“Bankroll management” is a popular phrase in the poker niche, but it also has implications for slot machine players. The important thing for slots players to remember about managing their bankrolls is that slots are a negative expectation game. No matter how well you manage your money, if you play the slots long enough, you’ll eventually lose all your money.
When you realize that a casino game like the slots has a negative expectation, your goals change. You forget about finding a way to walk away a winner, because that’s completely out of your control anyway. You begin to realize that gambling is about having fun. The entertainment value of the gambling activity is something measurable.
You’ll find plenty of good and bad advice about how to manage your bankroll as a slot machine player on the internet. In this post, I’ll share both, along with my opinion of that advice.
Only Play Slots with Money You Can Afford to Lose
This is actually the best piece of bankroll management advice a slot machine player can get. Since slots are a negative expectation game, you should expect to lose any money you put in the machines.
Any money you bring to the casino to gamble with should be money you’ve set aside specifically for that purpose. In other words, you treat a slot machine bankroll the same way you’d treat any entertainment expense.
You don’t go to the movies expecting to retain the price of your movie ticket. You don’t buy books at the bookstore with the intention of trading the book in at a profit later. When you pay your cable TV bill, you don’t expect any winnings.
You should treat slot machines the same way, even though you will sometimes walk away a winner.
You Can Find Out whether a Slot Machine Is Loose or Not within a Few Spins
The idea is that if you don’t win after a certain number of spins, the slot machine is tight, so you’re better off walking away from that machine to play at another machine. This might or might not be true for the machine on which you’re playing.
Slot machines are programmed to have a certain “hit frequency,” but this is an average over time. It also doesn’t reflect the overall payback percentage for the machine, which is another way of measuring how loose or tight a slot machine game is.
In other words, a slot machine game might have a relatively high hit frequency and a high payback percentage even if you’ve had several spins in a row where you didn’t win anything. This is because of the random nature of the game. Short-term variation is the name mathematicians give to what normal people like you and me call luck.
Just because you haven’t gotten lucky on a game for 6 or 7 spins doesn’t mean it’s a tight machine. It might have just been tight for the last few spins as an aberration.
Leave Your Credit Cards and Debit Cards at Home
This might be good advice for some players, but I think most people these days lean heavily on their debit cards and credit cards. If they can’t trust themselves to use these appropriately, it’s likely they shouldn’t be playing slot machines in the first place.
Yes, gambling can be addictive, and you should watch out for signs of loss of control of your own gambling behavior. The main symptom to look for is a lack of enjoyment in your gambling activity accompanied by an inability to quit playing. If that’s the case, leaving your debit cards and credit cards at home is the least of your worries.
On the other hand, if you’ve set a reasonable loss limit for the trip that you can afford and won’t interfere with your ability to pay the bills, there’s no reason to leave your debit cards and credit cards at home.
And in fact, if you’re an online gambling, debit cards and credit cards are the easiest way to buy credits at online slot machines. You’d be seriously inconvenienced if you set a rule for yourself that you couldn’t use these financial instruments.
Your Bankroll Should Be Equal to 10 Times Your Average Bet
I’m not sure where this advice comes from, but I think if you want to spend any time at all playing slot machines, you’re going to need significantly more than 10X your average bet as a bankroll. Realistically, if you want to spend 2 or 3 hours playing slots, you should probably have more like 200X or 300X the size of your average bet as a bankroll.
This means if you’re playing $1 slots with a 3-coin max bet, you’re betting $3 per spin. You should have between $600 and $900 to play with for that session. If you start with only $30, you won’t be playing long at all.
I’ve also seen suggestions that you gamble 5% to 10% of your bankroll on every spin. This is the same thing as saying your bankroll should be 20X or 10X the size of your bet. I still think this is way too little of a bankroll to play with if you want to spend any time at the machines at all.
My approach is simple. My goal is to hit a jackpot. I like flat-top machines, which have a set jackpot size. I play with my bankroll of 200X to 300X my average bet until one of the following happens:
- I get tired.
- I run out of money.
- I hit the jackpot.
For me, the goal is to hit a jackpot.
The Size of Your Bankroll Should Vary Based on the Denomination You’re Playing
✔GOOD ADVICE (but obvious)
This is obvious. You just plain don’t need as much money to play the penny slots as you do the dollar slots. You’re risking 1/100 of the amount of money on the former as opposed to the latter.
But if you’re looking at it from the perspective of how many bets you need in your bankroll, you need fewer bets as you go up in denomination. This is because the payback percentage for slot machines tends to go up as you go up in denomination.
For penny or nickel slots, stick with the guidelines I already suggested—200X to 300X your bet should be your bankroll size.
For quarter slots or dollar slots, you might only need 150X to 200X the size of your average bet.
For five-dollar slots or higher, you’ll probably be fine with 50X to 100X the size of your average bet.
Keep in mind that my goal is to play for 3 hours or so or until I hit a jackpot—whichever comes first.
