My first trip to Las Vegas was just over a year ago, and it was not as exciting as I had hoped for. In fact, it was a pretty lame weekend. By the time we left, I was bummed out and wishing that I
had saved my money and stayed at home. Here’s what happened.
Some of my friends and I had been planning a trip for a long weekend. We had our hotel reservation, tickets to a show that we wanted to see, and we learned a ton about how to gamble in Vegas.
I wanted to be responsible with my money, so I gave myself a bankroll of $1,000 and promised myself that I would not risk more than that.
After some sight-seeing, we headed to the casino for our first gambling session. I played some slots and a few hands of blackjack. My pile of chips was getting smaller by the end of the game, but
I was having fun, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Then we headed back to our hotel rooms to get changed for our dinner buffet. We gorged ourselves on delicious steaks, seafood, side dishes, and desserts, and we enjoyed the bottomless beverage
Afterwards, we went back to the casino, where the chips were flowing a little bit more freely than they had before we started drinking. This time, I tried my hand at craps, and I loved the pack
mentality of the game. The more people cheered me on, the more I took significant risks.
When I woke up the next morning, I only had $200 left of my entire bankroll. Realizing how quickly I had lost almost all of my money made my hangover feel ten times worse.
After we spent the morning recovering, we headed back to the casino.
Knowing that I only had a little bit of money left, I should have chosen my games wisely. I should have stuck with the game I know best: blackjack. But instead of being intelligent, I decided
that I wanted to experience every game that I could before I ran out of money.
I tried roulette, and when I started losing at that, I headed over to the mini-baccarat table, and after that, I went to the poker room.
Within a couple of hours, my bankroll was down to less than $25, so I finished it off on some penny slots, hoping desperately for a win that would let me play again. I didn’t get the jackpot, so
I headed back to the hotel room to wait for my buddies who were still playing.
I spent the majority of the next three days sitting at the pool because I had nothing better to do, while my friends were still gambling. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with my first
trip to Vegas, and I learned my lesson.
So, a year later, my friends and I decided to make another trip to Vegas. I wanted to give the city another chance, but this time, I was not going to be stuck at the pool.
Instead of researching the games I wanted to play, I spent a lot of time studying bankroll management in preparation for my second trip.
I got home from that trip last week, and I still had some of my bankroll left over that I brought back with me. Below are the five lessons I learned that helped me manage my money for the
entirety of my long weekend.
Lesson #1: Divide Your Bankroll
Before my first trip, I knew that I had to choose an amount of money that I was comfortable losing. That money was my $1,000 bankroll. I could have stopped by the casino ATM and kept playing all
weekend, but I knew that I had set aside that original thousand for a reason.
Giving myself the limit of only gambling with that initial $1,000 was a good start, but it turns out I needed to do a little more planning beyond that.
The best way to make sure that you have enough money to play for your whole trip, whether you plan on staying for a weekend or a few weeks, is to divide your bankroll.
If you have $1,000 set aside for gambling, divide that money into a smaller amount for each day that you will be there. In my case, we were in Vegas for five days, so my bankroll for each day
should have been $200.
Another way to divide your bankroll is to separate it based on how many gambling sessions you plan on having, instead of days.
For example, if you plan on being in Las Vegas for three days, but you know that you will probably gamble twice a day, divide your bankroll by six instead of three. When you distribute your
bankroll this way, you have an amount set aside for each gambling session.
Even if you lose horribly, you’ll STILL have money for the next game or the next day.
When I went back for my second trip to Vegas, I was bound and determined to not run out of gambling money. This time, I had $1,000 to gamble and only two days of gambling to plan on.
I knew that we would probably play twice each day, so I split my $1,000 into four sessions of $250 each.
At first, $250 didn’t seem like much. I knew that I had lost way more than that in one sitting during my first trip, so I was a little worried that I would end up losing it all within twenty
minutes. But by the end of the trip, I was glad that I had set those limits.
