Whether you are a gambler or no, the psychological loops at the various stages of gambling make for an interesting topic. All the better if you are a bettor. Knowing about it all helps you both stave off gambling addiction and be on top of your game (and the casino). So here are the 7 major psychological roots of things commonplace in gambling.
Overlooking The House Edge
By design, every casino game has at least some degree of the house edge. The “house edge” simply put is the casino’s advantage in a game, i.e., chances that the player loses money to the casino (house profit) rather than winning (in which case the casino would have to pay them out of its own pocket). The basic framework of casinos is showcasing the few winners that do win big. In turn, that attracts people en masse who will keep the casino going by losing money to it.
But in the age of the internet, surely everyone knows about the house edge? The answer is yes. And yet, they still keep coming. The players place the paradoxical bet fully aware of their disadvantage.
In general, this is the principle upon which many multiplayer video games thrive. A good example is the recent android Call of Duty game. In your first few matches, the game will pit you against AI opponents, or bots. But these bots have names that sound real. So with their first few victories, an illusion of control and expertise over the game fools the player. They want more of that. You want more of the slots lining up and making the cha-ching noise. Clearly, the very idea is to make the player overlook the house edge. They chase a high they do not know they have.
Anticipating A Win
If you look at the chances of an average person winning a jackpot, you will know how astronomically rare it is. Online casinos will even be upright and just tell you the odds. But despite the low, low chance, people swarm by the thousands to try their hand. This is because the anticipation of victory softens the blow of losing money. Even loot boxes and many video game cosmetic ‘treasures’ function on the same basis. Studies in several different fields have proven that we are likely to take a leap of faith even if the chances are one in a hundred thousand. This is mostly due to a misreading of the very idea of luck, but people anticipate great success even if the actual chances are low.
While the jackpot chances that casinos show are at least mathematically accurate, the ‘near miss’ conundrum is more insidious. As far as a slot machine is concerned, a ‘near miss’ is just another null result. But to you, a near miss is a special kind of failure. Because of the way we see luck, sometimes we are motivated by a near miss to play even further. In games of chance, the possibility of winning stays constant from one trial to the next. But all the player sees is that they are ‘getting close’. In some cases, it is seen that digital slot machine algorithms are designed to ensure a higher chance of ‘near misses’ than a purely random frequency would provide.
In near misses, sometimes the player feels that the game owes them a win after so many losses. This is an almost karmic reading of slot machines. In another sense, it links to the idea of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ streaks. So, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when the player wins twice in a row, it is very likely that they think the ball will keep rolling their way.
Sometimes a blind dive into a blackjack table may form dangerous habits. For example, getting a natural hard 18 and then a 3 may set you up with the wrong impression on how to strategize. Conditioning is when the player forms a habit based on patterns that have worked before, irredeemably setting them up for future failures.
Excitement And Chasing Losses
‘Chasing a loss’ means the player has delved into the game on an emotional level, and they go beyond reason just to get back their ‘hot hand’. Chasing losses at times can also be chalked up to chasing wins. The casino’s general theme of excitement and dopamine-pumping atmosphere enables this kind of behavior, where you are left chasing that one initial win.
The final step of the loop is chasing the jackpot. When you play slots, the usually sound strategy is to bet low and keep winning low. But the lure of higher reward blinds the new gambler to ignore the higher risk that comes with it – this all the people placing max bets in the hope of jackpots.
Casino’s primary lure is tactile and visual, but the first time you really get hooked is when you first win. The correct way to systematically outmaneuver the house edge is a cold calculation, not dumb luck.