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Your Own Worst Enemy in Casino

Learn to have some self-control before hitting the casino

by Bill Burton


Pop singer Pink wrote a song titled “Don’t Let Me Get Me.” The lyrics included the lines, “Don’t let me get me. I’m a hazard to myself. I’m my own worst enemy.”

In the old Pogo cartoon strip, the lead character once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Both of these statements apply to many casino visitors. Gaming writers, myself included, constantly describe the house edge the casinos have on all the games. We advise players to seek the best games with the lowest edge, or at least to be aware of the house edge for the games they choose to play. What we sometimes fail to mention is that the player actually has one big edge over the casinos.

Now wait a minute, you’re thinking. How can I have an edge over the casino when everyone tells me the casino has the edge on all games? It’s very simple. You can quit any time you want.

In the short term, luck will be a big factor in determining whether you win or lose. This is true of the games that have positive expectations as well as games with a high house edge. If you are playing games with a high house edge, such as slots or roulette, luck will be the only way to win. In the long run, you will lose at these games.

The casinos will see the long term because they are open 24/7 and the math will equal out for them. But if you are only an occasional visitor it is possible to have some short-term wins. This is the reason people go back to the casinos. If the outcome of each visit were based strictly on the math of the games, you would never win because there would be no deviation from the long-term results. If this happened, no one would play. If you knew you would lose five cents on the dollar every time you hit the spin button, or pulled the handle on the slot machine, you would not play. It would be pretty silly to just hand over money with no chance of winning. However, since you can win in the short term, you can gain the advantage if you know when to stop.

Don’t Get Greedy

Players “get” themselves is by not having the discipline to quit when they are ahead. Once they start winning, they start to get greedy. This greed causes them to have unrealistic expectations.

Anyone with a 401K or brokerage account knows that the last few years have not been the best for investors. After a few years of overall losses, most of us are happy these days when we get an 8 percent return on our mutual funds. Yet players go to the casino and are not satisfied when they make 25 percent or more. If they started with $200 and they are ahead by $50, they think they will continue winning and turn it into $1,000. This rarely happens. Eventually the math of the game will catch up with them, and the casino will have their money back, along with some of the player’s money.

I can’t count the number of people who have come up to me and said they never win at the casino. I always ask if they were ahead at any point during their visit. Many will admit that they were ahead, but then they give one of the four following excuses for not quitting:

1. They had only been playing a short time.
2. They felt lucky and thought they could win more.
3. Their friends didn’t want to leave yet.
4. They were having too much fun.

It’s easy to walk away when all your money is gone, but it’s harder to quit while you are ahead. I’m not saying that if you do win you should immediately go home. If you are ahead, lock up your buy-in and a small profit. Play with the excess and when that is gone, get up and take a break. Walk around, see a show or get something to eat.

Winning casino games is exhilarating. Players should learn to savor that win. Take a break from the games while you are ahead and you can enjoy that winning feeling while you engage in other activities at the casino. You can always go back and play the games later.

On the flip side, going home broke knowing that you were a winner but gave back all the money you won feels awful. Many players feel that when they win they are playing with the casino’s money. They tend to look at the money they won differently than the money they brought with them. In reality, once you win, the money is yours.

It’s not that most people never win when they visit the casino, it’s just that they never leave with their winnings. If you learn to savor your wins and take some profit home with you, your casino visits will be much more enjoyable.

Control Your Emotions

Being greedy isn’t the only way players hurt themselves at the casino. There are other emotions that can get in the way and cloud the judgment of the player. Playing when you are tired or fatigued can alter your thinking. Many players who travel long distances to the casino on vacation will play marathon sessions to cram as much playing time as possible into their schedule. When you are tired you don’t always make the best decisions.

Sometimes losing affects players emotionally and they start doing irrational things, like chasing losses. They start betting big sums of money in hopes of making it back with one big score. Poker players refer to this as going on tilt, and it is probably the most damaging factor contributing to many losses players suffer in the casinos.

If you learn to control your emotions you will become your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy.

Until next time, remember: “Luck comes and goes…Knowledge stays forever!”

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