I learned how to use other strategies to draw out my $250 for each session, and every time I ended a game with leftover money, I spread that money to the rest of the trip.
So, my $250 became $300 because I had saved an extra $50 from the first day. I had to be intentional not to lose all of my money right away, but having my bankroll divided allowed me to play
every day, even when I was losing.
This is the most important lesson you can learn to manage your bankroll, in my opinion.
If you are planning a trip, this will guarantee that you have enough money to play throughout the vacation instead of just the first day. If you are a regular gambler, this will ensure that you
can play throughout the week instead of only on payday.
Lesson #2: Set Betting Limits
I knew that my $250 wouldn’t go far if I didn’t plan carefully, so I also gave myself betting limits. There are several ways to use betting limits, so you can choose the combination that works
best for you.
Personally, I used win and loss limits and limited my bets as a percentage, but you can also decide to define what types of odds you will wager at.
Win and loss limits go together, but if you choose to, you could only use one or the other. A loss limit is merely deciding that you will stop playing after you have lost a certain amount, while
a win limit is deciding to stop playing after you have won a certain amount. For most people, their loss limit is the same as their total bankroll for that session.
If you planned your bankroll to be the amount that you are comfortable losing, it makes sense to stop playing after you have lost that amount.
However, I feel better if I come home with at least some of the money I had planned on playing, so I set my loss limit to be a little lower than my entire bankroll.
If I expect to have $250 for each time I gamble, when I get to a point where I have lost $200, I start thinking about cutting my losses and wrapping up. I usually allow myself one more hand, but
I have to have the self-control to stick to that limit.
It seems counter-intuitive to give yourself a win limit. If you are winning, why wouldn’t you want to keep earning more? The simple answer is because you are going to lose eventually.
The more that you win, the more significant risks you take, which means that you can lose all of your winnings and your original bankroll before you even realize it.
Instead, give yourself a win limit and divide your cash between your next few gambling amounts. That way, you can use a clear head to pursue your luck, as opposed to getting caught up in the
Another way to limit your bets is to use a percentage of your bankroll for each wager. The lower the percentage, the longer your chips will last, so I only bet 10% of my bankroll on any
Since my bankroll was $250, I could bet up to $25 on a single bet.
Depending on which game you are playing, you might be able to place multiple bets on one round. In that case, I usually try to make several smaller wagers so that the overall amount for the round
is about 10%.
For example, when I play baccarat, I usually only place one bet, so I use $25 for that stake. But when I play craps, I typically play several different bets, so I try to make each of those bets
$5, and I don’t make more than five $5 wagers at a time.
There is one type of betting limit that I didn’t try during this last trip to Las Vegas, which was only allowing myself to bet on even-money odds.
The idea with this one is that the reason that casinos only pay even money on these bets is that they typically are the ones most likely to be won. They pay the higher amounts on the options that
are harder to win.
So, by playing only even-money odds, you are giving yourself the best chance of having several small wins, even though you won’t get a massive payout on a single bet. I see the value of this kind
of betting limit, but it depends a lot on the particular game that you are playing.
The only reason that I didn’t use this strategy myself was that I didn’t do enough research to feel confident in how I used this strategy for each game.
Lesson #3: Set Time Limits
This is a pretty self-explanatory concept, but it can make a big difference in how long your bankroll lasts. Give yourself a time limit so that you stop playing after a couple of hours, no matter
if you are winning or losing.
The benefit of this is that if you are winning or breaking even when you reach your time limit, you can roll that extra money into the next few gaming sessions.
I think this is especially a good idea if you are playing in person because casinos are designed to be over-stimulating. All of the lights, sounds, and cocktails are there to convince you to keep
playing so that the casino makes money.
Getting out of that atmosphere for a few hours in between each game helps you to clear your head and make smarter choices.
