If casino gambling is as foreign to you as playing baseball on the moon, don't be intimidated. Most table games are easy to learn, and as long as your goal is just to have fun, they can provide hours of entertainment. Beginners often have an easier time learning during the casino's slow hours -- particularly weekday mornings and afternoons -- when there are fewer players and dealers are willing to be more helpful. Some casinos also offer group lessons during these off-peak times.

No matter what game you decide to play, visit the casino's player's club booth to obtain a frequent player card. Each casino has its own catchy name for this card -- Caesars Emperors Club, Harrah's Total Rewards, Trump TAJ card, etc. But one thing is the same at every casino: The card is your ticket to potential free food, hotel rooms and entertainment. Casino managers use the cards to keep track of individual play and to award "comps." You'll never earn enough comps to cover your losses, but a free hamburger can make that bad taste in your mouth a little less bitter.

Before you begin playing any game, look for the colored card on the table that indicates the table minimum. Typically, red indicates $5, yellow $10, orange $15, and green $25. As a beginner, your best bet is to steer toward the $5 tables, which can be hard to find in Atlantic City on a weekend night.

Baccarat

Baccarat is often played in pits surrounded by intimidating velvet ropes, giving it the impression of a rich-man's game. However, don't be fooled. This card game involves zero skill and lots of luck.

There are three possible bets: player, banker or tie. And even though you are obviously the player, you can still bet on the banker or a tie. Two two-card hands are then dealt: One for the banker and one for the player. The object is to have a point total as close to nine as possible. Cards from ace through nine are worth their face value, and all 10s and zeroes count as zero. So, a hand of two queens is zero, a six and a 10 are worth six, and so on. If neither hand totals eight or nine, then other cards are dealt to determine the winner. There are specific rules dictating when the player and banker must draw a third card, depending on their point totals. These rules are typically posted at the table, or the dealer will explain them.

Blackjack

Blackjack is the most popular casino table game in America. Up to seven people can play at one table, and the goal is to beat the dealer, not your fellow players. How to do this? Your cards must total closer to 21 than the dealer's cards, or the dealer must "bust" by drawing cards that total more than 21.

You'll be dealt two cards face-up to begin, and the dealer will have one card face-up and one face-down. At this point you have the option to stand (commonly indicated by waving your hand, palm down, over your cards) or take a hit (often indicated by tapping your fingers on your cards).

Blackjack involves strategy -- knowing when to stand and when to hit, depending on your cards and the dealer's "up" card; splitting your cards into two hands; or "doubling down" on certain hands dealt to you. If you're serious about learning the game, pick up a book on the subject or watch over the shoulder of a player sitting behind a lot of chips.

Craps

If you hear a lot of cheering, clapping and overall revelry, you've most likely wandered into the craps pit. Craps is the swiftest, most complex and arguably the most exciting game you can play in a casino. Don't let its seemingly confounding rules and over-enthusiastic players intimidate you from learning. If you make the right bets, craps offers some of the best player odds in the casino.

The dice are passed clockwise with each player taking a turn rolling, or "shooting," but you don't have to roll if you don't want to. The magic number in craps is seven, and betting typically centers on the "pass line." Your first roll is called the "come out" roll, and if you roll a seven or an 11, your pass line bets wins automatically. Conversely, if you roll a two, three or 12, your pass line bet loses. The object is to roll a point number (any number other than a two, three, seven, 11 or 12), and then to roll that point number again before a seven is rolled.

There are more than a dozen other bets you can make at the craps table, from "come" and "don't pass" bets to "hardways," "horn" bets and "whirls." Taking a lesson is the best way to learn craps, but reading a book on the game is also helpful. Craps players are enthusiastic, but somewhat superstitious about the game. Most are more than happy to tell you its nuances. Just don't talk to them while they're shooting.

Poker

Poker conjures images of belligerent men in 10-gallon hats swigging pints of whiskey. However, these accessories are not required. Seven-card stud is the poker game played most often in casinos, and the rules are fairly simple. Two cards are dealt face down to each player. One card is then dealt face up. The person with the lowest card showing starts the betting, and betting moves clockwise from there. To stay in, just match the bet. If you are confident in your hand, you can match the bet, then raise the bet. You will get a total of seven cards; if you aren't confident in your hand and want to drop out, or "fold," just flip all of your cards face-down when it is your turn to bet. The most important thing to remember is the order of winning hands. From lowest to highest they are:
High card (the highest single card on the table)
Pair
Two pair
Three of a kind
Straight (five cards in consecutive order)
Flush (five cards of the same suit)
Full house (three of a kind plus a pair)
Four of a kind
Straight flush (five cards in consecutive order and of the same suit)

Roulette

Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows. Here is that little white ball that hypnotizes gamblers with the promise of riches. Like so many casino games, roulette relies not on skill, but on luck. Just pick your number or color, lay down your chips and hope for the best. When you bet at the roulette table, you can bet on the inside (individual numbers or groups of individual numbers) or the outside (black versus red, odd versus even, first 18 versus last 18). Most players typically make both inside and outside bets, resulting in a lot of chips being spread over the betting area. Each player will have his or her own colored chips for inside betting to avoid confusion. When the ball finally lands, the dealer will mark the winning number with a small glass cylinder.

Slot Machines

The game requires so little skill, even your grandmother (and grandmothers from the entire East Coast) can play. Just insert coin, pull the lever and wait for coins to clatter into tray. Some slot machines are now video terminals, controlled by buttons instead of handles. You can bet as little as five cents and as much as $5 on one pull -- or push. Change for the slot machines can be obtained from the cashier's cage, kiosks marked "change" or roving change makers.