Whether you want to become a successful gambling professional or you just play for fun, there are two things you absolutely need to get the most out of your online casino experience: Money management skills, and the right mindset.
To help with both of these, some gamblers set time limits and/or spending limits for themselves.
In this post, we are going to explore both of these ideas in detail. We will explain what time limits and spending limits are, examples of how you could set them, why they might be useful, their pros and cons, and situations where they may or may not be appropriate.
What are Time Limits and Spending Limits?
Time limits and spending limits are caps you set on the time you gamble or the amount of money you play with, respectively.
Plenty of people gamble with neither. Others may only use one or the other. Still others might incorporate both into how they manage their gambling activities.
Examples of What Time Limits Might Look Like
A gambling time limit is designed to prevent you from spending all of your time playing at the online casino.
No, you do not need to be some kind of hopeless addict for a time limit to be useful. Anyone who has a hard time with time management might benefit.
There is no “right” amount of time to spend gambling that applies to everyone. We all have different schedules, priorities, and needs.
But there is probably an ideal amount of time for you. So, you will have to figure out what that is.
Some examples of what time limits could look like include:
- “I can play for up to 30 minutes at a time without breaks. In total, I will gamble no more than 1.5 hour a day.”
- “I will gamble for a maximum of six hours a week. I can structure that any way I choose.”
- “I will never gamble for more than 2 hours at a time. I also will not exceed 5 hours of gambling a week.”
You get the basic idea. Just decide what is suitable for you.
What are Some Reasons You Might Want a Time Limit?
- How do you choose the right time limits for your needs?
They should be based not only on your schedule, but also on the reasons you are setting a time limit in the first place. These may vary from person to person. Here are a few reasons gamblers might set time limits:
- Your awareness of time fades away when you gamble, and sometimes you just find you have spent more time than you intended.
In this case, you probably would focus on setting limits before you take a break, or limits for how much you will play during a day (and be sure to use a timer).
- Over the course of a week, your gambling is intruding on time you need to spend with your family, do your job, etc.
Putting strict weekly limits in place could help you avoid having your live swing out of balance.
- You have a history of problem gambling.
Frankly, you should not be actively gambling if you do not have the problem in hand. But if you have taken steps to do that and you are cautiously attempting to ease back in, using time limits may help you to gamble in a more healthy way going forward (but you will need the self-discipline to go with it).
- You are trying to limit your gambling expenses.
Sometimes it seems like time limits exist to keep money in a gambler’s pocket. But spending limits work better for this, since it really takes only one bet to spend all your money if you are playing without a cap on your stakes.
Examples of What Spending Limits Might Look Like
Speaking of spending limits, let’s talk about those now. I don’t want to focus specifically on stake sizes here—I can sum that up by just saying right now, “Wager a conservative percentage of your bankroll each time you bet.”
But the other part of money management is setting caps on:
- How much money you will keep in your bankroll at any given time.
- How much money you will deposit into your bankroll in a day/week/month/year.
There is a huge difference between these two scenarios:
- Jon always bets just 2% of his bankroll. He never deposits more than $100 a month into his account.
- Jane always bets just 2% of her bankroll. She puts no limits on how much she puts into her account.
Jane could end up blowing through a ridiculous amount of money. Jon, on the other hand, can never exceed the rate at which he is depositing. So, even if he has a really bad month, he is protecting his overall finances.
Once again, there are various approaches you could take when setting spending limits. Here are some examples:
- “I will never put more than $100 into my account on any given month.”
- “I will deposit no more than $30 a week into my account.”
- “I will quit gambling for the day if I experience more than 30% drawdown in my bankroll.”
What I do not recommend is an approach like this:
- “I will never have more than $500 in my bankroll.”
If you lose a lot, sure, that might make sense. Most of the time, your bankroll will not exceed $500. And if this is your only rule, you let yourself make the occasional big deposit. Also, if you win a jackpot, you might withdraw a lot of it and save it, which is good.
But what if you are playing a game of skill and are growing your account? Withdrawing some of your winnings is wise. But on the other hand, so is letting your account keep growing to some extent. That way, you can start raising your stake sizes and winning more, even while sticking to the same flat percentage of your account with your bets.
What are Some Reasons You Might Want a Spending Limit?
Here are some reasons you might set a spending limit when you are playing online casino games:
- You do not want to exceed your budget.
The main reason to set a spending limit is simply to make sure that you do not eat into funds you need to save for other things. Without orderly caps, you might do so either through lack of discipline or simply by mistake.
- You are trying to ensure that your overall money management plan is consistent.
