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Bet, bet, bet: How to gamble responsibly during the football World Cup

With the football World Cup kicking off later today, I thought I would use my blog to give my readers some advice on gambling responsibly over the next month. As much as I want England to win, the humid conditions will be a major disadvantage. Yesterday I published an article on why I think Brazil will win (which you can read here). Given my academic background it may come as little surprise that when I gamble, I expect to lose in the long run. However, that is not to say that I don’t have my ‘Top 10 Golden Rules’ that I apply in gambling situations. Some might say my rules are about the psychology of winning but I would prefer to describe them as the psychology of minimizing losses! In some situations, there is a very fine line between psychology and common sense and this is one of those occasions. So here goes.

(1) Never gamble without some kind of pre-set plan and amount that you are prepared and/or can afford to lose. Winning gamblers set themselves win/loss goals before they enter a betting shop or use an online betting exchange. Planning and goals are the catalyst to life success and gambling on the World Cup should be no different. Don’t use any winnings as a reason to place even more bets and never – under no circumstances – chase your losses.

(2) Don’t let the excitement – or the lack of it – of a football match detract from the pre-set plan you started with. If you are watching a World Cup game and your only wager is on who will win or lose, then don’t get carried away with the excitement of the game. When the game itself is dull, don’t get side tracked by gambling on spontaneous ‘in-play’ side bets during the game to increase the excitement. If you do like a little in-play action, give yourself the option of (say) five in-play bets (or whatever you can afford to lose) and stick to it no matter what.

(3) Remember that the excitement of gambling itself can lead to irrational thought processes. Psychological research has consistently shown that when gamblers are in the thick of their gambling ‘action’, they tend to be more irrational in how they think and make decisions. Irrationality leads to poor decision-making and pre-set plans and budgets often go out of the window. Just like alcohol, gambling can make the betting punter do things that they would never have done in the cold light of day.

(4) Do your research when using promotions. As a general rule, betting promotions are the highest money earners for the gambling establishment’s marketing department. They are designed to get you to gamble or to get you gambling in the first place or on something new. Avoid gambling with offers that seem too good to be true (because they usually are). Stick with your pre-set plan and budget and you’ll be fine. If through your research you find a good promotion that suits your betting needs, then by all means use it. Just don’t use promotions impulsively or use the first promotion that you see.

(5) Learn to think for yourself. General advice (like that contained in this article) is one thing. Winners learn to sort things out for themselves and not rely on others. They are comfortable with how they approach their betting. You should also disregard rumours. Gambling can often invoke certain urban myths, such as “your first bet after opening an Internet gambling account is always a winning one’.” Banking on such speculation while betting is a recipe for disaster.

(6) Do your own ‘research’. As with any other product that involves the exchange of money, making bets on World Cup football requires that you do the research to establish the best deals around. This is especially useful on Internet gambling sites and betting exchanges via mobile phones and tablets but can be applied to offline gambling too. Only factual information should inform your decision-making when betting.

(7) Gamble with your head and not with your heart. When it comes to gambling on the football team I support (in my case, England) I try to employ strategies that leave me feeling good whatever the outcome. That is why (from a psychological perspective) I tend to bet against England. I ask myself how much I would you be prepared to pay to see England progress in the tournament? If England get to the World Cup Final I would be more than happy to pay £100 to see them do it therefore I would happily put £100 on England’s opponents to win. My logic has always been that I win either way. If England win the game, I will be on an ecstatic high. I wouldn’t care about losing £100. If England lose the game, as at least I would have the winnings to soften the blow!

I can’t promise that these tips will help anyone win lots of money, but they will certainly help you minimize any losses!

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

Further reading

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Limit setting and player choice in most intense online gamblers: An empirical study of online gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 647-660.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Behavioral tracking tools, regulation and corporate social responsibility in online gambling. Gaming Law Review and Economics, 17, 579-583.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Personalised feedback in the promotion of responsible gambling: A brief overviewResponsible Gambling Review, 1, 27-36.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Does advertising of gambling increase gambling addiction? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 3(2), 15-25.

Griffiths, M.D. (2006). The psychology of gambling: The best laid plans. Inside Edge: The Gambling Magazine, January (Issue 22), p. 72.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Brand psychology: Social acceptability and familiarity that breeds trust and loyalty.Casino and Gaming International, 3(3), 69-72.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Online ads and the promotion of responsible gambling. World Online Gambling Law Report, 9(6), 14.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012).Self-exclusion services for online gamblers: Are they about responsible gambling or problem gambling?World Online Gambling Law Report, 11(6), 9-10.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2008). Responsible gaming and best practice: How can academics help? Casino and Gaming International, 4(1), 107-112.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2009). Centralised gaming models and social responsibility. Casino and Gaming International., 5(2), 65-69.

Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A. & Parke, J. (2009). Social responsibility tools in online gambling: A survey of attitudes and behaviour among Internet gamblers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12, 413-421.

Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A., Parke, J. & Parke, A. (2007). Gaming research and best practice: Gaming industry, social responsibility and academia. Casino and Gaming International, 3(3), 97-103.

Smeaton, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Internet gambling and social responsibility: An exploratory study, CyberPsychology and Behavior, 7, 49-57.

Wood, R.T.A., Shorter, G.W. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Rating the suitability of responsible gambling features for specific game types: A resource for optimizing responsible gambling strategy. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 94–112.

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.