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How Casinos Work: The Operations of a Major Casino

Casinos have been a public fascination since they began. In the early 1960 s, the Rat Pack made the first Ocean s 11, which in turn inspired the remake in 2001 starring George Clooney with an ensemble cast, and of course, the sequels.

Casinos fascinate even people who don t gamble. With thousands of tables and one-armed bandits, glittering lights and five-star food entertainment, they are where the wealthy gather, where the poor become rich, and where millions of dollars pass through casino doors almost daily.

According to the PBS show Frontline, people lose six billion a year at Las Vegas casinos. But how do these mega money-making machines work? In this article, we re going to explore some of the working aspects of a major casino.

Breakdown of Casino Staff Management

The first thing to understand about a casino is how many people it actually takes to keep it going. Labor is definitely one of the major expenditures of a casino and to understand why, you have to see the sheer number of employees that most casinos have. Here are just some of the positions at a


  • Waiters/Waitresses: Those who serve food in the restaurants and drinks to those in the casino
  • Clerks: This includes clerks at restaurant counters, gift shops and any other job that involves ringing up a purchase
  • Money-changers: Those who wheel the carts around and give change as well as those in the cage that pay out on casino chips, tickets or other forms of casino currency
  • Coin Counting: Counting and sorting coins are a big part of a casinos daily operations. Casinos can go through thousands of coins in a day and coin counters can help casinos organize and count their coins efficiently
  • Food Preparation: Anyone involved in the preparation of food for buffets, to be served in restaurants or even bartenders who make drinks for gamblers
  • Security: Casinos require a lot of security because there is so much money floating around
  • Dealers: This includes blackjack dealers, roulette, baccarat and various other casino games
  • Pit Bosses: These are the middle-management of the casino floor personnel.
  • Upper Management: These are the executives in charge of making big decisions for the casino as a business
  • Support Staff: These are secretaries, lawyers, medical personnel, IT and any other support staff for the casino infrastructure
  • Janitorial Staff: Casinos must be kept immaculate because people are spending a great deal of money to hang out in such a luxurious place
  • Hotel Staff: If the casino is connected to a hotel, as most are, there are going to be a number of hotel staff needed like front desk clerks, concierges, housekeepers and many more
  • Technicians: When the slot machines or other equipment break down, technicians go to work
  • Human Resources: Managing personnel for casinos takes several HR staff
  • Valets: Most casinos and hotels have a valet staff that will park and retrieve vehicles

Preventing Fraud Illegal Activity in Casinos

The casinos take major steps to ensure that fraud and illegal activity do not happen. Fraud concerns include everything from someone counterfeiting casino chips and trying to turn them in for real money to card counting, using a stolen credit card or many other things. In addition, casinos need to always be on the lookout for counterfeit money and ensure that everyone in the casino is of legal gambling age by checking IDs.

Protecting Customers, Suppliers and Others

Casinos also need certain equipment to make sure that they are able to protect themselves, suppliers and even customers. Cameras and security monitors help security watch the building, paper shredders and protective document boxes keep customer records secure and there is quite a bit of other equipment as well.

Protecting the Casino s Bottom Line

The main thing is that all of these things work together to protect the casino. Because of the odds associated with gambling, casinos are always going to make money as long as people are gambling. But it takes pit bosses, fraud experts, alert security personnel and many other things to come together and make sure that a casino is profitable. Money handling equipment such as money counting machines also helps casinos to manage their money and avoid losses from miscounts throughout the day.

Why Casinos Comp Some Customers

Another thing that people wonder about the way that casinos work is comping which is short for compensating. The simple explanation for why casinos comp customers is that they want to make sure that they feel as if they had a good experience so that they will come back. For example, someone who lost $1000 playing Blackjack might be comped a room, which might have only cost $200 in reality, but it makes them feel as if they got some of their money back.

Managing Various Casino Games

Casinos also need to manage the various games that they have. There are several different areas in most casinos and each one has their own management team. For example, there may be certain staff closely watching high-stakes card games in one section while the slots has a completely different set of managers.

