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Best of John Robison

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The Slot Expert's Guide to Winning at Slots and Video Poker

23 August 2002

A few weeks ago I started our discussion of money management by describing what money management isn't. Money management isn't altering your bet based on past results. It also isn't quitting while you're ahead. Both of these techniques are usually sold with the promise that you'll win more money in the long run, but the truth is that they don't have any effect whatsoever on the house edge against you.

So, what is money management? Money management, to me, is a collection of techniques to control your bankroll with the goals of ensuring that your money lasts as long as your visit, that you don't lose more than you can afford to lose, and that you maximize the enjoyment you get from playing casino games by minimizing the stress that can come with losing money.

The first goal of money management is to ensure that your money lasts as long as your visit. We've all heard stories of people who land in Las Vegas ready to break the bank only to end up flat broke a few hours later, but I don't know anyone to whom this has happened. I do know a couple who honeymooned in Las Vegas and went through all the money they brought with them, in addition to a few thousand dollars in credit card cash advances. When they landed back home here in New Jersey, their pockets were completely empty except for $3.27 and a half-eaten pack of Tic-Tacs. The most extreme urban legend I've heard in this vein is the one about the guy who arrives in Las Vegas, goes immediately to the casino and loses all his money, and then goes back to the airport to fly home without ever having checked into the hotel.

The second goal is to ensure that you don't lose more money than you can afford to lose. As much as we all like to focus on the winning, the fact is that the casino has the edge over the players and we will lose money in the long run. But we accept this fact because 1) every form of recreation has some sort of price tag attached to it, and 2) there's the possibility that we will be ahead for any individual session or visit, and 3) there are a few lucky individuals who the gods of randomness have smiled upon who show a profit from their casino play even though the house still has the edge over them and our chances of being one of these lucky few are just as good as anyone else's chances.

The third goal of money management is to minimize the stress over dealing with money. By eliminating much of the stress that can come with losing money in the casino, we'll be able to focus on the enjoyment we received from playing.

We can't eliminate the stress entirely and I think that's true because losing money in a casino is not the same as paying to see a movie or paying for some other recreational activity. I suppose that's because when we pay for a recreational activity, we know a priori that we are paying for the experience and nothing else. When we bet in a casino, however, not only are we paying for the experience, we're also buying the opportunity to get our money back and maybe even win some money. When we've lost money, we've received the experience, granted, but we were let down on the possibility of winning. Some of the people leaving the movie theater may have enjoyed the movie more than others, but the people aren't divided into winners and losers.

Now, let's start looking at some money management techniques. The most important technique is to know how much you can afford to lose before you set foot in the casino. I don't know why this isn't an obvious first step to make before a casino visit. We don't go shopping for cars or homes or appliances--or just about anything else--without first deciding how much we can afford or how much we're willing to spend. We find it easy and natural to put limits on some of the other aspects of how we spend our money, we should be able to put a limit on our casino losses and stick to it.

What do I mean by afford? One meaning is how much money you have allocated to your entertainment account. You have money coming in and some of it is allocated for housing, clothing, food, and savings. A certain portion of what's left is available for recreation. This may be the limiting factor that determines how much you can afford to lose.

Another meaning is not numerical. Let's say you have a really good job or received a really generous inheritance and the amount of money you have is more than enough to cover you living expenses. You may have a huge amount of discretionary income, but you still don't want to set that amount as your loss limit. You may be able to afford the loss monetarily, but emotionally the cost is too high.

Thus, when you decide how much you can afford to lose, take into account both how much money you have and how much you're comfortable losing.

The first money management technique is to decide how much you can afford to lose this trip before you get to the casino and stop playing if you should ever lose this amount.


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski
John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots