Gambling at All
Whenever people ask me for tips or advice on gambling, my stock answer is “Don’t gamble.” Though my answer is a bit of a joke, I honestly believe most people are better off staying away from casinos. The reason is simple — the overwhelming majority of gamblers lose.
But if you know going into a casino that the odds are stacked against you and that you’re unlikely to win, then you can at least be battle-ready. For example, acquaint yourself with games with better odds, such as blackjack and video poker. Gambling doesn’t have to be about winning big. Even if you know you aren’t going to win thousands, you may want to gamble in a casino for the excitement and sheer chance to get a little lucky. I have no problem with that mindset, but just make sure you understand the high cost of your fun.
Failing to Keep Records
Selective amnesia is a contagious disease often contracted by gamblers playing cards or dice in a casino. Sadly, there is no cure. The symptoms are serious; many players remember their big wins and minimize their losses. Consequently, they easily believe that they’re ahead overall.
The best way to treat this ailment is by keeping records. Keeping detailed records can help you maintain a proper perspective on your gambling, ensuring that you’re honestly aware of the actual amount you have won or lost. A gambling log can help you determine whether it’s time to take up a new, less expensive, hobby — like, say, burning dollar bills.
Another good argument for keeping records is that the law requires it. Even if you’re not a professional gambler, the IRS expects you to tally your results and report profits to Uncle Sam at the end of the year.
Bouncing Around Like a Pinball
Another helpful trick is to specialize. Rather than bouncing around like a pinball from one casino game to another trying to get lucky, find one (or two) game(s) and become an expert in that field. Knowledge is power inside the casino’s walls, so never play games that you don’t understand.
Looking for Luck in All the Wrong Places
Luck is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in the English language. People attribute their big wins in a casino (and in life) to good luck or blame their brutal losses on bad luck. However, a number of factors can cause a gambler to either win or lose in a casino. And luck usually isn’t one of them.
Giving Up Too Easily
One obstacle that keeps players from becoming experts is that they fear the task. They know some games, such as blackjack, can be beaten, but they think only gifted geeks with photographic memories are able to succeed. The truth is that anyone with the average aptitude and good discipline can master the skills necessary to win. For example, you don’t have to remember every card to play a winning game of blackjack. And at first glance, you may think the strategy you need to win at video poker looks overwhelming. But with a little practice on your home computer, you can become proficient enough to break even against the house.
Breaking the Law (of Averages)
Gravity is never suspended in a casino. What goes up must come down, which is why so many players fail to walk away from a winner. The odds eventually catch up with even the hottest players and turn sizzling streaks into just another losing day. However, the roller-coaster nature of gambling may cause you to misunderstand the law of averages. For example, after a long cold streak at the craps tables, you may believe that you’re due for some good luck and start betting more.
Odds and probability do even out in the long run. But in nearly all gambling situations, the past doesn’t affect the future. Whether the dice or cards have been running hot or cold makes no difference at all for your next bet. The past is gone. It’s history. Don’t try to catch up by thinking certain events are due to hit or happen based on past results. This common gambler’s fallacy has led many desperate players to ruin.
Relying on Betting Systems
Finding that magic bullet or surefire way to win is the quest of many gamblers. This search often leads to progressive betting systems, which are systems that raise or lower your bets after wins or losses. They’re surefire all right — a surefire way to lose. Casinos love system players who arrive in town with high hopes and fat wallets. The casino owners are confident because they know that, over the long run, no system sold through a magazine for $99 can take down a billion-dollar casino. You may have small wins in the short term, but no progressive system can mathematically show a profit in the long run.
How you’re doing for any given session, day, or trip is irrelevant. Instead focus on the big picture. The problem is that few people think that way because today’s culture presses you to fixate on the here and now. Although living in the present may be beneficial for other aspects of life, it can be hazardous in gambling. Don’t worry about winning every session, day, or trip. Instead, concentrate on your overall win/loss results.