What use is setting limits to your stake sizes if you do not also set overall spending limits to provide context to those stake sizes? Even if you commit to small stakes, over time they could add up to way more money than you want to lose if you just keep putting money in your account with no restrictions.
- You are trying to manage your time.
Just as you might indirectly try to manage your money with time limits, you might indirectly be trying to manage your time with spending limits. This might work to a degree, though it still makes more sense to set time limits for this purpose.
Which is Better: Time Limits or Spending Limits?
You might wonder which is the superior tool for managing your gambling—setting time limits or setting spending limits.
It is not really an either/or proposition. You can do both. But we would say that which is “better” depends on what your goals are.
To give you further perspective, below, we will go over the pros and cons for both spending limits and time limits.
In general, setting both can be a great idea, but there are scenarios where either might end up getting in your way.
Time Limits: Pros and Cons
Let’s start by discussing how time limits can help or hinder you while you are playing online casino games.
Pros of Time Limits
- Keep your life priorities in balance.
One of the key benefits of setting a gambling time limit is that you are taking a step that will help you to prevent gambling from totally taking over your schedule.
Again, you may not fit the description of a “problem gambler,” or maybe you did in the past at some point but do not now.
But that does not mean that you may not sometimes have a difficult time walking away from something you are enjoying to deal with other commitments.
Setting a rule for yourself with a time limit for the day, the week, or any other period will help you to make sure you still take care of those commitments.
Just keep in mind that no amount of rules will help unless you also have the discipline and commitment to stick with them.
So, you need to work on your gambling psychology at the same time you are working on time and money management.
- Avoid losing track of time.
It is not a coincidence that you may sometimes lose track of how much time has passed while you play casino games. They are designed in part to facilitate this effortless passage of time.
In fact, this is part of what makes them so relaxing and fun. But obviously, you do not always want to find yourself looking up at the clock to discover that hours have passed when you only wanted to gamble for a little bit.
But if you define “a little bit” as a certain amount of time, you can stop this from happening in the future.
Maybe 20 minutes sounds good, or 30 or 40.
Whatever the case may be, choose a time, and set an alarm. Then return to playing. When the alarm goes off, your time limit has expired, and you can stop for the day. You never need to lose track of time again.
- Sometimes prevent yourself from going broke.
There are gamblers who think that time limits can stand in for spending limits they do not bother to set. This is not really true, but time limits are better than nothing in this department.
Say you decide to let yourself gamble for half an hour today, and you have $100 in your bankroll at the start of that session.
You have some ups and downs—more downs than ups. Half an hour goes by, and you have $30 left.
If you are the sort of person who would just keep playing until you busted without a time limit, you would walk away with nothing.
But with the time limit putting a stop to your activities for the day, you at least get to keep your $30. It will be waiting in your account for you to play with during your next session.
So, that is definitely a potential benefit. But it does not always come to pass.
Imagine the same basic scenario, but maybe you lost a few big stakes. Before half an hour is even up, you have busted.
At that point, you might quit for the day with nothing—in which case, your time limit did nothing to prevent this outcome.
Moreover, if you still have time left to gamble and no spending limits, you might add more to your account, and lose that too.
When your time limit is up, you will actually have lost more than you had in your original bankroll.
So, sometimes a time limit will stop you from busting. But other times, it will not.
- Sometimes quit for the day with a profit.
“Quit while you are ahead” is an idea that sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Winning money is exciting. So when it is happening, the temptation is always to see how much more one can win.
Imagine you launched into an hour of gambling with $100 in your original bankroll, and you are doing really well. You are now up to $220, and your timer goes off.
Since you have set a time limit for yourself, that resolves the entire question of, “Should I keep trying to win more, or leave now while I am ahead?”
You will cash out for the day with a profit. Without the time limit, you might have kept playing until the situation reversed and you started losing money again.
In fact, that reversal can be so frustrating that some gamblers then go on tilt, trying to get back to their previous profit level before quitting. As a result, they then lose more and actually end up in the red by the time they quit.
You will not always get to enjoy this advantage of a time limit, of course—it all depends on what takes place during your gambling session.
Cons of Time Limits
We are going to assume that if you are setting a time limit, you have the discipline to adhere to it. So, we will not list a lack of discipline here as a limitation to the value of a time limit. But there are a couple of possible disadvantages you should be aware of.
- A time limit is not a money management plan.
One limitation is what we discussed above, and that is that time limits are not money management plans.
Sometimes, your time limit may save you money. But there is no guarantee that this will be the case if you have zero strategy for money management.
