Playing to Win

How to make the most of a trip to the casino

More than 1,650 slot machines await at Northern Quest Resort & Casino. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
More than 1,650 slot machines await at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.

With the Spokane Tribe working on their own new $400 million casino, the Inland Northwest is poised to become even more of a gambling and gaming destination. The casino will join the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, with the Coeur d'Alene Casino offering plenty of fun farther east. If you're new to the Spo-Vegas lifestyle, here are five helpful tips to get started and take on the house.

1. Join the club

If you're going to get into table games, it's best to take advantage of the many membership offers from casinos. Both the Coeur d'Alene and Northern Quest casinos offer rewards to groups with the Coyote and Camas rewards clubs, respectively. Both memberships are free and offer points systems, giving you incentives you to come back and play with them. Points earned at the casino can go toward meals at their many restaurants, a hotel stay, spa services, fuel-ups and golfing (Coeur D'Alene's Circling Raven Course) or concerts (Northern Quest has renowned touring acts throughout the season).

2. Know your odds

If you have the forethought to read this, you have time to put in some practice before you get to the casino. Play some games online or even on your phone before heading out to Airway Heights or Coeur d'Alene. Are you interested in craps? Are you preparing for your World Series of Poker debut? Fancy yourself a shark at the blackjack table? All of these games are simple and straightforward, once you have the formula and order of operations down.

Craps may look overwhelming, but the odds are as close to your favor as any casino game can be. Learn about the pass line and working the back bets. Knowing how to manage these preliminary bets can set you up to have an equal chance with the house. With blackjack, a player has to decide what kind of card player they are. If you're given a 16, do you hit or stay? Understanding your decisions to hit and stay becomes easy after a few sessions. With poker, it may be best to play video poker at the casino until you fully understand how you play. Learn the guidelines first, and you might be ready to don a pair of shades and hat.

3. Know your budget

You'll always hear the legends of struck luck when you talk about gambling. So-and-so decided to bet big after losing almost everything and broke the bank on one roll. Your neighbor's brother paid for his whole trip to Vegas thanks to one night at the blackjack table. But if you walk into a casino with the mindset of a small bankroll, you'll be clutching those chips and not having any fun. Not just that, but a small bankroll will mess with your tactics. It will make you outplay yourself, all in an attempt to deal with your limited bankroll.

Instead, know what games you'd like to play beforehand and plan accordingly. Set a loss limit for different points in your day or night. A smart player will have a bankroll of double their budget. By having twice the bankroll as you planned on spending, you're less likely to play scared when you get to the table. A disciplined gamer will only let their losses reach 50 to 60 percent of their bankroll. After that, they walk away.

Many experienced table players will also set win limits. A solid rule of thumb is to leave when you've gained 50 to 60 percent of your bankroll. Once the goal has been reached, players will continue to gamble until they see a loss on a bet.

4. Don't be a moth to a flame

As fun as the whirling and pinging sounds of the slot machines are, they are a flame to the inexperienced moth. Penny and nickel slots don't offer the return of the tables or bigger slot machines. Often, casinos' lower-odds games will be accompanied by bright, fun lights and plenty of ear-catching sounds. It's better to be safe than sorry; find the less-gaudy offerings when they are available.

5. Leave the table for the dining table

Don't keep your poker face on all night. To handle the rush of gambling, take in some of the secondary offerings the casinos have to offer every couple of hours. Northern Quest is packed with restaurants, from Fatburger to Masselow's Steakhouse, to their acclaimed Legends of Fire cigar bar. Stepping away will help you pace yourself at the tables and ensure that you're not caught in a loop of kinetic betting.