I love gambling more than most. Between my days working as an advantage player, occasional stints working for the house, and this gig writing about the industry, casinos have always been my home away from home. I’d like to think that my time spent as a gambler has been a healthy and productive hobby, along with a cool profession to boot.
But along the way, I’ve never been shy about taking stock of my attachment to the casino scene. Every so often, it’s in every player’s best interest to take a step back and honestly answer a few questions like the ones below.
1 – Am I Playing for Pleasure or Profit?
Back when I paid my bills grinding mid-stakes video poker and blackjack, I definitely gambled for profit above all else. After all, playing skill-based games perfectly was my job, and I never enjoyed the security blanket of a steady paycheck.
These days, however, I only play for the unique sense of enjoyment and entertainment that gambling provides. I still want to win of course, but on days when the cards aren’t cooperating, I can chalk the losses up as the price of admission to a good time.
Unless you’re one of the rare few who put food on the table by beating the house, prioritizing profit over pleasure at the casino is a recipe for disaster.
Every game on the floor, every possible bet you can place, they all have one thing in common— the house’s inherent edge over players.
Experienced advantage play specialists can combine optimal strategy, comps and perks, and a little good luck to squeeze out a steady profit.
But for your average recreational gambler, walking away in the black consistently simply isn’t an attainable goal. When you gamble strictly to make money, you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
On the other hand, folks who play for the love of the game alone benefit from the best of both worlds. When they’re losing, they still get to enjoy the challenging spots and sweats that define a great gambling experience. And when the stars do align, a sweet hand pay, progressive jackpot, or heater on the tables is akin to icing on the cake.
2 – Why Am I Playing Games of Chance Over Skill-Based Options
As a longtime skill-game player by trade, I’ve always wondered exactly what it is that attracts so many gamblers to pure games of chance like the slots, baccarat, craps, and roulette.
I mean, why wouldn’t you want to exert at least some semblance of control over the results of your wagers?
That was my mindset as a pro, however, and I’ve since come to appreciate what luck-based games have to offer.
For one thing, those huge progressive jackpots every gambler dreams about are almost always attached to skill-free games. The financial incentives alone, at least in a hypothetical sense anyway, make iconic slots like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune an attractive option for casual gamblers.
More importantly, I believe plenty of players out there prefer games of chance over skill games because this approach lets them off the proverbial hook.
When you play real money blackjack, for example, deviating from basic strategy and making simple mistakes creates a direct negative impact on your chip stack. In other words, when you’re losing at a skill game, it’s usually because you’re not playing with enough skill to succeed.
But on the slots and other games of chance, the player can rest assured that random variance alone will decide their fate. They can’t mess up, make mistakes, or play poorly. They can only place bets and hope for the best.
If you routinely find yourself playing skill-free games, there’s no harm in that in and of itself (provided you’re using a sensible bankroll management strategy). With that said, it never hurts to ask yourself why you like luck-based gambling more than games which require strategic knowledge.
3 – Am I Avoiding Skill-Based Games Because I’m Not Willing to Put in the Effort?
More often than not, the real answer to that last question boils down to a basic lack of motivation.
In order to play blackjack or video poker perfectly, you’ll need to memorize detailed basic strategy charts which can cover dozens and dozens of unique scenarios. Tournament poker players train rigorously by testing their decision-making acumen against algorithmic “solver” programs that always know the mathematically optimal play.
And on the other hand, most people who play for fun aren’t exactly interested in turning their pastime into a de facto profession. They just want to let loose, relax, and splash a few chips around in hopes of beating the odds.
Once again, there’s no issue whatsoever with solely playing games of chance. They can be more affordable, potentially more lucrative, less stress inducing, and easier for beginners to learn.
But when you realize that you’ve been avoiding the more demanding casino offerings just because they take a little more time and effort, the insight can be illuminating to say the least.
4 – Even If I Master Basic Strategy, Do I Have the Discipline to Play All Day?
Here’s a confession I’ll happily share with any aspiring advantage player: You won’t have any fun, win or lose.
Sure, those initial sessions when you’re finally starting to put it all together at the table are thrilling enough. Quite quickly, however, the absolute commitment to basic strategy needed to beat the house sucks all the life out of games like blackjack or video poker.
When you know every conceivable combination of hole cards vs. dealer up card, and exactly how to play those hands, blackjack becomes deconstructed in a sense. You aren’t really “playing” at that point, you’re just watching the cards hit the felt and following the charts to a tee.
I know my fair share of gamblers who could play perfectly every time out, but choose not to simply because it’s a more fun way to enjoy the game. And you know what? The small statistical sacrifices they make over the long run are vastly outweighed by the smiles and sweats pro players just don’t get to savor.
If you’re considering diving into the charts yourself to achieve optimal play, ask yourself this:
Is gambling like a programmed computer really gambling at all?
5 – Do I Bet Money That I Honestly Can’t Afford to Lose?
This one’s a touchy subject, but it’s one of the most important questions casino regulars can ask.
Whenever you find yourself feeling a legitimate financial crunch associated with gambling losses, consider the lasting sting to be a big red flag.
Avoiding that sad path to self-destruction begins with taking a full and honest account of your spending at the casino. If the answer to this question is, or ever has been, “yes,” dropping down in stakes or taking a break altogether is your best bet.
6 – What Are My Ultimate Goals in the World of Casino Gambling?
Personally, I always believed that my time as a player would position me for further opportunities within the industry.
Covering the world of casino gambling as a writer is basically my dream job, and I’m proud to have achieved that goal after long last.
Your own goals don’t have to be connected to employment, of course, but it can be very useful to wonder where you see yourself down the road.
- Do you want to play higher or against better competition?
- Are you in it to score player’s Club points and associated comps?
- Would you ever consider passing your strategic knowledge down via a mentor-student relationship?
Gambling should be fun, first and foremost, but you always stand to benefit from taking your craft seriously too.
7 – Am I Still Having Fun?
We’ve all seen those sorry souls who seem to be stuck to a particular table or machine. Sullen expressions, sagging eyelids, slouched shoulders, and a conspicuous lack of chips are all calling cards of a gambler who has long since stopped enjoying the games.
When gambling stops being a fun way to spend the day, you’ll find hundreds of better places to be than the casino.
And soon enough, when that essential sense of balance in your life has been restored, you’ll suddenly find that the casino is fun once again.
Everybody can benefit from exercises like this, as the basic act of questioning and answering leads to genuine reflection. I know most gamblers out there are in good hands, so perhaps many (or even most) of these queries won’t apply to you.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen the darker side of this industry, so I hope my readers can use the answers they arrive upon to improve their gambling lifestyle in one way or another.