Casino gambling is supposed to be entertainment. In my opinion, if I’m losing a bunch of money, I’m not entertained. Understanding your average hourly loss rate and knowing how to minimize that rate is a big part of playing as long as you can without going broke.

The less you lose per hour on average the longer you can play, which generally means the more fun you’ll have. This is especially important in games with large top jackpots. The longer you can play the better chance you have at hitting the large amount.

Think of the top jackpot on a video poker machine – probably in the thousands of coins, right? The reason the top prize is so much higher than even the second- or third- best prizes is that you won’t see a card combination that can lead to the top prize (generally a natural royal flush) very often. Theoretically, if you play long enough, you will eventually hit a natural.

How to Determine Your Average Hourly Loss Rate

I know of two good ways to determine your average hourly loss rate. The first way is the most accurate because it uses real outcomes.

This is a four-step process:

  1. Track all of your play.
  2. Add up your wins.
  3. Subtract your losses.
  4. Divide the result by the total amount of time you played.

This gives you a fairly accurate idea of your average hourly losses, but it does take some effort, from tracking to compiling to analyzing.

I know an easier, if less-accurate, method. You can calculate your expected average rate and use that as your own rate, for the sake of simplicity. To do this, you have to know the expected return percentage for the game you’ll be playing as well as how many hands or spins per hour you play.

Once you have these details you can figure out how much you should lose on average per hour. This is a good way to determine a vague budget for an upcoming casino trip.

Example – if you play blackjack for $10 a hand playing according to basic strategy with house rules that give the house an edge of 1%. If you play an average of 100 hands per hour, you will lose an average of $10 per hour.

Here, then, are five things you may not know that can affect your average hourly loss rate.

1. Luck Has Nothing to Do with Your Average Hourly Loss

Some people are obsessed with luck.

You can sit them down and explain that slot machines operate independently of outside influence and show them guts of the machine, and they’ll still talk about their good or bad luck.

Yes, short-term swings in success and failure occur. Calling these swings “luck” isn’t harming anyone, and it’s just as good a word to use as any.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking your average loss per hour at the casino has anything to do with luck in the traditional sense.

When you figure your average loss rate, your calculations include short term fluctuations because they’re based on the return percentage of the game and your play rate. If you don’t have enough data or the right figures, your estimate will be off, which may make you feel really unlucky. But in that instance, pilot error is the culprit, not luck.

2. The Speed of the Game Is Important

The fastest way to reduce your average loss rate per hour at a casino is to reduce the number of hands or spins per hour that you participate in.

The speed of some games is controlled by factors outside your influence – I’m thinking here of blackjack and baccarat, the stately table games that take longer to play. But gamblers can control the pace of a lot of different casino games. You can play video poker or slots and only play the number of hands per hour that you want.

You can also take breaks from the blackjack or baccarat table every hour to reduce the number of hands you play.

Roulette is a relatively slow game that’s gentle on the average hourly loss rate. But it has a higher house edge than many games. If you play, only play on wheels with a single zero. Playing on a wheel with a double zero in addition to the single zero doubles the house edge to over 5% per spin.

3. Every Casino Game Has an Ideal Strategy

Another way to improve your expected loss is play the best possible strategy for every game you play. With good house rules and perfect strategy you can play blackjack with around a half percent house edge. You can find video poker games that also reduce the house edge to a half percent or less with perfect strategy. Not So Ugly Ducks Deuces Wild and 9 / 6 Jacks or Better both offer a low house edge.

Even games with higher house edges have correct strategies you can use to reduce the edge as much as possible. You should only play games where you know and use the best strategy. The lower the house edge the longer your bankroll will last.

4. Player’s Club Benefits Can Erase or Reduce Negative Expectation

Always join the player’s or reward’s club before playing at any casino.

Most casinos don’t tell you exactly how much your play earns in comps. But remember that each free meal, free room, or other benefit reduces the amount you have to spend overall. If it costs $10 to eat at the buffet, and you get it comp’d, it’s the same as losing $10 less at the table.

By reducing the house edge as much as possible and taking advantage of the players club, you give yourself the best chance to reduce or eliminate your negative expectation.

Do you only play occasionally? You can also use casino coupons and promotions to reduce the house edge. You should use them every chance you get – even if you’re a regular player. You’ll notice the change to your average loss rate more if you aren’t a big player.

5. Some Casino Games are Beatable

If you’re willing to do the work, you can reduce the house edge on some casino games to 0 or less. This is true of 3 classic games: blackjack, poker, and sports betting.

Let’s take a closer look at blackjack, since it’s both popular and easy to describe in the context of average hourly loss.

To get an edge at blackjack, you need to learn how to count cards and find the best games. If you find the best games, you can play perfect basic strategy and reduce the house edge to around a half percent. When you become an efficient card counter, you can work with an edge against the house of a half percent or more.

Counting cards isn’t illegal. But the casinos hate it. They can ask you not to play or make the rules so poor that you can’t count.

You don’t need to be able to remember all of the cards that have been played to count cards. You only need to be able to add or subtract 1s and/or 2s from a running count. You also have to estimate easy division problems while you play.

Anyone can learn to count cards if they dedicate the right amount of time and effort. I’ve heard it said that blackjack players can learn to effectively count cards in about ten hours of study.


The first step in reducing your average hourly loss rate is determining what your rate is. Once you know that, you can find ways to reduce your losses and extend your playing time. Once you have reduced your loss rate as far as possible you can look at ways to eliminate the edge completely and even have a chance to play with an edge against the casino.

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