While there are some professional gamblers out there, the majority of players tend to lose more than they win. There are a few reasons behind this.
First of all, there’s a great difference between mostly skill-based games (like poker) and mostly luck-based games (like roulette). The majority of these career gamblers are committed to the first group of games.
Second, while gambling may seem to you like a form of entertainment, to a casino it’s a product. As such, it’s designed to generate profit.
For those who don’t find these two explanations to be satisfying enough, here are a couple of mathematical and psychological reasons why gamblers rarely win.
Gambling is an industry. Sure, for the player it’s a form of entertainment but for the casino owner, it’s a source of income – as such, it needs to be reliable. If your chance was always 50% (win-or-lose scenario), you would have a scenario in which the casino acts as just another gambler (only with higher stakes). The little factor that prevents this outcome is known as house edge.
One thing that’s worth knowing is that every casino game has its own house edge. The size of this edge determines the statistical probability that you’ll actually make it.
There are some games that are just too stacked against you. For instance:
- Big six has a house edge of 16-24%.
- Baccarat has a house edge of almost 15%.
- Craps has a house edge of almost 14%.
- Slot machines can also have an edge as high as 15%.
Does this mean that it’s completely impossible for you to win? Of course not. However, it makes your gains less likely. This is why, when playing games with a high house edge, you need to invest small and drag your session over a longer course of time. As a result, when you lose, you’ll lose small and when you win, you’ll win big. These two have a tendency of evening out.
Lack of Understanding of the Game
You don’t need to understand how the game works in order to win it. However, strategies can minimize your losses and an in-depth understanding of the game may help you manage your expectations. Now, expectations are a huge part of the overall experience. They affect how much you commit, how much you bet, and even how you perceive the result of your gambling session.
Even in games that have a high house edge, it’s quite possible for you to turn the odds strongly in your favor. After all, there are tricks to winning on slot machines more consistently. Also, once you understand basic principles and know these tricks, you’ll be able to apply various strategies far more consistently.
Another thing that affects your chances to win is a psychological phenomenon known as positivity bias. This is a human inclination to believe that good things are more likely to happen than bad things. As a result, you have an excessive optimism impairing your deduction and decision-making, which makes you more likely to make poor or reckless calls.
The simplest way to explain this concept in practice would be to take something as simple as heads or tails. The chance to win is 50%, which is a huge margin. However, the chance that you’ll lose is also 50%. Now, even though the odds are the same, a person with a positivity bias will fixate on the first 50% rather than the latter.
In a casino, the longer your winning streak, the less likely it becomes that you could ever lose. The worst part is that even a long losing streak might give you some optimism, seeing as how it’s “statistically impossible” that you keep losing indefinitely. The sad reality is that you don’t have to keep losing indefinitely, only as long as you have your funds.
Casino Doesn’t Have to Cheat
One thing that we’ve already hinted at but might not have been clear enough is that the odds are so stacked in favor of the casino that they don’t have to cheat in order to win. The problem is that so many people attribute their bad fortune to some malicious intent (or actions) that they completely lose sight of the real reason why they’re losing.
You see, on an individual throw of the dice or in a single gambling session, the sample is so small that literally, anything can happen. We’ve mentioned the odds of a coin landing on one side or another as 50/50. Well, that’s not necessarily the case. You see, 1 in 6,000 tosses a coin will land on its side (this too could count as a house edge).
Now, even if you and your friend were to throw this coin 1,000 times, it’s unlikely that it would ever land on its side (there’s no guarantee even after 6,000 throws). Nonetheless, when you take into account the number of players and games played in the average casino, even a fraction as small as 1/6,000 can be significant.
In other words, the house is bound to make a profit even without any foul play involved.
The last thing you need to understand is that gambling isn’t designed as a way for you to earn money. Instead, it’s a game and the primary purpose of any game is to provide entertainment. Now, a part of this entertainment lies in the fact that winning is never guaranteed. Due to it being quite rare, it holds more emotional value when it actually does happen.
In other words, gamblers rarely win because they’re not supposed to win. Gambling games are products of casinos and the only way in which the product is supposed to work is by generating profit. However, seeing as how the odds are already stacked in their favor, there’s no need for casinos to “cheat” as the popular culture would sometimes want you to believe.
The odds are what they are and as long as you can approach the game in a healthy way, you would do just fine. So, set your gambling budget, do your research on the game (and the odds), and remember to have fun. It’s what gambling is supposed to be all about.