Win-Loss Limits

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I've read a lot of my colleagues' books and articles and, as best I can remember, they all say that failing to set win/loss limits is one of the worst things you can do. I disagree--partially. I agree with setting loss limits. Divide your vacation time into sessions and set firm loss limits for each session. Without them, you could go broke the first day and have to spend the rest of your Vegas vacation watching the fountains and sinking pirate ship 10 times a day. Therefore, disciplined loss limits allow you to manage your money so you don't go broke before it's time to go home.

I disagree that you should also always set win limits ("always" is the key word). Many of my colleagues advocate quitting when your winning streak ends. If you're a local and can return to the table day after day without restriction, then perhaps win limits may serve some purpose. But if you're an occasional gambler who visits Vegas twice a year, I believe that win limits are generally inappropriate.

Suppose you start your four-day vacation by playing your first craps session. Suppose your win/loss goal is to quit the session if you lose your $100 buy-in or if you get $150 ahead. Two minutes after you buy-in, the table goes berserk with a blistering hot roll. The shooter throws for almost an hour without a 7-out. You interrupt your screaming, jumping up and down, hugging, and kissing to count your chips. Holy cow, you're $900 ahead! The shooter finally rolls a 7-out. Now what? You've won six times your original win goal. Do you quit? If so, how long do you quit? Do you quit altogether and not play the rest of your trip? If you quit, what will you do in the time that you planned to play craps?

That's the dilemma you face if you're only an occasional gambler, which most of us are. Personally, I keep playing. Why? I came to Vegas to play craps. I didn't come to exercise in fancy spas, or go shopping, or sight-see, or eat at fancy restaurants, or look at boring water fountains, or ogle half-naked pirates, or do anything else but gamble. So, why quit when I'm ahead? If I quit after a $900 winning session, then what? Sit at the bar drinking beer watching everyone else have fun at the craps table? No way! Like you, I'm a knowledgeable player who understands and accepts that I'm likely to lose by the time I check out of the hotel, but that's okay with me. It's pointless for me to quit after getting $900 ahead. If money were my motivation, I wouldn't have spent $1,200 for two airplane tickets to Vegas, $700 for a hotel room, $500 (maybe more) for food, $500 for my wife's massages, and $1,000 (probably more) for my wife's shopping spree. It doesn't add up. If all I care about is money, I would have saved tons of it by staying home. As long as I'm winning, I'm playing. The only time I stop is after I've lost my buy-in money for a particular session. Then, when it's time to start the next session, I drop another buy-in allotment on the table and start having fun again.

However, win limits may be suitable for non-gamblers who rarely play. Suppose you visit Vegas to attend a convention. You've never gambled, you don't know how to gamble, you think it's a silly waste of money, or it just isn't fun for you. Your friend talks you into going down to the casino to play craps. You don't want to go, but your friend won't take no for an answer, so you reluctantly say, "Okay, but only for an hour." Your friend has the mojo working in high gear, rolling number after number.

You don't have a clue what you're doing as you mirror your friend's bets. All you know is that the dealer keeps giving you green chips and you keep stuffing them in your pocket. The streak finally ends after 20 minutes and you find yourself $300 ahead. You tell your friend, "I'm taking my money and running." Rather than staying for the remainder of the hour that you said you'd play, you reached a comfortable win amount and decided to quit before losing it all. For this type of non gambler, a win limit makes good sense.