Smarter Gambling

Setting Realistic Goals for a Casino Trip

Paris Las Vegas slot floor
Written by Joshua

I often see players in various slot forums say they’re going to the casino, and hoping for a handpay or something like that. It got me wondering if we need a better way of setting goals for ourselves when going to the casino, because a handpay, being the arbitrary number that it is, is easier to hit when betting high, but many players don’t bet that high.

So, I thought about various things we could do as a casino visitor to improve our overall chances and results, and share a few of those ideas today.

Don’t Go For Broke

This first topic comes in a few varieties. I’ve said here before you should presume you will lose whatever budget you will go to the casino with, and you should bring entertainment budget money only – better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But that doesn’t mean you have to play until you’ve run out of cash. This advice runs in two varieties.

Don’t Chase Your Losses

If you’re having a bad run at the casino, it may be tempting to up your bet to try to make back what you lost, but it is just as easy (in fact, it’s easier because of the house edge), to simply lose your money faster. It’s also potentially tempting to take money out of the ATM when your budget is exhausted; don’t do that either.

I know some players who won’t bring their ATM card to a casino to ensure they stick to a budget, or will have a friend or partner with them to hold some of their money just to slow things down.

Be Careful When Riding Momentum

It can be tempting when you’re doing well on a casino trip to up your bets. And to some degree it can be just fine to do this. But it’s important to pay attention and re-evaluate the decision if the time after upping the bet doesn’t go as well – you don’t have to give all the winnings back, along with your bankroll, if you don’t want to.

On my most recent trip to Las Vegas, I was there for 10 days. At the end of the 9th day I was right about even, a pretty remarkable feat for Vegas. I decided to allow myself to play up to a third of my budget on the last day – this ensured I came home with a strong percentage of my original bankroll, but also allowed me to play a little harder and see what happened.

As it happened, it was my worst gambling day of the trip, and I lost the day’s revised bankroll completely. But because I maintained my discipline throughout the trip, I was still able to ensure I could come home with much of the bankroll, which could fund future casino trips – I effectively get more for my money.

If I had said around day 5 that I could play harder, the same scenario might not have played out, and I could have gone home with a lot less money, or even none at all.

Play for Time, Not a Dollar Goal

Another way to avoid playing to the bitter end is simply setting a time limit for yourself. If your goal with your budget is to get 2, 3, 4 hours of entertainment time, and you achieve that, why do you need to keep going that day? You can take the money, set it aside for the next trip, and get another day’s enjoyment out of it.

Casino games are designed to take your money over time. The more time you play, the more likely they’re going to come out ahead, and moreso as the time continues. So there’s no need to give them unending access to a chance at your money. Set time limits where you feel you get enough out of the visit, but at times can go home with at least some money.

Set a Realistic Goal for Each Machine

Figure out what you want to accomplish when you sit down. Are you going for a bonus? A “big win“? Double or nothing? Setting mini-goals for each game can not only make it a fun side exercise while at the casino, but it can give you stop points to achieve so you can walk away with some money and move on.

While you certainly will have machines where the goal couldn’t be accomplished, you’ll also have times where you walk away with money.

Get Ahead? Protect Your Winnings

Some players use devices like Winners Banks to lock away winnings when they happen, so they’re forced to bring it home (by leaving the key at home, they can’t access the cash until they leave). This ensures that if they do get ahead, they aren’t going home empty handed by the end of the trip.

It’s very easy to give back winnings if you’re not paying attention, so if that’s you and you want to stop that from happening, such a device can work brilliantly for assisting with that issue.

Work in Smaller Increments

If you build up a ticket, cash it out so you don’t have a big ticket in the machine. Break your budget down into smaller bills so you’re forced to make a decision each time you need to reach for a bill. This ensures you don’t just play through hundreds of dollars chasing a bonus or feature, especially on tougher games.

I’ve seen a number of players say they stopped paying attention to the balance for a few minutes and then realized they had played a lot more than they had intended.

I hope these tips offer some ways forward to make a casino trip still be fun, but also improve the chances of coming home with some money. Best of luck out there!

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.

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