Minding Your Money
The smart way to deal with your casino winnings
We can’t count the number of people who have told us they “never win” at the casinos. To this, we always ask if they were ahead at any point during their visit. Many times, the person will admit that they were ahead at some point—but they wound up giving it all back.
It’s easy to walk away when all of your money is gone. It’s a lot harder to quit while you’re ahead. We’re not saying that if you do win that you should immediately go home. If you’re ahead, lock up your buy-in and a small profit. Play with the excess, and when that’s gone, get up and take a break. Walk around, see a show or get something to eat.
Few things in life feel better than winning at a casino. Players should learn to savor these wins. By taking a break from the games while you’re ahead, you can enjoy that winning feeling while you engage in other activities at the casino. You can always go back and keep playing the games later.
On the flip side, nothing feels worse than going home broke, knowing that you could have walked away a winner, but instead you gave back all of the money. Many players feel that when they’re up, they’re playing with the “casino’s money.” They tend to look at the money they won differently than the money they brought with them. In reality, however, once you win, it becomes YOUR money.
It’s not that most people never win when they visit the casino. It’s that they never leave with their winnings. The problem with many players is that they have unrealistic expectations when they sit down to play a game. They want to turn 10 dollars into a thousand dollars, or a hundred dollars into 10 thousand. That would be a 1,000% return on your starting bankroll, and it’s very unlikely to happen.
Over the course of your playing sessions, you will probably have many small wins, a few medium wins, and maybe an occasional big win (or possibly even a life-changing win). Here are some suggestions for handling jackpots of various sizes.
A small win would be five times your starting bankroll or less. For example, if you started playing with $20 and you won $100, that would be five times your starting bankroll. The best way to ensure that you go home a winner is to lock up your initial starting money along with a small profit, say about 10 percent of your win. You can then play with the remainder of your winnings. If you continue to win, add a percentage to your profits and keep playing. Remember, over time you will have many small wins, and saving a little each time will create a larger win at the end of the day.
A medium win would be 5–10 times your starting bankroll. If you start with $100 and win a $1,000 jackpot, that would be 10 times your starting bankroll. With a medium-sized jackpot, try using the one-third rule, which means continue playing with a third of the money and put one third into a gambling account to use during a future casino visit. Spend the remainder of the money on something special that isn’t gambling related. This might be a nice dinner at a gourmet restaurant, or some new electronic gadget you’ve had your eye on.
When you purchase a special item with your winnings, you have something tangible to show for it. Every time you use that item you will be reminded of your win, and have a good feeling about it.
A large win is any jackpot that is more than 10 times your starting bankroll, or a jackpot of more than $1,200, which requires the casino to give you a W-2G slip and report your winnings to the IRS. When you receive a W-2G, you will have to pay taxes on your winnings when you file your tax return.
If you hit a large jackpot we suggest using the “quarter rule.” This means you immediately set aside 25 percent to cover the taxes, so you won’t get caught short come tax time. Then put 25 percent into a gambling account to use for future visits. You can spend a quarter of the money on a special item. As the remaining 25% of your winnings, you can use it for gambling—however, if it’s a very large amount, you should probably use less. (If you hit a $10,000 jackpot, I don’t suggest gambling away $2,500 that day.)
Any jackpot over $100,000 is a life-changing amount for most of us. One of the most sensible solutions for dealing with a big financial windfall is simple yet practical: put two thirds of the money you win into a bank CD or some other investment that you can’t touch for a full year. The reason for this is that it will give you time to think about the money, and formulate a plan for your financial future. As for the third of your winnings that you didn’t lock away, you can enjoy that money now.
Don’t Get Greedy
Regardless of the size of the jackpot you hit, you’re only a winner if you actually leave the casino with more money than you started with. Hitting a jackpot, and then letting the casino win it all back from you, makes you a loser.
Greed is the #1 downfall of players who win a chunk of money. You have to remember that anything you win is your money—not the casino’s—and you should be prudent as to how you spend it.