Gambling is such a well-studied field of knowledge that it’s easy to assume everything you need to know is right at your fingertips. But there’s more to gambling and gaming in general than the rules of the gams and the best strategies players should use.
The secret rules of gambling are those ideals that separate the best gamblers from the crowd. They’re not the best because they win more often. They’re the best because they fulfill the spirit of fair play and competition and because they make good decisions.
While some might argue that gambling isn’t a good decision, I think it’s okay to gamble if you limit gambling as a means of entertainment. Take every win, but accept the losses at the cost of enjoying yourself.
Here are the secrets that every good gambler should don’t.
1 – It’s Always a Game of Chance or Luck
Games like blackjack and poker require skill. You’re more likely to write a prize-winning novel than to win a game of poker without knowing what you’re doing.
But even the best poker players can’t do anything about not being dealt the cards they need.
If you’ve read even a small number of gambling advice articles or books, you know how popular gambling fallacies are. In a true game of chance, regardless of how much skill is involved, you’re never owed a better deal.
Athletes on the field aren’t owed another point by the system. Card players aren’t owed another ace. And slot machine players aren’t owed another win.
If that were possible, no one would want to gamble because the casinos only run games where they already have an advantage.
It’s luck that makes the win so much sweeter. Skill helps us take on the challenge of competition, but luck will always be required.
2 – Only Play With Money You Set Aside for Gambling
Unless you have sponsors who front your gambling fees and bankrolls for you, you can legally only play with your own money.
You’re either playing with money you saved for gambling or you’re robbing Paul to play with Charles. Standard gambling advice says you shouldn’t use your mortgage or rent money to gamble.
Does that imply it’s okay to divert the grocery budget to gambling?
No matter what, gambling should be a scheduled expense. It shouldn’t be taken out of any other budget you’ve set aside for everyday necessities. And it definitely shouldn’t be borrowed from someone else.
You need to set aside some seed money to start gambling. Because the casinos rake in billions of dollars from player losses every month, most people are losing a portion of their income on gambling alone.
Assuming you can get ahead with a large enough bankroll, good skill, and good luck, you should be able to keep playing on the same bankroll for a long time.
Use that time to pay down your debts, save money in the bank, and maybe invest a little. When you need to manage your bankroll, that seed money should come out of a specific account.
Lastly, remember that it’s far better to lose money you own than money you’ve borrowed.
3 – You Always Have Unrealistic Expectations
If you’re feeling charitable and want to support your local casino, then you might be gambling to lose. But most people hope to win. In fact, I’d say most people expect to win when they gamble.
Successful athletes always say they cultivate a positive attitude. They don’t go into a game or competition thinking, “This is where I want to lose.”
Gamblers approach the game the same way. We know there’s only a small chance we’ll win, but deep down, we expect to win.
You don’t need to rationalize that expectation by saying, “Well, I expect to enjoy myself.” In a figurative sense, enjoying your time is winning, but who isn’t hoping to go home with a little extra change?
I’d say this is a healthy expectation as long as you remain grounded in the knowledge that you’ll lose most of the time.
4 – The House Really Does Want You to Win
Okay, they don’t want everyone to win. And they certain don’t want anyone to win all the time. But casinos need winners.
Without winners, how will the gambling industry maintain the illusion of hope?
The games are not as random for the casino as they are for the players.
But it’s a badge of honor for a casino to award a big prize to players, especially their local regulars. This is how gambling remains fun for everyone.
The house may only run games where it has an edge, but its financial future and well-being are staked on a positive relationship with players. And that means someone other than the house needs to win every now and then.
The more winners, the better, as long as the casino continues to make a healthy profit.
5 – Bet More on Strategically Small Wins
You can talk about variance, volatility, and skill all you wish, but there’s only one way that players can consistently win more money when gambling.
You need to make bigger bets.
The difference between a winner and a whale is not too subtle. The winner takes the money and runs. The whale takes the comps and loses.
The house edge is lowest in games like baccarat and blackjack, although a lack of skill or good judgment will derail any blackjack game.
Even with the best odds, the only way to win a lot of money in these games is to bet a lot of money. Sooner or later, you need to raise the stakes, or you’ll just spend time watching the cards.
In roulette, all you need to do to increase the odds is bet on fewer numbers. It sounds simple, but it increases the house edge.
So, if you’ve picked a game where the house edge is as low as it can be and you’re making the safest wagers possible, your only chance of winning big is to bet big.
Stop looking for the perfect strategy. It doesn’t exist.
6 – Never Gamble in a Bad Mood
You’re going to lose, and you’re going to lose a lot. If you can’t take the losses in stride, then you shouldn’t gamble. It’s better for you to do things you enjoy than to try to overcome a negative attitude in a casino.
We grow tired, get headaches, and become frustrated when we gamble. You might realize your mood has changed drastically from positive to negative. You may just develop an acute need or desire to keep playing until you win to get out of our negative mood.
If you’re not having fun as you play the game, then you should take a break. Give your mind and your emotions a chance to reset and recharge.
I’m not sure hitting the food bar is the best thing to do when you’re in a bad mood. You may indulge in a heavy meal, which isn’t healthy. It won’t help you play any better either.
There have been times when I’ve asked myself, “Would I rather be someplace else than here?”
If the answer was yes, and it has to be a meaningful yes, then I stop gaming and go wherever it is I really want to be. I can always come back to the casino when I’m in the mood for it.
Good gaming depends on how you feel just as much as luck or skill.
7 – It’s Not the Probabilities That Make You a Better Player
I have a friend who can almost always tell me the chances for any kind of hand in video poker or blackjack. He has those probabilities memorized.
He’s a pretty good player, but when he’s in the game, he’s not mentally calculating the probabilities.
Learning the probabilities teaches you why you want to split eights and not 10s. Knowing the probabilities in video poker teaches you why you should not expect to draw a sequential royal flush.
It’s enough to know something is unlikely. If you’re the kind of person who likes to memorize things, and good play needs a good memory, then memorize the strategies.
It’s more important to know when to fold and when to raise your bet than it is to know what the average probability of the next card being an ace is.
That’s why blackjack card counters use the simplest systems. You don’t need to waste brain cycles on calculating probabilities.
Gambling experts love to talk about probabilities, but they’re just explaining why the game works the way it does. They don’t really mean for you to think about “the chances of drawing a fourth ace.”
I call these the subtle secrets of gambling. Sometimes, they are the universal secrets of gambling. They have proven true in every type of gambling game I’ve played.
You can even take these secrets to the racetrack. You can bet a perfecta, trifecta, or just a number to win. It doesn’t matter, because you’re still depending on a combination of luck (or random chance) and the skill of the horse and rider.
If you want to win more at the racetrack, you need to bet more. And that makes the game more exciting. As long as it’s fun, you’re doing okay.