What is a Bankroll and How to Manage it?

bankrollFor some casino players, especially those who only play occasionally, the possibilities of what they might end up with at the end of the night are their main focus.

The games, the payouts, the jackpots and the special offers are probably most prominent in their minds.

But actually, the money you start with is the most important thing, because without that, you can’t play at all and therefore cannot win anything either.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, this money is called your bankroll, and learning how to manage it properly can be the difference between a session cut short and a session that gives you great value for money.

Poor bankroll management can cause you to go bust in just a few spins or hands if you get things really wrong, but of course, it depends on your personality and your strategy as to how you approach handling your money.

It’s all about the games you choose to play, the bets you make, and the stake size you go with, and getting this balance right is key to having a good time at the casino.

A Bit About Bankroll

counting money

As we said, your bankroll is the amount you start with at the beginning of the session.

Really, you can set your bankroll last over any amount of time you want, but you need to decide your parameters to have any hope of controlling your spending.

Different people will handle this according to their own situations. Some people may only hit the casino once a month but spend all evening playing games, others might dabble every day for very short periods of time, while some may play for a few hours once or twice a week.

Each of these examples would need a different approach to bankroll management. As an example, it might go something like this:

Play Schedule£ Management
Monthly One lump sum of perhaps £100 for the night
Weekly A weekly deposit of perhaps £50 spread across 2 play sessions
Daily A weekly deposit of perhaps £20 spending very small amounts at regular intervals such as bus rides and breaks at work etc

Of course this is just demonstrative, there could be a hundred different ways to go about it, and although you should only ever gamble with money you can afford and are happy to lose, you don’t have to commit the whole of your bankroll.

The player who hits up the casino once a month with £100 might decide that they are only prepared to lose 75% of that money, and so would stop if they ever ended up £75 down and spend the rest in the restaurant, or just take it home.

The point is, you have to know how much you can afford to spend, how much you are prepared to lose for a good time, and how long you expect that money to last. You have to have a plan.

So that is your bankroll and a basic look at how to handle your available funds based on the sort of play schedule you tend to follow, but why is this important?

Why Bankroll Management is Important

casino player run out of money

We have already touched on how poor management can decimate your bankroll before your session has even got started, so the answer to the question in the heading seems self-evident: if you lose all your money in the first 5 minutes you can’t continue to play.

It’s deeper than this though, because when you think about it, a relatively small bankroll of say £20 for the evening could last for a long time if managed correctly.

If you were playing online blackjack at 50p a hand, you would have to lose 40 hands in a row to lose the lot. That would probably take just under an hour, but blackjack has a low house edge so losing 40 consecutive hands is highly unlikely, especially if you know how to play the optimal strategy.

Therefore, you will win some and you will lose some as the session goes on, and your bankroll will go up and down extending your play session. You could get down to your last £2 then have a string of wins and build it back up to £10 and hover around there for a while.

However, if you had been playing £5 hands that £20 would have been gone after game 4 and your session would be over in 5 minutes.

This is the importance of bankroll management. Managing your money properly can give you the time you need to build a low balance back up so you live to fight another day.

In broader terms, bankroll management is massively important for your personal finances too. We aren’t talking about stake sizes here, but more about planning how much you can afford to spend.

Players on a budget of £40 a month would be better off depositing a tenner a week than dropping the whole £40 in at the start of the month, because this way they can spread their play time across the month rather than risk overplaying in weeks 1 and 2 and having nothing left for weeks 3 and 4.

Bankroll Management While Playing Casino Games

roulette players

Once again, there are going to be thousands of variations here, because some players only play a single type of game, others stick to casino classics like roulette, blackjack and baccarat, and yet more will dabble in slots and maybe even game show style games or video poker.

The games you want to play and the way in which you play those games will dictate how you should manage your bankroll for that session.

Broadly speaking though, the more money you have the more you can afford to stake per bet/hand, but the longer you want your session to last, the more conservative you should be with your bankroll.

So if you plan to play a bit of roulette then spend an hour or so on the slots, there’s no point staking 50% of your £20 bankroll on red, because if you lose you’ll only have a tenner left for the slots and it may not be enough to last an hour.