You Should Divide Your Bankroll into Multiple Smaller Bankrolls
You can do this, but it’s not strictly necessary. It certainly doesn’t change the probability behind the game. But if you’re on a multi-day trip to a casino destination, it might be nice to not blow your entire bankroll the first day at the casino. After all, what will you do for the rest of the trip?
This isn’t bad advice, but it’s somewhat misleading. It leads you to think that by dividing your bankroll into multiple smaller bankrolls, you create situations where you’re more likely to be able to walk away a winner.
You Should Set Aside Your Winnings and Take that Home with You at the End of Your Trip
✔NEUTRAL ADVICE (but probably not practical)
In other words, if you sit down at a slot machine and win $10, you should set that $10 aside and continue to play with the money you initially put into the machine. Then, later, if you win another $5, you set it aside, too. And so on.
Does this sound impractical to you?
It does to me, too.
A better idea might be to set a win goal and a loss limit for your trip and for each session.
Your win goal is an amount you want to win. Once you’ve won that amount, you cash out the winnings. You can keep playing with any money left in the machine after that. Or you can just end your gambling session there.
A stop-loss limit is just the opposite. It’s an amount that, once you’ve lost it, signals that it’s time to quit. This is a less practical rule, but it can make you feel better about yourself when you walk away from the slots not having lost the entire amount of money you bought in with.
Get Your Emotions in Check
✔BAD ADVICE (mostly)
I sort of understand this advice. After all, if your emotions get the better of you, it might ruin your trip. Or you might get so excited that you gamble away every penny you have.
But it also seems to me that the point of gambling is to have an emotional response. We’re not talking about poker here, where your goal might well be to maximize your chances of winning.
We’re talking about slot machines. It’s a lousy game with lousy odds.
The only point to playing the slots is to enjoy the excitement of it.
I think that advising you to keep your emotions out of it sucks the fun out of playing slot machines. As long as you’re sticking with your budget, feel free to get as emotional as you want at the slots. Jump up and down if you win a huge jackpot. Cry and shake your fist at the heavens if you’re frustrated with a losing streak.
Feel the feelings, then get on with your life, win or lose.
The Best Way to Manage a Slot Machine Bankroll Is to Play Slowly
This is some of the best slot machine bankroll management advice I’ve seen. The speed at which you play has a huge effect on how quickly you lose money. Most players spin the reels 600 times per hour. If you can slow down to half that speed and still have just as much fun, you can cut your losses in half.
How do you slow down?
When you hit a win, wait until it finishes loading onto your screen before spinning again. Have conversations with other friendly slot machine players. Take breaks. Pause before hitting the spin button.
All these techniques add up to reduce the amount of money you’re putting into action per hour. The more you wager per hour, the more money you’ll lose (on average, over time) per hour. So yeah, this is the best slot machine bankroll management advice you’ll ever read.
Play Newer Slot Machines with Lots of Bonus Games
This is good and bad advice at the same time. Yes, you’ll get in fewer spins per hour if you’re playing lots of bonus games. But the casino compensates for that by having an overall lower payback percentage for such games.
But if you’re using this as part of an overall strategy to lower the amount of money you’re risking per hour, this is a great tip. If you slow your play down enough, it will more than compensate for the lower payback percentage.
Remember, the goal is to have the most fun for your money. There’s not really much you can do to increase your chances of winning besides sticking with the highest denomination slots with the fewest frills that you can.
Take Advantage of the Slots Club
Most casinos offer a players’ card that you can insert into the slot machine while you’re playing. This card tracks how much money you’re gambling per hour (not how much you’re winning or losing).
The casino then rewards you with rebates and comps equal to roughly 0.3% of the amount of money you’ve been gambling. (This amount varies by casino, though.)
Keep an eye on the special offers at the casinos, too. A lot of times, you’ll find casinos which offer double or triple rewards during certain time periods. These can really add up.
There’s a popular myth that slot machines pay out less when you play with the slots club card inserted. That’s just nonsense. The slot machine has no way of adjusting its odds based on whether you’ve inserted your slots card or not.
In fact, the casino has no incentive to do that. The way the math works on these machines, the time spent on each machine is the #1 factor determining how much money the casino makes from the machine. Reducing your odds would dis-incentivize you from spending more time on the machine.
The whole point of the slots club card is to keep you playing on the machines for more time. They don’t care about whether YOU win or lose. In the long run, they know that the more players who play for more time, the more money they’ll earn.
You’ll find plenty more advice, both good and bad, about managing your slot machine bankroll on the internet. Just keep in mind the basics, and you’ll be fine:
- Slot machines are a negative expectation game, and no amount of bankroll management will change that.
- Only gamble with money you can afford to lose.
- If you want to spend some time on the machines trying to hit a jackpot, have a bankroll of at least 200X your betting amount.
- Always use the slots club card.
- Play as slowly as you can while still having fun.
Slots don’t get much more complicated than that, no matter what the money management gurus want you to believe.