Let me float this by you right away. When I lose money the lost money has more intense emotions attached to it than when I win that same amount of money. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that I lost $1000 last night, how am I feeling? Correct, I feel rotten to the core; totally miserable, asking myself “what happened?” Now, if I won a $1000? Correct, I’m happy but I won’t be singing and dancing the entire next day.

In short, losses hit us harder than wins. The loss of emotion weighs more than the win emotion – given an equal amount of money being weighed.

When I first thought of this idea I did wonder if I were alone in my feelings. I’m not. I did a little survey of 15 people, some I knew, some I didn’t know, and 12 of them agreed with me that losses had a more powerful impact on them than an equivalent winning experience. The other three felt that both states of being were about emotionally equal. 

In my view, I maintain that losses really blast us; while wins were more ephemeral. Perhaps that’s why the daily “news” is generally about bad experiences as opposed to good ones. The headline “Man is love his wife” can’t outmatch “Man hate his wife.”

So then the goal of gambling should be to limit one’s losses or at the very least, the emotional toll of such losses so as to enjoy one’s wins far more. There are two ways to do that, by playing proper strategies and just as important with proper money management techniques.

[Please Note: Money management is not a method for overcoming the house edge. If the game has a negative expectation, money management cannot flip that expectation to favor the amateur or professional gambler. The player can, however, use money management to contain his losses.]

Large bankroll - Small bets

LARGE BANKROLL / SMALL BETS

My mentor the Captain of craps believed that satisfactory gambling can only occur if losses do not eat up one’s gambling bankroll. He posited that a large bankroll must back a casino player’s individual wagers. 

If one is betting $10 then having a bankroll of $20 is not sufficient to make one relaxed when a loss occurs; indeed, a two-loss streak ends the player’s chances. His bankroll is busted. Such a wipeout would be devastating. 

THE 401G

Actually, let’s take first things first – players must have gambling bankrolls. No player should attempt to play casino games with money necessary for food, housing, medicine and one’s daughter’s college tuition. Never stretch real money.

The gambling bankroll should be a separate account, specifically kept in an interest paying checking or savings account. I call this the 401G account with the “G” standing for gambling.

There are basically two ways to create such an account. If you are fairly well off, you can simply take money from other accounts and create the 401G. Yes, that money was originally intended as an excess cushion for real life but if you know you can harvest it for gambling then do so. But that is it. You will not after this first dip touch your real-life accounts. Instead on a regular basis you will take a small percentage of your income to place in the 401G. 

The second method, which will probably be used by most players, is to set aside a small percentage of one’s ongoing income into the 401G. Many people have a 401K or equivalent account where regular deposits are made from their paychecks and the 401G should also have regular deposits. Such deposits will build and maintain the account.

[Please Note: Players want enough money in their 401G so that they never have to worry about losing it all. A bankroll should be constant or go up at any given time. This can be accomplished through patience and discipline.]

HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD BE IN A 401G BANKROLL?

Here is my personal horror story: I once lost my entire gambling bankroll. It was almost 30 years ago and I was playing with a small amount put aside to gamble. I lost my head, I bet too much, I went on a complete losing streak and was wiped out.

My wife the Beautiful AP and I stopped by the Captain’s house on our way back from Atlantic City. The moment he saw us he said, “There they are with empty pockets.” 

He then told me in no uncertain terms what I had done wrong. It was simple really, I bet way too much for a way too small bankroll in total. Then we worked out what my bankroll should be to bet what I wanted. It took me a year of regular deposits to get the bankroll up to where it needed to be to assure me of never being wiped out again.

In my case (okay, hold your breath) it was five hundred to one. For every dollar I wagered I had to have five hundred dollars in my 401G. If I wanted to be a $10 bettor that would mean I was backed by five thousand dollars sitting comfortably in the account. I was teaching and running a theatre company at the time and I slowly built up the 401G. 

Over the years, I have built my 401G to the point where I can be a high roller without fear of winding up on the street should I experience a truly awful negative streak.

Now I think a five hundred to one distance between a single bet and a total bankroll is not farfetched and is reachable by just about anyone interested in being a “safe” gambler.  A five-dollar player just needs $2500 to get in the game. 

Roulette player is celebrating a winning bet

WHAT TO DO WITH WINS

Now, if you are adding to your 401G because of a good series of wins, that’s terrific. You will add the wins to the account and continue to add the percent of your wages to the account. 

Let us say you have a five-dollar to $2500 spread between a single bet and the total bankroll and you have now gone up to $5000 in total bankroll? You can double your single bet level or take the extra $2500 and use it to buy something you want.

[Please Note: You never stop putting money in your 401G account. I am assuming that anyone reading this is probably someone who enjoys casino gambling and goes more than once a year. It is important for regular players to keep a consistent pattern in their savings and playing.]

