How to Protect a Roulette Bankroll

You might know the game of roulette inside and out but this knowledge means nothing if you are clueless about managing and protecting your roulette bankroll. Proper bankroll management is one of the most important traits of an astute roulette player. Its absence will almost certainly result in the wheel eating up your entire gambling budget.

Quitting the roulette table as a loser often is not a matter of chance but of personal choice. Many roulette players approach the game without any money management plan in mind, bet sporadically all over the layout, resort to steep (and useless) betting progressions, and ultimately lose their shirts to the house.

If you are looking to prevent this, we suggest you take some time to familiarize yourself with what roulette bankroll management entails. A good way to start would be by reading our article on the subject.

Can Bankroll Management Help You Beat Roulette?

1True odds

Let us first remind you that roulette, like the vast majority of casino games, offers you a negative expectation. There is a saying which states that gamblers rely on luck while gambling businesses rely on math because math is the master of luck.

There is a good deal of truth to this statement. All casino games are structured in such a way so as to return less money than players have gambled over the long term. To use roulette as an example, winning straight up bets pay at short odds of 35 to 1 despite the fact the mathematical ratio of losing to winning outcomes is higher at 36 to 1 (for single-zero wheels) or 37 to 1 (for double-zero wheels).

2Negative expected value

The same applies to all available bets in roulette – you are always paid at poorer odds than probability actually dictates. This practice enables the house to maintain an edge over players at all times, ultimately meeting its expected profit margin in the long term.

From expectation perspective, each bet at the roulette table gives you negative expected value of 2.70% (or 5.26% in American roulette), so that you inevitably end up losing nearly -$0.03 out of every dollar you sacrifice in the long run.

3Can Bankroll Management Actually Help?

Bankroll management cannot help you overturn the house edge and arrive at a positive expectation in a random game of chance like roulette unless you find a way to predict the results through exploiting wheel biases (a rarity in this day and age).

4The Purpose of Bankroll Management

So what is the point of bankroll management if it cannot help you overcome the house edge and beat the wheel over time? The thing about casino games is that they can yield decent profits in the short term. However, the more trials you go through, the closer you get to your negative expected value.

This is where money management comes in. Roulette players should manage their bankrolls in such a manner so that the house advantage is not grinding into as many decisions. The amounts you wager at any given time should be proportionate to your roulette budget. It follows there are two main ideas behind bankroll management, namely:

  • To reduce the damage the house edge does through exposing less money at risk over time.
  • To protect your bankroll and allow you to stretch your roulette budget over the long run.

Getting Started with Your Roulette Bankroll

The wisest way to approach roulette money management is to set up a separate budget reserved exclusively for gambling at roulette. A player could never feel at ease at the table while gambling with what they call “scared money”, i.e. funds that they need for everything else other than playing like rent, mortgage or money for their children’s college fund.

So the best way to get started is to open a separate account for gambling and grow it until you arrive at an amount you can confidently play with. How big should a roulette bankroll be? This is no easy question to answer but the rule of thumb is the bigger, the better. You can set aside a small amount to add to your bankroll each week or month.

Total vs. Session Roulette Bankroll
How Much is Enough – Profit Target
When to End a Session
Understanding Variance in Roulette

Total vs. Session Roulette Bankroll

It is important to understand that you need a larger bankroll if you want to have some longevity at the roulette tables. The casino has a substantial bank to play with against you and can easily take you down if you approach the table with say $20 or $50 in your pocket. This would be as dangerous and futile as warding off a rhinoceros with a fly swatter. It is recommended to grow your bankroll for as long as it takes you to arrive at a decent amount.

Your overall roulette bankroll should be divided into smaller portions per session. A session bankroll is the amount you take for a single sit-down at a given roulette table. This amount is typically based on the stakes you plan to play and the table limits.

Many experts suggest that players should have at least 40 times their biggest bet per session. Others recommend that your bet per session should never exceed 5% of your overall session bankroll.

So suppose you are a flat bettor looking to wager $5 on the even-money propositions per spin. In this case, you need at least $200 per session. If you plan on five sessions during your gambling trip, you should take $1,000 with you. This way, you meet both the 5% and the 40x criteria for your session bankroll.

Some people suggest you should size your roulette bets based on the so-called Kelly Criterion. This method aims at balancing risk and profit. Kelly betting works when one is playing at an advantage and applies to certain forms of gambling such as card counting in blackjack and positive EV video poker.

We recommend you to refrain from applying this approach in roulette, though. Roulette players inevitably face negative EV unless they manage to find a biased wheel, which is a mean feat these days, or use some sort of roulette computer that would enable them to predict with accuracy the spin results. The latter practice is illegal in many jurisdictions so we strongly advise against it.

How Much is Enough – Profit Target

Greed ultimately leads to the demise of undisciplined roulette players who would abuse their luck during a good streak until they eventually lose their entire bankrolls to the house. Remember you are playing a game with a negative expected value so the longer you stay at the table, the more likely the odds are to turn against you.

An astute roulette player is one who enters the casino with a large enough bankroll but is willing to accept smaller returns. We suggest you do the same and determine a profit target for each roulette session in advance.

This target is percentage-based, so the exact amount again depends on your session bankroll. Experts recommend that the win target should range between 15% and 30% of the cash you have taken with you for the session. Of course, the percentage ultimately depends on you but do not set your target too high. Otherwise, you risk turning a winning session into a losing one.

When to End a Session

Knowing when to quit is essential for any roulette player, and gamblers in general. It makes no sense for you to persist until the game completely wipes your session bankroll out. You can prevent this from happening by determining a loss limit beforehand. An individual roulette session ends for you when you reach this limit.

