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When Should You Walk Away from a Gambling Game?

By Randy Ray in Casino
| December 19, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Falling Cards Gambler

One of the toughest things about gambling has nothing to do with in game strategy. Instead, many players want to know when they should quit a gambling session.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer such as quitting after X number of hours, because you need to consider different factors when deciding your optimal quitting time.

I’m going to discuss these aspects below along with how you can determine the best time to walk away from a gambling game.

When You Reach Your Stop Loss Limit

A common piece of bankroll management advice is to set a stop loss limit. This is the point when you quit a gambling session because your losses have reached a predetermined amount.

The purpose of doing so is to prevent yourself from the spending too much in a single gambling session. After all, who wants to blow their entire bankroll on a 12-hour gambling spree that’s full of low points?

How you determine your stop loss limit will depend upon personal preferences and the size of your bankroll.

Regarding the latter, your stop loss percentage should be smaller because you have more to lose. You can set a higher stop loss limit with a smaller bankroll because it’s easier to replace your funds.

My personal limit is 15% of my bankroll. This means that with a $5,000 bankroll, I quit playing as soon as my losses reach $750.

With a smaller bankroll like $200, I’d increase my stop loss limit to 50%. This means I’d stop playing after losing $100.

The thing I love about a stop loss limit is that it’s based on what you’ve decided before a session. Going further, you’re thinking with a clear head when deciding how much money you’re comfortable losing.

The downside to a stop loss limit is that it’s not good for skill-based games that offer positive expected value (+EV).

For example, let’s say that you’re playing poker with several unskilled players. But luck isn’t going in your favor at the moment and you’re losing money.

Should you really stick to a stop loss limit when you’re getting +EV? No, which is why you need to be more liberal with these limits when dealing with a skill-based game.

When You Reach Your Stop Win Limit

You can also base your stopping point on how much money you win during a session.

Stop win limits are helpful because you can bank some of your profits. Furthermore, this prevents you from asking the proverbial, “Why didn’t I quit when I was ahead?”

This is why I like to set my stop win limits lower than stop loss because it’s great to end on a high note.

My personal stop win limit is 10% of my bankroll. With my $10,000 bankroll, this means that I quit a session after winning $1,000 in profits.

The best thing about a stop win limit is that you’ll actually win money on occasions. The downside is that you can prevent yourself from capitalizing on a hot streak or +EV situation.

Earlier I described the scenario where a stop loss limit can hurt you in a skill-based game. The same is true with a stop win limit, because you might quit when you’re destined for more profits.

Let’s look an example using card counting:

  • You’re a card counter with a stop win limit of $10,000.
  • You’ve reached $10k in winnings.
  • But the dealer and pit boss aren’t sweating you.
  • You decide that this game is worth staying in longer.

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about these situations in negative expectation casino games, because you’re facing the same odds with every wager. That said, you can quit whenever because you’re not dealing with a +EV situation.

When You’re Chasing Losses

The absolute best time to walk away from a gambling game is when you’re chasing losses. This refers to the act of making larger bets or simply playing longer than you’d like to win back previous losses.

The obvious reason why chasing losses is terrible is because you’re taking more risks when you’ve already had a bad session. The end result is that you can end up losing your entire bankroll.

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done to avoid chasing losses. It’s one thing to say that you’re not going to chase losses, but it’s another to do it when you’re in an emotional state.

I find that knowing the house edge and theoretical losses is the best way to keep yourself from this bad gambling habit. Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing European roulette.
  • The house edge is 2.70%.
  • This means that you’ll theoretically lose $2.70 for every $100 wagered.

Simply knowing the math on a casino game helps you realize that you’re dealing with a negative expectation game. And the odds are against you winning back losses by betting more.

The only exception to this is when you’re using a negative progression betting system. A negative progression strategy involves betting more to win back losses.

I’m not saying that this is a great thing. In fact, the Martingale system calls on you to double bets after every loss.

But there are some negative progression strategies that are milder and can add more fun to the game. Oscar’s Grind is one example because you only increase your bet by one unit following a losing streak.

