Do you feel like you’re losing too much money gambling? If so, that can be a serious problem. You’ll probably find plenty of advice aimed at problem gamblers or gambling addicts. That advice usually amounts to absolute abstinence, which, frankly, is the correct approach—if you’re really a problem gambler.
On the other hand, you might not have an addiction. You might be a recreational gambler who overdid it one weekend. Compare it to the person who goes to a party one weekend and overindulges and wakes up with a hangover. That, by itself, doesn’t qualify one for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous. It takes a little more drinking than that.
If you’re a recreational gambler, here are 10 reasons why you’re losing so much money gambling, and here’s what you should do instead:
1- You’re Placing the Wrong Bets at the Casino
All casino games have a house edge—a mathematical advantage for the casino that’s impossible to beat in the long run. They create this edge by creating a game where the odds of winning are worse than the payout odds. One easily understood example is roulette. A bet on a single number at the roulette table has a 37 to 1 probability of winning. (You have 37 ways to lose, and you only have 1 way to win.) But that bet only pays off at 35 to 1 odds.
It’s important to realize that this is a long-term mathematically expected result, and in the short run, the results are random. Your actual results will only start to look more like the mathematically expected results over a long period of time. But the more negative expectation bets you place, and the higher the house edge is, the more money you’ll stand to lose in the casino. In roulette, all of the bets (save one) have the same house edge, but this isn’t true of every game.
Craps, for example, is a game which has some bets with a house edge of well under 2%. But it also has some bets with a house edge of well over 10%. The difference in expected value is tremendous. If you stick with the pass line bet at the craps table, or the come bet, the house edge is only 1.41% But if you start betting on silly stuff like “hard 8,” the house edge is 9.09%.
2- You’re Betting Too Much Money on Each Wager
The way to predict your mathematically expected loss per hour on a gambling activity is to use the following formula, where:
- A = The house edge
- B = The average bet size
- C = The number of bets you make per hour
- A X B X C = Expected hourly loss
Increase any of these factors, and the amount of money you lose per hour goes up. It does you little good to stick with a game where the house edge is 1.41% if you’re just going to start betting $500 per roll instead of $100.
If you’re gambling spending has gotten out of control, consider scaling down the stakes for which you’re playing. If you’re betting $100 per hand on blackjack, you can cut the amount of money you’re losing in half by betting $50 per hand instead.This is true in any gambling activity where you’re fighting a negative expectation. Bet less per wager, and you’ll lose less money in the long run.
3- You’re Using Betting Systems
Some people think that raising and lowering their bet sizes based on the previous round’s results can change the odds in their favor. The most popular of these methods is called the Martingale System, and it involves doubling the size of your wager after every loss until you win.
What happened on the previous spins has no effect on the probability of getting red on the next spin of the roulette wheel. There are 38 numbers, and 18 of them are red. The probability of getting a result remains 18/38, regardless of what happened on the previous spin, the previous dozen spins, or the previous 100 spins.
The other thing that these betting systems fail to account for are the size of your bankroll and the betting limits at the casino. If you start off betting $10 per spin at the roulette wheel and double your bet after every loss, you don’t need an outrageous losing streak to start putting a serious strain on your bankroll.
Losing 8 times in a row at roulette seems next to impossible, but it happens every 4 or 5 hours. Look what happens to the size of your bet when you hit a losing streak like that:
Keep in mind that if you succeed on bet #8 or #9, your net profit for the entire progression was only $10. The rest of that bet was just to recoup your previous losses. And after losing 7 or 8 times in a row, the odds of winning the next bet are still against you. The probability is still 47.37%, no matter what happened earlier.
No betting system can compensate for having the odds against you in the first place. That’s just not how gambling works.
4- You’re Not Using Basic Strategy in Blackjack
Most people know by now that blackjack offers some of the best odds in the casino. The house edge is less than 1%. But that figure assumes that you’re playing every hand with perfect basic strategy. Every deviation you make from basic strategy adds to the house edge.
If you’re going to play blackjack, memorize basic strategy and use it on every hand. This will limit your losses. The more you deviate from basic strategy, the more money you’ll lose on average over time.
5- You’re Playing Slot Machines
The most expensive game to play in any casino is the slot machine. It combines lousy odds with a high rate of play, which is devastating to your bankroll. It increases the average expected loss dramatically. The average slot machine player gets in about 600 spins per hour. At $3 per spin, you’re putting $1800 per hour into action. Contrast that with a blackjack player wagering $10 per hand at a reasonably crowded table. He’s probably lucky to get in 100 hands per hour, which means he’s only risking $1000 per hour.
Play whatever you want to in the casino, including slot machines, but if you think you’re losing too much money too fast, you should get away from the slots.
6- You’re Playing Too Many Hands at the Poker Table
One of the keys to winning at poker in the long run is tight-aggressive play. The first part of that is probably the more important part if you’re losing too much money playing poker.
Tight and loose are 2 ways of describing how selective you are with which hands you play and how far you continue with them. Tight players fold most hands and only play the hands that are strong. Loose players, on the other hand, play lots of hands. Loose players might win more pots, but it’s only because they’re involved in more pots.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put money in the pot. Betting and raising are keys to aggressive play, which is the 2nd half of a winning poker strategy. But in terms of losing less money, the first trick you should learn is how to fold a lot. Even tight-passive players lose less money than loose-passive players.
7- You’re Gambling with Money You Can’t Afford to Lose
Have you ever heard the expression, “Scared money always loses?” It’s true.Scared money is money you shouldn’t have been betting in the first place. It’s money you can’t afford to lose. Since you can’t afford to lose that money, you make decisions that aren’t mathematically optimal. You also recklessly chase losses in a desperate attempt to get even.
You get to the blackjack table, and you have $100 down on a hand, and you split. Then you re-split. Now you have $400 in action. Then suppose the dealer winds up with a total of 21, and all 4 of those hands of yours lose. You have $1600 left and can’t pay the rent.
So you think, well, I already can’t pay my rent—maybe I can catch up and get ahead by placing a couple of bigger bets. So you bet $200 on the next hand, with the intention of just getting in enough hands to break even for the night. This time you get a hand where the correct play is to double down, and you do so. But you still lose. Now you’re down to $1200. You’re going to lose a lot of money if you’re playing with scared money.
8- You Really Do Have a Gambling Problem
It’s not my place to diagnose whether you’re a problem gambler or not. That’s for you to decide. I can offer some clues to look for, though.
If you’ve ever done any of the following, you might consider getting some help for a potential gambling problem:
- You’ve missed work because of your gambling.
- You’ve felt remorseful after gambling.
- You’ve gambled until you were completely broke.
- You’ve sold something or hocked something to gamble.
- You’ve lied about your gambling activities.
You can find a list of 20 questions to think about if you’re concerned about your gambling behavior here. That’s from the Gamblers Anonymous website, but that’s not the only game in town when it comes to getting help for a gambling problem.
Getting help is crucial, but I’m a believer in getting professional help as well as the support and fellowship of people who have experienced similar problems. Find a licensed professional counselor to talk with, too. Gambling addiction ruins lives, so don’t let it ruin yours.
9- You’re Obsessed with Climbing the Ladder of the VIP Club
I have a friend who visits the Winstar Casino more often than he’d care to admit. He has recently been climbing the ladder in the players club there, and he gets free food and rooms all the time. To pull this off, he had to gamble a lot more than he probably would have otherwise. And the way negative expectation games work is to drain your money the longer you stay in the game and the more you play.
And let’s face it. The percentage that the casino awards you for your play is so paltry in comparison to the house edge that it’s pitiful. Most casinos award you 0.2% or so in rewards. That might go up to 0.3% or 0.4% as you climb the VIP player club ladder. The house edge on most casino games, though, is at least 10 times that much. Most casino games have a house edge in the 2% to 4% range.
Blackjack and video poker are exceptions, but it’s all but impossible to make a living with either of those games even if you play profitably and optimally. Don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking you need to play more to get more player rewards. That’s a recipe for losing more money.
10- You’re Not as Good at Betting on Sports as You Think
It’s hard to make a profit betting on sports. The vig creates a situation where a guy who’s right with his picks 50% of the time is bound to lose. That’s because the book requires you to wager $110 on a 50/50 proposition to win $100. Most people overestimate how well they pick winners. They think that they’re better than they are, and since they’re not keeping careful records anyway, it’s easy for them to claim they’re breaking even or showing a small profit.
Do this for a month or two, and I can guarantee you’ll be surprised at what your actual results look like when compared to how you thought you were doing. This doesn’t make you delusional, by the way. It makes you human. It’s human nature to have selective memory. You’ll naturally remember the winning bets more than the losing bets. That’s why keeping written records is so important.
So you’ve been losing too much money gambling? It’s almost certainly because of one of the 10 reasons listed above. That’s good news, too, because once you’ve put your finger on the problem, you can solve it.
With each of the reasons for losing money listed above, I’ve tried to include a piece of advice about how to stop losing so much money for that reason. What other reasons can you think of that might be causing you to lose so much money gambling?