If there are players at a poker table who know each other or the dealer you should pass on playing at that table. These could be yokels who lose their paychecks every week but experienced players often prefer to play with strangers. Local players may be regulars who are very good at poker compared to casual card players.
However if you like a challenge and want to learn poker from people who are better than you then getting to know the local players may be the best way to study the game. Just remember that they will take your money and may not be the best potential friends you can make.
And some of those local guys may work for the casino as well. They keep the tables more full and the games more interesting but they are not playing with their own money. Their interest in the game will be different from yours.
You can still win prizes when you don’t gamble your own money. Paying a flat fee to participate in a slot, blackjack, or poker tournament gives you a way to manage your money. If you only play tournaments you can literally plan your gambling budget by the calendar.
Some tournaments may require you to gamble with your own money. Avoid these tournaments.
If you have to bet extra money to win a progressive jackpot pass on playing for the jackpot. If you are eligible for a progressive jackpot without betting extra money and you enjoy the game go ahead and play it but remember that the money for the jackpot comes from the players not the casino.
The rule of thumb with progressive jackpots is to assume that they lower the theoretical return to player by a small percentage. It is better to ignore the book of ra progressive option on table games and to play slot games that don’t offer progressives.
Although it’s great to win a progressive jackpot if you’re going to take on this increased risk then wait until you are ahead, set back at least the amount of money you started gambling with, and only gamble with “won” money when you play progressive games.
Always remember you lose your money faster by betting on progressive jackpots.