Breaking Down the Bankroll Management Math Considerations for Your Favorite Casino Games

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When gamblers prepare to tackle a new pursuit, they typically begin by studying rules, odds, and strategy. Once they have this knowledge down cold, they head to the casino and buy into the game, but that’s when even the best laid plans can quickly fall apart. Knowing how to play the game is one thing, but knowing how much you’ll be expected to bet during the course of a session is another thing altogether.

I’ve devised a simple formula – using minimum bet sizes and average hands per hour – to help make this aspect of bankroll management a breeze. Read on to learn about the betting requirements for all of your favorite casino games.

Baccarat

A coin-flipping contest disguised as a card game, baccarat has beguiled gamblers for several centuries and counting.

Leaving aside the roped-off rooms where high-rolling “whales” play for big bucks, we mere mortals can generally play traditional baccarat for a $10 minimum bet. And assuming you have a well-trained baccarat dealer in the box, players can expect to see 72 hands per hour on average.

Baccarat Table

Thus, an hour-long session will see the average player pony up $720 in total wagers. That’s not to say you’ll lose $720 during an hour though, far from it.

Baccarat offers a 45.84% win probability when backing the Banker hand, and a 44.61% chance to win when playing the Player hand. With those odds in mind, playing the $10 minimum over a 60-minute span creates an expected expenditure of approximately $400.

Blackjack

The ultimate skill-based gambling game, blackjack appeals to folks with a mathematical mindset who enjoy piecing together partial information puzzles.

Add in a minuscule house edge of under 0.50% when you play according to basic strategy, and blackjack is the domain of savvy and sharp players.

With a standard $5 minimum in Sin City and beyond, the blackjack table’s bankroll management math is based on a 70-hand per hour average. At that rate, a $5 bettor can expect to wager $350 during an hour on the tables.

Once again though, blackjack provides a back and forth dynamic, as players will win their bets 42.43% of the time while losing 49.09% of hands (the other 8.48% are pushed).

Knowing these probabilities, the expected liability for a minimum bettor in blackjack stands at nearly $182.

Big Six Wheel

A true carnival-style game of chance, the Big Six wheel is a holdover from Las Vegas’ bygone era. You’ll still find a dozen or so of these color-coded wheels spinning away on The Strip, but their numbers have diminished greatly since the game’s glory days.

Similar to roulette, the Big Six wheel simply asks players to guess where the wheel will land. You can bet on various dollar amounts, and the payout odds escalate as the number of corresponding spaces on the wheel decrease.

Known as one of the worst statistical bets on the floor, the Big Six wheel is widely derided as a “sucker” game with its enormous 15.53% overall house edge.

Fortunately for fans of the Big Six wheel, a low minimum bet of just $1 – combined with a slow 20-spin per hour pace – creates a less punishing experience than that high house edge might suggest.

Overall, minimum bettors can get away with wagering a paltry $20 during an hour of play.

The bankroll management math gets a bit fuzzy, however, what with six distinct betting options ($1, $2, $5, $10, $20, and the special Logo jackpot) to choose from.

If you bet $1 exclusively on the $1 space, which pays out at even money, a 44.44% win probability means you can expect to lose just under $12 every hour.

But if you go for a little something with sweeter payout odds like the $20 space, a tiny win probability of 3.70% changes things considerably. Now, a $1 bettor backing the $20 space should expect to lose $19 while playing an hour’s length.

Casino War

Everyone grew up playing War around the kitchen table as kids, and the Casino War version is almost a carbon copy. One card apiece between the dealer and player, with the high card taking the pot.

Casino War uses the standard card game minimum of $5 and players will receive 65 hands per hour on average. At that rate, you’ll be placing $325 in total wagers while waging an hourlong War against the house.

Interestingly enough, Casino War offers a win probability of 50.27%, which shaves the player’s overall costs down to $163 and some change. Unfortunately, players will lose two betting units rather than one when they lose the hand after a tie on the deal triggers a war.

When this doubled loss is factored in at a 3.42% probability, expect another $11.15 in additional losses for every hour at the table.

Craps

You won’t find another game on the casino floor quite like craps. Crowded tables and onlookers cheering them on define the dice rolling classic, and a hot shooter can easily produce massive profits for bold and savvy bettors.