When someone wins big, the manager s job in that section is to make sure that as many people know about it as possible. That will keep them playing, hoping for a similar win. Of course, these places are also looking for fraud or other security concerns but they also have the responsibility of making sure that the customers in that part of the casino are happy. The most vital part of their job is simply to make sure that people keep playing.

Entertainment, Food Drink

Finally, casinos also have entertainment, food and drink concerns. Since casinos run 24 hours a day, often all three of these things must be managed 24 hours a day as well. Casinos often have extremely well known acts perform there to bring people in to gamble, and they also pay smaller acts to perform throughout the day to keep people entertained.

In addition, casinos usually have restaurants and bars within them and some even provide alcoholic drinks to gamblers at no cost. A casino has all of the major challenges of a resort hotel but also has the gambling to manage as well, and it takes a lot of dedicated people to do it well.

What Is The Best Time To Play At A Live Casino?

Some people would have you believe that there is a right time and a wrong time to gamble. While this certainly rings true when playing poker, does it hold true for playing at a casino?

Well, at a live casino, does it make a difference at what time you turn up?

Since the advent of 24 hour gambling, what time you turn up to a casino shouldn t really be a problem. Yes, some people might think the slots are looser in the evenings or between 9am and 12pm, but, in truth, that s a lot of nonsense. The slots machines are set to pay out based on play, not by the date and time being specific. Seriously, if they were designed to pay out on a specific day and time more than any other time, I think you would have a lot of people telling their family to be at a certain casino at a certain time.

No, the best time to play at a live casino is the time that suits you the best. Want to know why casinos are busier in evenings? Because it is convenient for the most people. Sure, I ve been into a casino first thing in the morning, I ve been in casinos in the afternoon and I ve even done the 24 hour thing, but my favorite time is when a casino is starting to have an atmosphere and I can still play at the tables in comfort and without the huge amount of drunks that frequent a casino as the night goes on.

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But again, all that is personal preference. If you like to be around lots and lots of boisterous drunks, go later in the night. If you want to be around people who haven t slept and, most probably, not showered that day, you go in the morning. And if you like being around sober people in a nice, restrained atmosphere, go in the afternoon.

It s simple. You go when you want to; it makes no difference to the chances of hitting the big bucks. That being said, I do like to go when my favorite croupiers and dealers are working. Not that I examine their shift patterns, but I like to go when I know there are friendly people working, because it enhances my time there and puts a smile on my face. That, at the end of the day, is why I go to a live casino. Well, to win money, too, but I find that s easier when I m enjoying myself, as I can think more clearly and make the right decisions and wagers.

However, I do also like to hit the casinos when I know there s a good buffet on and you can t beat some of the breakfast buffets in Vegas. The same applies to lunch and dinner, to be fair!

So, at the end of the day, it does matter when you go to a casino, but in terms of changing your chances of winning, there is no difference in what time you go at. The only difference will be the overall experience you have and how good the buffet is.

How Much Money Can You Make Gambling Professionally?

Every gambler has thought about what it d be like to earn a living through casino games. This spawns visions of making a 6-figure salary, feasting on comps, dressing like James Bond and traveling the world.

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But is being a professional gambler really this lucrative?

Lets begin discussing the matter by defining what it means to be a pro. You and I will also cover the salaries that pro gamblers make in different games.

How Do We Define a Professional Gambler?

The term professional gambler is sometimes used interchangeably for both people who earn part-time and full-time income through gambling.

This makes sense because both groups have the skills to earn long-term profits. Therefore, you can technically be considered a pro gambler as long as youre making profits of any kind throughout the year.

But I keep a much tighter definition of a professional gambler.

A true pro not only makes profits through gambling, but enough to pay all of their living expenses. This includes rent (house payment), utilities, car payment (transportation), insurance, meals, clothes and anything else deemed necessary.

A semi-professional is somebody who makes enough to supplement their income, but doesnt earn full-time living through gambling. Im only going to cover full-time professional gambler salaries in this post.

