Play within your bankroll

Mar 26, 2007 7:32 AM

Some of you may have noticed that I don’t spend a lot of time discussing bankroll issues in my column. When it comes to bankroll, there are not a lot of issues. It comes down to how big of a bankroll should you start with and when should you stop.

The first has some significant mathematical considerations, and the second is really more personal choice than anything else. You want to make sure that you start with a bankroll large enough to ride out any cold spell, so that you have a reasonable opportunity to get to a hot streak. Once you’re out of money, you’re done; there is no coming back from it (assuming you’re not willing to whip out your ATM card).

If you show up to play with $20 and expect to play max-coin $1 machine, the likelihood of going bust is pretty high, and you may very well do it in four hands.

So, you need to show up with enough money. Once again, there are a lot of formulas out there to express the likelihood of running out of money (risk of ruin) in a specified amount of time (assuming a certain number of hands per hour), but each person has their own risk tolerance.

A general guide would be to make sure you have enough money to cover about 80 wagers. More volatile games like Double Double Bonus, may take a bit larger bankroll.

On the other side of things is when to stop. This is really a personal choice. I think it is a good idea to set a goal for the evening, and if you hit the goal, you either stop or take a long breather.

In reality, most people set a time/bankroll goal. You’d like to play for 2-3 hours and/or target a win of X dollars. If you win X dollars in the first five minutes, you’re not likely ready to go home.

In these cases, lower your denomination to the lowest possible that won’t leave you bored — after all, you’ve come for some entertainment value. If you have enough discipline, it’s okay to just walk away early as well.

At the same time, don’t become a slave to your goal either. Let’s say you’re playing full-pay jacks or better max-coin dollars. You start with $400 and set a goal of winning $200. You’ve had a good run and you’re up $160, when you’re dealt the following:

2§ J§ Q§ K§ A§

You’ve been dealt a flush that is also a 4-card royal. There are some that would suggest that because keeping the flush allows you to achieve your goal of a $200 win, that you should just keep it. I could not disagree more.

The Flush has an EV of 9, while the 4-card royal has an EV of roughly TWICE that. If you want to stay true to your bankroll philosophies, then hold the 4-card royal and stop playing whether you hit the royal or not. You’ll still go home up at least $150. You might still wind up with a flush and go home up $200, or hit a straight and go home up only $185. You WILL still have a chance to go home up more than $4000, all while still playing the proper expert strategy.

For those that might be having a tough time agreeing with this, think of it another way. You hold on to the flush and cash out $200 in profits. On your way out of the casino, you can buy a scratch off ticket for $45. You have a 1/47 chance of winning nearly 90 TIMES your wager. You have a 7 in 47 chance of getting your $45 back. You have a 7 in 47 chance of winning back $30 of your original 45. In total, the payback is roughly 200%.

Will you buy one of these tickets? If the answer is no, you’re probably someone who will take the safe route and keep the flush. If the answer is yes, then you recognize the value of not only expert strategy, but of playing a good bet when you see one. This really is the essence of gambling.