By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published May 23, 2012 at 5:31 AM

Potawatomi Bingo Casino is more than 750,000 square feet with about 3,100 slot machines, 100 table games, a 1,400-seat bingo hall, off-track betting and a 20-table poker room. For someone who hasn't gambled before, it might be a bit daunting to walk in the door and start pulling handles and doubling down.

The fact is, with a little bit of knowledge – and cash – spending an afternoon or evening in the casino is a lot of fun. It's worth a trip just to people-watch, have a drink, enjoy one of the restaurants, check out Native American artifacts and listen to the jingly-jangly sounds of slot machines, spinning wheels and shuffling cards.

However, to take the experience a step further and really give Potawatomi a whirl, here are some playing tips, house rules and general suggestions for first-timers to consider.

For starters, all guests must be at least 18 years old to enter the casino. There is free parking in a parking structure that adjoins – via a skywalk – the casino. There are also valet parking services available.

"I would really urge a new visitor to explore a little before they start gaming. See what piques your interest and ask our team members questions," says Winslow Mexico, the assistant general manager of gaming operations at Potawatomi. "We offer everything from penny slots, to $100 minimum-bet machines in our high-limits area of the gaming floor."

No matter what a guest chooses to play, all gaming requires cash. So have some on hand, or use an ATM that's inside the facility. The ATMs also offer a check-cashing option, but keep in mind that casino ATMs sometimes have pricey fees.

Now for the million-dollar question: how much money should you spend?

"Beginners should wager what they're comfortable with. However, we always urge our guests to set, and stick with, a limit when it comes to the amount of cash they wager," says Mexico.

Slot machines are a good place for newbies to start. The slots play in different denominations from one penny to $100. Many are 25 cents per "pull," these have a yellow light on top, or $1 slots which have a blue light on top. Dollars are fed right into the machines.

Slots no longer spit out coins to winners. Instead, winnings are credited on an encoded ticket. Don't lose the ticket or you're out of luck. To cash out a ticket, go to a kiosk or a cashier area and redeem them for the cash value on the ticket or put them into another machine to play. If a person wins $1,200 or more, taxes must be paid, and a slot attendant will assist in filling out the proper paperwork.

"Clearly a majority of our guests play the slot machines. I recommend you select a slot machine that looks fun to you and a denomination you want to play. Be it 'Wheel of Fortune' or a machine based on the movie 'The Hangover,' they all offer you a chance to win. You may want to start with a reel slot machine that features old-school bars and cherries, and then move up to one that's a little more complex – like one of our video machines," says Mexico.

Video poker is also an easy place to start and these machines are located in banks on both sides of the casino. The game electronically deals a hand and then the player hits a button to discard unwanted cards.

Although the rules are relatively simple, prior to engaging in blackjack, players will need to do Internet research or talk to an experienced blackjack player. For more information, go to the Potawatomi Bingo Casino instructional videos for blackjack, roulette, craps and more.

Potawatomi hosts training sessions for groups, but the sessions have to be scheduled in advance.

Once ready, sit down at one of the tables, hand cash to the dealer and in return, he or she will give the equal amount of gaming chips. Basically, if the player's combination of cards is closer to 21 than the dealer's, the player wins.

Winners take the chips that were won from the table to the nearest cashier who redeems them for cash value. Cashiers can issue bank checks to really big winners.

To play bingo, purchase a package for a bingo session at the cashier stand at the entrance. There are three or four sessions every day that usually last from two to four hours. Also, there are special games that are sold separately at the cashier stand and by employees on the floor.

Keep track of the bingo game on either traditional paper cards or on touch-screen digital consoles, but keep in mind there is an additional fee for playing electronically. Despite the extra cost, the digital option is the most popular because it allows people to play dozens of cards at a time. The cost to play bingo ranges, depending on the session and the number of cards played at once.

Bingo at the casino is very similar to the game you played as a kid. The only differences are that in order to win, players may have to fill in a pattern that resembles a star or a kite instead of the usual line across, down or diagonal.

"The other difference is that players can literally win thousands of dollars on one game," says Mexico.

Mexico also says that it's typically very quiet in the bingo hall, except during the rock 'n' roll glow sessions. It's important all players respect the silence so no one misses out on a bingo call and a chance to win.

"And keep your troll dolls or other good luck charms within your play space," says Mexico.

The casino features both smoking and non-smoking gaming areas. Smoking is permitted on the main gaming floor, but most other areas including the restaurants and the theater, are non-smoking. The off-track betting room and poker room are smoke-free, and there are designated non-smoking areas for bingo and slots.

For beyond-gambling options at Potawatomi, there's an upscale steak house, Dream Dance Steak, along with the Fire Pit Sports Bar & Grill and Asian restaurant RuYi and a bar with a Vegas-feel in the middle of the gaming floor called Bar 360.

Potawatomi also houses the 500-seat Northern Lights Theater which attracts acts from Jay Leno to B.B. King. Plus, just off the skywalk, there's a retail store and tribal artifacts are on display throughout the building.

"One other thing I might suggest, look beyond the machines and tables. We also feature some great original Native American artwork and history. But one of the things I'm most proud of is we have an outstanding diverse group of team members that are happy to help guests," says Mexico.

Potawatomi, run by the Potawatomi tribe, opened in 1991 and underwent a massive renovation in 2008. A 380-room hotel is currently in the works and will be finished in two years.

As for the casino house rules, they are posted throughout the facility and are mostly common sense.

"The most important thing to remember is to be respectful of others, and they'll return that same respect. This is true whether you're new to gaming, or an old pro," says Mexico. "We have so much here to do. If gaming isn't you're thing, we're sure you'll enjoy our world-class dining or fantastic theater. Quite simply, we've got something here for guests of all tastes to enjoy."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.