It might seem like it’s all about the numbers, but casinos use a number of psychological tricks to keep gamblers from gaining an edge. The good news? If you recognize them you can start to level the playing field.
Manipulation is fair game when it comes to gambling. Since the first casino opened way back in 1638, there has been a struggle between player and house – unsurprisingly, the house is generally the winner.
In this article, I’ll get into some of the mental games that often go unnoticed. This knowledge won’t guarantee a winning trip, but it certainly won’t hurt either.
1 – The Casino Layout
Most people don’t give a second thought to the way land based casinos are laid out. At first glance, nothing seems unusual about it. However, there is much more at play than you might recognize.
For starters, the place is typically laid out like a labyrinth. In order to find what you’re looking for you’re going to have to pass through a number of other games that are covered in bright colors and flashing lights that basically say, “Come take a chance on me.”
In addition, essential stops like the ATM, cash-out machine, and restrooms are usually not so easy to get to. This is intentional, as the longer you spend wandering around the more likely you are to explore new games.
The next time you visit a casino, try to find one “landmark” feature that you can readily and easily recognize. Chances are it’s going to be harder than you think. Casino designers don’t necessarily try to make it feel like you’re always lost, but rather that anywhere you decide to play feels comfortable.
Garish slot machines are found in just about every corner of the establishment so that a quick game is never out of reach. Even the blackjack tables are laid out in such a way that the casino can gently nudge you in the direction of the games that you’re most likely to play, and also most likely to lose.
If you’re ever gambling at a new place and are constantly feeling like you’re lost, you certainly are not alone. Just remember that finding your way to the bathroom doesn’t need to be a reason to spend more money.
2 – The Time of Day
If you were dropped into a casino with no watch or phone, you’d never know what time it is – this is by design.
Casinos everywhere purposefully do everything in their power to make time stop. The goal is to get players in a “zone” where there are no reminders that time is indeed flying by why they’re sitting at the roulette wheel or slot machine.
Generally speaking, the more time people spend at the casino, the more money they’re going to lose. The absence of clocks or windows makes it so that the only measure of whether to stay or leave is the state of one’s bankroll.
If you aren’t careful you can easily fall into the trap of finding yourself in a trancelike state that won’t allow you to step away. To combat this phenomenon, try setting an alarm on your phone or watch and take frequent breaks.
Remember, if you’ve won money, that means it might be time to call it a day. Even a modest win is better than trying to hit it big and slowly draining your financial resources in the process.
3 – Cashless
Just like swiping a credit card, when you play at a casino it can be very easy to forget just how much money you’re using to gamble.
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to get around it. This is why it’s even more important that you go into the gaming establishment with a set amount of money that you’re going to use that day. My recommendation would be to physically go in with cash to be converted to digital currency or chips. That way you won’t be tempted to reload your casino bankroll while you’re playing.
4 – Comps
What’s wrong with free stuff?! In this case, the answer is that it’s not necessarily free if you’ve had to spend a whole bunch of money to get it. The kickbacks that casinos provide, known as “casino comps” or complimentary items, are often reserved for those who have already paid their fair share to the house.
If you’re a frequent player at a specific casino, it’s fine to work towards getting a free night in a hotel room at the resort or free food and drinks. With that being said, if you’re trying to get these rewards after a weekend, you’re probably going to end up betting far too much.
The goal of a casino visit is to leave with more money than you came in with. If you’re more concerned with earning that free luxury suite upgrade, it’s going to much less expensive to just pay for it upfront than to try to get it by spending enough for the comp.
5 – The Jackpot Effect
It might not be a technical term, but I think it’s time to put some title on what I’ll refer to as the “jackpot effect.”
What I’m referring to is those bright lights and jubilant sounds that emanate from a machine when someone hits a big jackpot. Nearly everyone in the casino hears it, and the obvious reaction is undoubtedly, “If they won it, so can I!”
Yes, it is true that jackpots happen and some lucky gamblers have his or her day made in a matter of seconds. But it’s crucial to recognize that these shows of success aren’t typical, and the fanfare is meant to seduce you into chasing after the jackpot yourself.
Remember that when you witness a jackpot you’re only hearing the successful side of the machine. What is much less noticeable is the silence or groans that signify the disappointment of coming up empty after a half hour of button pushing.
6 – Near Wins
Whether it’s playing real money slots, video poker, or any other type of machine-oriented game, you’re likely to come close to hitting the jackpot many times. This isn’t random.
Gaming programmers are notorious for creating a system where you always feel like one more spin could have you rolling in cash. Unfortunately, getting 2 out of 3 or 4 out of 5 when it comes to hitting it big really doesn’t count for anything.
This one really does hit deep in players’ psychological, subconscious minds.
The bottom line is that whether you get 99% of what you need for a jackpot or 1% of what you need, the overall result is the same. Just because you’re “almost there” doesn’t mean anything, and can lead to unrealistic expectations.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the ways casinos make money off gamblers, it’s a good place to start.
The best way to avoid falling victim to these tricks I’ve laid out above is to simply recognize them and remind yourself that things aren’t always what they seem. Casinos play on your emotions, so staying even-keeled is crucial to being a good gambler.
As a basic guide for dealing with the casino’s psychological tactics, keep a close eye on your bankroll, take frequent breaks, and remind yourself that it’s okay to walk away.