The Psychology of Gambling: Understanding Thrill and Risk

The Psychology of Gambling: Understanding Thrill and Risk

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Before we begin to unlock the reasons why people enjoy a flutter or high-stakes betting, it might be an idea to take a look at some basic safety tips. A few years ago, you’d have to physically visit a casino or similar establishment to play games for real money.

These days you just have to pick up your smartphone for almost instant access to a myriad of online games. So, before we figure out what attracts punters to the virtual table, let’s look at how to be safe rather than sorry. 

It’s always advisable that before you choose real money casinos, do your research. It’s not just a question of trying out a game for free, you need to check out forums and comments available online with regard to your preferred casino. 

You’re further advised to check licenses: read the small print and pitch your casino against their competitors to see if they’re as good as you hoped. Only then can you move on to checking out specific games, a process that involves all of the above and more.

Begin by watching the game in its various incarnations on YouTube, and don’t forget to read the comments. Before playing for free, always check the RTP (Return to Player) which will be listed as a percentage. 

In case you don’t know the RTP is how much you can expect to win concerning how much you spend on playing. For example, if the RTP is 96%, it means for every 100 $/€ etc you spend, expecting to get 96 $/€ back.

This, of course, means the higher the RTP the better you’ve a chance of winning. The only unanswered question is does the RTP apply all the time or kick in after an undisclosed period? 

Finally, always use a digital wallet such as PayPal. Firstly, it’s end-to-end encrypted so your details are safe from prying eyes.

But it also allows you to set a budget in an account that could help you from overspending. Which is as good as any place to begin the article properly…

Why do people spend more than they can afford?

The six-million-dollar question and the heart of both the thrill and the risk of gambling. For a start the two aren’t mutually exclusive, you can enjoy the thrill of gambling without risking it all.

Problems begin to arise when the thrill begins to lose its edge and the player invests more in feeling that thrill. And be under no illusion, that feeling is a real one, it’s a result of a neurotransmitter in the brain realising dopamine. 

Dopamine is quite literally addictive, it’s the chemical kick you get from alcohol, narcotics and sex, but also in music, exercise even shopping. So, as you can see, it’s fun stuff -so long as it doesn’t turn into a habit-forming activity in areas that can cause physical or emotional harm.

The only snag is, just like substance addiction, the thrill of the chase involves justifying the activity…

Gamblers Fallacy

This is based on psychological research, it’s ostensibly wishful thinking regarding cause and effect: if you put enough money into a slot machine something will inevitably come out the other end, right?

But therein lies the paradox, the odds are always stacked against you (by the odds stipulated by a game) but, even so, the chance of winning is always present and could happen at any time…

It’s also known that some more at-risk gamblers believe they have a better chance of winning over someone else. Even when there is no evidence at all that they will actually win anything.

The Bandwagon Effect

It’s well-known that the sales of lottery tickets increase when the jackpot has reached a certain amount after a period of time of not being claimed. 

After all, no one wants to miss out on the potential to win big. And everyone else is getting stuck in, and you have just as good a chance as anyone, especially if you buy more tickets…

The Gamblers System

Yes, there is historical evidence that some people have figured out a system to win. But these individuals aren’t, strictly speaking, gamblers. 

These are people who have studied the probability of winning and devised a system of winning. The most famous examples, Ed O’ Thorp and Richard Jarecki were both professors, people of advanced intelligence. 

However, at-risk gamblers might rely on the probability of a machine paying out based on the reasoning it hasn’t for a while. Or they just have a ‘good feeling’ about a machine for no good reason at all.

The bottom line is gambling can be both fun and highly addictive, depending on who is putting down the money. 

So don’t expect to win, just enjoy the game you paid for!