Alternatively, if you have more of a do or die attitude and want to either double your money or nothing, you might stick the whole £20 on red and cross your fingers. The idea here would be that if you win, you pocket your original stake of £20 and end up gambling on the slots with the casino’s money, whereas if you lose you just don’t get to play any slots.

This would be very risky and not a usual approach, but it just depends on your attitude and the sort of risk you are prepared to take, and the experience you want.

For anyone wanting a play session that lasts any length of time though, your stake size is going to be very important in managing your bankroll.

Stake Size

casino chipsLet’s use blackjack to demonstrate what we are talking about here.

If you have £50 to spend at the blackjack table, you wouldn’t really want to spend more than 5% of your bankroll on any one hand if you wanted your session to last any meaningful length of time.

This would be the absolute maximum too, so for the more risk averse starting even lower, maybe a 2%, would be better. This would extend your session by twice as long as playing at higher stakes.

We will stick with 5% for now though so we can demonstrate the effects of wagering too high a proportion of your bankroll, so that’s £2.50 per game.

Remember though, as your bankroll goes up and down, that amount will change as 5% of £52.50 is not the same as 5% of £50.

Remaining BankrollStake% of BankrollResult
£50 £2.50 5% Win
£52.50 £2.50 4.76% Lose
£50 £2.50 5% Lose
£47.50 £2.50 5.26% Lose
£45 £2.50 5.55% ???

So you see your stake percentage can creep up after just a few losses.

That said, you wouldn’t change your stake every single hand as this would get ridiculous, but if you found yourself say £25 up on your original £50 (so 50% better off), you might decide to use that £75 as your new base number, and up your stakes to £3 per hand.

This would be a 4% stake but that’s ok, just don’t start over 5%.

On the other hand, if you were down £25 (so you only have £25 left) then you might want to hit the brakes and maybe drop right back to £1 a hand and try to build back up. If you don’t, you are betting 10% of your bank per hand and risk going broke very quickly.

If we join the same play session a little later on you can see what we mean:

Remaining BankrollStake% of BankrollResult
£27.50 £2.50 9.09% Lose
£25.00 £1.00 4.00% Lose
£24.00 £1.00 4.16% Lose
£23.00 £1.00 4.34% Lose
£22.00 £1.00 4.54% ???

If we hadn’t dropped our stake at this point we would have been down to £15.00 if that last bet had lost, and betting a huge 16.66% of our remaining bankroll on the next hand.

What we are trying to do here is adjust our stake to ensure we still have a buffer within our bankroll, so that we can survive a losing streak long enough to stay in the game and recover.

The Difference Between Bankroll and Budgeting

monthly budgetTo end, it’s probably a good idea to touch on the difference between a bankroll and a budget, as the terms are sometimes misused.

Your bankroll is the money you have available for a bit of fun at the casino, this might include extra costs if you are playing in the real world rather than online; your budget is your total household income minus all expenses, so nothing to do with casino play, although your bankroll does come from what's left of your budget.

Your bankroll does not mean every spare penny you have after you have paid your bills though. You have to be sensible and about this and act responsibly.

So let’s say you take home £2,500 per month from your job, your budget might be something like this:

  • Rent/Mortgage: £850
  • Utilities: £400
  • Credit Card: £200
  • Car: £150
  • Food: £400
  • Subscriptions/Extras: £100

This might be wildly different to your own budget, we don’t know where you live, what you spend, or what you earn, but as an example it does the job.

Anyway, the total here so far is £2,100, leaving £400 spare.

Does that mean you have a bankroll of £400? No. Give yourself some breathing room. We all spend money on posh coffees or a few drinks with friends, a pub lunch or a new pair of shoes. Whatever it might be, you need some spare money for unforeseen expenditure.

Your bankroll is specific to the casino, but it is an amount of money that is taken from what’s left of your monthly household budget, and it should only be a portion of your spare funds, not all of them. Maybe around 15%-20%, which in this case would be about £80 for the month.

To some degree this will dictate what and how you play, although as we explained, it also depends how often you like to play and for how long.