By: Brian Osborne
Gambling psychology for most people conjures up images of stony faced poker players and their habits and actions (tells) that suggest the value of the cards they are holding.
I contend that there is much more to gambling psychology. When we look at successful gamblers, they all have a sound money management strategy, a sound game strategy, a high level of game skills, distinctive presentation and when appropriate, the ability to psyche their opponents.
You may contend that that some of these aspects of gambling do not involve psychology. I disagree.
The sound money management strategy allows the successful gambler to recover from a number of consecutive loosing gambling sessions. Especially in poker, opponents notice these things and the ability to bounce back has a subtle psychological effect on opponents. This also allows you to approach the next session in a better frame of mind than what you would otherwise be in because you know that if you should loose again, you still have adequate reserves to try again multiple times.
Without a sound game strategy you will be taken to the cleaners regardless of the game you play or where you play it. A sound strategy simply requires you to play the game to take advantage of all the favorable bets and to avoid those bets where the house has an unreasonable advantage.
This allows you to play with confidence because once your strategy has been tested and proven, you know that when you win, your winnings will be reasonable to quite good and on those occasions when you loose, your losses will be relatively modest.
Your game skills give you the confidence to adhere to your strategies when under pressure so that you maximize your winnings and minimize your losses. If your game stresses you unduly, either find a game with lower limits or a different game that you find less stressful. If that is not possible, then it is time to find another past time.
Your distinctive presentation sends a message to your opponents.
That message is dependant on where and with whom you play. Many years ago, I worked as a ringer (cowboy) and long wearing western shirts, jeans and polished riding boots have been both my preferred work and casual wear ever since. In the city, that gives me the image of a hay seed (hillbilly). At the poker tables, that’s great because most of those who do not know me personally will tend to assess me as an inexperienced and poor player.
To me these are the unnoticed aspects of gambling psychology that all combine to build your personal confidence and allow you to exude confidence during your gambling session.
Virtually everyone has heard about poker “tells” even if they do not really know what they are. Tells are the subtle signs that others pick up on that give them a good idea as to the strength of our poker hand. Hiding these tells from your opponents, requires a great deal of acting skills and practice especially when you suddenly find yourself sitting on a good full house or a royal flush.
I recall playing against this stony faced guy who hardly moved or spoke for hours when suddenly the artery on the side of his neck started jumping like he had just run a marathon. He obviously had a hand that he found very exciting. Whilst he could control his voluntary actions, he could not control his involuntary actions. All those who could see that side of his neck folded in turn. If he had come dressed as ‘dandy’ complete with a cravat, no one may have noticed his obvious excitement and his pot would have been much bigger.
This incident vividly illustrates the visible aspects of gambling psychology.
Lastly, I thought I should do some research to see what the experts have to say about gambling psychology. After a few hours, of reading those papers, the overwhelming thrust was that we were all exhibiting the early signs of abnormal behavioral patterns and if caught early, the problem could respond to treatment. Unfortunately, there are some in our midst where gambling has become a problem.
I make a point of never gambling when cash is short because it has been my sad experience that whenever I have gambled in those situations, I have almost always lost and such losses are doubly painful. I have always won most whenever I could well and truly have afforded the loss. Being cashed up removes the stress and reduces the mistakes one makes when playing overly cautiously.
To the intelligent gamblers in our midst who have sound strategies in place and who never bet more than they can afford to loose, I say work on the psychological aspects of your game to improbe your edge and Good Luck at the Tables!