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PAUL'S POINTERS: PREPARING FOR A NEW GAMBLING YEAR

By Paul Wilson

BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson is a quasi-Renaissance man and graduate of Millsaps College. Some of his interests and hobbies include finance, consulting, travel, photography, and rock music. He's an avid baseball fan. Paul has done freelance writing and editing for gaming publications and takes blackjack, video poker, and sports betting very seriously. As we learned in the November 2014 issue, he also might have a "thing" for Wonder Woman.

This month I'm going to share some tips and processes that I use to get ready for a new gambling year. By the time you read this, we're already a month into the New Year and many of you may have already made your first foray into the casinos for 2017. That's ok; you can start anytime. The following is intended to help you keep tabs on your 2017 gambling year and perhaps set the groundwork for future gambling years. Many of you may have your own processes in place. I offer mine merely as a suggestion. Do with them what you will and as always, "your mileage may vary."

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS THE PARTY'S OVER OR SIMPLY CLOSURE

My first step is closing the books on the previous year. My gambling year follows the calendar and begins in January and concludes in December. I treat my gambling like a business. I keep monthly records and compile them into quarterly statements and then combine these into the annual statement. In case you are having flashbacks of an accounting course you suffered through somewhere along the line, it's not that complicated. I keep it simple and do it all in Microsoft Word. I'm not a big Excel guy, but I do use spreadsheets to log my selections in the weekly football contests I enter each year.

The "Wilson Rules" require me to make a daily entry each time I conduct business in a casino. I might play multiple blackjack sessions or video poker sessions or a combination of both. That doesn't matter; I simply record the day's final tally, plus or minus. For those late nights, my gambling day ends when my head hits the pillow. It could be midnight or, like in my younger days, much later. If I don't gamble, but perhaps pick up a gift from a promotion or redeem a comped meal or pay with players' club points then the entry is "N/A" and I annotate the cost of the comp or make an educated guess. I record the casino or casinos visited in this daily entry as well. At the end of the month I compile the numbers and enter them into the monthly total. I do the same for comps.

For my sports betting, I log each day by the individual sport and keep a running tally throughout the month. For February I expect to have categorical entries under Super Bowl, NCAA basketball, NBA, NHL, and Tennis. At the end of the month I take the sum of these results and enter them under a category called "Sports Total." It is a plus/minus dollar amount followed by the number of all winning, all losing, and all tied sports wagers from all categories for the month. I then derive and annotate these numbers in percentage terms.

I repeat these processes each month and use the monthly values to quickly compile the quarterly numbers. The four quarters are combined to derive the year-end numbers. Hopefully the year-end gambling number is positive. I try to wrap things up for the year around Christmas or shortly thereafter, especially if it's been a profitable year.

STRAIGHT CASH, HOMEY

This section pertains to your bankroll. Basically, how much or how little of it do you have? For even the novice gambler this is an important question to answer before you ever make your first bet of the year. I've read professional gamblers state that their bankroll is every penny they have in net worth. By that definition I'm not a professional gambler and never intend to be. Chances are, neither are you and you probably shouldn't try to be.

I consider myself a "semi-pro" gambler. I take the pursuit very seriously; I'm rather knowledgeable; and have spent countless hours developing my skill sets. However, at the end of the day, I have a defined bankroll and currently am not, and have no immediate plans, to attempt to support myself based on my gambling successes or failures. In other words, I'm not using my gambling money to pay the bills. Wins are put back into the bankroll allowing it to grow, while losses come out of the bankroll and thus don't affect day-to-day financial operations like paying the mortgage or the *&%!# cable company.

I recommend saving money on a regular basis to build a starting bankroll or to increase your existing one. If you can only spare $5 a week, then start with that amount. If you can save $200 per month; then do that. Never borrow money to gamble. My goal many years ago was to build an independent bankroll to be used exclusively for gambling. Trust me when the dry spells come, and they will, it helps you sleep at night knowing that your overall financial well-being or that of your family is not being put at risk. A wise redneck in the Mississippi Delta once told me, "Paul, never make a bet you can't afford to lose."

As your bankroll grows, figure out how much of it you will take on casino vacations or on each casino trip. I use set amounts depending on what I plan to do, but will double or triple the amount for overnight trips or large point-multiplier promotions. Figure out a safe place to store your overall bankroll. A combination of interest-bearing bank accounts, lock boxes, safes, and even envelopes have worked for me. When I used to visit Las Vegas for a week at a time, I'd partition my trip money into seven envelopes, one for each day of the week. At the end of the day, I'd empty the contents of my wallet back into that day's envelope and lock it away. It's a pretty good technique to make sure you bring something home with you. I must admit during one Las Vegas trip I had a major breakdown in discipline after starting extremely cold playing 10/7 Double Bonus video poker at my hotel. As many of you know, that is a volatile game, but the expected return is over 100% with perfect play. I burned through that day's envelope, the second day's envelope, and was into the third day's envelope. I wasn't on tilt and thought long and hard about what I was doing. Fortunately, the math finally started to catch up and I caught quad Aces multiple times, and several other quads, and ended up refilling all the envelopes with a small profit by lunch the second day. There are no doubt lessons in my actions during that trip that are best discussed another day. I share that story solely for the purpose of saying that the daily envelope technique, or using session bankrolls carved from your overall bankroll, only works if you stick with the plan and stay disciplined. That doesn't include going to the ATM or getting cash advances either.

MALL RATS OR LET'S GO SHOPPING

This section is two-fold. By shopping I literally mean spending money. Each year I buy a copy of the...

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