Best Bankroll Strategies for Destination Gambling Trips

Treasure Island on the Las Vegas Strip

My first time playing in a casino was on vacation. While John had been visiting casinos for years prior, my first time playing video poker and table games was in Harrah’s New Orleans. That trip was my first lesson in bankroll strategy. Life would then take us to visit and live in other casino markets. Throughout those years, I have learned more bankroll strategies and tips. Here are some of my gaming vacation bankroll tips.

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Budget for each day

When planning a trip, we budget around the amount of money we want to spend. We look at what money is left for entertainment after setting aside funds for airfare, a rental car or local transportation, hotel nights, and food. Priority activities are accounted for next. There might be a show we want to see or a nearby attraction we would like to visit. 

The remaining funds we put in our gambling wallet for the trip. Next, we divide our gambling funds amongst our days. This can be accomplished in different ways. If the majority of the trip will be spent gambling, then funds might be divided equally. Alternatively, earlier days may be given less funding, with more money budgeted for the last day or two. Money budgeted for gambling is considered an expense. If we win great, but otherwise it is money we expect to come home without. This second budgeting strategy gives us a feeling of celebration at the vacation’s end even if the variance has not been in our favor.

John and Kristina hiking in Deadwood, South Dakota

If other activities are planned, then gambling funds may vary accordingly. Past trips to Deadwood have included a day of hiking. Earlier visits to Las Vegas entailed riding amusement rides. Less time was spent playing in casinos on those days. So when planned ahead, less money was made available in our gambling wallet. The option to spend less money gambling is always there, but the temptation to go over budget decreases when the funds are not easily available. 

Stay within your limits

When you set your gaming budget, stick with it. This means choosing the games and limits that help you stay within your budget. As a video poker player, this means I find the best paytable at the lowest limit available. If that limit is higher than I want to play, I might start out at one coin and move up to five coins after success.

Alternatively, I may choose to adjust my available gaming wallet funds by playing less to save up to play later at the higher denomination. When table games are in the mix, we find tables within the range of our bankroll. If our funding runs out, then so has our time gambling for the day.

Playing games with lower variance or slower playing time can help extend your budget. A simple moneyline bet on a sporting event can last for a couple of hours. However, be cautious that games may appear to be a lower limit than they really are. For example, penny slots may require multiple lines of play and/or a side bet to qualify for the top prize.

Plan for bad days of gambling

No matter how skilled a player is, sometimes variance runs quickly in favor of the casino. When this happens, alternative plans are needed. I remember a night playing pai gow poker when the dealer pulled out five monster hands in a row. What was normally a slow game of back-and-forth with the rake in favor of the house, became a quick draining of funds.

Alternative plans vary by location and personal interests. Free attractions may be available in some areas. Las Vegas has free attractions like the Bellagio Fountains and Conservatory, the Flamingo Wildlife Habit, and the light show canopy at Fremont Street Experience.

Casino hotels may also have amenities included in the room rate or resort fee. These might include pools, fitness centers, arcades, or walking trails. Having a secondary fund for backup activities, like discount show tickets, can also be useful for bad days of gambling. 

What happens if you do win big?

Sometimes even games of luck land in our favor instead of the casino. We have been lucky in enjoying some hot rolls on craps tables, winning bingo games, and video poker machines that keep dealing the best cards. When a win is large enough, players receive a tax form. Remember to set aside the taxes that you will be required to pay. Sadly, many people leave casinos with multiple tax bills, but no winnings left.

We have multiple strategies we use based on the type and timing of a large win. One strategy is a percentage strategy. This is where we keep a percentage of winnings from returning to our gambling wallet. However, the remaining amount is reinvested in our gambling funds. This may result in an increase in video poker denomination or table game wager amount.

When the win is large but not a taxable win, then I may choose a minimum value when I will cash out with my winnings. This allows me to play longer, be happy with my win, and not regret giving it all back to the casino.

If you lose track of the credits in your machine, you may choose to cash out your current ticket and fund the machine with a lower amount. Just remember to cash out your winning ticket(s) before the end of your visit. The tickets expire after a few months.

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Kristina Mehaffey
Kristina is a founding member of Advantage Media LLC. She was a mathematics teacher for the Clark County School District before joining John with the websites in 2020. She enjoys Deuces Wild, Fortune Pai Gow Poker, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em. Her preference for the aesthetics of casinos is shown in the details of the pictures on our sites. When not managing data or writing about casinos, she can be found at her local library, enjoying on one of her many crafting hobbies, or catching a laugh with her husband at a local comedy club.