The Art of Stress-Free Gambling

Silhouette of Woman Giving Thumbs Up With a Casino Background

Another of my favorite self-help books is called Getting Things Done by David Allen.

But the subtitle is where the real gold is in that book:

“The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.”

And it made me think about how stressful gambling can be for some people.

In this post, I explain how to eliminate stress from your gambling activities altogether so you can enjoy your hobby more.

Always Have a Sufficient Bankroll

No matter what kind of gambling you like to do, you MUST have a big enough gambling bankroll for your action. If you have a big enough bankroll, you won’t be stressed out about your outcomes.

Having a big bankroll presupposes that you have the money for all your other bills taken care of. Your bankroll is extra money in the same way that the money you spend at the bar is extra money. It’s not something you need to pay your child support with.

If your bankroll isn’t big enough, you’ll be worried about every losing streak you face.

And that’s stress.

Think of Gambling as an Entertainment Expense

Gambling – especially casino gambling – should be viewed as an entertainment activity with a cost associated with it. If you frame it that way, you won’t be stressed our or angry when you lose money.

The reason people get confused about their gambling not being an entertainment expense is because sometimes you win. If you’re a casino gambler who has the good sense to occasionally walk away while you’re ahead, you might leave the casino a winner 20% to 40% of the time.

Pair of Pocket Aces in a Poker Game

You’re still going to lose more money than you’ll win because that’s the nature of casino gambling.

Also, most other gamblers lose most of the time. People talk a lot about poker being a game of skill, and they’re not lying about that.

But 95% of poker players lose money playing poker.

If you think of gambling as an entertainment expense, you won’t stress out about losing because you’ll understand that it was just the cost of an evening’s entertainment.

Choose Bets and Games With a Low House Edge

The house edge is the statistical advantage that the casino has over the player in a gambling game. For example, the house edge for blackjack when played with perfect basic strategy is 0.5%.

This means that on average, over the long run, the casino expects you to lose 50 cents every time you bet $100 at the blackjack table.

In some casino games, the house edge is the same regardless of which bets you place. Blackjack is an example of that, and roulette is another.

Other games, like baccarat or craps, offer multiple bets with different house edges.

The house edge in baccarat varies based on which of the three bets you choose:

  1. Banker 1.06%
  2. Player 1.24%
  3. Tie 5.26%

Obviously, the banker bet is the best bet at the baccarat table, but the tie bet is the worst bet.

The higher the house edge is, the more you expect to lose on average per bet. If you’re betting $100 per hand on baccarat and taking the banker each time, the average loss over time will be $1.06 per hand.

But if you’re betting on the tie, you’ll lose an average of $5.26 per hand over the long run.

It should be easy to see why you would want to take the bets with the lower house edge.

Look for Low Volatility Games

The house edge isn’t the only consideration when deciding which casino games to play and which bets to make.

Volatility is also a consideration.

That’s just a fancy word that describes how often you’ll win and how much you’ll win when you do hit a winning outcome.

For example, the even money bets at the roulette table win almost half the time (47.37% of the time), but you only win even money when they hit.

Rows of Various Slot Machines

A bet on a single number at the roulette table wins far less often, but the payout is also much higher. You’ll only win a single number bet 1/38 of the time, or 2.63% of the time.

But when you do win, you’ll get $35 for every $1 you bet on that number.

The highest volatility games are those with the biggest jackpots. They usually have a higher house edge, too, but it’s the volatility that makes them stressful.

A Good example of this is high volatility slots.

You might be the kind of gambler who enjoys taking a shot at a big jackpot. If that’s the case, great, but watch out for stress and worry.

Choose Games That Are Actually Fun

Not every casino gambler enjoys every casino game. I know slot machine players who would rather do anything than play blackjack. I also know blackjack players who see no point at all in slot machine play.

I also know gamblers who enjoy being in action regardless of the game, its house edge, or its volatility. I’m like that myself. I enjoy craps just as much as I enjoy sitting at the poker table.

You shouldn’t choose a gambling game based on someone else’s idea of what you think is appropriate. Play the games you like to play. Do your own thing.

Gambling is entertainment. If it’s not entertaining, don’t do it.

I know a lot of people who turn their noses up at slot machines in favor of video poker games.

But I understand why slots players might not want to play video poker. They don’t want the stress of having to decide which decisions are mathematically optimal. I can’t get too upset with them over that.

Just don’t let other people’s “should” become your “must” – especially not when it comes to an entertainment activity like gambling.

That would be like watching foreign films even though you hate subtitles. Plenty of film snobs might tell you that you should watch some movies, but if you have a good reason for hating subtitles, just skip them and watch what you want to watch.

Don’t Drink Too Much When You’re Gambling

Not long ago, my daughter was studying for the written portion of her driver license test. One of the questions had to do with what is affected first for a driver who’d been drinking. It was multiple choice, and I don’t remember exactly what the options were. I think one of them was reflexes, and another might have been vision.

But I remember the correct answer:

The first thing to start to go when you’ve been drinking is good judgment.

And when your hard-earned cash is on the line, you need to practice good judgment.

Old Fashioned Cocktail at a Casino

It’s already easy to get swept up in the emotion and excitement of gambling in a casino. You don’t need drugs or alcohol making it still easier for you to make bad decisions with your money.

Sober Gary might go into a casino with $200, lose it all in an hour, call it day and grab a cheeseburger on the way home.

Drunk Gary might go into a casino with $200, lose it all in an house, then hit the ATM and withdraw $200 to try to get even.

Don’t be like Drunk Gary.

Be like Sober Gary.

If You Have a Gambling Problem, Just Quit Altogether

The description of Drunk Gary’s behavior doesn’t just apply to gamblers who’ve been drinking. Some people – for reasons they’re not necessarily to blame for – just can’t handle the biochemical storms that gambling causes in your brain.

People who are prone to impulse-control problems – people who have problems with alcohol, drugs, or other addictions – should probably avoid gambling altogether.

It’s a bummer to be told that you should never do something again, but this is exactly what works for addicts and alcoholics.

Problem gamblers are better off treating their problem with the same gravity as people with substance abuse issues.

The negative effects of compulsive gambling on someone’s life can be just as deleterious as abusing substances. You might borrow money you can’t pay back. You might lose money that your family needs, and your wife and kids might leave.

Gambling addiction ruins lives.

Luckily, most gamblers don’t develop a compulsive gambling problem.

But if you’re one of the unlucky ones, don’t waste any time getting help.


Want to gamble without stressing out about it?

Start by only gambling with money you can afford to lose.

That’s so important that the other tips for stress-free gambling in this post are just icing on the cake.