Hypothetically, you could get away with just these two ingredients, however:
- Limits to stake sizes
- A time limit
You could, for instance, decide to gamble for half an hour. You know roughly how many slot machine spins you personally could play through within the period of time you have chosen.
Take your starting bankroll, and divide by that number. That gives you a limit to your stake sizes that should allow you to play until your time limit is up without losing all your money.
Even if you lost every single spin, you would simply hit zero by the point your time limit elapsed.
Assuming you are winning anything, you should thus at least not bust.
You would then have no need to add anything to your bankroll, so you would simply have no need to set spending limits with respect to deposits—at least for that one session (you do still need them in general).
This example helps you see how money management and time limits can work together to limit your losses, but you can see how if you had no stake size limits, the time limit by itself would not be a reliable means to accomplishing this.
This “drawback” is simply a limitation, not really a problem. It would only be a “problem” if you believed that you were reliably limiting your losses just by having a time limit.
But you now know why money management is critical, so that should not happen.
- Strict time limits can limit the potential of an edge.
Time limits are appropriate in most gambling situations, because most of the games in the casino are based purely on chance. That means that you cannot have an edge. The edge always belongs to the house.
But that is not universally true. There are some online casino games where you might be able to get an edge.
Picture of scenario where you are playing online poker against other players. Imagine that you have everyone else at the table pretty much figured out, and you are in control of the action.
In this scenario, you do possess an edge. Is that something you really should give up just because you reached your daily gambling time limit?
Edges do not come along every day. If you do not exploit them to their fullest, you may just be robbing yourself of what you need to be a profitable gambler.
Spending Limits: Pros and Cons
Now that we have gone over time limit pros and cons, let’s discuss the advantages and drawbacks that can go with setting caps on how much you will put or keep in your bankroll while you are gambling online.
Pros of Spending Limits
- You methodically and reliably limit what you can lose during your gambling sessions.
Even though time limits sometimes help you to shield your bankroll, they do so only in an indirect manner.
As discussed, without some type of money management rules, time limits will ultimately fail to protect your funds.
But putting limits on stake sizes, drawdown, and transfers into your online casino account for various timeframes (a day, a week, etc.) puts a firm cap on how much you can lose within those periods of time.
Say these are your rules:
- You will not deposit more than $250 into your account for any given month.
- For any given gambling session, if you have more than 50% drawdown, you will quit for the day.
So, if you put $250 into your account at the start of the month, and you have drawdown that brings your account to $125 one day, that means you are done that day. There can be no further losses, even if you had not reached the time limit you may have set.
When you come back the next day, you will have $125 to play with. You will resist the urge to put more money into your account, because you already hit your self-imposed monthly deposit limit. At most, you can lose $125 the rest of the month.
The only reason your losses for a month would ever exceed your deposit limit for that month would be if you had winnings left over from the previous month at the start of the month.
So, if you started with $100 in your account, and then added in $250, you would have $350 to play with that month. That means you could conceivably lose $350—but no more than that.
If you set a tighter limit on drawdown losses, you can ensure that whatever you have to gamble with at the start of the month extends through more sessions before you potentially run out of funds.
You should also recalculate your drawdown limit at the start of each gambling session if you are setting it a as a percentage of your bankroll.
So, say you are going with 50% as a drawdown limit, and you have $250 at the start of a session. You drop to $125 and stop for the day.
For your next session, you are not going to keep $125 as your drawdown limit. You are going to recalculate 50%, so it will now be $62.50.
This, too, will help you to extend your bankroll.
You could also go with a flat dollar amount if you want. But if you do that, it will encompass a progressively larger percentage of your total bankroll as your bankroll shrinks.
Regardless, I am getting off topic as this is not an article that is focused on stake sizes. The bottom line is just that a combination of different types of spending limits makes it possible to put a strict cap on your risk.
- You do not let your losses in gambling bleed over into the rest of your financial life.
I think that most gamblers are aware that they need rules to set their stake sizes (though this does not mean they always know which rules will work best). But there is so much less discussion about limiting deposits that I think quite a few gamblers overlook the matter altogether.
But if you do not limit this aspect of your spending, your stake sizes will only control the rate at which you lose money, not how much you can eventually lose.
Some people may not think twice about depositing more funds. They might notice, “My balance is getting low; I am just going to top it up.”
Then they keep betting with a conservative stake size, continuing on their way without concern.
But it is easy to underestimate how much you are topping off your account over time if you do not set a limit.
You might think you have only added $100 over the course of a month, only to discover at the end of the month you actually put in $240.
