How to Manage Your Bankroll
First off the bat, let’s demystify the term “bankroll”: it simply means the amount of money put to one side to support an activity - gambling, in this instance. So far, so simple.
Now where things tend to get a little complex is in figuring out just how much your personal bankroll should total and how to manage it to ensure always having a good amount of cash in reserve to gamble both smart and safe.
But hang on a minute, you’re a recreational player and don’t want a financial lecture. If anything your last trip to the casino was on a whim, and all you want to do once there is not think too much and simply have a good time.
Before we sink into the particulars as to why that’s not the greatest of approaches (at least not if your whims become regular enough to be deemed a hobby) there is at least one no-brainer to keep as close to your chest as your cards, one which the mighty Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling echoes in print as any gambler, seasoned or green, might aloud: “Only bet what you can afford to lose.”
The thing about proverbs is that they are too perfectly written to ever hit home: for better or worse, most recreational gamblers end up playing from the bills in the wallets and the strip of their checking account card.
This maverick approach is very much the easiest way to set a player apart as a complete novice and a sure-fire means of losing whatever you bet. So, to prove the advantages of a bankroll for professional and casual players alike, we’ve put together answers from questions commonly asked by casual gamblers.
My first time at a casino was after a night out with my buddies. Once we inside, I was joking aloud that I’d repay them for dinner with a few rounds of blackjack. Then a whole bunch of people at the table gave me dirty looks. What gives?
Although your business is strictly your own, the reaction of your fellow players is actually an insight into one of the basics in smart gambling: never play on “scared money,” meaning the cash not purposely set aside for gambling. If you manage to earn big figures, maybe playing with whatever happens to be in your wallet is not problematic in the short-term, but regularly using scared money is the expressway to busting your bankroll, period. So golden rule number one: only play with disposable income.
This will of course involve giving your overall financial picture a cold, hard look to separate the necessities from the expendables, but aside from being good practice in a general sense, it will allow you to objectively figure out how much you can afford to gamble and what stakes are best suited to your cash flow. And don't just take it from us: according to a recent Market Realist survey, disposable income is the very factor driving the demand for casinos right now.
Supposing I don’t earn big figures. What’s the secret to building my bankroll?
The only real secret is time. If you’re putting aside around 10% of your paycheck each month, within a few you’ll have a sizeable bankroll. What is the real worth of all this saving? The fact that you have both flexibility and choice: to play the games that you want, make the stakes you want for the duration you want.
After all, who wants to turn up at the casino only to be relegated to the sidelines because they lost your entire bankroll within the first half hour? With a little patience and preparation, recreational players can easily rack up enough cash to get the casino experience they desire - and maybe even have enough to make more than a single trip.
So what you’re trying to tell me is that I have to prepare to go to the casino?
Although the movies would have you believe that gambling is just about rocking up and throwing down chips at a whim, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. Professionals and recreational players alike quickly learn to play smart, and it’s all down to something called variance.
Otherwise known as the ups and downs of any individual’s game, players who enjoy gambling regularly need to insulate their game against the possibility of long losing streaks. And on that subject, know that even players with the caliber of Bill Edler - Bluff Magazine's 2007 Player of the Year - endured a run of notable losses in 2008.
But Edler must have been super prepared, so how come he lost out?
Losing streaks are a cold fact that all players, experienced or not, have to accept as part of the game. But what separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak, as in all walks of life, is how people bounce back. Edler’s management of both his money and skills as a player allowed him to get right back to the table after a difficult year: he even publicly analyzed his performance to help him and others improve their game.
This all sounds very sensible. What about the excitement of playing, the thrill of uncertainty?
No matter how hard you plan, casinos will always provide a thrill factor. But having fun is a lot different from letting your emotions get the better of you. One of the easiest and yet worst traps to fall into when playing is tilt, that is to say, letting passions run high and making important decisions rashly and without foresight.
You are more than likely to lose your footing this way. Making sure you are well-rested before you head out to the casino is just one of the many ways you can avoid tilt and justify all that hard work you’ve been putting into building your bankroll. But don’t worry too much if you fall prey to it from time to time, even the likes of ElkY and Daniel Negreanu have all been there.
So you mean even the professionals bust their bankroll?
Some yes, some no. Again, it’s all about managing your money well to ride the swings. The pros tend to be a lot stricter when building a sizeable bankroll, and they have to because their opportunity to replenish it only comes from winnings, not a primary job. Typically they assess which games they want to go for, the stakes they want to ride and then build up a bankroll that’s good for no less than 10 trips to the casino.
Some even wait until they have 20 trips’ worth saved before setting foot on the floor. It all may sound severe and a little uncool, but hey, these guys don’t necessarily want the public to know the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into safeguarding their career. Learning the tips that professional players don’t necessarily want you to know can only give you the kind of natural advantage that makes the recreational casino experience much more enjoyable - because you know what you’re doing.
And finally, if I want to play more regularly, what's your advice?
Once you've got bankroll under control, why not get some further reading under your belt with tips and tricks on how to play different casino games. Then you'll be able to explore various options and find the game that you feel most comfortable playing. Given that concentration levels to be at their highest for you to make the most out of your casino experience, it is an enormous help to eliminate any distractions (such as money worries) from the equation that might see you losing focus for even just a split second.
Anxious people expend more brainpower than people who are relatively relaxed when going about their business, so having good bankroll management is essential to graduate from gambling newbie to conduct yourself confidently across the casino floor.
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