What Casino Games Offer the Chance to Make a Living?

The gambling world doesnt offer an abundance of opportunities to make a living, but there are a few different games where you can earn some nice profits.

Heres a list of the most common games that you can make long term profits with:

  • Blackjack card counting
  • Daily fantasy sports (DFS)
  • Poker
  • Sports betting
  • Video poker

Blackjack and video poker both see you try to win money directly from the house.

Casinos do everything in their power to hinder successful card counters. This includes using continue shuffling machines, multi deck shoes and watching for counters.

Anybody whos caught counting cards is often kicked out of the casino and banned. This is why its so important for card counters to blend in with normal players.

Casinos dont usually worry about advantage video poker player. In fact, some games are set up to offer positive expected value (+EV) to players who use perfect strategy.

Another problem is that its now harder than ever before to find video poker games offering over 100% payback like Deuces Wild (100.76% payback), Double Bonus (100.17%) and Double-Double Bonus (100.07%).

DFS and poker both see you compete against human opponents. The house merely takes a small cut of tournament fees or cash game pots (poker).

Sportsbooks create lines in an effort to get equal betting action on both sides. The sportsbooks make their money by taking 10% vigorish (juice) from the losing group.

Every form of advantage betting has its pros and cons, but the key is that each of these activities offers the chance to make a full-time living.

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Salaries for Professional Gamblers in Different Games

Card Counting

People have been making a living through card counting since the early 1960s, and despite all the obstacles that casinos have put in players way, its still possible to earn profits with card counting today.

You need a sizable bankroll in order to properly spread your bets and survive variance. The bare minimum you should aim for is $20,000, but its better to have closer to $50,000.

How much you make depends upon several factors, including the following:

  • Skill level Successful counters have between a 0.5% and 1.5% edge on casinos.
  • Hands per hour 50 to 200 depending upon dealer speed table size.
  • Bet spreading Difference between your lowest and highest bet.
  • Deck penetration The further into the shoe you get, the more confidence you can bet with.
  • Counting system Some systems are more accurate than others.
  • Game rules You want the best rules possible in order to lower the standard house edge.
  • Tips $5 per hour for the dealer is standard.

Now, lets set up an example by creating variables behind your counting session:

  • You have a 1% edge based on the rules, your skill level and using the Hi-Lo counting system.
  • The dealer is dealing 100 hands per hour.
  • Your minimum bet is $25, and you spread up to $175 during favorable counts (i.e. 1 to 7 spread).
  • You get 70% deck penetration before the shoe is reshuffled.
  • You tip $5 per hour.

Heres how this example would play out in terms of profits:

  • Your average bet is worth $50 ($25 minimum; spread up to $175 for favorable counts).
  • $50 average bet x 100 hands = $5,000 in hourly bets.
  • 5,000 x 0.01 edge = $50 hourly win.
  • $50 hourly win minus $5 tip = $45 hourly profit.

Some counters make $100 or more per hour by improving their edge up to 1.5% and/or increasing bets, but many players are happy with a $45 per hour rate to start with.

The final step is to figure out how many hours youll play and convert this into an annual salary. Here are a few different figures on how much youd make per year:

  • $45 x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks = $93,600 per year
  • $45 x 30 hours per week x 52 weeks = $70,200 per year
  • $45 x 20 hours per week x 52 weeks = $46,800 per year
  • $100 x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks = $208,000 per year

The last figure shows whats possible for a really good card counter who makes $100 per hour. The $45 calculations show that even decent counters can make good money.

The keys, though, include keeping an accurate count amidst casino distractions and blending in with normal players.

Daily Fantasy Sports

DFS is the newest game that offers skilled gamblers an opportunity to make money.

Daily fantasy sees you pay an entry fee to enter contests and compete against other players. The goal is to create lineups that score the most points and rank the highest in tournaments.

Daily fantasy sports experienced a big boom in 2015, thanks to clever marketing campaigns that make it seem like any sports fan can win.