SESSION STAKES AND SAVING MONEY

When we go to casinos we usually don’t play one long session; we break our gambling day into several sessions, maybe morning, afternoon and evening. That is probably the best way to apportion one’s day. I think it is crazy to play endless hours of mesmerizing games – half the time you probably won’t remember what went on during such long hours.

So let us say that you have a $5000 total bankroll and your bet is $10. You are going to spend two days in the casinos. How should you break up your bankroll? Let us assume three sessions a day of between one and two hours on each session.

As a generalization, you should take one-half of your bankroll ($2500) and divide it by six sessions. That comes to a session stake of $416 per session; so let’s make that $400 per session. You do not want to risk your total bankroll on one casino trip. You might be a serious player who goes once a month or even more – you therefore do not want to risk all your money in a single trip.  Don’t bring all the money!

Now, I mentioned that you might want to play an hour or two per session, however that can be misleading. What if things are going really well, do you want to leave after an hour or two? What if (horror of horrors) you are getting pummeled? Do you play until you lose everything?

Okay, here is a quick and easy chart to show what to do in given situations and at the end of each session. This is for land-based casinos (cruise ships too). I will delve into Internet casinos after this.

Session One: Bet Level is $10. Session stake is $400. Maximum time of play is two hours.

LOSSES:

  • One hour or less: If the loss is more than half your session stake, quit the session.
  • Two hours: If you have any loss whatsoever you quit the session.

WINS:

  • One hour or less: If you have a win of $200, you put aside $200 of your $400 stake and that is not to be gambled again in this session. You still have $400 with which to play.
  • One hour or less: If you go up another $100, you take that out of original session stake. You still have $400 with which to play but $300 has now been set aside. With each $100 win, you take that from your original stake. Once you are playing with $400 in wins do not allow yourself to lose more than $200 of those wins.
  • Two hours: Quit session or take one-third of your wins (assuming wins are substantial!) and play with that money. Anytime you lose half that money, you quit for that session.
  • At end of session, any money, be it the initial $400, or what’s left over from a loss, or what has been won and the initial stake, goes in the safe and is not to be gambled with again. You safe now contains that session’s money, win, lose or draw – money not to be gambled with anymore.

The above approach should be used for all sessions. Once a trip is completed you take home whatever money is in the safe and put it into your 401G.

[Please Note: Using the above approach to each session will generally mean that you will not lose a session stake and you will be able to come home with some money, if not a win. No real limit is placed on wins but limits are fully placed on losses.]

Online casino player

ONLINE CASINOS MONEY MANAGEMENT

An online casino is either great or awful; whichever they are is totally up to you. With discipline and control, go ahead and have fun, but if you are the rambunctious type in your play then you had better be careful. Casino games have no heart; they are based on math. But you do have a heart and you can easily lose your head and your money if you ever lose control.

So what should be your money management technique on Internet casinos? I would limit myself to one session – at maximum – on a given day. I would also try not to play every day unless you are able to keep adding to your 401G without any strain on your finances. Keeping yourself at a hefty one to 500 spread would be harder if you are betting into that 500 every day without more money going into the account. You can see that to be careful is the watchword here.

Games to play

WHAT GAMES TO PLAY

It is important that whichever games you choose to play that you use the best strategies. That means making the lowest house-edge bets at those games; even slot machines have better and worse ways to play them. What follows is quick playing advice which together with my money management techniques should be helpful in keeping your head above water. You will find more detailed articles on the various games on this site, make use of them!

Roulette: Best to make your roulette bets on the outside propositions of red/black, high/low, odd/even. You will not have seriously prolonged losing streaks on such bets even though the house edge is the same on these bets as on the inside numbers.

Craps: Pass and come with odds; don’t pass and don’t come with odds. No more than three bets at once and that is if you can make so many bets with your bankroll while playing craps. Never hesitate to make fewer than three bets. Do not make any of the other bets.

Blackjack: Play basic strategy perfectly. Buy a card with the basic strategy on it. Do not play by instinct.

Slots: No progressive games. Use a single credit on all machines – in a future article I will explain why this is the best way to play slots.

Video Poker: You can read here about video poker bankroll requirements.

There will be plenty of articles on all the game if I haven’t covered the ones you like in my above list.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Baccarat: Do not make the tie bet.

About the Author
By

Frank Scoblete grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He spent the ‘60s getting an education; the ‘70s in editing, writing and publishing; the ‘80s in theatre, and the ‘90s and the 2000s in casino gambling.

Along the way he taught English for 33 years. He has authored 35 books; his most recent publisher is Triumph Books, a division of Random House. He lives in Long Island. Frank wrote the Ultimate Roulette Strategy Guide and he's a well known casino specialist. 

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