Bankroll management is one of the oldest topics in gambling. We’re only one of one zillion websites to talk about it.
(Seriously – one of one zillion.)
But that’s because casino bankroll management is an important topic. It’s like your household budget – without it, you have no idea where your money needs to go. The likely result is that you spend it randomly and with reckless abandon.
A bankroll management plan keeps you in check.
And while we may be one of one zillion websites to talk about it, between our decades of combined experience gambling online and off – playing casino games, poker and betting sports – we feel we’re qualified to give you advice.
Plus, maybe we have a unique perspective or idea you haven’t heard yet!
Anyway, we’re going to talk about casino bankroll management. The topics we’re going to cover include:
Our goal is to help you get a handle on your money so that you can gamble without going broke …too fast.
Let’s get started.
What is Casino Bankroll Management?
This probably seems like a silly question. Your bankroll is the amount of money you have to play with, right?
Your bankroll includes your gambling funds. However, if you’re gambling offline, it also includes the money you need for transportation, hotels, food, entertainment, and so on.
Of course, you can play with every dollar you have. But chances are you won’t have anywhere to sleep, and the only food and drink you may have are the casino’s watered-down cocktails and the random buffet comp.
We don’t recommend you go this route.
When you play online, you have fewer expenses, since you’re not traveling. There are other expenses you need to pay, though.
For example, you have to pay your internet and phone bill – especially if you want to gamble online. You might also have special gambling related costs you need to pay for, such as a special card counting forum or something.
The point is this; your bankroll includes everything you need to gamble. This money is outside of, or in addition to, the money you need for other areas of your life.
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t play with money you need to cover your bills, food and other more important things.
It’s only once you understand this that you can even begin to learn casino bankroll management.
We’ll look at how to do this in just a second. But first, let’s talk about how big your bankroll should be in the first place.
How Big Should Your Bankroll Be?
The problem with this question is that it’s subjective. There’s no set answer; it varies from person to person.
To figure this out, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What games do I want to play?
- What stakes do I want to play for?
- How long do I want to play per session?
- How many sessions do I plan to play?
Let’s look at a few examples to show you how you might figure this out.
You want to play a couple Texas hold’em tournaments. They’re $45 each and they should take 3-4 hours to complete. You want to play 3 tournaments total, unless you bust early; if that happens, you’ll buy into another tournament for the same cost.
The math is pretty simple here. The very least you plan to play is 3 tournaments at $45 each. This means you need $135. Worst case is that you bust each of your first tournaments early and buy into another one. This will double your required bankroll to $270.
Knowing this, we’d recommend you bring between $180-$270, plus a few bucks for tips if you’re playing live and want to get a drink.
Let’s say you want to play blackjack. The first thing you want to figure out is how many hands per hour you’ll play.
This is tricky to do, so we’ll refer to an expert.
The WizardOfOdds.com says you can expect to play between 50-85 hands per hour. Since online games move faster (because there’s no dealer), you can expect to play a few more hands – we’d say around 100.
Stakes vary, but you can expect to play for as little as $1 online and $3-$5 offline. Do the math, and you’ll realize that you need at least $100 to $500 for every hour you want to play.
Last, let’s talk about slots. These are trickier to plan for because there are all sorts of variables to consider. For example:
- The number of spins per hour. We’ve see one suggestion that you can get in 300 spins per hour.
- The number of paylines per machine (which varies).
- The different bonus rounds and mini games and how long they take.
There’s no way to figure this stuff out accurately. For example, we’ve had sessions where we can stretch $20 for 45 minutes to an hour, while other times we burned through $20 within 5 minutes of sitting down.
So, we’re not going to. Here’s what we recommend you do instead.
Simply decide how much money you have to play slots with. Then determine how many sessions you want to play. Then do the math (total money / sessions = money per session).
For example, say you have $500 to gamble with and you plan to play 5 sessions. Just bring $100 with you each time.
Now, one thing we didn’t factor in is when you win. That’s on purpose, though. We want to assume the worst-case scenario (that you’re most likely going to lose) when deciding how much to bring. That way you know you have something to play with.
We also didn’t talk about how much to play for.
We recommend playing for as little as possible, especially on games where the house edge is so large. That means penny lines for slots and $0.25/rounds for video poker.
That said, the whole point of gambling is to have fun. If fun equals $5/spin or $25/hand, and you have the money to burn, by all means, have at it.
How to Manage Your Bankroll
Now let’s talk about how to manage your casino bankroll.
This is MUCH easier to do once you’ve established how much money you have, how much you’re going to spend, and the games you’re going to spend it on.
The challenge here is simply sticking to your plan. Here are a couple tips to help you do that:
- Only bring what you’re going to spend each session.
- Have a friend or family member hold your money for you.
- Use the self-exclusion options many online casinos offer to limit how much you’ll spend per session, or how long your session will be.
That last point is important. In fact, we recommend also setting a time limit for how long you’re going to play.
In a best-case scenario, it’ll give you a break so that you can stretch and clear your head. Maybe you’ll even decide to walk away (with a profit).
Worst case, it’ll serve as a stop loss. It’ll give you a break from losing. And, if you didn’t stick to your casino bankroll management plan, then it’ll minimize the extra spending you weren’t supposed to do.
One last thing before we move on.
You should also consider setting a limit for how much you’ll win before you quit.
That probably sounds odd; why wouldn’t you keep playing if you’re winning? The thing is, you’re all but guaranteed to lose at most casino games. If you’re up any money at all, you’re doing better than most.