The truth, though, is that only a small percentage of those who play actually win. A McKinsey study from 2015 showed that 1.3% of daily fantasy baseball players collect 91% of the winnings.

Despite these long odds, many people still enjoy trying to win in daily fantasy, but what exactly can you expect to win if youre among the small percentage of DFS pros?

The potential for big winners is there for the most skilled daily fantasy players.

Saahil Sud, profiled in a WBUR piece, said he made over $3 million in profits in a single year. Former poker pro Aaron Jones switched over to DFS and won a DraftKings contest worth $5 million in early 2016.

Of course, the average professional DFS player doesnt earn quite this much. To determine a standard DFS salary, lets consider the following factors:

  • Entries per day Most DFS pros enter several hundred contests every day.
  • Stakes Typical entry fees range anywhere from $1 up to $1,000.
  • Fees DFS sites tack on a 10% fee to each buy in, which is where their profits come from.
  • Skill level Some pros have a bigger edge than others.

Now, lets input variables to come up with an average daily profit:

  • 300 entries per day
  • $100 + $10 (fee) average buy in
  • 300 x $110 = $3,300 daily fees
  • You re playing for $3,000 after subtracting fees
  • Expected value based on skill is 115%
  • $3,000 x 1.15 = $3,450 winnings
  • $3,450 $3,300 = $150 in daily profits

If we multiply $150 by 365 days, youll earn an annual salary worth $54,750.

Of course, DFS is filled with variance, and you wont always feel like youre on the path to a solid $55k per year. This is why its key to have a large enough bankroll to survive the ups and downs.


Poker has long been one of the most viable options for becoming a professional gambler. The reason why is because youre competing against other opponents instead of the house.

Its tougher to make a living in poker these days because strategy is more prevalent. Online poker gives players a chance to rapidly accelerate their learning curve by seeing more hands per hour.

You can still become a profitable player with enough hard work and experience though. In fact, some pros still make six or seven figure annual incomes with the game.

However, the vast majority of pros these days earn between $40,000 and $100,000 per year.

Poker is unique in that there are essentially two types of professionals: tournament and cash game pros.

Most rounders mix up their play between both platforms. However, the majority of poker pros also specialize in either tourneys or cash games.

Lets look at the different considerations for cash vs. tournament play:

Cash Games
  • Profit measured in big blinds (BB) made per hour.
  • House takes 5% rake from cash game pots for running games.
  • More control over annual salary than tournaments.
  • Profit measured by rate of return (ROI) on buy ins.
  • House adds 10% fee to buy ins (e.g. $10 + $1 fee).
  • Only top 10 15% of field makes money.
  • Tournaments have more variance than cash games.

A cash grinder needs to figure out what stakes they must play to make a comfortable living based on BB earned per hour.

An example is if you played $10/$20 no limit Texas hold em and made 1.5 BB per hour. This equates to $30 per hour, $1,200 per week for a 40-hour workweek and $62,400 for a full year.

A tournament pro must decide what buy-in level they must choose to make a high enough ROI to live comfortably.

If you spend $20,000 on tourney buy-ins in a week and make $22,000, then your RIO is 10% ([22,000 20,000 / 20,000). This means that youll earn a $10 profit for every $100 you spend on tournament buy-ins.

One more consideration here is whether youll dedicate the bulk of your time towards live or online poker.

Online cash games and tourneys offer more volume because you can play multiple tables. Plus hands and tournaments go much faster, giving you an opportunity to boost your hourly wages.

Another Internet poker advantage is that you cut out extra expenses like traveling, hotel stays, meals and dealer/waitress tips.

Nevertheless, many players find that their win rate is higher in live games. The most lucrative tournaments are found in land-based casinos, too, such as the World Series of Poker events.

Sports Betting

The good thing about sports betting is that you dont need to have a massive win rate just to book profits.

Sportsbooks only take 10% juice from the losing side. This differs from DFS and poker tournaments where you must pay an extra 10% fee regardless of whether youre a winner or loser.

