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Amount not related to payback %

While much of the analysis of video poker centers around the long-term, this can have the ramifications of not discussing any real world issues, such as how big of a bankroll should you bring with you into the casino.

When we’re discussing payback theories this is all based on the player walking up with essentially an unlimited amount of money and just playing. At the same time, I should be VERY clear. The size of your bankroll ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY DOES NOT affect the payback of the game in the long run.

The payback of a game is based on the long-term expectation of playing the game. “Long-term” refers to a certain number of hands played, and NOT how much time it takes to play them or whether you choose to play 1,000 hands in a single 2-hour session or 10 hands spread out over 100 different points of time.

So, the player who plays 1,000 hands of max-coin nickels and has a bankroll of $250 (enough to play 1,000 hands even if he were to lose every single hand) has no advantage over a player who brings five nickels with him each time he goes to play. At the point in time they have each played 1,000 hands, they have the same likelihood of winning or losing a total amount of money.

Bankroll is really a practical idea. You set out to play in a casino for a few hours. If you figure that you’re going to play max-coin quarters for three hours at 600 hands per hour, you’ll be dropping in about $2,250 in that time.

If you’re playing a full-pay jacks or better, you would in theory expect to drop about $11. This is, of course, over the long run. In a 3-hour session, anything can happen and there should be no expectation that even if you were to lose this $11 that over the three-hour period, it will be a slow descent to this final amount.

You may find that in five minutes you are up $10 and 10 minutes later you might be down $20.

The problem is that if you bring only $20, you’ll be done at this point. One cold streak could wipe you out and you can’t play your way through it trying to get back to a hot streak.

Of course, there is no way of knowing if that hot streak is really ever coming. When it comes to gambling, the future is not based on the past. The future is based on the math. So, once you’ve lost $20, you should expect to lose ANOTHER $11 on the next 1800 hands, on average.

So, based on this, why not simply bring enough money to the casino to guarantee that you can make it through however long of a session you want to play. In this case, bring $2,250 with you. First, this would be impractical for most people.

While, it is extremely unlikely that a max-coin quarter player would really be risking more than $2000 over a 3-hour session, there is also very little need to do so. Using a concept known as risk of ruin, we can use the probabilities of the payouts of hands in video poker to determine a reasonable amount of money to bring with you. By bringing too little, a player can know that there is a certain probability that he will have his bankroll wiped out before he gets to the end of his session.

A second reason why a player may not want to bring such a large bankroll with him is a very psychological one. By having such a large sum so readily available can easily lead a player who is going through a cold streak to take on more risk than he is really ready to take on.

While you might ‘expect’ to lose $11 over a 3-hour session, and you might be willing to bring $100 with you as a reasonable sized bankroll just in case, actually bringing $2,000 might lead you to jump to a $1 machine in an attempt to recover the first $100 you lost. Unfortunately, when you are playing games with house advantages, it just doesn’t work this way.

The new expectation is that you should lose five times as much in a 3-hour session. Also, if the reason that you lost the $100 so quickly is potentially because you have not mastered Expert Strategy yet, then your likelihood of winning the money back at a $1 machine is just too small.

Bankroll concepts are about bringing enough money to the casino to make sure that can survive a reasonable cold streak, while not bringing more money than you should really want to risk.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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