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As a weekend gambler, you're basically out for a good time. The odds are you won't break the bank. But you can enhance your enjoyment and maybe take home some house money if you follow general rules.

General rules before you start playing a casino game:

1// Go in with a game plan and stick with to it. Decide in advance how much money you're going to take, how much you can afford to lose, and at what point you will quit.

2// Limit each bet to 1% of your original stake. That may be as little as $5. Up your bets only when you are ahead. Never bet more than 10% of the stake. If you start chasing money you've lost, the odds of going broke are much higher. That's the wrong approach to gambling.

3// Don't push your luck. If you've won $100 with a given dealer and then lose $20 of your profits, back off. Take a deep breath. In any case, find a new table.

Blackjack: This is the best casino game-the only one in which a skilled player can beat the house over time. Overall, of course, the casino makes a nice profit because their edge against the average "hunch" player runs from 6% to 15%.

Rules for Blackjack: Never split pairs of 4's, 5's, or 10's. Always split aces and 8's. Split other pairs if the dealer's up card is 2 through 6. Double your bet on 11 unless the dealer shows an ace. Double on 10 unless the dealer shows an ace or a 10. Double on 9 of the dealer shows 3 through 6 and on soft hands (hands with an ace that can be counted as 11 without going over 21) of 13 through 18 if the dealer shows 4 through 6. Always stand on hard hands (hands with no ace or an ace that must be counted as 1) of 17 and up. Stand on hands of 12 through 16 if the dealer shows 2 through 6. (otherwise, hit). Always stand on soft hands of 18 and up. Always hit on soft hands of 17 or less if it is too late to double.

* These rules will keep you out of serious trouble. When you have a blackjack, the only thing that can keep you from winning is the dealer also having a blackjack. An insurance bet on his card assures you of getting something on the hand.


Craps: This is the most emotional casino game. Fast and noisy, it can sweep you into making more bets per hour that than other games-as many as 150. Result: The money turns over faster and you lose more. However, if you stick to the most favorable bets, you concede an edge of only. 8% to the house.

Bets to make: Pass line. Don't pass. Come. Don't come. In each case, always make the maximum accompanying "odds" bets (these offer the best percentage of all). The only other acceptable wagers are "place" bets on 6 or 8 (the house edge on these is 1.4%).

* Avoid all long-short and one-roll bets like "hard way 4." The odds against you are enormous, because the house advantage runs from 10% to 16%. Under the rules of probability, there is no true number system to help the craps gambler. Each role of the dice is independent. But there are useful strategies: After the roller has thrown two passes (winning rolls), up your bet 50% every other pass thereafter.

Roulette: Number systems will do you no good in roulette. The general house edge is high: 5.3%. To halve your disadvantage, stick to "outside" even money bets: Red-black. Odd-even. High-low. If 0 or 00 comes up, you lose only half of these wagers. Other bets are lost in full.

Baccarat: Although the house edge is only 1.1%. this "upper crust" game gives the player no control. You make only two decisions: How much you want to put down and your preference for the banker or the player. Warning: The baccarat minimum is generally pretty high-$20 to $25. This makes it an expensive game to play.