There are a number of complicated bankroll calculation formulas available. For most players, these formulas are useless, because there are so many contrary-to-fact assumptions hidden in the formula.Bob Dancer is one of the world's foremost video poker experts. He is a regular columnist for Casino Player, Strictly Slots, and the Las Vegas Review-Journa land has written an autobiography and a novel about gambling. He provides advice for tens of thousands of casino enthusiasts looking to play video poker. Bob's website is www.bobdancer.com Let's look at the subject from more of a beginner's point of view. Beginners actually have more of a need for this discussion than advanced players do. After all, by the time you get to be advanced you have a lot of experience, and through that experience comes some knowledge, and some important rules-of-thumb that you learned the hard way. But beginners lack that experience, and hence that knowledge.
First we need to define "bankroll". This is tough to do precisely. But a working definition might be "the amount of money you could lose gambling without having drastic implications on your lifestyle." Notice that it has nothing to do with how much is in your pocket at this moment. Much of my gambling bankroll is in mutual funds.
If gambling is not a regular hobby/passion of yours, then probably you do not need to worry about bankroll. Treat gambling money as "recreation expense", and assume you will lose what you bring. The good news is that sometimes you'll be wrong! But if you play frequently, then you need to sit down and think about how expensive this is likely to be.
Bankroll is always figured in terms of "how much you can afford to lose." This makes people uncomfortable. After all, they are planning to win! But losing happens. Bankroll is also figured probabilistically. That is, this amount of money has a 99% probability of lasting you. Or a 95% probability. Because you never know for sure what the future holds. And your actual results will be some unknown combination of both luck and skill.
Bankroll discussions always say something like "if you do not have the advantage, no bankroll is safe." And then they go on to other points. But actually this is a very critical point. If you are playing slot machines, or craps, or keno or most other casino games, the house has an advantage and you are going to lose. Maybe not this weekend. Maybe not even this year. But you will lose. Even on such games as blackjack and video poker, where the expert player has the advantage, the house has the advantage over most players. Playing these games less than expertly, you will lose. If you play rarely and for low stakes, you will lose a little. If you play frequently for high stakes, you will lose a lot.
Video poker bankroll discussions assume you play perfectly. Almost nobody does. Which is how casinos can offer games that theoretically return over 100%. Just realize that you need to be very close to perfect to still maintain any advantage at all, and then only on a very few games. I get letters from people saying that they are finally up to 98% accuracy. This is good. This is far better than they used to play. But they are a long way from playing at the 99.8% or higher that winning actually demands.
Another important factor rarely mentioned in bankroll discussions is that you need to be able to handle money responsibly. If you are somebody who regularly maxes out credit cards, no bankroll is safe. A bankroll is money you put in a bank (or other safe place) and leave it there! It is not money to spend on life's needs and pleasures. It is money held in reserve for a gambling rainy day.
When I was considering marrying Shirley, a major factor was that she had about $30,000 in the bank. (No wonder I decided to fall in love with her, did I hear you say?) But it wasn't her money I wanted. My gambling bankroll was considerably larger than that. What I wanted was somebody who knew how to hang onto money! Some people can do this and some cannot. People with a history of always being in debt will likely continue to be that way. Exposing a sizeable bankroll to people like this is like throwing it down a bottomless pit. People with a history of being able to save will likely be able to do that in the future too.
Your personality plays a bigger role in calculating your bankroll than you might imagine. How would you be able to handle a $1,000 loss? If this would be a disaster for you psychologically-speaking, then don't gamble. We all have different experiences of dealing with more money and dealing with less money. For some of us, these experiences are profound.
Triple Play through Hundred Play games have more complicated bankroll calculations. It is not a simple formula and there are short run and long run implications. But in general, the multi-play games LOWER the bankroll requirements considerably over single line bets of the same total bet-size. For example, playing Five Play for nickels (25 coins for a total of $1.25) requires quite a bit less bankroll than playing a single line game for quarters (5 coins for a total of $1.25). But don't misunderstand this. Playing Five Play for nickels requires quite a bit more bankroll than playing a single line game for nickels (5 coins for a total of 25¢).
But if you meet all the requirements (i.e. play a game returning over 100%, play it well, are able to handle money responsibly and don't have any great hang ups about money) THEN how much do you need? I use the "3-to-5 royals" benchmark as a guide. So if you want to play a lot for dollars, and you have learned 10-7 Double Bonus, and you play it well and you only play during promotions --- then having $12,000 to $20,000 should last you. Probably. Actually, since Double Bonus is such a streaky game, and the return is so little above 100%, then probably $25,000 to $30,000 would be more like it for this game. Players who use more advanced formulas frequently complain that my ³3-to-5 royals² is highly simplified. And their absolutely correct. But it's a good place to start for most players.
There are a whole lot of qualifications in the previous paragraph. And likely fewer than 1 person in 20 can meet all of the requirements. But many of you read this column because you envision playing video poker profitably. It is definitely possible for a large number of people. But going into it with your eyes wide open is the best place to start.
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