My friends learned how vital setting time limits was on our first trip to Vegas. Once I had lost all of my money, they would say that they were going to play for an hour before they would come
hang out with me at the pool.
Usually two and a half hours later, they would finally drag themselves away for long enough to send me a text. After every extended gambling session, one more of them would have spent all of
their money, so they would be joining me at the pool while everyone else played.
We learned that it is easy to say that you are only going to play for an hour, but it is a LOT harder to stick to that.
This time around, we decided to give ourselves three-hour time limits because we thought that was a little more realistic. But we also learned to make reservations or appointments so that we had
to leave at the end of that time limit.
Give yourself a time limit and stick to it. If you lack the self-control to leave when the time is up, give yourself extra motivation by planning another activity that has to be done at a
Don’t forget that you also need time to sleep, especially if you want to gamble the next day.
Lesson #4: Play and Drink Slowly
It’s pretty obvious that your money will last longer if you take longer to finish a round of the game. However, don’t sacrifice your etiquette to play slowly.
Be respectful of other players and don’t make them wait for extended amounts of time so that you can drag out your time.
One way to avoid annoying the other players while still taking your time is to simply play games by yourself. Slots, bingo, and certain types of poker allow you to play by yourself or only with
the dealer, so you can take as much time as you want on each turn.
Casinos want you playing as many hands as possible because that is how they make their money. One of the ways that they keep you playing is by offering free cocktails.
They make it easy for you by making sure you have no reason to get up and leave the table.
One of the reasons that all of those drinks are free is that casinos know that the alcohol clouds your judgment.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol makes it way too easy to get caught up in the moment and lose your judgment.
Your inhibitions are lowered, so you tend to bet more substantial amounts and bet faster than you would normally. The alcohol also makes it difficult for you to think through your strategy.
There is nothing wrong with drinking while you gamble, but I highly recommend drinking slowly. Don’t try to relive your college days just because the drinks are free. Enjoy your libation, and sip
it to draw out the pleasure.
If you want the bottomless beverage package at your buffet dinner, order it on a night when you are not going to gamble afterward.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I made during that first trip to Vegas. Having several drinks at dinner and a few more at the casino made it way too easy not to care about how much I was
I calculated things the next day, and I realized that I had lost $700 of my original $1,000 during that one gambling session alone. I learned from my mistake and chose not to drink before
gambling during my second trip, and I was much happier with that decision.
Lesson #5: Play the Right Games
The last lesson that I learned was to play the right games and to make the right bets on those games. There are no wrong games to play in a casino, but some games have a much higher house edge
Blackjack, poker, baccarat, and craps have some of the lowest house edges in the casino, while American roulette, slot machines, Caribbean stud poker, and keno all have some of the highest house
However, it is not as simple as “play this game, not that one.” The way that you play each of those games matters. I highly recommend reading our casino game guides to learn as much strategy as you can about the game you want to play most often.
It is also important to understand that each individual bet has its own house edge.
For example, craps is a game that has a low house edge, as long as you are only betting on the don’t pass line or the odds bet. You may be tempted to place some props bets while you are playing
craps, because they have much higher payouts, but they also have higher risks.
In general, the higher the payout, the riskier the bet will be. There is nothing wrong with taking some risks every once in a while, but they will not make your bankroll last longer.
A trip to Vegas, or any casino, can be ruined very quickly when you run out of money. Don’t make the same mistakes that I made.
Manage your bankroll effectively by dividing it, giving yourself limits, and using effective
strategies. If you do that, you will be able to spend more time gambling and less time bored at the pool.
Even though this post focuses on my experiences with my trips to Vegas, the lessons are applicable no matter where or how often you play. The same strategies can even be used when you play
In fact, if you are gambling on a regular basis, it is even MORE critical for you to manage your bankroll than for those of us who play occasionally.
The bottom line is that most people who gamble are primarily just looking to have some fun. The longer you can make your bankroll last, the more fun you will have. And that can only be a good