I want to start this article out by saying that these 5 tips are NOT for someone who has a serious problem gambling and is totally out of control.
If you can’t control your gambling no matter what you do, you may need professional help. Call the National Problem Gambling Helpline and speak with an expert who can talk to you about how to stop gambling for good.
For everyone else who just finds themselves gambling a little too much and wants to take it down a notch, here are some tips to control your gambling.
1- Stop Gambling at Home
For many people who love to gamble online (and many, many people do), I think one of the biggest ways it can get out of control is when you’ve integrated gambling into your home life.
Unlike many other forms of entertainment, gambling online allows you to gamble pretty much 24/7. Now I will admit that many casinos are open 24/7 also, but the reality is that going to a casino in person comes with a lot of requirements that usually force you to go home.
You have to get in a vehicle, make your way to the casino, get money from an ATM, possibly visit the ATM and pay huge fees while you’re at the casino, deal with all the smoke and drinks (both of which can exhaust you), deal with all the lights and sounds (which are definitely exhausting), and then if you want to eat, you have to stop gambling and go do that.
All of this takes a toll and keeps you from gambling for long periods of time. Add to that the need to sleep (in a bed you’ll have to pay for) and usually someone waiting at home for you, and you’ve got many factors naturally limiting your gambling.
When you gamble at home, the situation is different. Your food is readily available and can be eaten at your computer. You can easily avoid food, drinks, light, sounds. You can stop from time to time to do family stuff or take care of things around the house.
In essence, you can gamble forever if you so choose. Heck, you can even have the computer on your bed and snooze for a bit and then keep going.
Stop gambling and home and start going to the casino if you find your gambling is getting out of hand.
2- Set Limits and Stick to Them
For the majority of people, gambling addiction isn’t something they have to worry about. That being said, gambling is fun and is designed to draw you in. So I think a lot of people just don’t consider the fact that they’re spending a little too much time gambling—more than they would if they took a step back and thought about it.
If this is you, then start by setting simple limits for yourself around gambling. Maybe that looks like a limit on time—only gamble a certain number of hours a week, or on certain days, or maybe don’t gamble at certain times of the day or at certain times of the week.
Another limit you might set is on the games themselves. Maybe you’ve found that poker is problematic for you, or maybe it’s roulette or craps. For some people, there are certain types of gambling that just seems to get out of hand for no particular reason—maybe it’s horse racing you need to avoid.
Another type of limit is just a simple monetary limit. Limit how much you spend, where you spend the money, how often you spend money up to a certain point, and onward.
Finally, I think too many people gamble while drinking (or in states where it’s legal, smoking marijuana). If this is you, think about this—both of those substances are known for reducing inhibitions. If you’re partaking of a substance while gambling that reduces your inhibitions, it’s no wonder that you’re getting out of hand.
So cut out the substances that you consume while gambling and see how that goes.
3- Treat Gambling as a Social Activity
I think that gambling can often get out of hand when we approach it as a solitary activity instead of a social activity—something we do with friends—and I think that’s pretty much the wrong way to go about it.
Gambling has pretty much always been a social activity, a way to pass the time between bored soldiers during long wars (or just bored people during the times that came before TV, the internet, and even books).
Think about it—when you’re gambling with friends, you tend to focus on the conversation. You tend not to drink as much as you would when you’re by yourself. You tend to only stay at one game or one table for a short amount of time and then move on to the next game and the next. You tend to talk to other people as a group, and when one person is ready to go, every tends to stick together and leave as a group—even if it’s just to go get some food.
What this does is naturally control your gambling. You don’t have to worry about going overboard because it’s not just you you have to think about—it’s everyone who’s out with you that night. So unless you’re really selfish—and I’m guessing you aren’t—then you’re going to respect what the group wants to do and leave before you might on your own.
This also naturally limits how often you gamble. If you’re only gambling when everyone has time and money to do so, you’re probably not going to go very often.
On top of that, you almost certainly aren’t going to end up sitting at a slot machine for hours at a time if you have friends with you to think about.
4- Ask Yourself if You’re Really Having a Good Time
This might seem like a silly tip, but if you’re finding that you have trouble controlling your gambling, you need to ask yourself a simple question—am I actually enjoying this activity?
For some people, the answer, when they really think about it, is a simple “no.”
The problem is that, by the time gambling starts to get out of hand, many people haven’t bothered to even ask that question. Instead, they’ve found themselves going mostly for the chance to win money, not because of a love for the game or because gambling is a great hobby.
So sit back and ask yourself this fundamental question: am I really gambling because I enjoy it and I’m having a good time when I go, or is it something I’m doing just for the money?
If you’re doing it just for the money, then you probably need to find another hobby. For the vast majority of gamblers, gambling just isn’t going to fill the bank up. It is exceedingly difficult to make money gambling—if it was easy, all the casinos would go out of business.
5- Stop Playing When You’re Up and Cut Your Losses
One of the biggest ways people end up in trouble when gambling is that they keep playing when they shouldn’t. That may sound simplistic, but it’s true—continuing to gamble beyond the point when you’ve made money or lost too much money is one of the biggest ways you can screw up your experience.
There’s a lot of wisdom to the old adage, “quit while you’re ahead.” If you walk away from your game of choice after you’ve made some cash, you’re going to feel a lot better about your experience than if you stick around and lose it all.
Remember, the house always wins in the long run, but there can still be ups and downs that will be in your favor. When you get up, walk away—take that money and run!
And if you find that you can’t do that, then you might start thinking about the possibility that you have a real problem on your hands.
The exact same strategy should be in play for losses. If you lose money at the tables and Lady Luck isn’t with you that night, you need to be able to walk away before you make a bad situation worse.
What you really don’t want to do is get caught up in the sunk cost fallacy. This is a fallacy in your thinking that convinces you that because you’ve already put money into the game and lost it that you now need to try even harder to win (because you’ve already sunk so much money into the game).
The reality is that you can walk away from the table no matter how much or how little you’ve made or lost. If you lose $200, it’s not like you’re now more likely to win because you’ve been on a “losing streak.” The odds of each play are unaffected by previous plays! There’s no such thing as a winning or losing streak—it’s all random.
If you can’t walk away when you’re down, you might need to consider getting help.
If You Have a Serious Gambling Problem, Get Help Now
If you can’t control your gambling no matter what you do, you may need professional help. Call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 and speak with an expert who can talk to you about how to stop gambling for good.