No one wants to admit they lose money gambling, but we all do. It’s all part of the game. When gambling on a budget, it’s important to decide in advance where to stop losing.
When you’re winning, you don’t need to stop playing if you’re still aware and feeling good. Gambling budgets are only necessary to limit your losses. The reason they say “don’t bet your rent check” is that too many people have done exactly that.
I look at the reasonable loss as what I’m willing to pay for an evening’s entertainment. For comparison, I look at how much it costs to watch a sports game live at the stadium. I can watch the New England Patriots for about $40 a seat. Toss in some drinks and food, and I could cover a sports date with about $150.
A trip to the casino is more expensive. We’re willing to go as deep as $500 per visit. We have friends who don’t think twice about dropping $2000 at a casino.
The most important question is, what are you willing to pay for your entertainment? Another good question to ask yourself is how long do you want to stay there?
How Many Hours Do You Want to Spend in the Casino?
This is the first question I think about when planning a trip to the casino. We might drive to the next state over and visit one of the Native American casinos. Or we might visit Las Vegas for a weekend getaway.
How much time I think I’ll be there correlates to my budget.
If my wife and I make it a Saturday evening date, we’ll plan on getting a hotel room and driving back in the morning. Hence, we increase our budget to cover more time and meals.
I count the time we spend in the restaurant as entertainment time.
Playing in a Local Casino May Make a Difference
A few years back, I lived about a 30-minute drive from a casino. It was a modest size place. There weren’t many table games but a lot of slot machines.
If we wanted to spend an afternoon there, we budgeted about $50 to $100. We could always go back another time. It was more like a dinner date than a big sports date or weekend outing.
With $50, I usually started out on a quarter machine and rolled my money up. That could take a while. I often lost the first $10 to $20 before pulling ahead.
There were days when I would give up after three hours. I think the quality of the time you spend gambling with real money is affected by how far from home you are.
Subtract Meals and Other Expenses Before Calculating Acceptable Losses
When I first started gambling, I just assumed I would keep track of my money. That story ended quickly when I had to drive home hungry because I didn’t have anything for a snack.
If you’re playing $100 a week for fun, then knock about $20 off the top for food and gas. That’s cutting it close, but it should work for most people who live near a casino.
It’s a rare day for me when I lose $80 off the top. I love to play blackjack anyway, and that game takes a while to leech your money from you.
Assume a 4- to 8-Hour Gaming Budget
You know your gaming habits better than anyone else. Adjust this formula as you see fit.
We spend somewhere between four and eight hours in a casino.
If we’re willing to lose $500 a night, that works out to about $80 an hour. That’s slightly more than $1 per minute.
Calculate How Many Bets You Make per Hour
Assume you’ll lose more than you win. Budgeting for wins won’t work because you’re assuming the best-case scenario.
On a slow day, where hardly anyone is playing the tables, you can easily burn through 100 hands of blackjack in an hour. Assuming a slightly positive bias in cards, you’ll win about half those hands.
Playing $10 a hand, your stake should stay about the same. I can lose $100 in an hour when the cards go against me. Most nights, I’m only down $20 to $30 when making $5 bets and about $50 when making $10 bets.
I rarely play craps, but I like to play roulette with three to six people at the table. That’s not too crowded, and I don’t feel like I’m all alone. I expect to get about 45 to 50 spins at a roulette table.
I play a lot of outside bets in roulette to offset some of my riskier inside bets. I’ll risk two table-minimum bets most of the time unless I get lucky. If I stay with the game, I budget about $150. If I’m not getting anywhere after 30 minutes, I move on.
I tried estimating slot games per hour and couldn’t find a number I liked. If I’m playing slots, I’ll divide my bankroll in half and stop playing when I lose half. If I win enough to replace that slots stake, I may not visit the blackjack table at all.
Stretch the Time Out If You’re Losing Faster Than You Anticipated
If you’re willing to lose $150 in the first hour, but you’re down $200 in the first 15 minutes, take a break. When I first started gambling, I thought aggressive bets were the way to go. A friend intervened and saved about a third of my first night’s stake.
Paying attention to the time is important. If you don’t know how much time has passed while playing a game, then budgeting doesn’t help. You may be down $200 because you’re making bad bets or because you played longer than you realized.
Winning is easy. Losing is hard work if you don’t want to go home early.
If I see my wife hunkered down on a slot game ignoring the world, I check her casino bankroll. Either she’s winning and taking the machine for all she can or she’s trying to get back what she lost. If she’s losing faster than we expect, I’ll invite her to take a break with me.
And what goes around comes around. She’s pulled me out off a few bad blackjack tables. She’ll ask if I’m hungry or invite me to go for a walk in the fresh air. That’s one of our signals to take a break.
There’s an unwritten rule that gambling friends don’t share their winnings. I can’t swear I’ve never seen anyone hand money to someone they weren’t married to. It just feels like people only share with their significant partners.
Nothing is more embarrassing than losing all your money while everyone else is having fun. Since you can’t count on anyone to hand you $100, you need to practice good money management.
If you know the bus doesn’t leave for five to six hours, count your blessings when it’s time to eat. That break for dinner might be what saves you from standing around with your hands in your pockets.
Otherwise, budget your bets so your money lasts a while. If that means playing the 25-cent slots, then play the slots. Roll it up.
My parents used to gamble a lot. Mom always hit the cheap slots first no matter how much money she had. Her philosophy was to let the casino fund the bankroll you lose.
Somehow, she made that system work more often than statistics say it should.