You’ve been on the blackjack table for a while now, steadily losing all your chips. Heck, you’ve been here for almost 4 hours. It seems like luck just isn’t on your side today. You realize this. However, you’re not making any moves to leave. In a desperate move to win all your money back, you bet all your remaining chips on one hand. Better luck next time.
Why is gambling so addictive? Why can’t we stop, even when we know we’re at a deficit? Well, to answer this, we look to neuroscience.
It’s been claimed that the root of addiction to gambling is found in the same parts of the brain that causes addiction to other things – drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. It’s in the reward center of the brain where all of this happens, and whenever we keep losing money, we keep expecting that we’ll be getting a better hand on the next turn. However, most people don’t realize that the odds of tossing a coin are 50-50, and each toss does not relate with one another. Your bad hands on the blackjack table is in no way going to cause you a successful comeback, and furthermore, the house will always have an upper-hand advantage.
When the brain responds to a higher degree of potential rewards – in most cases, caused by an expectation of a comeback – it increases our natural tendency to keep playing.
Anna E. Goudriaan, PhD
It’s a real problem nowadays – gambling. It’s becoming such a profitable industry, basically due to the fact that people easily get hooked on it. In fact, around an estimated 3% of the whole world’s population demonstrate addictive gambling habits.
What goes on our brains is extremely dysfunctional. The problems roots are in people’s anticipation to win. In a study in the Netherlands, it was shown that there was more activation in the reward centers of the brain when anticipating a win, which evidently builds up following every loss. This is similar to motivation in people when completing a difficult task. You have to go through a certain hardship to get to the rewards. However, this is often not the case when it comes to gambling. More often than not, you will lose. Casinos have been made to give the house an advantage. The motivation and drive to keep playing in the hopes that the next hand will finally be a win is a wrong way of thinking. You will not win that way.
Additionally, as the game progresses, gamblers often lose sense of what’s possible and what isn’t.
This is why after a few losses, you should pull out of a table. With every loss, comes a blurred perception that you will win the next one, which doesn’t really hold up most times. Don’t be that guy. Cut your losses and move on.