The truth is casinos in Ho Chi Minh City (or gaming centres if you want to get pedantic about it) are tricky to beat - there is always a house edge, as there is in any casino, but there are also some top strategies to boost your chances.
Another thing worth noting before we begin is that you should always only gamble what you can afford to lose. A trip to the casino is not a solution for your money troubles and it can spoil a trip if you need to call home to get them to wire you more cash!
1. The house always wins (except when it doesn’t)
Like I said, there’s a house edge in every casino game. That means that if you win a bet with a 50/50 chance, you’ll actually get back anywhere between 49 and 47 back. To use a more practical example, if you flipped a coin in a Saigon casino and bet $10 US that it would be heads, the payout if you won would be just $9.75 US, while you’d lose all ten bucks on tails. It’s not fair, but it’s how casinos work. You can fight this by knowing which games have the best odds (the lowest house edge) and the right way to play.
Believe it or not, the simplest way to beat the odds is to bet big. It sounds counter-intuitive and it’ll test the nerves of even the hardiest gamers, but the more times you bet, the more chances the house edge gets to erode your stake. Bigger, less-frequent bets are the best strategy for keeping your stake intact.
2. Free drinks
There are two schools of thought on free drinks in Saigon casinos. Mine, and my friend Deb’s. Deb says you should drink as much as possible for free, and that way you’re covered, even if you lose on the tables because you’ve gained the value of those drinks. To be fair, I can see the appeal of this way of thinking, but in truth, Deb is playing into the hands of the casinos.
The free drink dynamic is simple and time-tested. From Las Vegas, to Monte Carlo, to Macau, players get free drinks from the casino while they are playing, because the house knows that the more you drink, the more likely you are to lose your head (and a bunch of cash). I can testify to the efficiency of this strategy, as I’ve been on the end of some pretty bad beats after one too many free margaritas.
If you really want to win big, the best approach is to stay sober and keep your judgement ice cool. Then when you’ve taken the house for huge score, get loaded while playing the penny slots!
3. Best game to play? Blackjack
With the best odds for the player of any casino game in Saigon, our top recommendation is that you play blackjack. For those who haven’t played, it’s a simple concept - beat the dealer’s score without exceeding 21 and win back your stake, plus the same amount on top.
Of course, over time that house edge (around 2%) is going to come into play, but in the short term you can make some quick, fun gains. The lowest blackjack minimum bet we’ve found at a casino in Saigon was $10 US, available at the International Tourist Club and the Vegas Club, both located in top-end 5-star hotels. If you want to play for a long time and enjoy your night in the casino, this is the smartest way to play.
4. Never forget the golden rule
As every good gambler knows, the golden rule of roulette is to never play American roulette when you have the option of playing on a European wheel. What’s the difference you ask? Well a European wheel only has a single zero, whereas American equivalents have two, (zero and double zero). This tiny change actually shunts the odds of the game further in the favour of the house so avoid at all costs, I even know some experienced players who won’t play at all in a casino where American roulette is the only option - it’s seen as a bad indicator of the casino’s overall attitude towards maxing its take.
Fortunately, the European version is available on at least one table in all the casinos in Ho Chi Minh City we’ve visited, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting the most bang for your buck.
5. Steer clear of the slots
If you’re thinking of playing the slot machines in Ho Chi Minh City, I have a proposal for you. Hand over all your money to me instead and I’ll flash a torch in your eyes and make loud blooping and whistling noises. You’ll have exactly the same experience as if you were playing casino slots, stand about as much chance of winning a jackpot, plus I’ll end up better off in the long run, instead of those dastardly casino owners.
In all seriousness though, slots are a terrible bet in Saigon casinos, or any casino for that matter. The odds are poor to begin with and often there are very specific and obscure conditions about how much you must bet if you want to win the big jackpots. It’s a slow, but steady, way to lose your stake.
Our final tip, if you do play by our top strategies for how to win in a Ho Chi Minh City casino, make sure you don’t win too much, you can only take $5,000 US out of the country. Happy gambling!