Historically, people have been gambling for thousands of years and more. The psychological effects of gambling are well known. Gambling will, and probably always will be, a part of human nature! From the success stories who found a way to edge the casinos or got lucky and lived out their dreams, to the addicts who take millions from their company or ruin their lives.
After all, we live in a chaotic world that isn’t particularly predictable, and one where your entire life could spin on a butterfly’s wing halfway across the world. What better way to make light of the immensity of chance if not to have some fun out of it?
But what causes people to gamble? And why is it fun? More importantly for us to learn – how do the biggest winners take it all, and what makes the biggest losers go on such a tilt.
Join us on a brief but whirlwind tour of a thousand years of gambling history and casino psychology, where we’ll answer some of these questions – and maybe more!
Gambling and the Brain: Why We Do It
The key component of why gambling feels good, although it is one of many chemicals involved, is the hormone dopamine.
To be incredibly basic – dopamine is the brain chemical that gets you out of bed in the morning. It’s why doing things feels good!
Your brain evolved to make you feel good when being productive, to encourage societally beneficial behaviours.
This was fine when we lived in small tribes and sources of dopamine were limited. In a society – a million things can hijack your dopamine system and make you feel good. When they’re not necessarily beneficial!
The Bet or Win?
So, what does all of the above mean for our understanding of gambling addiction?
Because, of course, not everyone gets addicted. Many people, over the world, every day, gamble small amounts – get their dopamine fix and leave.
However, what drives people to exceed this normal pattern? Why is gambling addictive?
Well, consider – one of the craziest research papers of recent times on gambling addiction psychology.
Researchers proved that (counterintuitively) many problem gamblers actually get the highest dopamine spikes before they place the bet – and not when they see the result.
This suggests that the bet is the most important part of their addiction, and not the win or loss.
Which the many gamblers (especially lotto or jackpot players) who play for the chance of instant riches, might find confusing.
This suggests that one of the psychological effects of gambling in the long term, and on some people, is to literally change the way their brains react to it. Crazy!
Winners: Card Counting and Incredible Luck
Speaking of reactions – some players have used the incredible computational speed of their brain to take casinos for millions!
Or just got really lucky – like you might do if you sign up to one of our $5 deposit casino in MindepCasinos.
The ultimate gamble of skill. Back in the 60s, American mathematician Edward O. Thorp came up with a foolproof way to beat the casinos at Blackjack.
However, he, rather than making his millions at casinos, published a theoretical book on how to do it.
Casinos soon cottoned on and made changes. His original 1960s formula is now a bit outdated, but less than 20 years later, the card counters came back with a vengeance.
During the 80s, several famous teams, including one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made millions by teaming up and learning the techniques the American casinos used to track card counters.
Throughout it all they had to remain calm, collected and unflappable – regardless of what the table threw their way.
Losers: Tilt and Biases
This leads us to our last point in this brief exploration of gambling addiction psychology.
When some people, who are not necessarily otherwise addicted to gambling, start to lose – they can go on what’s called tilt. This is even more true if we’re talking about the psychology of sports betting, where a cool head is extra important when analysing bets!
This kind of tilt is otherwise called chasing your losses. Don’t do it!
You make worse decisions when you’re stressed. So, if you start on a losing streak – leave the table or the betting booth? Go for a breather, and change up your environment for 5 or 10 minutes.
Sports betting psychology is, pun intended, a different ball game that we can discuss another time.
But one bias to avoid, if you’re serious about making money, is being afraid to bet against your team!