Costa Rica’s leisure sector is booming, and it goes far beyond the sun, sea and surf of the Pacific beaches. When the night draws in, the tourists head indoors but are still looking to be entertained. The nation’s selection of top casinos serves as an obvious magnet for those who want an opportunity to dress to impress, play some traditional games and maybe even end their night on the town with more money than they started out with.
The rise of online gaming has served to give Costa Rica’s casino industry an additional boost. When online casinos first arrived on the scene, some people predicted that they would lead to a drop in revenue for brick and mortar establishments. However, the opposite seems to have been the case. Those who might never have considered visiting a casino in real life are often tempted to give it a try after exploring different games on their PCs or smartphones.
That’s all well and good, but there’s quite a difference between trying a game on a mobile app and stepping in through the doors of Croc’s or Byblos. The most fundamental question of all, especially for those who are new to casinos is what game to play. Here, we take a look at the most popular choices.
It’s traditionally the most popular casino game of them all, and with good reason. Blackjack is a game that is outwardly simple, but rewards strategic play, so the outcome is not just down to luck. It’s popularity is just as high in cyberspace, and there are dozens of popular blackjack sites online where you can gamble real money, craft your skills and get to grips with basic strategy. Doing so will make those all important decisions, such as whether to hit, stand or split a pair, second nature and this in turn can reduce the house edge to less than one percent.
Some newcomers find approaching the gaming tables a little daunting, but there is really no need. Of course it is fun to learn the hand signals if you want to play the James Bond part, but it is by no means essential. The dealers are accustomed to beginners, and will provide all the guidance you require. After all, it is in their interest to make sure you relax, have a good time and hopefully enjoy a few nice wins.
If sitting at the blackjack table seems a little too formal for your taste, you could always try roulette. The big advantage here is that it’s a game where newcomers are just as likely to win as seasoned casino goers. In some respects, it can be compared to playing Lotto in as much as it is simply a case of hoping your numbers come up.
That doesn’t mean there is no room for strategic play, however. There are different types of roulette, the most common two variants being European, where there is just the one zero on the wheel, and American, which also has a double zero. If you have the choice, always opt for European roulette, as here, the house edge is significantly lower. Some casinos have a tendency to open the American roulette table first in the hope of attracting customers there, so be alert and bide your time.
The most popular card game on the planet is loved by those who understand it and feared by those who don’t. If you’ve never played poker before, or only have a vague conceptual understanding of the rules, you might think this is the last game to consider playing in a casino. Don’t be put off or swayed by Hollywood’s portrayal of poker games, there are forms of poker you can play in a casino that are ideal for beginners.
Probably the best choice is video poker. This presents you with a hand of five cards, and you can choose which to hold and which to swap. Rewards are provided for flush, full house, three of a kind and so on. It’s the ideal way of getting to understand what constitutes a good hand. Best of all, there are online or mobile games with tutorial modes that will tell you if you are making a sub-optimal choice. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, consider moving on to three card draw. This is similar in concept to blackjack, in that it is just you versus the dealer, who has to follow set actions. So you are not competing directly against other players.
A decade or two ago, baccarat had all but disappeared into obscurity, to the extent that the game was replaced by poker in the 2006 remake of Casino Royale so that viewers would have some idea what was going on. If the movie was being made today, a different decision might be made, as baccarat has enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past two to three years.
The game rules are similar to those of blackjack, but in baccarat, the hands of “player” and “banker’ are nominal, as both follow set rules when it comes to whether or not they are dealt another card. As such, all the player has to do is bet on which hand he thinks is going to win. It’s a game steeped in tradition and superstition, and is a great one for those who like to experiment with progressive betting strategies like Oscar’s Grind.
We mention slots last, despite the fact that they are often the first things a casino visitor will head for. Of course, there are no rules to worry about beyond spinning the reels, and there’s no dealer or croupier watching your actions. The downside to slots is that they provide little in the way of interaction with other casino goers, and only limited opportunities for strategic play. They will also have a higher house edge than table games.
That’s not to say you should ignore them entirely. One thing in their favor is that slots offer that outside chance of a truly life-changing jackpot win, something you will not get in a single game of blackjack or roulette. This is why many casino goers choose to have a few spins on a slot game at the end of the evening, just to see if they can finish the night with a big win – after all, you never know.