You can play the Pass Line in craps for a minimum of $5 at the lowest stakes, and the game averages 48 rolls per hour. That alone puts you at $240 in total wagers during a 60-minute window, but craps’ notorious complexity makes this one a little more difficult.

First of all, after the shooter establishes a point number, you’ll be invited to place an additional bet on the “Odds.” This is the only bet in a casino that provides no house edge whatsoever, so taking the maximum on the Odds is considered optimal strategy. And when you throw Place bets and all of the exotics into the mix, a $5 wager on the Pass Line can quickly balloon into $50 in bets spread across the baize.

For the sake of this page, we’ll stick with a $20 per roll minimum to balance out the variance between Pass Line instant winners and losers, Odds after a point is set, and all the rest.

With that new metric in place, craps players should be prepared to place $960 worth of bets in an hour. That might seem like a scary figure, but with Pass Line players landing a win of some sort roughly 50% of the time, the overall liability is really cut down by half.

Caribbean Stud

Once one of the more popular table games around, Caribbean Stud is on the decline. That means we’ll leave this entry short and sweet to move on to the more popular casino offerings.

A $5 minimum and a 50-hand per hour average rate mean $250 in bets will hit the table in a single hour. And with a loss probability of over 61%, that means Caribbean Stud players betting the minimum can expect to lose just over $152 per hour.

Let It Ride

Another blast from the past, Let It Ride was one of the dominant hybrid table games introduced in the ‘90s. It’s still around and kicking, although its popularity has diminished along with its cousin Caribbean Stud.

The math is eerily similar between the two games too, with a $5 minimum and 52-hand per hour average pace of play. That ratio will see $260 in total wagers hit the felt, and a loss probability of over 75% sends $195 of that straight into the casino’s coffers.

Pai Gow Poker

Inspired by the Asian domino tile setting game Pai Gow, the Pai Gow Poker table is known for its abundance of pushed hands.

Pai Gow Poker

At $5 minimum per hand and 30 hands per hour on average, players can expect to place $150 in wagers every 60 minutes. However, over 40% of all hands will result in a push so that money should be stretched to its limits.

Given an overall loss probability of 30.38%, Pai Gow Poker players can expect to drop a little over $45 per hour while betting the minimum.

Roulette (Double-Zero Wheel)

And finally, if you do what most players in Vegas do and sidle up to the cheaper $5 minimum double-zero wheels, you’ll get off a little easier.

These tables run slightly faster at 38 spins per hour, putting $190 in total wagers on the table. Once again though, that 47.37% win rate on even money bets shaves your expected loss down to almost $100 even.

And if you choose to go for the gusto by betting on single numbers, and they’re attractive 35 to 1 payout odds, expect a more volatile ride to be sure. In that case, a $5 bettor would expect to lose $185 of their $190 in bets given a disastrous win probability of just 2.63%.

Roulette (Single-Zero Wheel)

If you’re prepared to bet at a $25 minimum, the Cromwell has the cheapest single-zero roulette wheel left in all of Las Vegas. In fact, most casinos in town run the game – which offers a lower house edge (2.70%) compared to the double-zero (5.26%) alternative – at a $100 minimum.

European Roulette

We’ll stick with the Cromwell’s wheel and go with $25 per spin, along with the average spins per hour rate of 35. All told, you’ll be expected to bet $875 in an hour while playing this particular game.

And by sticking to the outside even money bets like Red or Black, Odd or Even, and High or Low, you’ll enjoy a win probability of 47.37%. Assuming you stick to the conservative betting options, that puts your expected loss rate per hour at a tick over $460.

Conclusion

Knowing how to play casino games is only the first step. Because carefully managing your bankroll along the way is what separates long-term losers from consistent winners, you must know the math underlying each game you decide to try.

Nothing is worse than showing up to a table without the funds needed to survive gambling’s inherent swings. Just like that, all it takes is a small losing streak to send your chip stack into oblivion. But when you have a firm grasp of the bankroll management math described above, you’ll always be prepared with a sufficient armament during your battle against the house.

Rex Hoffman / Author

Rex Hoffman is a passionate sports writer, with over five years of experience covering sports journalism in line with the Vegas betting landscape. His favorite subjects include football, basketball, and baseball. As a Las Vegas resident, he enjoys finding an edge against the local sportsbooks and aims to share his extensive knowledge with both beginners and experienced bettors. Rex also dabbles in horse racing wagering and enjoys typical casino fare like blackjack and poker in his spare time.

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