How much money should you bring to a casino? Why, all of it, that’s how much.
All the money you’re willing to lose that is.
Ah, but that’s not all your money, is it? Of course not. Nobody’s fool enough to “Bet it all, sleep in the hall.” There are specific limits to how much you should set aside for anyone’s gambling session. Unfortunately, that amount is different for each one of us.
Why? Because each of us has different incomes, different expenses, and most of all, different gambling interests. If bingo is your game, you can usually get by with less than a hundred bucks per casino visit-and included money for lunch and tips to the cocktail waitresses.
But a single Benjamin won’t be nearly enough if you like the craps table or if the poker room is your destination.
Those are just a few factors that should inform our choice when considering how much money you need at a casino.
Should You Go to the Casino at All?
The first question you should ask yourself is not “How much money should you bring to a casino” but rather “Why should you go to the casino at all?”
Of course, your answer is, “Is this a trick question?”
I know, funny, but it’s a valid question. Casinos have relatively lax dress codes, mainly because they don’t want you bothered with spending money on frivolous things like socks and hats and anything other than the bare (if you’ll excuse the expression) minimum necessary to cover the bathing-suit areas of your particular make and model.
But that doesn’t mean you can show up at the MGM Grand lobby in a natty bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers. Even the sartorial train wrecks among us know that.
So, you’ll need to be dressed public-casual at the bare minimum or business-casual if you plan on including a linen dinner on your visit agenda.
Then there’s the drive, the parking, the fighting for the seat you want in the poker room or the one in front of your lucky slot machine. There are tips for the various hospitality employees like waiters, cocktail waitresses, and even dealers and slot hosts to consider.
It all starts to add up—and you haven’t even played your first game. But don’t panic just yet.
I’m not saying to avoid casinos or gambling. I’m just pointing out that the nearby casinos are but one gambling choice of many. You can always play at one of the many online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms as close and convenient as your laptop or smartphone.
Think of it this way: With parking/valet, travel time, the not insignificant price of gas, dining, and what-have-you, a day or night out at the casino can be a losing experience—even if you “broke even” at the craps table or even showed a modest profit from your live online casino session.
For the moment, remember that much of the above expenditures can be whittled down to simply what you choose to wager—if you stay home and try your hand at one of the top online casinos listed below.
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Going to the Casino
Okay, I get it. You are going to the casino, and the sooner I quit mucking about and answer your question, the sooner you can be on your way, cash in hand. Alrighty then.
To determine the how much money should you bring to a casino to have in hand requires a look at the answers to several pretty obvious questions.
What Is the Purpose of Your Visit?
That’s what the customs officers always ask you when entering a foreign country. And since the casino is about as foreign from our normal habitats as we can get and still be within walking distance of a Wal-Mart, it seems equally useful when considering a trip to the local casino.
If you’re headed for the casino for a few hours of the slots, you will want to take only enough to keep you spinning those reels for your chosen timeframe.
Say you plan to play the penny slots for four hours.
Most “penny” slots require you to wager a minimum of 20 or 30 cents per spin. Most modern slot machines can handle ten spins per minute.
With that in mind, you will have wagered close to $500 during your allotted four hours. And that’s with the minimum wager permitted. Multiply the amount you actually wager on a single spin, then multiply that by 600 times.
That number is the amount you will have wagered in four hours. Win or lose.
Of course, most slot machines have an RTP (Return to Player) of around 90%, which suggests that you’ll only lose about ten percent of your wagers over time. But variance lies in wait for the unwary gambler, and a long losing streak is far more likely than a long winning streak. Better plan on losing double what the RTP percentage predicts you’ll lose.
That means you’ll want at least two hundred bucks in your pocket to play the penny slots for a few hours.
That formula is useful for any game you can play in a casino where your wager remains the same. Take the amount of your normal bet and multiply it by the average number of hands/spins/rolls per hour.
What Kind of Gambler Are You?
But are you a penny slot kind of person? Maybe your game is roulette or craps. Or perhaps you prefer the poker room.
Slots Machines: Have specific RTPs that casinos promote and generally make known to the general public. Just remember that the advertised RTP covers all the slots at that casino, meaning that some have better RTPs—and some have worse. Do your research on the typical RTP for whatever slot you like to play.
Table Games: The most popular are roulette, blackjack, and craps—all of which offer numerous opportunities to wager on various outcomes. For instance, some bets in craps have quite advantageous RTPs, while others are gobsmackingly dangerous to your bankroll.
The Poker Room: The typical low-end game dealt in casino poker rooms is $1/$2 NL Hold’em. Since the recommended buy-in at any table is 100 times the big blind, you’ll want to bring at least $200 to take a seat at that $1/$2 table. For insurance, you’ll almost certainly want to have a backup for a re-buy.
How Often Do You Visit the Casino?
