Money management is a fancy term for planning ahead. How you plan isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you do.

This page covers basic pointers for preparing your finances before you gamble.

Are You Playing a Winning or Losing Game?

The main reason I like to develop a money management plan for my casino trips is so I can make sure I have as much fun as possible.

The main thing you need to make sure you do is to create a system that helps you avoid running out of money before you’re ready to quit playing.

How do you do that?

I use a two-step process.

The first thing you need to consider is what kind of games you’re going to be playing.
Money management for slots is vastly different from managing a sports betting bankroll. Beatable games – poker, blackjack, sports betting, and some video poker games – require a totally different approach from time spent playing keno or baccarat.

Next, consider the variance of the game you’re playing. Variance refers to the volatility of the game – the fluctuations in winning and losing. Your bankroll should be sturdy enough to withstand these natural fluctuations.

This makes money management for your trip pretty easy and straight forward. Just take your bankroll, or take enough to handle anything but the largest down swing, and make sure you have access to the rest.

So How Much Money Should I Bring to Vegas?

The answer depends on a number of unknown variables.

What games are you going to play?

What is their average return?

How skilled are you at that game?

How many hours will you be playing?

How much money are you comfortable losing?

The answer to all these questions will affect the actual size of your bankroll.

In order to show you the process, here’s how I worked out the bankroll and bet size I wanted to use for my last trip to Vegas.

A Case Study in Money Management

I knew I was going to play mostly 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker. I figured I’d play for about six hours a day, and my trip would last four days. Since I follow a strategy card and I’m not really in any hurry, I planned on seeing about 300 hands per hour. Since I play on a quarter machine and I always bet maximum, each spin costs me $1.25. By following optimal strategy to the letter, I expect a return of about 99.5%.

Here’s where the math comes in – $1.25 per hand times 300 hands per hour means I expected to bet about $375 an hour. At six hours per day for four days, I’d be pushing about $9,000 total through the machines.

Don’t make the common mistake many players make and simply multiply the total wagers ($9,000) times the expected return (99.5%) to get the expected losses.

While I expected losses of $45 over the long term, I know that I’ll no doubt lose more than my mathematically-predicted losses.

So what do I do?

I budget for ten times my expected losses. That means I went to Vegas prepared to lose about $500, or a daily loss limit of $125. This way I never run out of money for the trip. I even have some extra cash set aside if I find a new game I want to try.

If you’re playing a game with a larger expected loss, like slots, you should always use daily loss limits. You’ll need a larger bankroll, but the loss limits will help you keep your trip bankroll under control.

How to Reduce Your Expected Loss per Hour

Here are the two easiest ways to reduce your expected loss per hour:

  1. Place fewer bets per hour
  2. Play better

If you play slots or video poker, start taking more time between spins. No one is rushing you, and you’re playing a negative expectation game. The fewer spins you take the less money, on average, you will lose.

You can also play for less money per spin. If I wanted to risk even less in the Jacks or Better example, I could find a nickel machine instead of a quarter machine.

It’s important to play whatever your choice of games is at the highest level of skill possible. There isn’t much strategy involved with slot machines, but there is proper strategy for almost every other game found in the casino.


Using a money management strategy for your casino trips is a tool to help you have as much fun as possible. By understanding how much you are expected to lose on average and making sure you have enough to handle the ups and downs you have the best chance to have a good time.

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