If You Don’t Manage Your Casino Bankroll Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

By in Casino & Gaming on
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When I was researching this post, I read another post on the same subject that asserted that your #1 goal when gambling is to win.

While I agree that winning should be one of your goal, it shouldn’t be your #1 goal.

Your most important goal is to have fun.

The reason that’s a more important goal is because the probability, regardless of what kind of gambling you do, says that you aren’t likely to win.

Why set a goal that you can’t hit most of the time?

This post is aimed at casino gamblers who are willing to risk losing some cash as long as they have fun doing it – and as long as they have a reasonable chance to win.

Issues like self-control and self-discipline must be on the agenda in any discussion of managing your casino bankroll.

And if you’re not managing your casino bankroll now, you need to start – immediately.

How Much Are You Willing to Lose?

I don’t know any financial advisors who don’t recommend having a budget for your expenses. If that’s true in the rest of your life, why wouldn’t it be true when it comes to your casino gambling hobby?

In fact, you should consider your casino gambling money an entertainment expense.

And what’s your rule of thumb with entertainment expenses?

If you’re like most people, you don’t spend money on entertainment that you need for some other purpose. If you’re short on rent money, you don’t buy season passes to Six Flags.

Since the odds are against you when you’re gambling, you should approach the casino as if it’s going to keep all the money that you’re going to bet there. 80% or more of the time, this is exactly what’s going to happen, too.

There Are a Few Simple Steps to Managing Your Casino Bankroll, Really:

  • Don’t bet any money you need for more important things.
  • If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to bet it.
  • I don’t care how lucky you think you are, or how good your gambling system is supposed to be. The reality of casino gambling is that you’re probably going to lose.
  • Go into it with the right attitude, though, and it’s okay to lose. It’s even okay to hope you win.

But you can’t EXPECT to win.

Put It in Writing

I have a friend who’s a recovering alcoholic. He spends a lot of time at the casino, and he worries that he might be losing too much money there.

I asked him how much money he’s losing there, and he says he really doesn’t know. He said he thinks he comes home a winner about half the time.

He’s delusional.

My advice to him is the same as my advice to you:

Buy a small notebook and track how much money you win or lose on every casino trip. Record which games you play. Keep a log of when you arrived at the casino and when you left.

Over the course of a year, you’ll have a clear idea of how much time and money you’re losing to the casino.

This can also be helpful come tax-time. If you win a big jackpot, the casino reports your win to the IRS, and you’re required to pay taxes on it.

If you have a record of your losses, though, you can use those losses to offset the amount you won.

For example, you win $10,000 on a slot machine in December.

But you have records of your previous trips to the casino for that year, and you’ve lost $9600 in that calendar year.

You only have to pay taxes on the $400 profit you’ve seen.

But if you haven’t kept records, you can’t claim those losses. After all, you don’t even know how much you’ve lost.

How Much Should You Bet?

I saw another post that suggested betting no more than 1% of your casino bankroll on any single wager. I think that’s based on guidelines aimed at sports bettors or card counters in blackjack.

The truth is that you can get away with betting a higher percentage of that, especially if you’re playing a low volatility game.

For example, let’s say you’re playing roulette. I like to place single-number bets at the roulette table, but I also like to place even-money bets.

I get the best of both worlds that way. I win my even-money bet 47.37% of the time, which is almost half the time. I win my single number bets, which pay off at 35 to 1, about once every 38 spins. That’s about once an hour.

If I have a bankroll of $400, I can easily afford to bet $5 on the single number and $5 on red. My goal is to just play for an hour and show an occasional small profit. I also understand that in the long run, I’ll lose all my money playing roulette.

It would be silly to think I need a bankroll of $1000 to play roulette for those stakes. $400 is plenty.

And depending on my goals, it can be okay to bet an even larger amount of my stake. If my goal is to just double my money, I’m most likely to achieve that goal by betting everything I have on black.

The more bets I make, the more likely it is that my results will conform to the mathematical expectation.

It’s Okay to Get Excited, Be Disappointed, or to Get Mad

If you’ve ever had a winning streak at the craps table, you know how emotional and exciting casino gambling can be.

If you’ve ever had a big losing streak at the blackjack table, you also know how disappointing and angering casino gambling can be.

I read another post that suggested trying to eliminate your emotions when you’re gambling in a casino.

I don’t see the point in pretending I’m Mr. Spock.

If you’re gambling in a casino, you’re doing it for the emotions that the activity arouses. You’re there specifically so you can enjoy the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Embrace those feelings.

But don’t use those emotions as an excuse to deviate from your budget. If you went to the casino with $400 that you’re willing to gamble, and you lose it faster than expected, go ahead and feel bad.

But don’t go to the ATM and withdraw another $400 in an attempt to “catch up.”

The idea that you’re bound to have a win because you’ve been losing is called “the gambler’s fallacy.” It’s a classic mathematical mistake.

The premise is that if you’ve lost a bet several times in a row, you’re more likely to win the next bet so that the probabilities will catch up to where they should be.

That’s not true. Every bet in a casino is placed on an independent event.

The probability of getting a red result on a roulette spin is 47.37% regardless of whether red or black came up on the previous spin or even on the previous 10 spins.

So feel your emotions, but make rational decisions in the casino.

And don’t fall for the gambler’s fallacy.

Understand the Odds and Give Yourself a Chance to Win

Every game in the casino has an innate mathematical edge. Some games have a higher edge for the house than others.

For example, the house edge for blackjack – if you’re playing with the appropriate basic strategy – is less than 1%. It can be as low as 0.3% or 0.4%, depending on the game conditions.

The house edge at roulette, on the other hand, is 5.26%.

That percentage represents the average loss per bet that the casino expects to win based on the conditions of the game.

  • How Does the House Get This Edge?

They set the games up so that you’re at a mathematical disadvantage.

In blackjack, the casino gets its edge by making you play your hand first. If you bust, the casino wins immediately – even if the dealer busts later in the hand. This gives them a mathematical edge.

In roulette, the casino gets its edge by adding a green 0 and a green 00 to the possible outcomes. Then it pays out winnings that would be even money… if the 0s weren’t on the wheel.

One of your goals should be to find a casino game where the house edge is low, but also one where you enjoy yourself.

Not everyone likes table games, so it’s hard to offer blanket advice of avoiding gambling machines and sticking with table games – even though table games generally have a lower house edge.

But it’s better to play video poker than slot machines, because video poker offers odds that are dramatically better than slots.


Yes, you should manage your casino bankroll appropriately. Doing so is easy, too. Just budget money you don’t need for anything else, assume you’re going to lose all that money, and stick with your budget. Keep records to stay accountable to yourself.

If you don’t budget your money and manage your bankroll appropriately, you’ll probably slip into problem gambling territory sooner rather than later.

And problem gambling can and will destroy your life if you let it.

In fact, if you have tendencies in those directions already, your best casino bankroll management strategy might be to spend your money on other forms of entertainment.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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