Learn to play table games

At virtually every Las Vegas resort the casino is the hotel's focal point. Often times you can't even reach the front desk without passing through the casino. Here's a quick tour of what to look for in a casino, how to get around and how to get the most out of it.

First of all, you must be at least 21 years old to gamble in Las Vegas. Anyone underage caught gambling or loitering in a casino will be asked to leave and, more importantly, if he or she wins a jackpot the casino won't pay it! Be sure to have valid identification when gambling because casinos are carding players more frequently than ever before.

You'll also need your I.D. if you hit a substantial slot jackpot. The IRS requires a W2G form to be filled out on all jackpots of $1,200 or more, so the casino will ask you for two forms of identification, usually a driver's license and social security card. Non-resident aliens are subject to a withholding tax of 30 percent to be deducted from the jackpot before payment. For more information, see Tax Laws.

Even if you're not a big time gambler, you should know about the Main Cashier, which is also called the "cage" by casino personnel. Hopefully, you'll spend a lot of time there, redeeming chips, coins and tokens for cash. You can also establish credit and cash checks, and purchase coins or tokens for play in slot machines. The cage, however, won't sell you chips, which you must purchase from the dealers when you "buy in" at the various tables.

In addition to the main cage, most casinos have other satellite cashiers or Change Booths where you can purchase coins for play in slot machines or redeem your overflowing buckets of quarters for cash. To keep the machines humming, cashiers on wheels or "change persons" usually circulate throughout the casino selling coins to slot players.

Every casino in Las Vegas is required to have an electronic surveillance system commonly called the Eye in the Sky which monitors and records activity in the casino. The video cams are connected to VCRs which tape every game and bank of slot machines in the house. The tape recordings, which are saved for three days, are used for the protection of the casinos as well as the patrons .

Nearly every casino has a Slot Club, which awards its members freebies, including cash, for a required amount of play. Ordinarily, slot club members accumulate points while playing, and then redeem their points for cash, complimentaries, room discounts, merchandise or other benefits.

The slot club tracks its members' play with a plastic card, which must be inserted into the machine before playing.

The same principle of accumulating points at the machines is often available to players at the table games. What was once offered only to so-called high rollers, is now available to "average" gamblers. In fact many slot clubs allow their members to simply present their cards at the blackjack or craps table in order to accumulate points.

Most casinos have Hosts and Hostesses or a promotions desk. The hosts are like floating concierges who cater to the wishes of the casino players, and who promote the casino's programs. These can include play for points, contests and special events. The hosts and hostesses also serve as representatives for the casino's slot clubs. If there are no hosts and hostesses on the casino floor, you can check in at the Promotions Booth and find out about the slot club and other programs.

Nearby you may find a Redemption Booth, which gives out prizes and other gifts when you redeem your slot points. They also give away coupons that are good for discounts in the casino, restaurants and box office.

You can expect to find Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for Plus, Cirrus or Instant-Teller networks throughout most casinos. The In-Casino Cash and ATM systems are part of the Instant Teller, Star, Plus and Inn systems. These also accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express for a $1-$2 service charge.

The golden rule of gaming establishments is to ask patrons to, "bet with your head - not over it."