“Bankroll management” is a popular term in certain gambling circles, especially among players who engage in games like blackjack and poker that offer positive value. Nevertheless, it has certain implications to slot machines where the outcome is not skill-based but depends on pure chance.
Reel spinners need to remember that slots inevitably yield negative expected value in the long run. Regardless of how smartly a slot player is managing their gambling budget, they are guaranteed to lose all their money provided that they play long enough.
Slots should be considered a mere form of entertainment. However, this is not to say a player can altogether do away with bankroll management although the latter cannot overturn the house edge of slots. What it can help you achieve is extend your playing time, limit your losses, and hopefully keep some of your profits.
Techniques for Managing Slot Budget
Below, we describe several techniques for managing your slot budget smartly. While most of what is said is common sense, it can still help you extend the longevity of your slot bankroll.
How Much Money is Enough?
It is of essential importance to set up a budget designated specifically for slot play before you head to the landbased casino or open an account with a real-money gambling site. We have said this a hundred times but it bears repeating.
Under no circumstances should your slot bankroll consist of money you need for rent, food, utility bills, your mortgage, and so on. You need a separate, discretionary budget you have set aside exclusively for slot play, which should be treated like any other form of entertainment.
So how much money is enough for a slot player? There is no clear-cut answer to this question. The exact size of a slot bankroll is flexible and depends on factors like what denomination you are playing, the average size of your bet, the frequency of your play, and the duration of your spinning sessions.
If you are planning to play at a landbased casino, we recommend you bring only your slot bankroll with you and leave your credit and debit cards at home. Taking them is a bad idea, first and foremost, because you might end up overspending.
And second, casino ATMs typically charge massive fees you can do without paying. When playing online, you can open a separate bank account or sign up with an e-wallet to store your gambling funds in.
Split Your Budget into Session Bankrolls
Provided that you plan on playing the slots regularly, it would be best to divide your overall gambling budget into smaller portions, called session bankrolls. As a general rule of thumb, the amount of money you should start a session with fluctuates between 5% and 10% of your total slot budget.
Factors such as individual risk tolerance, the type of machines you play, and your average amount per spin also bear consideration in determining your slot session bankroll.
Thus, if your overall slot budget is $1,000, the amount you set aside per session should be no higher than $100. Some players prefer to think of it in terms of average spin amounts. It this case, it is recommended to start a session with at least 100 average bets.
The machine’s denomination and the number of paylines you play should also be taken into account. If you plan on betting $1 per round, your session bankroll should amount to at least $100. When betting $0.25 per spin, you can start with $25 and so on.
With a hundred average bets, you are likely to survive long enough to trigger bonus features or score larger regular wins. Using this rule, you can also calculate how much you should play per spin when you start with a given fixed session budget. For example, if you start a session with $250, you will have 100 x $2.50 bets and should not exceed this sum on any given spin.
Win Goals and Stop Losses
Slot players must set a ceiling on their losses as a means of damage control. This ceiling is called a loss stop and again is percentage-based. The generally recommended percentage for a slot loss stop is roughly 40% to 50% of the session bankroll.
With that said, each player is free to settle for a percentage they feel comfortable with. You stop gambling when your bankroll drops to your chosen percentage.
Greed is the demise of all gamblers, which is why you should also consider picking a win goal. Your win goal is the amount you feel satisfied with winning. Once you reach it, you put an end to your spinning session, cash out your profits, and ideally quit for the day.
Realistic win goals for slots amount to around 30% of the session bankroll the player starts with. While this may not seem like much to undisciplined spinners, it is better to end the session ahead, albeit with a small profit, than to walk away in the red.
Some players refrain from using fixed win goals because they consider them limiting. What they do in this case is work with adjustable win goals and stop losses.
This “floating” approach enables them to stay in the action and lock in some profits while still being able to exercise adequate bankroll management.
How to Approach Large Wins
Large wins should be treated separately from the player’s win goals and stop losses. A mistake many undisciplined spinners are guilty of is winning a decent amount of money and then pushing their luck on higher denomination machines in an attempt to hit even bigger wins.
There is nothing wrong with trying your luck on high-denomination slots after a substantial win. However, you still need to set some boundaries for yourself or else you risk returning home with a long face and empty pockets.
Suppose, for example, a spin rewards you with a hefty payout of say $1,000. Split it in half and immediately put $500 aside not to be touched for the remainder of your betting session. You can do as you wish with the other half of your larger win.
If willing to try your luck on a more expensive slot, feel free to do so. Another viable option is to increase your stop loss for the session while continuing to play the same game. You can also spend a portion of the money on other forms of entertainment or add it to your savings if you will.
But what if you are lucky enough to score a multi-million jackpot like those occasionally awarded by slots like Mega Moolah? In such cases, it is recommendable to give yourself a temporary break from gambling. Leave the jackpot alone until your initial excitement passes so that you can decide what you actually want to do with your life-changing win.
