table is try and identify anyone addicted to gambling, that trait leads straight to the poorhouse. Use your brain, even your drunk brain, never cede it to a casino or lose it in the haze. Time is your friend in a casino, if you play for a time and still have some bankroll left, accept that you got to gamble and did not lose your shirt, these places will be open after you get a good nights sleep…

    Reply
  5. Boulder Steve

    I get intimidated playing table games especially Blackjack. As for craps I’ve watched U Tube videos on how to play and still don’t understand. Slots I find boring so that leaves video poker and keno. I’ll stick with VP

    Reply
    1. Mike Alexakis

      A craps savvy friend can teach you the basics you need to know rather quickly, at the table. Certain bets on the craps table have a gigantic house advantage, that fact is balanced out by behind the pass line odds bets that pay the true odds… Its of course difficult to win at craps, but the silver lining is you get paid the true odds when you do win… The dealers will instruct you on the best bets at the table if you ask them nicely, just tell them you want to make true odds bets. Video poker is way more complicated than craps, its way harder to always make the correct plays at video poker, and I consider myself a very advanced poker player in general…

      Reply
      1. Mark

        Certainly, VP is harder, when you don’t remember every strategy for every paytable. That’s why I carry cheat cards, referring to them when needed.
        But, HEY SCOTT! Was that your royal flush picture? You we’re playing 8/5 DDB? Less than 97% payback. We need to talk.

        Reply
    2. Candipinki

      If you want to learn craps, hers what you do. Wait until the puck says OFF, then put your money on the table. Then put the minimum amount on the Pass line. When the puck says ON, put $10 (or $20, $30 whatever the lowest amount you can) behind your pass bet.
      Then watch everything happen!

      Reply
  6. bad beat

    Sports betting is the only way to roll. One bet delivers three hours of intense entertainment with 50/50 chances of winning (yes, juice, I know. I don’t care). And if you do happen to lose “once in a while,” it’s not your fault: the refs suck.

    Reply
  7. Tim

    You nailed it on Craps; some guy (or woman) hits 2-3 points and everyone is high-fiving and acting like long-lost friends! That’s why 90% of my gambling is at the craps tables; the rest is Video Poker where I can sit down for awhile and just rest and drink.

    Reply
  8. Wild Foodie Tours

    What a great read about the casino! I especially love playing craps because it has a low house edge, is fun, and has the potential to make a nice return. When gambling I prefer solitude so I can focus on playing the game with minimal distraction. It’s fun to analyze a game-in-progress to see if any extra edge can be extracted. Odds do matter, and that’s why I mostly only play games like craps and video poker. It’s a tough balancing act between leaving when up and having more action just for fun. I’ve been working on optimizing my play to get the best return on my investment, so hopefully in the future I’ll walk away a winner more often than not. Having a stop win AND a stop loss is key. Now I just need the discipline to follow through.

    Reply
  9. mattbob77

    I love craps, for all of the reasons above. But when my friends and I just want to sit down and play something social together as we soak up free cocktails, we find seats at a 3-card poker table. There’s a basic strategy that decreases the house edge, but it’s way simpler than blackjack. Which makes it easier to drink, make jokes, and banter with the dealer.

    Reply
  10. Rosemarie Johnson

    Las Vegas is on my bucket list but now i will do a.c. and philly as i live not to far from either of them i love gambling its in my blood its so relaxing plus its nice not to hear some one calling your name as for me it nannie always watching our grandchildren or mom when my kids were little love that its a special time away to just have a nice time, and i do like going to a.c. cause we stay over a couple of days .

    Reply
  11. Candipinki

    Where and when was the craps table picture taken?!? I think I’m in this picture!!! 😀😀😀 So cool!!!!

    Reply
    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      That’s Casino Royale. Not sure when, but they don’t have tables anymore, so you’re a part of Vegas history if you’re in it.

      Reply
  12. Howard

    “( in most places it is a dollar)”…………….
    5 quarters are $1.25 not a dollar as you mention in the Video Poker section. Don’t play blackjack as you are not good at math!

    Reply
    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      You don’t have to play max bet. You have to play at least a dollar. I also agree I am not good at math. Thankfully, Vegas isn’t about math, it’s about fun. I am good at fun.

      Reply
  13. Howard Kendall

    Ha. You can play 1 quarter, you don’t have to play a dollar. Have you ever been in a casino? Who assigned you to this article? Hahaha

    Reply

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