Think of the last time you were hungry and went grocery shopping without a plan.

We all like to kid ourselves into thinking we have self-control, but that responsibility goes out the window the second you see the junk food aisle. Next thing you know, you’re inhaling a sleeve of Double Stuf Oreos. It feels great in the moment, but even more awful once the regret starts to set in.

There’s an easy solution: making a grocery list before you go to the store and sticking to it.

Just like walking into a supermarket with no plan and an empty stomach is the best way to ensure you’ll leave with a full cart, walking into a casino with a full wallet and no plan is virtually guarantees that you’ll leave with an empty wallet (like I did the first three times I went to Vegas).

Nobody goes to Las Vegas or the casino planning to lose all of their money and come home broke. So why does it happen so much?

Because people go to the casino without a plan.

Setting a gambling budget before you set foot in a casino is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that you will have a positive experience (and leave with your shirt).


Entertainment Spending

You probably wouldn’t bat an eye on spending $100 for a night on the town with a show, nice dinner, and a couple drinks. As long as that $100 fit into your budget, you would spend it, enjoy the night, and consider it the cost of entertainment. You wouldn’t expect to have any of that money left at the end of the night; you’d consider that $100 spent.

Think of your gambling budget in the same way. You should view the money that you bring to gamble as spent before you walk through the doors of the casino. It’s the cost of entertainment. This means that it should be an amount you are comfortable spending on entertainment, and that you have no expectation of having when you leave.

You are not “risking money to win money,” but rather spending money for the entertainment value (and chance to win) that gambling offers. Any cash that you leave with (even if it’s less than what you brought) is a bonus.

If you go into the casino with this mindset, you will always leave a winner. This is because you will enjoy the entertainment value of gambling — plus free drinks and discounted meals, shows, and entertainment — all with the chance of coming home with more than you had budgeted to spend.


Setting Your Gambling Budget

Setting your gambling budget is simple. All you need to do is determine how much you are able to afford and willing to spend for a night/weekend of entertainment in the casino without regret. Remember, this needs to be money you do not need and will not miss. This decision is personal and will vary for everyone based on a variety of circumstances, so there isn’t one singular “right budget” — just what you’re comfortable with.

Whatever you’ve budgeted is your bankroll.

Setting this budget before you get to the casino is important, because the excitement and/or free alcohol will cloud your judgment once you’re there. Just like hunger overpowers logic at the grocery store, gambling and alcohol blatantly defies logic, and you WILL be tempted to spend more once you’re in the casino.


Money You Enjoy Wasting…

Lots of my friends give me grief for “wasting” all my money at the casino, and while I have *blown* a lot of money at the casino, I’ve never wasted any.

John Lennon famously said that “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” (I may be biased since I spend the bulk of my free time working on this blog or debating if hotdogs are sandwiches ((they aren’t, don’t @ me)), but I’m inclined to agree.) I feel the same way about money. You can’t take it with you when you’re gone, so you may as well enjoy it while you’re here on Earth.

As long as you enjoy the time you spend gambling, that money is not wasted. Especially when you’re maximizing your value by making new friends, enjoying free drinks, and earning comped rooms and meals. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe the wise words of WC Fields, who eloquently reflected: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol, and wild women. The other half, I wasted.”


Sergio’s Scoop:

Withdraw cash before you go to the casino and leave your debit cards at home.

Do this so that you don’t have to waste money on exorbitant ATM fees (sometimes as high as $10 on the Strip) or grapple with the temptation to withdraw more; if it’s gone, it’s gone. I personally have a separate wallet that I use exclusively for gambling (it also holds all of my players cards). I keep my bankroll in this wallet, and remove all but my trip budget before I head to the casino.

If you are gambling multiple days, divide your bankroll into daily bankrolls and leave the rest in a safe/at home.

This ensures that a bad day won’t wipe you out for the trip, and also makes it easier to stash winnings; at the end of each day, whatever you have left is booked as a win and goes home with you. This helps a lot with bankroll management, and ensures that you will have money left for future trips.

Don’t forget to budget for the rest of the trip, too.

This comes down to personal preference, but as an avid/degenerate gambler, I always keep gambling expenses separate from other trip expenses. I keep a separate budget for the rest of the trip. This is mainly because I can earn an additional 2% in rewards by paying for flight/hotel/food with credit cards, it makes for easier accounting, and I appreciate being able to review my statement to see what restaurants I ate at or which bars I stumbled to late in the morning. If you’re not planning to gamble very much or are more comfortable including gambling in your overall trip budget, congratulations on having more self-control than me! Either way, you can’t go wrong as long as you set your gambling budget in advance and have fun!

Congratulations! You’ve officially got a bankroll! There’s just one more step before you’re ready to start gambling and earning comps: signing up for players card. Head over to my post on players cards to learn how to sign up!

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