Suddenly, money you were supposed to use for other expenses is no longer available.
But if you have a strict deposit limit and the discipline to commit to it, this whole problem will go away.
You will never again find yourself short of the funds you need to pay your bills, or money you want to put into savings or investments.
- You give yourself a chance to grow your account.
If you place no limits on how much you spend on a given spin, or how much drawdown you will tolerate, you might drain your account quickly and routinely down to zero.
This is especially likely if you also have no time limits set.
By capping your stake sizes and setting a drawdown limit, you stop yourself from wiping out your account all the time.
This alone will not cause your account to grow, but it will help. Each penny you lose is one you have to make up before you can profit. So, curbing your losses is the first step toward profitability.
You could actually set another type of spending limit—a kind of “opposite” of a drawdown limit.
For example, you could state:
“If I am up 50% over what I started with during a gambling session, then I will call it a day.”
Limits like these stop you from playing until you lose again, and do help you to directly grow your account.
- Spending limits can help you to manage your time.
Just as time limits can help you indirectly manage your spending, spending limits may help you to indirectly manage your time.
If you hit your drawdown limit and/or your bankroll is empty and you have hit your deposit limit, that prevents you from spending additional time gambling until your limit “resets.”
Of course, having spending limits does not guarantee that you will be managing your time wisely playing casino games.
You could have your luck bounce up and down a lot, and find yourself roughly breaking even for a considerable length of time.
So, even though spending limits may help with time management, they do not replace time limits for that purpose.
Cons of Spending Limits
- You might limit your growth.
It is hard to come up with a lot of drawbacks for having some sort of spending limits when you are playing casino games.
The only one I can come up with would again concern a situation where you have an edge, such as when you are playing poker.
And even in that scenario, it is not really having spending limits that could be a problem so much as just making them too rigid.
For example, you might need to weather significant drawdown during a poker game. If you set your drawdown limit too tightly, you might have a hard time staying in games long enough to win.
Situations Where Time Limits Make Sense
Now that we have talked about the possible pros and cons of setting various sorts of time and spending limits while gambling, we can run through scenarios where they might be good or bad ideas.
When you need to pry yourself away to do other things. For some people, stepping away from the online casino is easy. For others, it is very hard not to just take one more spin… then another… and another. Time limits help you know when to stop so you can keep up with everything that matters to you—even when you still have cash to burn.
When you lose your awareness of time. The less conscious you are of time passing, the easier it is to waste it by mistake. A time limit can prevent you from simply blanking out about how long you have been playing. You could even set alerts to let you know when you might want to switch from one slot game to another.
When time limits help you manage your funds. As we have talked about, time limits sometimes assist you with stretching out your funds or staying profitable between gambling sessions. But this only works consistently with money management rules.
Scenarios Where Time Limits are Counterproductive
When you have an advantage. Quitting while you are ahead strategically is usually not a good idea. You need to ride out those waves as long as you can so you can grow your winnings as much as possible. When the edge is gone, then you can walk away.
When you mistake time management for money management. If you are using time limits because you think they prevent the need for money management altogether, they are going to be doing you more harm than good.
When you want more time to play and have no issues with life balance or scheduling. If you still have money to spend gambling, and you have no reason to be doing anything else, why arbitrarily cut your time gambling short?
Situations Where Spending Limits Make Sense
When you care about your financial health. If you do not want gambling to chew a hole in your bank account, then you absolutely must have some spending limits in place, especially for drawdown and deposits.
When you want to stretch out your bankroll. Spending limits – in particular those that are focused around drawdown – will help you to extend your bankroll so that it takes more gambling sessions to drain it.
When you want to give yourself a chance to be profitable. Limits for stake sizes are an absolute must if you want any shot at profitable gambling. Putting a cap on deposits also helps indirectly. Why? Because it protects your overall financial health, as discussed. And that ultimately means you will have more flexibility for gambling. You cannot become a profitable gambler if your life finances are not stable to begin with.
Always. Seriously, spending limits are how you manage your money. There is never a good reason not to have a money management plan.
Are There Scenarios Where Spending Limits Don’t Help?
No, there really are no situations where you would not want to set spending limits. You should keep them somewhat flexible when appropriate, but they should always be there.
Now you have a lot to think about regarding the spending limits and time limits you can set when you gamble at online casinos.
How useful a time limit is depends on your needs, but spending limits are something we suggest for everyone as part of a comprehensive money management plan.
When you manage your time and money effectively, you can stretch your bankroll, maintain a balanced schedule, and enjoy online gambling to its fullest.