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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Divide and maybe conquer

6 June 2005

Dear Mark,
When on a gambling trip, do you have any suggestions regarding how I should handle my bankroll? Robbie P.

Known as a "wad" or a "roll," a bankroll is the total amount of money that the player has on hand to finance all of his or her wagering activities. Your question describes a traveling bankroll, which is cash specifically set aside to support all gambling activities on your trip.

Your traveling bankroll, Robbie, should always be divided into specific lesser amounts for each day of the trip, and into even smaller amounts called table sitting stakes. This predetermines how much will be risked during any given gambling session. You do this by dividing your bankroll by the number of days you'll be gambling, then divide your daily bankroll into the number of sessions you will be playing each day. This is now your single-session bankroll. You never want to bring your entire bankroll with you to one gambling session. With just your daily, or better yet session, gambling budget in hand, you won't be betting tomorrow's money until tomorrow comes.

Besides properly divvying up your bankroll, you will need to employ sound money management strategies; otherwise you can still end up going home broke, no matter how large a wad you were originally carrying.

One technique that I recommend is that you set a goal of winning between 50 to 100% of a single-session bankroll. If you reach that goal, set aside your original session bankroll plus half your winnings. Now play with the remainder and continue to set aside additional winnings.

You will quickly notice that your modest bankroll cannot weather the bad streaks that will eventually come your way. The casino can, and will, grind away at your wad of cash, because not only is every game set in their favor, their bankroll is enormous compared to yours. So, Robbie, you must always set loss limits. If half of your session bankroll is lost, think about taking a break.

Another strategy is to use a winning progressive method of betting. You do this by setting a predetermined percentage increase for each winning bet. An example of this would be increasing your winning bets by 50% after each win: $5, $5, $7, $10, $15, $22, etc., then continuously flat-betting at the table minimum when losing. Never, ever increase your bet when losing. A double-up-to-catch-up strategy, the Martingale System, is probably — no, check that — IS THE WORST money management system you can use.

Finally, Robbie, if you do turn your bankroll into chips, take a moment and carefully think about the exchange. You must always treat chips as hard-earned cash. The casino's goal is to create a fantasy-land experience for its patrons. One wily way is to devalue your money by having you bet chips instead of legal tender. The gambling industry has deceptive nicknames for these chips. A $5 chip is a "nickel," a $25 chip a "quarter." Betting with your own greenbacks is your best self-defensive scheme for keeping in mind their genuine value.

Gambling quote of the week: "Casinos are delightful hosts. They ply their customers — we players — with free booze, great entertainment, delicious food, and almost every form of sensual pleasure known to man in order to get you to or keep you at their tables. They do this because they plan to beat you. More important, they almost always do."
— Bill Jones

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.