Which is better? Playing with a large bankroll or dividing it into parts

When you hear something often enough, you begin to think that it must be true, especially if it makes a modicum of sense. In fact, these jewels of information often become “conventional wisdom” even though they are not always correct.

You’ve probably heard the old axiom that a whole equals the sum of its parts. It makes sense and it has that mathematical element that makes us all think it must be true, even when it comes to gambling.

Based on this premise, you’ll often find articles advising you to divide your casino bankroll into four or five separate parts and play a single game using just one part, quitting a specific game after you lose the entire portion. It seems to make sense and be a reasonable online casino bankroll management technique, but have you ever stopped to question whether the premise is correct or not?

Let’s examine this advice by way of an example.

For argument’s sake let’s suppose you visit a casino with a $500 budget. When used in its entirety, this bankroll will be sufficient to place a $10 line bet with double odds and a single $10 or $12 place bet in the game of Craps or a $25 Blackjack or Baccarat bet, a couple of inside and outside bets worth $25 in a game of roulette or three to five coins on a dollar slot. We say the bankroll is “sufficient” due to the fact that in the above-mentioned games, at this level of risk, the volatility will be around $400 or $500.

Of course, you may win at the outset of your gambling session and be equal to or ahead of this value, but the more likely scenario is that you’ll start out with a few losses and be waiting for a series of wins to put you over the top. For this you’ll require a large enough bankroll to sustain your game play while you ride out the lows.

On the other hand, if you divide your $500 budget into five increments of $100, the smaller bankrolls will be sufficient to survive standard variations in results if you downsize your wagers. This means that you could play $5 on Blackjack or Mini-Baccarat, a single outside wager valued at $5 in roulette, $5 on the line with double odds or two $5 place bets in Craps, or a single coin dollar or multi-coin quarter or nickel slot machine.

When looking at the mathematical statistics, playing a low stakes casino game with a small bankroll or a high limit one with a large bankroll, the outcomes are equivalent when adjusting playing time for the equivalent total risk. In these scenarios, the whole does equal the sum of its parts and breaking your bankroll up into parts for multiple games will give you extended game play and enjoyment.

That said though, two issues arise.

Firstly, land based casinos don’t have too many tables under $5 and the lower denomination slot machines are usually busy. This is slightly overcome by playing at online casinos, but you still have to look for those that offer lower limit games. If you can’t find a casino that offers the game you want to play at these low limits, you’ll end up playing at a level that makes your $100 bankroll vulnerable and easy to blow through quickly.

The second issue is caused by human nature. You’re prepared to spend $500 and you’ve probably determined a profit objective that you’d like to see as a return. At the most you’re hoping for a few thousand but in reality you’ll be happy with $400 or $500. As you know, volatility works both ways, if you play a game where $100 is adequate to ride out the lows, you can’t really count on the highs. Remember if you divide your budget you also have to divide your expectations. If you’re playing with $100 you have to aim for $100 in profit over five games, rather than hoping for $400 or $500 every time. You have to be realistic.

You may not find or enjoy a low limit casino game that you wish to play or you may not want to quit when you’ve earned a realistic profit when playing one of these games. And that is why “conventional wisdom” fails and the sum of the parts become less than the whole. Ultimately, if you’re dividing your budget into smaller parts, you’re actually lowering the odds of making a profit.