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The Downside of Optimism in Gambling


A study published in the US National Library of Medicine strongly suggests that optimists are more likely to lose more in comparison to individuals with pessimistic traits. Here’s why.

Those familiar with gambling should be aware that every casino game has a house edge. Gambling establishments are designed to profit, and each game is built to favour the casino in the long run, no matter the circumstance.

Online, there are countless strategies on how to win for pretty much every game. In honesty, most of them are empty words, whereas only a few hold tangible truths to them.

For instance, Blackjack has a significant factor of skill, despite the game’s inherent luck-based nature. Those with mastery of Basic Strategy and to an extent – card counting – can maintain a steady bankroll or leap ahead of the house edge.

Then we have poker, a game which factors in skill the most. In fact, many people make a consistent living out of poker winnings. In contrast, most casino games such as video slots, are purely luck-based machines.

In games of skill, your experience and knowledge can help you stay ahead. In games of luck, however, you have no say in the outcome… or so it seems. As it turns out, an important part of your personality can play a big part in how your gambling sessions pan out.

Optimism and Pessimism – The Basics

An optimist is defined as a “person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future or the success of something.”

In the scientific community, it is generally accepted that being an optimist has far-reaching benefits. If we put an optimist and a pessimist in the exact same scenario, the optimist will have a better outlook on the present and future situation.

The reason behind this is that optimists tend to focus more on positive information. Whereas, their pessimist counterparts will focus more on the negatives. In fact, an optimist will go as far as reframe negative information as positive and thus receive a more positive outlook on things.

The Pub-Med study goes to show that optimists’ inherent bias towards positive information leads them great persistence in times of turmoil. An optimist is much more likely to act to improve his situation, while the pessimist is likelier to accept things as they are and be overcome with hopelessness. 

This is why optimists lead generally happier lives, have a better health record and have an easier time adjusting to new surroundings. The optimist’s problem-solving approach to dealing with issues and his attention bias to positive stimuli mean he is likelier to successfully deal with any hardship in his way.

Gambling and Optimism – The Tables Are Turned

We spent some time talking about how being an optimist has a number of benefits in aspects of health, financial well-being and dealing with day-to-day adversity. However, optimism may have a completely opposite effect when it comes to gambling.

There are several reasons for this predicament. We mentioned how optimists tend to focus more on the positives. In a casino game session, you win some you lose some – it’s the way it goes. An optimist is much more likely to remember his winnings and remember them for longer. They stay in his mind, and will likely encourage him to continue gambling even on a losing streak.

We also mentioned that an optimist tends to reframe negative feedback into positive information. He will go as far as interpreting negative information to fit his own subjective bias. For instance, an optimist may look at a losing streak as being one step closer to winning. When in reality, casino games don’t have a memory; each wager made is independent of the previous one, and hot & cold streaks are a fallacy.

A pessimist, on the other hand, is impacted differently by losing. He is much more likely to look at losing as a signal to stop playing, in comparison to the optimist who will be persistent and reinforce his beliefs even further.

What’s worse, an optimist – certain of his capabilities – will start gambling with the expectation of winning. A pessimist tends to look at gambling as entertainment and is likelier to cut off his losses sooner than later. An optimist will probably start chasing losses in order to regain his bankroll, which is one of the worst things a gambler can do.

The research team experimented on over 200 individuals across 3 individual studies that compared a person’s outlook on life to his or her gambling habits. The results were fairly conclusive, and they can be explored in great detail by clicking the link above. 

Are Optimists Doomed to Lose Forever in Casinos?

Not at all. However, if you identify as a strong optimist, a certain reframing of your thought patterns may be needed. There is no magical switch that will turn an optimist into a pessimist, or vice-versa.

Your simplest solution would be to follow sound gambling advice on how to control your game sessions. Regardless of your look on things, simply follow practical and safe gambling tips and you will be fine.

  • Set a Weekly/Monthly Gambling Budget
  • Never Surpass Your Budget
  • Take Frequent Breaks
  • Don’t Chase Losses

It is easier said than done, but you will certainly have a better time if you look at gambling as a hobby or entertaining past-time rather than a for-profit activity.

There are also tangible things you can do to improve your gambling outcomes, such as taking advantage of various self-control measures available at online casinos.

Many online operators are nowadays obliged by their licensing bodies to let players have more control over how they play and better understand what gambling responsibility from a players point of view really means. As such, the average player can impose a number of limits on himself.

  • Play Time Limits
  • Deposit Limits
  • Loss Limits
  • Wagering Limits
  • Self-Exclude From Playing

Players in the UK, who have access to GAMSTOP, can go as far as exclude themselves from every single casino in the country. Moreover, players from all across the globe have free access to gambling help from dozens of independent organizations.

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