Managing your bankroll is the single most important factor in the success of your time gambling. Read on to find out what bankroll management is, why it’s so vital, and discover the expert strategies to help you gamble smarter.
What is Bankroll Management?
A bankroll is the amount of money that you have specifically budgeted to bet with. It is not all the money you own, but a portion of your funds that you feel comfortable gambling with. The size of your bankroll is a personal decision and should be made with your wider financial situation in mind. Never feel pressure to up your bankroll – casinos on the web cater to patrons of all budgets, whether they play for free or bet big in high-stakes games.
Bankroll management is simply taking care of the money you play with. It is the act of making the funds in your account last long enough to give yourself a good chance of winning, the act of betting with only what you can afford to lose, and the act of walking away when the time comes. Good bankroll management means gambling responsibly and within your financial means. Playing at casino sites and betting at sportsbooks is supposed to be fun, but there is nothing enjoyable about the serious problems which can stem from gambling irresponsibly.
If you or someone you love needs help, please see our resources on gambling addiction.
Why manage your bankroll?
Here’s why good bankroll management is important:
- It allows you to play for longer and have more fun
- It helps you to withstand losing streaks
- It mitigates the risk you put your own real money at
- It guides you in making better gambling decisions
- Mismanagement of your bankroll could leave you with serious real-life consequences such as bankruptcy
Basic Bankroll Strategy: Fixed Stakes
The first step to successfully managing a bankroll is to decide exactly how big it is. The bankroll can be a figure set weekly, monthly, as a special one-off treat, or as an ongoing cut of your income. Regardless, make sure that when you have decided on a bankroll, you stick to it. It’s very tempting to top up the account if you run out of funds earlier than you had hoped, but chasing losses is dangerous. When your bankroll runs out, stop playing and come back another day.
When you know exactly how much you have to spend, the aim is now defensive. Long term, successful bettors can make a profit. In the short term however, the results fluctuate much more. Even professional gamblers find themselves on losing streaks. In order to combat bad runs, we use effective bankroll strategy to weather the storm.
The most basic strategy is to implement a fixed staking system. This means that you limit your maximum wager on any bet to a set percentage of your bankroll. For example, if your bankroll was $1,000 and your maximum fixed stake was 5%, the highest bet you would wager on any single play would be $50.
This is a good system because if you find yourself on a winning streak, your maximum bet will increase as your bankroll increases. Similarly if you hit a rough patch, your bankroll will be extended as your maximum bet gets lower and lower.
Advanced Bankroll Strategies
While a fixed staking system offers simplicity and proportional bets, variable staking systems are more complicated. Here are a few of the popular ones:
The Martingale is a betting system which changes the size of your wager depending on the outcome of the last hand. The principle is simple – if you lose a bet, you double the stake amount next round. If you win a bet, you bet your minimum or “beginning” stake.
The Martingale is a very high risk strategy. Let’s say you start betting $20 on a roulette table and find yourself on a losing streak. Five hands in, you have lost $620 ($20, $40, $80, $160 & $320). If you could afford a sixth round, your bet would be $740. It’s not hard to see how this system could run through a bankroll quickly.
The Kelly Criterion
Though popular, the Kelly system splits expert opinion. It is essentially a mathematical formula which factors in the probability of winning the bet in order to give the recommended size of wager. Here is how you calculate it:
- Multiply the probability of winning (as a percentage, divided by 100) by the multiple of the stake you could potentially win.
- Subtract from this number the probability of losing (as a percentage, divided by 100).
- Divide this number by the multiple of the stake we could potentially win.
- Times this figure by 100.
- The resulting figure is the percentage of your bankroll which you should stake. If the figure is negative, there is no value in placing the bet.
Sounds complicated right? Well, it is an advanced strategy!
Theoretically the Kelly Criterion makes sense – you wager larger amounts on bets which you are more likely to win. However, it does have some disadvantages. Firstly, it only works if you can accurately predict the probability of the bet paying off. Without accurate figures, the formula breaks down. Secondly, it can lead to some very aggressive bets. If things go wrong, you can lose big percentages of your bankroll at once. For this reason, a lot of bettors choose to use the “fraction Kelly” strategy, where they bet a set fraction (usually half) of the stake the formula recommends. While this is little safer, we still think there are better ways to manage your bankroll.
The Fibonacci Method
In a Fibonacci sequence, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. It always starts with 1 and 2, and so the pattern goes 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34… and so on.
The Fibonacci Method of betting follows this famed sequence. Each time you win, you move up a ‘step’ and increase your bet size. When you lose, you jump down two steps.
This method is risky in that it doesn’t take the odds of each bet or the value of the win into account. However, the earnings can add up quickly if you hit a good winning streak!
Tips for Bankroll Management
Stick to it
Your bankroll strategy only works if you stick to it. It can be tempting to hike up your bet on a winning streak or to deposit just a little more money to try and win back what you’ve lost. Don’t do it. Stay safe with responsible bankroll management.
Monitor your emotions
Gambling is supposed to be fun but hitting a losing streak can really dampen the mood. Understand that losing is a part of the game and try not to get too down about it. Similarly, as awesome as it is to win, don’t let over-excitement affect your future bets. Extreme emotions make people act irrationally. Stick to your strategy and maintain a level head to protect your funds from spur of the moment decisions.
Set a session loss limit
While your bankroll is the total amount that you can spend, estimate how many days you’d like to gamble with that money and divide it into smaller chunks. For example, if your monthly gambling bankroll is $1,000, you may want to play 10 nights a month. Your session loss limit for each of these nights would therefore be $100. This is a great strategy because when playing with that money, chances are you will win something. However, you can only lose the initial $100 you started playing with, not any earnings you’ve won! The session ends when your $100 runs out and any earnings can be cashed out or added to your bankroll for a future session.
Keep track of your performance
By monitoring what games or sports you bet on, you’ll be able to see if there are any patterns in what you win and lose. For example, perhaps you won many blackjack hands, but lost money more often when you switched to poker. This could be an indication of luck, a stronger house edge at the poker table you chose, or that you need to brush up on your poker strategy! By keeping track of where you won and lost, you’ll be able to see these patterns and change your play accordingly.
Play the long game
The most successful gamblers weren’t made overnight. As there is a house edge present in all casino games, loses are inevitable and big bets can often be bad news. Take it slow and steady in your quest to grow your bankroll.
Casino Bonuses and Bankroll Management
The generous free bonuses which casinos offer are a fantastic way to boost your bankroll quickly. There are many types, from match deposit bonuses to free spins and VIP programmes.
A great bonus will prolong your bankroll, giving you more playing time and thus, more opportunity to score a win. However, they almost always come with terms and conditions stipulating how many times the money must be wagered before it can be withdrawn. When choosing a casino, be sure to factor in the size and availability of bonuses offered.
We recommend maintaining your bankroll management strategy to any bonus you might take.