Here’s how Oscar’s Grind works:

  • You bet 1 unit and lose – Bet stays the same (bankroll at -1)
  • You bet 1 unit and lose – Bet stays the same (bankroll at -2)
  • You bet 1 unit and lose – Bet stays the same (bankroll at -3)
  • You bet 1 unit and lose – Bet stays the same (bankroll at -4)
  • You bet 1 unit and win – Next bet becomes 2 units (bankroll at -3)
  • You bet 2 units and win – Bet stays the same (bankroll at -1)
  • You bet 2 units and win – Bankroll at +1.
  • Start the system over again.

You should still be careful even with conservative betting systems like Oscar’s Grind because they won’t overcome the house edge. And you should never blindly chase losses just because you’ve had a bad session.

When You’re Making Poor Decisions in a Skill-Based Game

Skill-based casino games are fun because they give you some control over your odds of winning. It’s also fun to use stimulating strategy in an attempt to win money from the casino.

But you need to be careful of times when you’re not in the right mindset to play these games. Here are examples of some areas that can affect your ability to win in skill-based casino games:

  • You’re tired.
  • You’re angry about something that happened prior to the casino.
  • You’re suffering a losing streak and can’t seem to break it.
  • Another player is being annoying.
  • The dealer is unfriendly.
  • You made a bad play and are dwelling on it.

Experienced players have a better chance at making the right decisions when they’re not in the right frame of mind. Nevertheless, anybody can be affected by one or more of the situations described above.

You especially don’t want to play when you’re angry or frustrated with the results of a gambling game. This leads to making incorrect strategy decisions and chasing losses.

Poker players call this emotional state “tilt.” A poker player who’s tilting will make raises, bets, and calls that they wouldn’t otherwise with a clear head.

Obviously, you don’t want to play a casino game when you’re undergoing tilt. But how do you prevent this?

Famed poker pro Daniel Negreanu advises that you take 3-5 deep breaths to clear your head. When doing this, focus on your breathing so that it takes your mind away from whatever is frustrating you.

The best thing to do is to walk away from the game in general and come back when you’re in a better mood. Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re tilting.

Another tip involves meditating before a gambling session so that you come into the matter focused.

I personally resisted the idea of meditating before gambling because I thought that it’s reserved for monks and hippies. But the truth is that anybody can benefit from a few moments of meditation.

All you need to do is focus on your breathing and where you’re sitting in the moment. Any time that your mind starts to wander, you gently pull it back to the present so you’re not worried about other things.

In summary, the best thing to do when you’re making bad choices in a skill-based game is to quit. But you can also try taking 3 5 deep breaths and/or pre-gambling meditation.

When You’ve Reached a Personal Time Limit

One more way that you can judge when it’s time to quit a gambling game is upon reaching a specific time limit.

That exact time will depend upon a few factors, including the game, how long you can continue making good decisions, and your preferences.

Beginning with the game, a slots player doesn’t really need to think much. All they need to do is decide how much to wager and select the spin button.

A poker player, on the other hand, must put more thought into the game in order to make wise decisions. If you’ve played too long, then you’re eventually going to start losing concentration and making sub optimal choices.

This leads me to the next point in that the time limit should be based on how long you can reasonably use good strategy.

I know basic blackjack strategy really well. But force me to play for six straight hours, and I’m going to start making a few mistakes.

You can learn how long you’re able to hold concentration simply by playing casino games and tracking the time. You then need to ask yourself how long it takes before you’re no longer making the best play on every single turn.

As for personal preferences, this refers to how long you’re entertained by casino gambling.

I’ve found myself playing a game and running through the motions because I was bored. At this point, I know that it’s time to walk away because I’m no longer having fun.

Of course, we can all fall into a trance when playing casino games. And this is another area where it pays to make mental notes of your experiences and determine your optimal time limit.

Conclusion

As I’ve covered, there’s no perfect answer for when you should quit a gambling game. But the good news is that you can use one or more of the ideas described above to decide your stopping point.

My personal favorite is to quit whenever I hit a stop win or stop loss limit. But there are situations where this isn’t the best method, including when you’re in a +EV situation with skill-based casino games.

Speaking of which, you can also decide to quit when you’re making poor decisions. Obviously, you don’t want to surrender more money to the house, which makes this a perfect time to quit.

Simply knowing the odds and your chances of winning will also make it easier to quit when necessary. You can then come into the next session with a fresh mindset.

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  1. Danson December 4, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Am planning to quit gambling because it as really rendered me bankrupt

  2. danson December 4, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Thanks,am a victim of gambling and am so much stressed

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