If you visit a casino once a year, perhaps for a special celebration like a birthday or anniversary, naturally, you’ll want to take more with you for gambling. You’ll almost certainly stay at a resort casino for at least a day or two.
So, the answer to the question “How much money should you bring to the casino?” becomes a more complicated matter. You gotta eat, and while drinks are free on the casino floor, nobody in Las Vegas is handing out free steak and lobster.
And if this is a celebration, well, nothing says celebrate like taking in a show or two. Most destination casino towns feature top-level entertainment, from Adele and Lady Gaga to the Blue Man Group and the dozens of Cirque du Soleil productions.
Under those circumstances, how much cash should you bring to Vegas (or Atlantic City, or the Gulf Coast) can be answered with one word: Thousands.
How much money should you bring to the casino? If you’re lucky, you should be playing on the casino’s money within minutes, so twenty bucks ought to do it, right?
Let’s get real. Casino life is just like regular life; only the highs and lows are all compressed into a brief period of time—sort of like a rollercoaster ride, except for your money.
Budget Per Visit
Depending on the length of your visit to the casino (two hours, two days, two weeks, etc.), your bankroll should reflect reality rather than wishful thinking. We all want to win, but even the most modest casino employs hundreds of people and operates a business that spends millions yearly on payroll, property maintenance, and advertising.
They acquire that money—every penny of it—from guests. Gamblers like you and me are what keep the lights on in Las Vegas, in Atlantic City, and even in Deadwood.
That said, your job is to acquire the maximum amount of entertainment and enjoyment, risking the minimum amount of cash possible.
You can do this in one of two ways: Limit the wagers you make to represent the reality of your bankroll better, or plan to spend far less time at the casino.
There are no other options. None that aren’t illegal, anyway.
Budget Over Time
Whether that class you took in high school was called Home Economics or Family & Consumer Sciences, you probably spent a couple of days getting acquainted with personal budgeting. Statistics show that the average American adult spends about $3000 per year on something called “entertainment.”
That said, it’s easy to see that a single visit to a casino could liquidate your entire annual allocation for said “entertainment.”
Are you not entertained?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. In any case, you probably won’t be spending your entire entertainment budget on gambling, so decide what percentage you will be dedicated to gambling.
Now, divide that amount by the number of times you plan to visit a casino in the next year. Once a month? Once a week? Once per quarter?
Simple math tells us that if you spend the “average” amount of $3000 per year on entertainment, you have less than $60 available to budge for a weekly visit to the casino.
Know Your Limits
Everybody has that “first time in Vegas” experience. All the casinos there are magical places, and the unique ambiance of each can be quite alluring. For the newly minted “adult,” the question of “How much money should I bring for my first casino visit” is nearly as important as any you’ve dealt with since puberty.
As difficult or even unnatural as it may seem, be conservative. Don’t take your life savings to Vegas. Don’t even take an entire paycheck to Vegas. If this means you have to leave your ATM card at home and carry two Benjamins in your front pocket, then do so.
You know yourself better than anyone else does, and you know whether you can resist the temptation to throw good money after bad.
Make the tough decisions about your bankroll before you go, not amid a losing streak.
Typically, the younger you are, the less likely you are to lose catastrophically—mainly because you don’t have all that much to lose in the first place.
But when you’re 18, not having the money to pay your rent can be just as alarming as missing a mortgage payment.
Walk of Shame
The phrase “walk of shame” has many applications, but for frequent casino-goers, it means one thing—that trip to the nearest ATM (usually a matter of a few dozen feet) to replenish the necessary.
Of course, it could also mean a walk to the Cashier’s Cage, where you can get cash advances on credit cards and even establish a line of credit if you’re a high-roller.
Casinos are based on cash. You cannot use a credit card to gamble in any casino, and here’s why: You can dispute charges made on your credit card.
In fact, you can ping-pong a contested charge for months, with the vendor claiming they delivered the product or service as promised, and you are countering that that didn’t happen at all, and besides, you already had one.
Casinos aren’t in any position to spend that time debating with you and the credit card company because you maxed out your Mastercard at the roulette table to discover the sad truth about the Martingale system.
Dollars to Doughnuts—Make Each Bet Count
It’s obvious that regular visits to a casino are not conducive to financial freedom. Sure, there’s a multi-million-dollar progressive jackpot winner every year or so. And you could be the next, provided you beat out the other 15 million people trying to win that same jackpot.
Instead of wondering how much money how much cash should you bring to the casino, ask yourself how you can gamble the way you like given the limitations of your bankroll and the available time.
In quite a few cases, you’ll find that the huge variety of games and the lower wagers permissible at the best US online casinos is a perfect solution to a thorny problem.
Once you figure how much money you should bring for your first casino visit, why not learn about the good poker habits that can make you a powerhouse at the casino table.