Ask anyone who knows a thing or two about gambling and they’ll tell you the same – the house always wins. Just as long as there is a house edge – even a tiny one – the establishment eventually profits at the expense of players.
Which, when you think about it, makes gambling an extremely unusual practice.
Savvy gamblers place wagers and spend small fortunes at casinos under no illusion that they are more likely to lose than win. But why is it that we’re so willing to put so much money on the line at casinos, when we’d be unwilling to do the same elsewhere?
Irrespective of your preferred online or offline casino games, the psychology of gambling remains the same. Even when it comes to playing poker at any level, there are things happening on a psychological level most gamblers aren’t fully aware of.
Gambling Creates an Illusion of Control
For example, the vast majority of human beings are naturally programmed to be more confident than they probably should be. There’s a mechanism in the brain that automatically sends you into a false sense of security in instances where you don’t actually know what the outcome will be. Something that plays right into the hands of online and offline casinos, who know just how powerful the illusion of control can be.
What this means is that even when you know deep down that the outcome is random and the odds are stacked against you, there’s still a feeling of control, confidence and power. You feel in control of your actions, you (mistakenly) think there’s something you can do to control the outcome and you believe it’s you that has the power to decide. When in reality, it’s all an illusion – you have almost no control whatsoever when gambling…and the power is almost totally in the hands of the casino.
This is something we covered in a relatively recent post, but the power of the near miss is no less than astonishing. This is why when you lose playing scratch cards or similar games, you’ll almost always get two of the three symbols you’d have needed to win say £100,000. Or when you lose playing online slots, a couple of those elusive Jackpot Bonus symbols appear on the screen anyway, just to tease you.
It’s all about making you think you came closer to winning than you actually did. Again, you’re (probably) more than smart enough to figure out that this wasn’t the case. If you were to sit down and analyse the whole thing, you’d quickly reach the conclusion that it’s all a ploy on the part of the casino. Yet in the heat of the moment, the way the brain reacts to near misses is something that’s beyond your control.
The Gambler’s Fallacy
This is a mistake made by millions of gamblers worldwide each day, which is based on what seems to be a logical expectation. On one hand, you know there’s absolutely nothing you can do to correctly predict (or influence) the outcome when the roulette wheels spin. Nevertheless, the fact that the ball has landed in Red 22 times in a row leads you to the assumption that it must land in Black pretty soon. Subsequently, you begin betting heavier on Black having concluded you’ll hit pay dirt shortly after.
In doing so, you’ve lost reality of the fact that every spin of the wheel leads to a 100% random outcome – irrespective of what has come before. In a purely statistical sense, the ball is no more likely to land in Black than it in Red a further 2,222 times. Nevertheless, you make this seemingly logical assumption known as “The Gambler’s Fallacy” and begin basing your decisions on dangerous assumptions, rather than logic and reason.
The Social Side of Gambling
Not quite as complex to get to grips with, but the social side of gambling is alluring to say the least. This is particularly true where traditional casinos are concerned, though also extends to live-dealer experiences online. For many, gambling provides the perfect opportunity to escape the real world, meet like-minded people and immerse themselves in an engaging and enjoyable pursuit.
In which case, the prospect of losing money seems like a small price to pay for what else is on offer. This is also why casinos have a habit of playing on the social side of gambling with their marketing and advertising materials. To put it this way – their ads never feature someone sitting alone in a dark room in silence and playing their games, when showing off their online casinos.
The Bandwagon Effect
Instead, online casinos (and their offline counterparts) give you the impression that anyone who’s anyone is a proud and passionate player. They implant messages in your mind that tell you how important it is to gamble to be part of the crowd. You see everyone else having a fantastic time doing it, which instinctively triggers the ‘FOMO’ effect – aka fear of missing out.
It’s a powerful tool that’s been used by marketers for generations, though is particularly effective in today’s instant-gratification-obsessed society. When you see someone enjoying something you’re not doing, you instantly want yourself doing the same and gaining the same gratification from doing so.
The Glitz and Glamour of High-End Gambling
Last up, online and offline casinos alike aren’t afraid to make you think it’s every bit as glamorous as portrayed in the media and popular culture. The way they present what’s on offer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that playing via a smartphone was as glamorous and sophisticated as hitting the most exclusive casino on the streets of Monaco.
Anyone who’s ever played online will know this isn’t the case, but the impact these marketing messages have is quite remarkable. You picture yourself sipping champagne, celebrating big wins at the craps table and beating the house James Bond style playing baccarat. An irresistible prospect that never fails to tempt, even when you know the reality isn’t quite the same.