Using Psychology to Understand Why We Love Gambling

One thing that every person prides themselves on is being unique. We set our own paths, carve out our own destinies. Yet, the truth is that we are both far more simple and far more complex than we truly realise.

One of the areas where this comes to the surface is when we delve into the psychology behind gambling. We have certain predetermined responses to music, colours, and even designs which, when used in the context of a winning payout, or a near miss, trigger the response to celebrate or play “just one more” game.

The psychology of gambling is a fascinating topic. It’s interesting to see how people become addicted and why they can’t seem to stop themselves from making bets, even if it means losing money that would otherwise be spent on other things like food or accommodation.

Which type of gambler are you?

Over the years, there have been many studies which deal with key personality traits and their responses to gambling-related stimuli.

The one that really hit home for us was the research of psychiatrist Robert L. Custer, who identified six key gambling personas:

  1. The professional gambler
  2. The antisocial gambler
  3. The casual social gambler
  4. The serious social gambler
  5. The escapist gambler
  6. The compulsive gambler

With these six basic personas in place, it becomes a simple matter of determining where we each fall and then being able to track if we are gambling within healthy parameters.

Thanks to the work of Doctor Custer, the American Psychiatric Association recognised compulsive gambling as a psychological disorder in the 80s, which is one of the key reasons that gambling addicts and their families get the level of support that they do today.

What does gambling add to our lives?

Hollywood has given us very conflicting views of what it means to be a gambler and what it says about the person who gambles. On the one hand it gives us the hero character who swoops into a casino, plays a few hands, wins big and is the envy of all present. Then it shows us the schemers and the villains who manipulate, lie and cheat to get ahead.

Yet, while entertaining to watch onscreen, neither of these tropes is true of the average person who enjoys gambling as a hobby.

Here are three more relatable reasons that someone is likely to gamble in our current climate:

  1. The desire to be in control

The world has always been a crazy place, but in recent months that fact has been highlighted in an unprecedented manner. For many gamblers who prefer so called “games of skill”, gambling allows them to take control of the world around them, putting their skills to the test. Be it against the dealer at a blackjack table or their fellow players around a poker table.

  1. The need to connect with others

Gambling has always been a rather social event with players creating lifelong friendships with those they share the casino floor on a regular basis. Thanks to the burgeoning live dealer casino market, players can now continue this tradition by chatting to the croupiers and fellow players at their favourite live tables.

  1. The thrill of the chase

For most gamblers, the anticipation of a win, waiting to see if the final card that is turned over will result in a bad beat or big win, is the highlight of a game. Yes, winning is great, but so are the fisherman tales of the “win that almost was” and the “jackpot that got away”.

Finding and maintaining balance

We need to realise that none of the above reasons for gambling takes place in isolation of one another.

Only 11% of gamblers end with a positive balance, and 13.5% end up with a debt. These gambling statistics speak for themselves and have a more significant influence on people, but gamblers often neglect it.

Casino developers use exciting music to hype us up for near wins to ensure we play one more hand, shared experiences can create false attachments without any real substance, and if you pride yourself on your control – the inevitable losses can be hard to handle.

As a fan of gambling, it is important to balance these three enticing factors with their realities:

  1. All casino games, even those requiring a level of skill, are inherently based on luck. A great poker player knows how to play the cards they are dealt well, but they cannot control what cards they are dealt.
  2. We need to create friendships and connections that offer a level of accountability. This means taking care of those relationships that ground us in the real world, not relying solely on the excitable camaraderie of shared wins and losses.
  3. We need to find joy in the company, good food and other normal daily experiences to remain balanced. Pursuing the rush of wins and losses will cause the brain to need more and more extreme stimuli to trigger the “happy centre”, which can lead to gambling addiction.

You also need to be sure to stay well-informed about the casino industry and read casino and game reviews before jumping into playing right away.

When you can find the balance, then gambling will always be an enjoyable pastime that is healthy for you to enjoy for years to come.

As the industry evolves and the online casinos start to implement social features, among many more developments, it is up to you to make the most from it by gambling responsibly before all.

Psychology will always draw us to be excited about betting, and the fascinating games can take up all of our time, but it is up to us to focus on healthy intercourses with the gambling world.


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