Everyone’s heard the all too popular cliche, “Hindsight is 20/20,” but nobody ever seems to want to talk about foresight.
It’s easy to look back upon a past event, analyze the consequences of actions, and play hypotheticals. Most people are quite competent at playing a game I like to call, “shoulda, coulda, woulda.”
Those same people are far less effective when looking ahead and planning for a likely unpredictable future. If the opposite was true, and everyone possessed 20/20 foresight, life would be far less exciting.
When looking back on any active gambler’s journey, the same concept can be applied. Nitpicking mistakes and overanalyzing costly errors is a common activity for some gamblers, myself included.
Sometimes, I find myself wishing I could go back and offer my former self some advice about gambling. If you’re still relatively new to gambling, take it from me, some lessons are harder to learn than others.
Luckily, I’ve taken my lumps and learned these lessons so that you don’t have to. Here are the six things I wish I’d known before I started gambling.
1 ‒ Gambling Isn’t a Race
The first several months of a person’s gambling career will often vary based on their level of self-control and discipline. A more well-rounded, conservative gambler might opt to dip their toe in the water to check the temperature.
Less disciplined ones, like my former self, tend to throw caution to the wind and dive headfirst into gambling.
Using myself as an example, I struggled with maintaining a healthy relationship with gambling. But I also lived in a state where gambling wasn’t legal.
Though it was a major inconvenience to gamble, that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If I wanted to go to a casino, I had to drive to a different state—a perfectly inconvenient drive to say the least.
When I wasn’t playing blackjack or craps, I thought about it frequently. When I was gambling, I couldn’t get enough of it and never wanted to leave.
It might be tough to quell those initial feelings of excitement when you start gambling. But as the gambling industry continues to gain steam, it’s safe to say that it’s going nowhere anytime soon.
2 ‒ Losses Are More Devastating Than Wins Are Enjoyable
There are only a handful of things more emotionally impactful than that first huge win.
Some luck out and hit a big jackpot win on a slot machine. Other gamblers might go on a heater playing cards and double or even triple their bankroll.
Whatever form it comes in, winning big is a fantastic feeling, one that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. You’re likely going to be chasing that emotional apex for the rest of your gambling days.
But in the process of trying to reach that apex once more, you might fall off the mountain in spectacular fashion. As you might know, or will soon learn, the fall is typically more abrupt and jarring
As wonderful as winning big feels, losing big is by far and away more emotionally impactful. It’s easy to understand why.
Winning money at a casino table is a progressive experience. Sure, it’s perfectly possible to sit down at a table, place a max bet, win, and cash in. To steadily grow your bankroll, you have to string along wins by playing well and occasionally getting lucky.
Watching your chip count increase over a period of time is fantastic, like I said. But most of the time, the process is slow and steady, resulting in few emotional swings.
Huge losses, on the other hand, are unexpected and instant. One second, you’re on top of the world, then you lose everything and crash back down to earth.
The joy and pleasure dissipate, and that void is filled with despair, frustration, and desperation, depending on how big the loss was. As good as winning big feels, it has nothing on the utter devastation of a significant loss.
3 ‒ There Isn’t Enough Room for Both Brains and Egos
Gamblers can embark on their journey at any point they feel ready to do so. But a substantial number of gamblers start trying their hand when they’re entering early adulthood. It just so happens that young adults are stereotypically incredibly confident and completely naive.
That’s a rather unfortunate combination, to say the least, especially for anyone who likes gambling.
If you don’t believe me, make sure you’re completely aware of your surroundings the next time you gamble. You’ll likely notice the younger players are more brazen and braggadocious while they’re winning.
Meanwhile, older gamblers are often more reserved and collected to the point they can even be considered stoic. Most of the time, these more seasoned players handle wins and losses in similar fashions.
They defer to logic, strategy, and skill while not overextending themselves. Younger gamblers are less inclined to handle themselves with the same level of poise.
Instead, they are somewhat erratic and handle winning and losing as any overconfident gambler who lacks skill and experience might.
4 ‒ Breaks Are an Integral Part of Success
When gamblers start to lose money at an alarming pace, a tendency to press on and stop the bleeding often prevails. If you lose money, it’s unnatural to wave it off and move on with your day—that is, until you’ve been beaten one too many times while chasing losses.
Similar to the first point, a lack of action just feels wrong sometimes. Most gambling, whether it’s online sports betting, playing cards, or even table games, involves a fast pace and constant moving parts.
Once the machine grinds to a halt, it’s unsettling, even if the machine stopped for a good reason.
Most of the time, that mashing of the brakes is caused by a shortage of funds or a lack of contests to wager on. Both of those situations call for a break but rarely lead to one.
Instead, gamblers withdraw more money to play more table games or find some obscure sports to bet on. If a particular gambler is down for the day, it’s a challenge to call it a day.
A brief pause is often restorative and beneficial to gamblers, especially if they can’t seem to win a bet. A balanced lifestyle makes more a better gambler. Once your gambling day’s over, don’t force the issue.
5 ‒ Fact Check and Verify Every Piece of Advice You Hear
I’ve already established that new gamblers can be cocky, unskilled, and overeager. Generally speaking, first-time gamblers or even just newer gamblers are also incredibly impressionable. Being a good student shouldn’t be frowned upon, but in the case of casino culture, it can cause problems.
Don’t believe everything you hear at a casino table unless it’s coming from the dealer’s mouth or someone you know and trust. Even then, the people you know the best aren’t great gamblers sometimes.
6 ‒ Some Days Are Inexplicably Rotten
It might be hyperbolic to claim that mythology exists around the world of gambling. At the very least, there are deep-seated gambling traditions and numerous myths that could honestly be classified as fallacies.
The more you analyze the simple act of gambling and what it’s evolved into, the stranger and more ludicrous it seems. Superstitions, quirky idiosyncrasies, and downright preposterous methodologies are mainstays around casinos.
Additionally, there are several generalizations and seemingly nonsensical explanations about gambling results that seem to float from table to table.
For example, when a new player thrives, “beginner’s luck” is likely the reason. Never mind the fact that some beginners are naturally gifted; that can’t be the reason for their success.
This type of logic is prevalent, and frustrating to reconcile. But there is some legitimacy to a few of these concepts. One is the idea that sometimes, your fate is sealed before you even start gambling.
Now, let me emphasize the importance of separating gambling facts from fiction. It’s completely illogical to declare that someone isn’t going to play well based on ridiculous and intangible factors.
Generally speaking, good blackjack players are supposed to win nearly every other hand. Yet I’ve seen players, solid ones at that, lose more than a dozen hands in a row. These types of occurrences make absolutely no sense, but they happen all the time.
Instead of trying to explain these cold streaks, sometimes, it’s just easier to throw your hands up, admit defeat, and walk away.
A Summary of Our Hard Learned Lesson
Gamblers love to dwell on the past and obsess over what could have been.
At the live dealer blackjack tables, you’ll find players beating themselves up for not hitting when they should have. Stick around the sportsbook for a minute or two and I bet you’ll hear someone complaining about a factoid they missed before placing their wager.
As they say, hindsight is indeed 20/20. But this masochistic mental exercise won’t do you any good unless you learn from these mistakes.
While I desperately wish I could go back and tell myself to defer to humility or take a break from time to time, making mistakes is the best way to develop better gambling habits.