The Psychological Battle Gamblers Face at the Casino

I’ve read many articles on the internet and elsewhere on the psychology of gambling.  I talked about conditioning and intermittent rewards in my post “Of Mice and Men.”  My problem is many discuss the psychological reasons for gambling and how some people become addicted or “compulsive” gamblers, but rarely discuss ways to control your emotional responses.

Let me start by stating there are people who should never enter a casino.  They are unable to control their behavior in a casino, and they should stay away.  They are gambling addicts and gambling is destructive to their lives.  Gambling can be extremely dangerous for those who can’t maintain control of their actions.  That being said there is a large percentage of the population who aren’t addicted but continue to lose in the casino.

There are all sorts of places for “problem” gamblers, now we need to educate those who have the ability to control their behavior.  These people are often left out to dry.  It is assumed that they will lose money but not more than what they can “afford” to lose.  How about turning these people into knowledgeable gamblers who will lose less and win more.  That’s my objective.

Studying Human Behavior:

One of the most popular behavioral experiments ever done was the “Marshmallow” test.  The subjects were young kids.  These children sat at a table and were told they could have one marshmallow now, or they could wait until the instructor returned (10 minutes later) and then they would get two marshmallows.

The hypothesis was that those who could delay gratification would end up being more successful in life.  The long-term results did prove the hypothesis to be true, to an extent.  The children who were able to wait for the two marshmallows did tend to go on to greater success in life.

Years later a similar test was performed.  The hypothesis this time was to see if the ability to delay gratification was something children were born with, or something they learned.  It was revealed that it was not a trait the children were born with but techniques they used to enable them to resist the temptation of the immediate gratification.  Therefore, everyone can learn these techniques, they aren’t genetic.

What does this have to do with gambling?  In order to be a winning gambler you must be in control of your emotions and your actions.  We know that casinos do everything they can to overwhelm your senses so you lose control while you’re in the casino.  This study reveals there are techniques that can be used to remain in control.

Here are a few techniques to use to make sure you don’t allow your actions to become out of your control.

Tip #1:

One of the most powerful techniques researchers witnessed young children using was to put distance between themselves and the temptation.  Some would simply turn their backs to the marshmallow, others would get up and go to a different part of the room.

This is exactly what you need to do in a casino.  As soon as you feel yourself losing control, TAKE A BREAK!  I’m not saying to leave the casino entirely, but simply remove yourself from the table or machine.  Go to your room, get a sandwich, whatever, but get away for at least 15 minutes.  You will be amazed how quickly logic will begin to take back over instead of allowing emotion to dictate your responses.  Just getting away allows your logical mind to regain control.

If this doesn’t work for you then you fit into the group that should not gamble at all.  If you remain impulsive even after removing yourself, gambling will always be a losing situation for you.

Tip #2:

Learn everything you can about the tactics used.  Researchers used a similar hypothesis, techniques can be learned to delay gratification, but used older kids and it involved spending and saving money.  During the test, researchers took several of the children and showed them exactly what the researchers were doing to try to make the children spend their money instead of saving it.  This had a huge impact on the results.  Those that knew what was going on were less likely to give in.  It didn’t work for everyone but the percentages of success were much higher.

Relating this to gambling is simple, study the methods used by casinos.  Realize they want you to drink alcohol to make you more likely to lose control of your actions.  Learn all the different techniques they use so you are aware of them.  Usually once you are aware of them they are not as effective, just like the kids familiar with the tactics being used against them.

Using myself as an example, casinos want you to establish a line of credit with them.  They know when you have a line of credit it is much easier to overspend because you don’t have to have the money up front.  Knowing this I refuse to get a line of credit.  Sure it can be a hassle carrying large sums of money, but I know I will not overspend my intended amount.

Tip #3:

Pre-plan everything.  Before you step foot into the casino you should know how much money you will gamble with, how many sessions you will gamble a day, how long those sessions will be, and the times of those sessions.

These are to be written in stone.  If you planned to bring $1,000 to gamble with and you lose it, that’s it no more gambling until the next trip.  Some will ask, “What if I lose it all on the first day?”

This is where your planning comes in.  Figure out how much you will need to sustain yourself for each session (2 hr session video poker, 1 hr blackjack), then divide it into your bankroll and figure out how many sessions you have.  Make sure it is enough to last the time period you will be at the casino.

Again, it does no good if you set all this up and break the rules while you’re in the casino.  It only works if you follow the game plan because every time you make an exception, it gets easier and easier to break.


These are three main tips that will help you control your emotional responses in casinos.  There are more and I will discuss them in the future, but this should give you enough to get started with.

My quest is not to get more people to gamble or promote gambling, my quest is to reach all those people who go to the casinos and lose money and try to help them.

About Greg Elder

I was 37 years old, a husband and father, a former teacher, college and high school basketball coach, and a business owner, I decided to give it all up (Not the husband and father part) to take a shot at pro gambling. I was coming off a job I hated selling insurance, and I vowed to do something I was passionate about. For the next year I would spend 12-15 hours a day researching, studying, and practicing advantage gambling techniques. The goal was to see if I could sustain our current lifestyle as a professional gambler. I wanted to find out if casinos really could be beat. At the time, I thought it may be the biggest mistake of my life, but my intentions were to have fun trying. It has been an interesting few years since that journey began. My feature book GAMBLERS FIGHT BACK has been released and can be purchased on my author site at I would consider my pro gambling career to be a success on all fronts. I didn't win millions of dollars, but I was able to enjoy every minute of it. It brought an excitement and passion back into my professional life. It has helped lead me to a writing career that I had no idea I even wanted before this challenge. I was able to write a book that shared with others exactly what I learned along the way.. Gambling professionally is not easy, but there are certain things the average gambler can do to increase their chances of success tremendously. That's the information I try to pass along to my readers.

4 Responses to “The Psychological Battle Gamblers Face at the Casino”

  1. goodluckcharmsthatwork Reply March 25, 2012 at 9:13 am

    But no matter what, it is important to “think positive,” and believe that Good Things will Happen! Use a Good Luck Charm, use The Law Of Attraction, use an optimistic attitude!

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