It would also be wise to discuss the matter with your financial adviser, especially if you live in a jurisdiction where players are taxed for their gambling winnings. In countries like the United States, for instance, casinos require slot players to sign a tax form before they are paid any profits exceeding the amount of $1,200.
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Other Factors That Affect Your Slot Bankroll Longevity
In addition to bankroll management, several other factors can also influence how long your slot budget would last. These include your speed of play, variance, return percentages, and casino loyalty perks. We discuss them in further detail below.
Speed of Play
Ask any experienced gambler and they will tell you that speed kills when it comes to gambling. This applies to all casino games with negative expectation including slots. The faster you play, the more expected value you generate for the casino, which holds an advantage over you, known as the house edge.
The expected value of casino games is calculated by multiplying your average bet per hour by the average number of hourly spins and your advantage. Let’s say you play $2 per spin on average and go through 500 rounds per hour on a game with an RTP of 96.20%.
One such slot practically puts you at a disadvantage of -3.80%, which is to say you will incur losses instead of profits in the long term. If we use the above formula, your hourly losses will be 2 x 500 x 0.038 or $38 on average.
Your average expected losses will be cut in half (2 x 250 x 0.038 = $19) if you slow down and restrict yourself to only 250 spins per hour. The more often you hit that spin button, the higher the risk of depleting your bankroll.
You are better off playing at a leisurely pace and taking frequent breaks. When playing at a landbased casino, you can quit for a while to take a stroll, mingle with the crowd, and socialize with other players.
And one last thing before we wrap up the subject of speed. It is important to understand that the average expected losses here depend on how much money you put into action and not on how much you bring with you. Each time you replay your slot budget, you lose a little bit until the house eventually grinds your entire bankroll down.
When determining your session budget, you must consider the variance of the games you play. Slots generally are grouped into two main categories based on their hit frequency and payout size. High-variance slots award less frequent but larger payouts.
With such games, individual sessions’ results usually fluctuate wildly. If you are underbankrolled, you stand a good chance of variance quickly wiping you out. You need a large bankroll to withstand such long spells of losing spins.
The second major group consists of slots with a low variance where the player enjoys frequent regular wins but of small size. The chances of bankroll depletion are smaller, with less fluctuation in session results. If you intend to play on a tight session budget, you better stick to slots with low variance.
Slot Payout Percentages
Each slot is programmed to return less money than the amount players cumulatively wager on it. Known as a payback percentage, this is a statistical average that evens out in the long run. Your results during individual sessions will fluctuate in the short term.
Online slots tend to offer higher average returns than landbased machines, with payout percentages ranging between 92% to 99%. With landbased slots, the payout percentage is typically correlated with the minimum denomination of coins a machine accepts. Dollar machines usually have higher return percentages than penny and quarter machines.
A slot with an average return of 95% has a house edge of 5%. In other words, one such game would retain $0.05 out of every dollar players feed it with. Therefore, playing slots with higher return percentages enables you to preserve your bankroll longer because you lose money at a slower pace.
Figuring out the payout percentages of landbased slots is impossible in some jurisdictions like the United States. Casinos there are not in the habit of making this information available. However, there is no excuse if you play online.
Most online casinos have their gaming portfolios audited by third-party testing companies and readily disclose the return of their slots. Make sure you do some research on the games you intend to play for real money and pick only slots with a decent RTP. We recommend it should be no less than 95%.
Rebates, Player Cards, and Loyalty Points
If you intend to frequent landbased casinos to play the slots, it would be a good idea to apply for a player card. You insert it into the machine to have your play rated. This card tracks down the amount of money you wager per hour.
The house then compensates you by returning a certain percentage of your action in the form of rebates and comps. The exact percentage differs depending on the gambling establishment. Regardless, this is a good way to stretch your bankroll and get more value for your money. Some operators offer double or even triple rewards for limited periods.
There is a misconception among some players who believe the game pay less whenever the card is inserted into the machine. This is nonsensical for two reasons. First, a slot is incapable of adjusting its payout percentage based on whether you play rated or not.
Second, this practice makes no sense from the casino’s perspective because it would altogether disincentivize customers from spending more time on the slots. The idea behind player cards is to keep you betting on the machines for longer. It is irrelevant for casinos whether you win or lose over the short term. They know that they will arrive at their expected value in the long run.
Similarly, online slot players are rewarded for their action with the so-called loyalty points. At most online casinos, new registrants are automatically enrolled in the casino’s loyalty program and collect points when betting real money.
There is no need to apply for a player card in this case because your play is tracked automatically by the online operator. As you move up to higher loyalty tiers, the casino treats you to bigger and better rewards.
When players collect enough comp points, they can trade them for different perks like free credits to play with and even withdrawable cash. We strongly recommend you to look through the online casino’s terms to see its loyalty program’s conditions. Some operators convert loyalty points into bonus credits only and impose wagering requirements on them.