It’s a tough question for people who haven’t gambled much – how much money to bring along with you to the casino.
There’s no single answer that’s appropriate for everyone who wants to play blackjack or roulette. A lot of factors influence the amount of cash a gambler brings along to play with.
Below are six questions that, when you answer them, should lead you to the appropriate amount to pencil in for spending at the casino.
What Is the Money Paying For?
First, let’s talk about what people mean by “how much money should I bring to the casino?”
A casino trip incurs a lot of expenses besides the gambling bankroll. You may have a hotel stay to consider, a parking fee, meal expenses, and other items in your budget that will affect how much you spend. We broke this down in our Las Vegas budget guide!
The good news is that large-scale casinos are oriented towards giving away little things to encourage more money to be spent on gambling. You’ll rarely find a big casino that won’t comp parking in exchange for a very small amount of gambling.
The same goes for food and drink; typically, casino beverages are cheap or comp’d altogether, and food offerings are often budget-minded. There’s a reason Vegas is the land of the buffet.
If you follow a basic bankroll strategy and control your spending, your dealer tips will come out of your bankroll itself, so you don’t need to make any serious consideration of bringing additional funds for gratuities.
How Much Can You Afford to Lose?
This is the biggest and most important question when it comes to determining a casino bankroll. How much money can you afford to blip immediately out of existence and never see again?
While some lucky few will walk away from a gambling trip with a little extra money in their pocket, casinos are in the business of separating gamblers from their budgets. Over time, even the best-odds game on the floor will beat you.
In the past, I’ve weighed my Vegas budget against the cost of other large-scale vacations. A couple of years ago, I dropped $1,000 on a camping trip with the wife and kid, so maybe that’s a reasonable amount to blow in Vegas?
Then again, that camping trip led to some great core memories for our family, not to mention plenty of photos and keepsakes of our time together. You can’t necessarily say that about blowing a grand at the craps table.
This is an individualized question with a ridiculous range of answers. A person working for minimum wage will likely have a smaller overall bankroll than a salaried employee or celebrity. One man’s mortgage payment is another man’s monthly wine budget.
If you gamble beyond your means and lose money you couldn’t afford to lose, you’ve turned an enjoyable (and potentially profitable) excursion into Sin City into a nightmare of a life-changing bad decision.
Don’t gamble with money you can’t afford to forget about.
Why Are You Gambling?
Are you playing with an advantage, expecting a profit?
Are you tooling around the slot machines just for the heck of it?
Maybe you’re looking to celebrate a major milestone or get out of a mental funk.
A sports betting sharp with a reputation bigger than his ego is gambling for a different purpose than a conventioneer taking a break between the plenary session and the opening remarks. The difference in their bankrolls is the most visible representation of that.
That’s not to say that a casual gambler can’t bring a big bankroll or that every professional gambler brings tens of thousands of dollars with them on every casino trip.
But generally, the answer to this question will help inform your bankroll size.
Do You Want to Play High-Limit Games?
High-limit games are those games in the casino that accept bets much higher than the typical range.
Not everyone who wants to play a high-limit game is a VIP or whale with a huge checking account. Some people like the higher-risk element. Other people play high-limit slots or video poker to chase the larger payouts associated with them.
If you want to play high-limit games, you’re going to need to add a zero to your budget. Think about it this way – a high-limit slot isn’t really high-limit until the per-credit bet hits the $5 mark.
In Vegas, it’s more like $10. At $5 or $10 a spin, you’re expecting pretty steep hourly losses, even though many high-limit slots pay out a little more generously in exchange for those large per-credit bets.
How Long Do You Want to Play?
Some casino trips involve long sessions. Other people don’t gamble nearly as much as you might think when they “hit the casinos.” The amount of time you want to gamble has a big impact on your bankroll size.
It’s also true that the amount of time you play (and the amount that will cost you) varies depending on outside factors like how many other players are at your table, the speed of the dealer, the rules of a particular game, etc.
That’s why the answer to this question should be considered in concert with the answer to the next question.
What Games are You Playing?
The games you play, and the amount of time you play them, have the biggest impact on your bankroll size of any of the factors in this post.
Consider a game like roulette, with its stately pace of about 50 decisions per hour. If you’re betting table minimums (usually $5), you’re only laying out a total of $250 per hour of play. Now compare that to blackjack. If you’re playing at a light table, you could see 200 decisions per hour. At $5 per hand, that’s $1,000 in bets per hour, four times as much as roulette.
Fast games can represent a problem for player bankrolls, though most of them cost less to play per round than the slower table contests like roulette.
An average video poker player can see 600-800 decisions per hour, depending on their play style. You’re probably spending $1.25 per hand, but that’s still an average hourly outlay of $750-$1,000.
I haven’t gotten anywhere near the concept of theoretical return. There’s a big difference between spending $750 an hour playing Jacks or Better video poker with an RTP of 99.54% and spending the same amount on a slot machine with an RTP of 88%.
An easy way to come to your budget would be to figure out how many hours of casino play you want to do, work out your hourly losses based on the games you want to play, do a little simple math, and figure out how much money is reasonable for you to lose per hour.
Let’s say I want to play 10 hours of roulette on my next trip. On an American table, which is what I’ll probably find, I’m expecting an RTP of 94.74%. My hourly losses at $10 per bet are expected to be about $26.30. That means I need to bring $263 to cover my roulette expenses. I’ll probably round up to $300 for the sake of ease.
It’s at this point that I need to consider if blowing $200 on roulette is something I can afford. If not, I can cut the amount of time I want to play or play a lower-cost game. I can also choose not to gamble at all if that’s what makes the most sense.
The best data we have says that a typical Vegas tourist gambles $130 a day over the course of a 4-day trip. This is about in line with what I’ve noticed going on casino trips with friends in the past.
People who aren’t hardcore gamblers aren’t typically all that excited about droppings tons of cash on entertainment devices promising big wins at long odds.
Once you’ve decided why you’re playing, how much you can afford to lose, and a little about what games you plan to play while you’re there, you’ll naturally come to an amount of money that works for you.
So long as you create a budget and stick to it, gambling expenses are like any other form of entertainment.
How Much Money Should I Bring to the Casino?