The Gambler's Mind.Good gambling sessions can last hours. Over that amount of time, it is difficult to even guess how much cash you’ve wagered. You could not even estimate how many hands of blackjack you’ve played, have many spins of roulette you’ve tried, the total number of sports bets wagered, and the amount of craps tosses you’ve been involved with. With that in mind, it can be very difficult to gauge your own play in order to self-evaluate and improve. In order to best recall, we must work to first understand a bit of basic human psychology: the Recency and Primary Effects.
Take a moment to think of the names of at least six different US Presidents. If you are like most people, you will think of the most recent (G. W. Bush, Clinton, Bush) and the first (Washington, Adams, Jefferson). Our minds are much less apt to recall those who have fallen in the middle of the pack. It seems that only collegiate historians would name such leaders as Hoover, Johnson, Taft, and Wilson. Our lack of recall of those in the middle may have notthing to do with their abilities to lead our nation, but they may be victim of the way the human mind works. You see, our memories always follow a similar pattern. We remember the initial stimuli (Primary Effect) and the final (Recency Effect).
Gambling sessions are remembered in a similar fashion. Casino goers will use comments such as, “I started off smoking-hot in 3 card poker, but ended up losing a bunch when I lost eight out of my last 10 hands in blackjack.” In this example, the waves of positive and negative play in between the start (3 card poker wins) and end (blackjack) is mindlessly glossed over. It is obvious that the dozens of wagers made along the way carried significant weight as well. Still, even a serious player would have extreme difficulty recalling the successes and mistakes that fell within the heart of play.
Since our brains automatically blend enormous amounts of information into an undefined hodgepodge, huge chunks of our gambling session can go unnoticed and unevaluated. The best gamblers understand that we can play well but still come out behind or even, in the short run. Since you cannot control the element of chance, we must work to maximize the one thing we can control – our own decision making. All of us must work to be “on our A-game” as often as possible. How can we possibly know if we were focused and sharp during our third hour at the tables if we can’t recall any of the details? Were you in control of your emotions? Were you making timely wagers? Were you aware of your bankroll? Especially when gambling online, mindless play can become a common costly occurrence. With the effects of Recency and Primary memory, you will probably not be able to recall much of what happened over the course of the session.
To improve your gambling mind, work hard to combat these common effects. In order to do so, use cues to help you refocus attention and memory. For instance, get in the habit of doing a complete self-evaluation each time your bankroll jumps or drops a significant level. If you’ve turned your $200 buy-in into $250, take a hand off to plot your next course of action and redefine your goals. If you then see the bankroll drop back down to $200, take a few moments to see if your emotions are affecting your decision making. You can set your cues to whatever is easy or convenient for you – time intervals such as every 20 minutes, during every commercial break on the television that plays within your earshot, after every three bet win streak, just find what suits you best. When you make that concerted effort to refocus yourself, you’ll find that those long lulls of play will now become more memorable “chunks” of information. When you have a more complete picture of your playing session in your memory banks, you’ll find that you’ll have much added value in your play. That value may be better than money itself – it is in knowledge and overall improvement of play. Understand human psychology to better understand yourself, and you’ll find better profits at the tables. Now go make it happen.
By: John “the Counselor” Carlisle, MA, NCC