So, why not walk away with a little extra than what you came in with?
10 Tips for How to Make Your Bankroll Last
Okay, by now you know what a bankroll is, how to figure out how much to bring to the casino, and how to manage it.
Now we want to wrap things up by giving you a few tips for how to keep your bankroll afloat for as long as possible.
1. Join a VIP program.
Most casinos offer some form of loyalty program. The perks vary wildly, but often include buffet, show and room comps, or cash back, bonuses and free spins.
These things will either offset money you were going to spend anyway, or will be money you may not have had before.
Either way, these will free up and/or give you additional money to play with. In the case of cash back and bonuses, you can often play with this money before you spend your own money.
2. Claim deposit bonuses.
Same idea as above. Claim a deposit bonus and you’ll play on the casino’s dime.
However, if you want to cash out your winnings, you’ll need to fulfill their bonus terms. Usually this means wagering so many dollars (thousands) prior to cashing out. The risk is that you can lose all your winnings back to the casino.
That sucks, but you should expect to lose your money anyway. If you can adopt this attitude, then you can focus on the upside of playing with money that didn’t come from your pocket.
That’s how we like to look at it. Anything we may win is simply a bonus.
3. Play slowly.
When you win money on a slot or virtual game, you can usually hit the spin or deal money and all the money you won will hit your balance instantly.
However, you can make your bankroll last even longer if you don’t do this. Just let the machine pay you however fast you want, which will give you a 30-90 second break between rounds. This will reduce the number of rounds you play total, as well as the total amount of money you spend.
We’ve used this trick to stretch tiny $20 bankrolls into 30+ minute sessions.
4. Play for smaller limits.
Another tip is to play for smaller limits. Play $0.40 per spin instead of $0.80 or $1.60. Play $1 blackjack instead of $3 or $5.
It may not be as exciting, and you may not hit one of those big jackpots, but it’s unlikely you were going to hit a jackpot anyway.
Tip! Many slot machines nowadays have multiple jackpots for different size budgets. Penny slot players can still play for and hit a $30 or $100 ”mini” jackpot.
At least now you can double or triple the entertainment you get from the same amount of money.
5. Play at a two-seat machine.
This tip is for live players. Some of the newer slot machines we’ve seen in Las Vegas have a bench seat that seats 2-3 people.
What we’ve done with our spouses is pop in $20 or $50 – whatever we’d spend playing by ourselves – and take turns hitting the spin button. Whoever hits the bonus round gets to play it.
This is a great way to make your bankroll last longer, assuming you don’t wager more than you would if you were playing by yourselves.
It’s also a great way to spend time together, as often times the machines you both want to play aren’t placed next to each other.
6. Only increase your bets with your winnings.
We all like to play for higher stakes. It’s more exciting because of the potential to win more. However, you run the risk of burning through your bankroll at a faster rate.
So, here’s what we like to do:
We’ll set our budget at $20 (say, for slots). We’ll play penny lines if our balance is $20 or under.
If we have more than $20, we allow ourselves to double our bets. If we triple our balance, then we can triple our bets.
Here’s what this looks like:
- $20 balance = $0.01 bet (x number of lines)
- $40 balance = $0.02 bet (x number of lines)
- $60 balance = $0.03 bet (x number of lines)
And so on.
This allows you to move up and down as needed without taking on too much risk. And in our experience, this does a great job in making our bankroll last longer, while also satisfying the need to play for higher limits.
7. Play games where the odds/house edge can be reduced with strategy.
This includes games like blackjack, baccarat, poker, video poker, sports betting, and so on.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to win. No casino game can be beaten unless you learn how to count cards or something, which is both hard to do and risky. Most casinos will kick you out for it.
You can cheat and beat the house. Chances are you’ll wind up in prison, though …and maybe on the nightly news.
If you learn how to play using basic strategy, though – which casinos don’t mind – you can avoid making dumb mistakes that cost you lots of money.
The better you play, the more likely it is that you’ll run into positive bouts of variance, too. This means you win more than what’s normal for that particular game (in the short term).
8. Take frequent breaks.
Every break you take means you’re not in the casino giving them your money. It also gives you a chance to clear your head and reassess where you’re at with your bankroll.
If you have a tendency to disregard your own guidelines, a break can mean the difference between making a small financial mistake and a large one.
9. Don’t chase losses.
This can be a tough one to follow, because if you lose enough money to the house, sometimes you feel like you want to get it back.
Other times you make the mistake of thinking the machine is due to hit, even though the truth is that no machine is due. They’re all 100% random.
The bottom line is that chasing losses is a bad idea. If you know you’re the type to chase his or her losses, then the best thing to do is only bring what you can afford to lose. That way you don’t spend money you saved for future sessions.
10. Bet sports.
Make a couple bets on a game and then just sit back and watch it. This is great because games can last an hour or more and you don’t have to bet much to get a rush from it.
There you have it, 10 tips to help you make your bankroll last as long as possible.
We’ve used most, if not all these tips with varying degrees of success. We’re sure they’ll help you, too.
There’s no denying it. Casino bankroll management is an important skill to have. It’s also the first skill you should develop if you want to have a good time at the casino.
Otherwise you might end up in Vegas for several days with no money because you spent it all in the first couple of minutes. Then you have to scrounge for food and sleep on benches until you catch your flight a couple days later.
We’re speaking from experience here.
That doesn’t have to be you, though. And if you use our tips above, along with some common sense, it won’t be.