Hit and myth: What should punters really know when gambling?

Yesterday, I appeared on a number of BBC radio programmes and in a number of papers talking about a blog I wrote for my university Olympic website about betting on Olympic sports. Today’s blog is it’s sister piece and can be read alongside that separate article. This particular blog came about when I was scouring the Internet and looking at a number of ‘Top Tips’ articles for gamblers. All of them claimed they would improve your chances of winning at a casino. On the surface, these common sense tips seemed reasonable enough but when I started to read them I realised the advice given was not based on any empirical evidence – just speculation, hearsay, and the writer’s own personal opinion. I thought I would use today’s blog to try and debunk a few of these myths!

Myth 1: Read all the books and advice you can: There is absolutely no harm in reading all you can on your chosen game as any of them will give you some basic information on the game, some betting techniques, and most likely some sound money management ideas. However, there is no evidence that reading on it’s own will help you win more. When learning a new game there is no substitute for making mistakes in the “school of hard knocks.” You will learn far more quickly while gambling than simply reading about it.

Myth 2: Practice makes perfect – Many ‘experts’ claim that when it comes to learning and practicing your game, you should do it at home or at one of the free ‘learn to play’ casino sessions. While it is clearly a lot cheaper to learn a new game from the comfort of your own home or a free session, nothing can prepare a punter for the psychological pressure than to practice under the circumstances and conditions in which the game is played for money. There has been a lot of research into what psychologists call “state dependent learning” which demonstrates that it is best to recall skills and information in the same environment and mood state that you practiced and learned under. The theory of state dependent learning also has implications for smokers and drinkers. If you practice while smoking and/or drinking at home, you are most likely to remember the skills and tricks you learned when in the same psychological state. This is particularly important in gambling environments that either bar smoking and/or drinking from the gaming tables. Another mistake commonly made by online poker players is where they believe their success on the ‘practice tables’ is a guide to their level of skill. In reality, players on the practice tables often play in a wreckless way, so even very poor players can appear successful.

Myth 3:  Have a winning attitude – When it comes to gambling, punters are advised not to gamble if they don’t have a positive attitude about winning. Firstly, just being positive is unlikely to significantly increase winnings although appearing confident in games like poker is clearly an advantage. However, having a positive outlook about losing may actually be disadvantageous and maladaptive in the long run. Our own research here at Nottingham Trent University has shown that positive thinking when losing acts as a guilt-reducing mechanism and is likely to result in such behaviours as ‘chasing’ which are financially detrimental in the long run.

Myth 4: Gamble in the small hours – One piece of advice I see cropping up again and again is that the best time to play is when no one else is there. Gamblers are advised to play very early in the morning from 2am until 5am. According to these ‘experts’, dealers and floor supervisors will be tired and looking to end their shift and may be prone to making more mistakes. Well, the same is true of the punter. Our inbuilt circadian rhythms mean that no human was meant to be awake or work through the night. The punter is just as likely to make mistakes as the casino staff. Card counting through the night without a break is likely to lead to as many mistakes as the dealer. What’s more, the dealers may change more often than you.

Myth 5: “Hide” your winnings – Casinos don’t like winners (except when they can be exploited for marketing purposes of course). Punters are therefore advised to disguise their wins and to prevent casino management from knowing how good players they really are by “hiding” their winnings. For instance, players are advised to get friends to cash out some of their chips for them when leaving the casino. There is also a view that cashiers take less notice of female players and are less likely to inform the pit bosses what they cashed out. However, any good casino knows its clientele, and knows who the winners are. There is no evidence to suggest that these tips on disguising your winnings have any benefit at all. Sure, if you are a card counter, be alert to casino counter-measures. If the casino is suspicious of you, they will use a number of measures such as premature shuffling, moving the cut card up towards the top of the deck to reduce penetration, and/or changing the cards, dealers or table limits only at your table. In short, casinos spot winners a mile off and little tricks to “hide” winnings are unlikely to help the punter.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 351-369.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). Beating the fruit machine: Systems and ploys both legal and illegal. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10, 287-292.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Gambling psychology: Motivation, emotion and control, Casino and Gaming International, (3)4 (November), 71-76.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Casino design: Understanding gaming floor influences on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 5(1), 21-26.

Griffiths, M.D., Parke, J., Wood, R.T.A. & Rigbye, J. (2010). Online poker gambling in university students: Further findings from an online survey. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 82-89.

Parke, J., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, A. (2007). Positive thinking among slot machine gamblers: A case of maladaptive coping? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5, 39-52.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on July 24, 2012, in Advertising, Competitions, Gambling, Marketing, Online gambling, Poker, Popular Culture, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: