Research

The Psychology of Gambling

Playing online slots and table games from the comfort of your own home is brilliant fun, but sometimes we all get the urge to dress up and visit a real-life casino to experience the extra glamour, buzz and excitement that only an upmarket night out can provide.

Author: Editorial Team May 31, 2021

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If you’ve ever enjoyed a successful major gaming session and wondered why it gave you such a rush, it’s probably got very little to do with how much you’ve won. The thrill of a ‘high’ comes from a very different part of our psychology. Read on to learn more about the psychology of gambling.

Why do People Gamble?

It’s often been stated – and quite correctly – that the main difference between humans and animals is that animals don’t worry about things in the past, or what’s going to happen to them in the future. They live in the here and now, so their senses are fully occupied by what’s around them. They’re far too busy taking in the sights, sounds and smells around them to waste time and energy concerning themselves with how they’ll pay the electricity bill or if they will ever win.

The Gambling Psychology, Simplified

When was the last time you saw a cat that was desperate for a beer, or a dog that needed to go on a thrill ride? Or how about when you made a bet with a friend or family for a certain outcome to happen? The psychology of gambling has a competitive element, in which there must always be a winner and loser – and we always want to be on the winning side. The simple fact is that it’s only us humans that crave the dopamine rush from short-term stimulation like drinking, intimacy, or adrenaline-producing activities like gambling – and that’s because we concern ourselves with what happened in the past and what’s going to happen in the future rather than living for now. Those are some of the reasons why people gamble.

Psychological Effects of Gambling

It’s all well and good stating that humans ought to emulate animals more, but being an adult human means we have to earn a living, raise families, feed ourselves and maintain our health to the best of our ability. It’s therefore not surprising that we all need a way to escape sometimes, and live for the moment.

All activities that let us do this release dopamine – a powerful neurotransmitter – into the brain, and that’s what makes us feel good, helping us temporarily forget about the stresses and strains of our general lives and get on with enjoying ourselves. The psychology of gambling is linked to dopamine, and this chemical messenger can drive people into continuous streaks of compulsive gambling, their underlying reasons of gambling, and the “gamblers mentality” to keep that “high” in their brains.

Is Gambling the Ultimate Here and Now Way to Relax?

If you need to immerse yourself into something fun, gambling provides perhaps the fastest way to do it. When it comes to betting psychology, games – live casino, slots, or sports betting – are designed to have an unpredictable outcome. This is intended to give the psychological effect of keeping us on the edge of our seats with our eyes glued to the screen as we await the outcome, and as soon as one race, hand or spin has taken place there’s always another one that you can look forward to. This is why playing free slots online is something casino players only do for a short time, if at all – as the outcome makes no difference to their bankroll and is therefore not as exciting without the possible outcome of winning rewards.

The Gambler Mentality

Strange though it may seem, the psychological effects of gambling on the brain are so pleasurable and intense for some people that winning is almost irrelevant. There have even been cases of players winning the top jackpot on a slot game and then becoming depressed as they no longer knew what to do with their spare time. Such is the psychology of gambling: Like a hunter getting a thrill from chasing prey, gamblers love the thrill of chasing wins or losses, as no matter what happens there’s always another thrill to come straight afterwards. It’s about balancing risk versus reward.

Now That I Understand, How Do I Gamble Responsibly?

You may love gambling and adore the rush that a sudden dopamine injection gives you – but that doesn’t mean you have to make silly choices or gamble uncontrollably. The vast majority of players are aware of the psychology of gambling yet are still able to enjoy a real money gaming session without any problems just as most of us can visit a pub without developing a drinking problem. The key to moderation lies in recognising when you’re gambling to release stress.

If you’re constantly visiting the casino to block out unhappiness then the source of that unhappiness needs to be dealt with, rather than channelled into playing games. Otherwise, the old adage of not gambling more than you can afford to lose remains crucial, and you should always treat a casino session as a couple of hours of entertainment that you’d expect to pay a small premium for, rather than a source of income.

Keep the psychology of gambling in mind and you can look forward to some great times. For new players here, we recommend playing online slots for free or watching casino streamers before taking to a casino.