How Understanding your personality will help you make the best slot-playing choices
by Bill Burton
I recently attended a seminar given by the company that manages my 401K retirement plan. The meeting started with all of us filling out a questionnaire that would help determine the type of investors we were. The questions were designed to give us an insight into how much “risk” we could handle, as well as how much money we anticipated we would need for retirement. With this information recommendations could be made about the types of investments that were best suited for us.
There were other factors to consider as well but the whole point of the questionnaire came down to two factors: How much risk we could handle and how much time we had. If you were adverse to risk it was recommended that you stick with the “safer” investment options such as bonds. If you were more inclined to take a risk you could go with all stocks. As always there was a risk-to-reward ratio—the riskier investment options could bring a high return, but they could also bring a high loss. More stable investments offer smaller returns and a smaller loss potential.
I started to think about the similarities between investing in the stock market and casino gambling. After all, the choices you make in either endeavor can affect your financial security. We may not refer to it in the same terms, but investing is still gambling. You are gambling that the stocks or mutual funds you pick will be winners and increase the size of your account.
Your Monetary Bankroll
Your retirement account is money that you save for your retirement years. Most workers contribute a little money to this account each week. To approximate a gambling term, you could refer to this money as your retirement bankroll. You do not use this “bankroll” for everyday expenses or purchases because it is set aside specifically for living expenses during your later years.
When you visit a casino you also need a separate bankroll that you do not need for everyday expenses such as food or rent. Your “gambling bankroll” is the money that you set aside for games at the casino. Players who visit a casino for entertainment only usually have their bankroll on hand. A player planning to spend a few days at the casino during vacation may save up a little each week to form a bankroll that will last them for a several days. These are temporary bankrolls.
Serious players maintain their gambling bankroll in a separate fund or bank account that is used for nothing except playing their game of choice. Any winnings go back into the fund and losses are taken out of it. They never use any other funds for gambling purposes or use their gambling funds for any other expenses. One player I know refers to his gambling bankroll as his “401-G.”
The size of your bankroll is one of the determining factors as to the betting limits of the games you will play. If your bankroll consists of $50 you would be foolish to sit down at the dollar slot machines. You would do best to stick with quarters or nickel machines. Your monetary bankroll is not big enough for these limits.
Your Emotional Bankroll
The other determining factor in choosing the denomination of the games you play is what I call your “Emotional Bankroll.” In the investment seminar I attended they referred to this as our risk tolerance. It has to do with how you handle the fluctuations in your account based on the performance of your investments.
Your emotional bankroll is not based solely on the amount of money you have. You can have a very large bankroll but still not be comfortable playing at the higher limits. Just as you can have a large retirement account but not be comfortable with the swings of the riskier stocks. How much stress can you handle when playing a casino game? The size of your bet should be one that gives you a little thrill, but not enough to make you start sweating each outcome.
The best way to determine your ideal emotional level is to try moving up in levels of play slowly. Five-dollar table-game players may want to try a ten-dollar table and eventually a twenty-five-dollar one. Nickel slot players may want to move up to quarter slots. Quarter slot players may move to the fifty cent machines and then on to the dollar slots. Dollar slot players may want to try the higher limit machines. Once the risk factor begins to bother you, go back to the previous level. It is a very personal decision that only you can make. There is no shame in playing the lowest denomination game that makes you feel comfortable.
Only you can determine your own emotional bankroll. When you do, stick to it. Just as you have to properly manage your money bankroll you need to manage your emotional one as well. It will make your playing experience an enjoyable one.
What is Your Risk Tolerance?
You can divide slot players into three general groups based on their tolerance for risk. Again let me point out that these are only general groupings used as an example. Most of you will likely fall into a cross section of the three groups. Look at the profiles and see where you fit in.
Aggressive Player: This group likes to live on the edge. They are thrill seekers and only get enjoyment when their bets are extremely high. They don’t mind putting it all on the line for a chance to grab the brass ring, even if it means going home broke. The money is only a way of keeping score. The real excitement is in the action. For sports they may enjoy rock climbing or skydiving. If they are investors in the stock market, you can be pretty sure they are investing in the speculative stocks or day trading.
Average Player: This group hopes to come home with more money than they started with. They don’t mind risking their money but don’t want to go home broke. They’re happy with medium-sized jackpots that pay for their playing time and give them a little extra.
The average player is looking for entertainment as well as a chance to win some money. For sports he or she may enjoy golf or bowling or some other competitive sport that doesn’t entail risking their life in the process. If they are investors they may choose mutual funds or the blue-chips stocks to give them a good return with a minimum amount of risk.
Conservative Player: This group enjoys the casino but really doesn’t want to spend a lot of money for their entertainment. They are happy playing the games, and if they break even for the day they feel that they have won because of the enjoyment they received while playing. They want to get as much playing time as possible for their money. For sports the may enjoy noncompetitive activities such as swimming or jogging. If they are investors they may choose bonds or fixed interest accounts.
Choosing a Game
Once you determine what type of player you are, you can determine the type and denomination of slots you want to play.
Aggressive Players may want to choose the progressive slot machines. While the chances of hitting a life-changing jackpot are slim you are not afraid to put it on the line. If you don’t want to play the progressive machines you may be equally comfortable playing the higher denomination machines seeking a jackpot worth thousands of dollars.
Average Players will usually be most comfortable playing the quarter or 50-cent slots. If you want to stretch your money you can look for a machine with a high hit frequency. (Machines with a high hit frequency pay out small wins frequently while machines with a higher hit frequency usually pay out larger wins less frequently.) If you are looking for a larger jackpot you can choose one that has more payouts on the upper end of the pay table.
Conservative Players will probably get the most enjoyment playing a nickel machine with a high hit frequency such as many of the new video slots. If you pick a machine with the fewest number of lines and play a single coin on each line you can really stretch your playing time. You can also play a single coin in a straight multiplier quarter machine. (There is no added jackpot for playing maximum coin so this machine does not penalize you for not playing maximum coins.) You most likely won’t win a large amount but you will be able to play for quite some time on a small investment.
Time is another consideration when deciding which games you play. When you are investing in stocks and bonds time is your ally because your investments will usually grow in the long run. The longer you have the more money you will make. Historically it has been proven that most investments have a positive expectation and will grow with time.
Casino games on the other hand have a negative expectation because the house has an edge on all of the games. The longer you play the more you are putting your money at risk. If you plan to stay at the casino for several days you may want to start out playing lower denominations even if you are an aggressive player.
Financial decisions of any nature are extremely personal whether you are investing for your retirement or playing games in the casino. You are the only one that can make them. You should not be influenced by what other players are doing. We all have our own playing styles and you should choose the one with which you are most comfortable. It is all a matter of personal choice and what gives you the most pleasure when you visit the casino.
Casino gambling is one of the most exciting forms of entertainment, and like all forms of entertainment your primary goal should be to have fun. So pick a style and game at the limits that give you the most pleasure and enjoy your visit to the casino.
Until next time, remember: “Luck comes and goes…Knowledge stays forever.”
Bill Burton is the Casino Gambling columnist for About.com http://casinogambling.about.com. He is the author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold’em and 1,000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets.
His website is located at:www.billburton.com
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