The juice can be lowered or adjusted based on where the sportsbook is trying to push action, but 10% is generally the amount youll see taken from the losing side.

The end result is that you need to win 52.38% of your bets to break even. How do we arrive at this number?

You need to bet $11 to win $10 when the juice is 10%. You must win 11 out of every 21 bets to break even at this rate, which is a 52.38% winning percentage (11/21).

This doesnt sound intimidating when compared to how good you must be at poker or DFS to win long term, but its also really tough to continually find value because sportsbooks are so good at setting lines.

Professional sports bettors usually win anywhere from 53.5% to 55.0% of the time.

Some handicappers brag about higher win rates ranging from 58.0% to 60.0%, but these figures are almost impossible to sustain long term.

Pro sports bettors must be very adept at handling their bankroll since they re dealing with such a small profit margin. They also need to make larger wagers than the average bettor to increase potential profits.

The general rule of thumb is to never bet more than 1% to 2% of your bankroll on any given contest. If you have a $100,000 bankroll, youd never put more than $2,000 of this on any single event.

Some sports bettors like Billy Walters and Haralabos Bob Voulgaris have made millions of dollars with this model. But the average bettors are looking at more modest salaries ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 annually.

The key to figuring out how much you can make involves determining your ROI just like a poker pro. For example, if you make $10,000 worth of bets during a week and earn back $10,500, then you have a 5% ROI for the week ([10,500 10,000 / 10,000).

You then need to expand this to cover an entire year. Lets look at an example below:

  • You place $1,000,000 worth of bets during the year.
  • You win $1,060,000.
  • Your profit is $60,000 for the year (1,060,000 1,000,000).
  • Your ROI is 6% ([1,060,000 1,000,000] / 1,000,000).

A 6% ROI is extremely high for sports betting, but this is just a simple way to show how to calculate your ROI and salary.

Video Poker

Video poker has good and bad things going for it these days.

The good news is that you can virtually guarantee yourself profits if you become a skilled enough player. The downside is that there are fewer and fewer +EV machines in casinos today.

Your best bet is to find a full-pay Deuces Wild machine, which pays back 100.76%. You also need to take advantage of as many double and triple comp point promotions as you can.

You can find which land based casinos offer full pay Deuces Wild by visiting the site

Once here, navigate to the Casinos tab and look in the Las Vegas section. I see 13 different casinos that offer full pay Deuces Wild at the time of this post.

Unfortunately, the highest coin denomination for these machines is only $0.25. In past decades, you could find $1 denomination machines that quadrupled your potential profits.

Even under the right conditions, the odds of you making a good living with video poker are slim. Lets run the math on what you can expect:

  • You play full pay Deuces Wild (100.76% payback).
  • You bet 5 coins per hand on a quarter denomination machine ($1.25 per hand).
  • You play 1,000 hands per hour, which is extremely fast.
  • The casino is running a triple loyalty point promotion.
  • The casino comps 0.1% of your total bets, or 0.3% for triple points.
  • 1,000 x 1.25 x 0.0076 = $9.50 regular hourly winnings.
  • $1,200 total bets x 0.003 = $3.60 in comps
  • You earn $13.10 per hour.

Even if you spend 50 hours in the casino, this only works out to $655 per week, and youd earn $34,060 when we stretch this out for an entire year.

Most people can get by on this salary, but its far from what anybody envisions when becoming a professional gambler.


Being a pro gambler has some obvious benefits, including flexible hours, being your own boss and the ability to increase your income.

Some gamblers, such as Saahil Sud and Bob Voulgaris, have even gotten rich with their skills. Of course, you may be perfectly happy making mid 5-figures, as long as you get to enjoy the aforementioned benefits, but there are also some downsides to be aware of. These include risk, highs and lows, no sick days and the potential to lose everything.

Its up to you to weigh the good and bad before ultimately deciding to pursue a professional gambling career.

The potential rewards can be great in the case of card counting, DFS, poker and sports betting, but you also have to be disciplined and good at handling risk.

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