Similarly to the profit target, your loss limit is a percentage of your overall session bankroll. Loss limits are again individual for each player but the recommended percentages for roulette generally range between 20% and 50% of the session bankroll.

Some players argue against using a loss limit or a “stop loss” as it is also called. According to them, this approach is useless in random games like roulette where outcomes are determined by pure chance. Roulette players are fighting an uphill battle that ultimately costs them money because of the house edge.

Each roulette session is interconnected with the last and the next session. Thus, ending one session with a given stop loss makes no difference to one’s overall chances in the long turn. From a mathematical perspective, all your sessions together make for a single long session, they say.

Some opponents of the loss limits draw comparisons with a relay race where only the first top-three finishers win. They argue that using a stop loss is similar to a race contestant who decides to stop running when they reach fourth place. This contestant would never win the race in this case. However, they potentially could have won if they had continued running.

Similarly, a roulette player could have scored a huge win on the very next spin if their stop loss had not prevented them from doing so. Stop losses are for losers, not for winners, their opponents would argue.

While this line of reasoning makes sense to some extent, we would like to remind you no player can emerge a “winner” at a fully random game of roulette (i.e. a game without bias where outcomes are unpredictable) in the long term.

We still advocate the use of stop losses, especially if one plays rarely and for entertainment purposes. Playing until you lose everything down to your last cent makes no sense to us and is certainly not something that “winners” do. If anything, setting one such limit saves you from tilts and the compulsion of chasing your losses.

Understanding Variance in Roulette

Streaks are inherent to chance games, so it is not unheard of for a roulette player to experience long strings of wins or losses. It is important to understand that such streaks are due to the game’s variance, which is something no gambler can escape.

The house extracts the same long-term profit margin from both inside and outside bets, which inevitably evens out to 2.70% or 5.26% over time. Inside and outside bettors both have winning and losing streaks in the short term, but the patterns and variance for each category of bets are different.

Inside bettors are more likely to experience high variance, especially if they bet straight up on single numbers because the odds of any inside number occurring are poorer at 1 to 36 or 37 to 1.

It makes sense for such players to experience longer losing streaks because they cover insignificant sectors of the wheel with their wagers (between one and six numbers at a time). Of course, the opposite where your number hits twice in the very beginning of your betting session is also possible.

Outside bettors, on the other hand, are more likely to see shorter winning/losing streaks and less variance, because their bets comprise considerable portions of the wheel. For example, an outside bettor can cover up to 30 out of 37 numbers with two chips only, one on the first dozen and another one on the high numbers (19-36).

Betting on the inside numbers is not a good idea when one is on a tight budget because variance might eventually wipe out one’s small bankroll. In other words, the types of bets you place should be based on the size of the bankroll you play with.

Minimizing Bankroll Damage with Casino Comps

Comp points

How much value could you gain from comps?

Many players who are regulars on the floor try to preserve their bankrolls for a longer time by taking advantage of comp points. To give full comp points, many casinos require the player to remain in action at least four hours for the day. Needless to say, such extended sessions can be quite costly for the player.

The comps you get depend on your theoretical losses per hour. In turn, your losses are calculated by multiplying the number of bets per hour, the average bet size, the house edge, and the number of hours you play.

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More Tips on Bankroll Protection in Roulette

While roulette should not be viewed as a money-making machine, or at least not over the long term, there are several other ways for the player to extend their bankroll’s life. Take a look at the four tips below if you are looking to extend the longevity of your roulette bankroll.

Stay within your limits
Pick the right roulette games
Do not let your emotions get the best of you
Say “No” to progressive betting

Stay within your limits

It is beyond important for any roulette player to keep their stakes within the limits of their bankroll. It makes no sense for a gambler with a $100 session bankroll to play at a table with a minimum limit of $25.

If you lack low-stakes options, the best course of action is to build up your bankroll until you save enough money to allow you to play at higher limits. It would be best to stick to the low-risk outside bets at the beginning of your career as a roulette player.

We also suggest you make an Excel spreadsheet where you log your sessions’ duration, profits, and losses. This would you give a clear idea about your progress.

Pick the right roulette games

A smart roulette player always chooses the tables with the lowest possible house edge (1.35%), i.e. single-zero roulette where either En Prison or La Partage is in place. Playing these low-edge tables will enable you to preserve your bankroll for a longer time.

If your local landbased casinos offer only American roulette, we suggest you take your betting action online where you will find a huge variety of European and French roulette tables. Some of these run on RNGs but there are also games hosted by live dealers if you are looking for more authenticity and interaction.

Do not let your emotions get the best of you

Downswings suck but they are an inseparable part of all gambling games and roulette is not an exception. No one likes to lose, we get it. But if you find it difficult not to succumb to the compulsion to chase your losses, you better stay away from the roulette tables.

And another thing – never drink and play at the same time. Alcohol significantly reduces one’s capacity to think clearly. You will not play sensibly when imbibed and your poor bet-sizing decisions might wipe your bankroll out.

Say “No” to progressive betting

Many roulette players advocate system play that normally requires the player to size their bets based on past outcomes. Two of the most notorious examples are the Martingale, where you double your wager after each loss, and the Fibonacci, where you increase your stakes after a loss based on the famous Fibonacci number sequences (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc.).

Progressive betting is financial suicide. This approach does nothing to increase your advantage over the house, neither does it affect the game’s negative expectation or odds. It might look as if you are winning because of the Law of Small Numbers, i.e. the erroneous belief of some gamblers that a small sample group is representative of the entire population from which it is drawn.

Unfortunately, you cannot expect small samples to behave like large samples in random games like roulette. Do yourself and your bankroll a favor and avoid progressive betting.

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