When is the right time to leave the table?

From a purely objective and strategic perspective, there is no “right” time to leave the table, unless you’ve worn out your welcome and the pit boss suggests you ought to try another game. The only advice you’ll find on the other sections of the site is that you should leave immediately if you suspect anyone (the dealer or any player) is cheating. Besides those situations, it’s a matter of opinion. Here are a few common suggestions:

Leaving when you’ve lost all your money

In this case, you don’t have much of choice and the casino will adore you if you do this regularly. However, this is the worst possible outcome of a gaming session, and shouldn’t be your only cue for departure.

It should, however, be amended to “leave when you’ve lost the bankroll you’ve budgeted for the session”—as “all your money” could include not only the cash you brought, but also your entire line of credit, maxing out your credit cards, pawning your watch, and cashing in your return ticket. If you ever get that far, seek professional help.

Ideally, you should approach a table with a specific amount budgeted for that playing session—by the old adage; it should be no more than you can afford to lose. If you plan to be gambling a while, you should have separate bankrolls of some sessions, so blowing one session shouldn’t be a cataclysm. If the worst happens and that entire bankroll vanishes, don’t go back into your pocket to borrow from future meetings. Leave the game, at least for a while.

Make sure to ask for a comp when this happens, as you’re owed one. Catch a show, gorge on free food, or otherwise, take a break. When you’re back in good spirits, or at least ready to focus, break out your bankroll for the next session and get back into the game.

Leaving when you’ve lost half your bankroll.

At first blush, this may seem like sound advice, in that you’ll leave the table with at least some of your stake intact but fundamentally the same as waiting to lose your entire bankroll. If you buy in for $1000 with the intention of leaving with $500, you are effectively playing with a bankroll of $500, since that is the entire amount you’re going to gamble.

Worse, this approach will encourage you to bet more than you should on each hand since you’re basing individual wagers on the $1000 you bought in for rather than the $500 you’re going to play. A bad run of cards will wipe you out quickly, and if you leave the table, you won’t be there make a comeback you would have you been wagering appropriately for your bankroll.

Granted, a “bad run” and “comeback” sound suspiciously like superstition, but as any card counter knows, a player will lose while low cards are coming out, but this will leave a higher concentration of high cards in the deck, turning the odds in favour of the players.

Leaving when you hit a losing streak.

This bit of advice also has the taint of superstition and voodoo, but it may not be a bad idea to leave the table when a run of losses goes you feeling doomed. Unless you’re counting cards and have a positive expectation from the remainder of the deck, a run of losses can be frustrating, and frustration can make a player reckless and sloppy, causing the losing streak to continue long after it should have ended.

A common modification to this advice is to leave a table after four consecutive losses. While it adds a touch of objectivity, four losses are too short a run, and you’ll find that you’re walking away from most tables after a short amount of time. A run of four losses is a 12.96% possibility, which means you’ll most often leave after about ten hands.

Leaving when you’ve doubled your money.

Leaving when you’ve doubled your money is a sensible bit of advice, from the “don’t be greedy” school of manners, but it’s far too optimistic. While a skilled player using the perfect blackjack strategy can sometimes pull it off, the average advantage of even the best card counter is seldom more than one per cent. So if you’re betting $25 a hand on a $1000 bankroll, it will take about 4,000 hands to double your money, which is a full day’s work (as in 24 hours solid, no sleep, no breaks).

If you hit a run of luck and can double your money in an hour or two, it’s not a bad idea to stop and smell the roses. Treat yourself to a really good meal and enjoy your good fortune—because it’s rare to do quite this well.

Leaving after a specific amount of time.

Setting a specific amount of time for a gaming session is probably the best and most practical guidance. In most sessions, your bankroll will go up and down, you’ll experience a few winning and losing streaks, and if you play well, it will all more or less balance out.

There’s no specific time interval for a gaming session, but after you gain some experience, you’ll be better equipped to gauge your endurance. Most players can stay clear and sharp for about two hours before fatigue sets in. A novice player should probably set sessions of an hour or less.

Regardless of how you “feel” at the end of the session, end it. If you “feel like” continuing, walk away from all the same, but increase the interval for future sessions, as it’s difficult to gauge your stamina accurately while you’re in the heat of battle.

Leaving when you start making mistakes.

Ideally, you should not leave when you start making mistakes you should leave before you start making them. While this bit of advice cannot be used as a rule of thumb, it should be kept in mind as the exception to every other rule. Regardless of whether you’re winning or losing, where your bankroll stands, how long you’ve planned to play, or any other measurement, when you catch yourself playing sloppy, it’s time to go, because things will only go sour.