Philosophy of Gambling

Philosophy of Gambling

22/10/2021

A personal philosophy can broadly be defined as a theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for your behaviour. When it comes to gambling, a strong philosophy can help you make more astute wagering decisions. This gambling philosophy delves into the general philosophy underpinning gambling regulation, the role of luck and probability in gambling, the concept of the gambler’s fallacy, and how philosophy can help you play better at the best casino sites.

The 5 Models of Gambling Regulation

Gambling regulations are grounded in philosophical foundations. In his 2003 book Gambling and the Public Interest, Professor Peter Collins laid out five distinct models of gambling regulatory approaches found across the globe:

  • Religious Approach | Certain governments treat gambling as a sinful pursuit and outlaw it. Islam forbids gambling, so this approach is found across the Middle East and in certain pockets of Asia.
  • Paternalistic Approach | Some countries have determined that they need to save individuals from themselves by outlawing gambling as a private enterprise. They may offer a basic lottery, but casino gaming and sports betting are prohibited. If there are land-based casinos, they are restricted to foreign visitors. Examples include Vietnam and India.
  • Pragmatic Approach | Some nations take a balanced approach to gambling regulations. They appreciate the pitfalls of problem gambling, but they also respect the free will of their citizens. These countries typically permit gambling, but keep it tightly regulated.
  • Liberal Approach | Countries such as the UK have taken a free market approach to gambling activity. They regard gambling as a commercial enterprise, akin to the pubs and bars that welcome drinkers. They impose rules to protect underage gamblers and provide support to problem gamblers, but gambling is widespread and fully tolerated.
  • Commercial Approach | Certain jurisdictions specifically set out to whip up tax revenue from the gambling industry. The most glaring examples are Las Vegas and Macau, although the advent of online casino gaming and sports wagering has created hubs such as Malta, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Alderney, where local governments deliberately target gambling operators with favourable tax regimes. This is seen in Curaçao, Costa Rica and Kahnawake too.

Philosophy in Gambling - Luck and Probability

Regulators preoccupy themselves with philosophical concerns when devising legislation, while also factoring in moral, practical and commercial interests. The same is true of individual gamblers. A personal gambling philosophy is often determined by one’s attitude towards luck, probability, morality, practicality and rationality. There are certain fallacies that can cause a gambler to make irrational judgements in the heat of the moment:

insert_text_hereLuck plays a large part when gambling

Gambler’s Fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy is one of the most destructive beliefs you can hold when playing at roulette, blackjack, poker, or any other game. It is essentially the belief that if an event occurs more frequently than normal in the past, it is less likely to happen in the future, or vice versa. For example, if you flip a coin and it lands on tails three times in a row, gambler’s fallacy suggests that it will land on heads the next time. If you roll a die and it lands on 1, the gambler’s fallacy tells you that it is unlikely to land on 1 the next time.

This is a complete fallacy – a myth, an error, a misconception. The flip of the coin or the roll of the die is determined by chance. It is cold and hard and not karmic in any way, shape or form. If something happened or did not happen previously, it has no bearing on what will happen in future. These past events are referred to as statistically independent.

This was perfectly illustrated at the Monte Carlo Casino in August 1913, when the ball landed on black 26 times in a row during a game of roulette. Gambler’s fallacy would have told you that it should land on a red pocket after 10 landing on black 10 times in a row, but that did not happen. Statisticians worked out that the chances of it falling on black 26 times in a row was 1 in 66.6 million – highly unlikely, but certainly possible. For that reason, gambler’s fallacy is also known as Monte Carlo fallacy.

Retrospective Gambler’s Fallacy

The retrospective gambler’s fallacy is the false belief that a rare occurrence is likely to have occurred several times previously. You essentially infer an unknown past event by witnessing something in the present. For example, you could witness the ball land on a pocket number 16 three times in a row on a particular roulette wheel. You would then assume that number 16 has come in three times in a row on that roulette wheel several times in the past. This is also known as the inverse gambler’s fallacy.

How to Avoid Gambler’s Fallacy

You simply need to understand that each hand is a new hand. What preceded it has no bearing on how the next hand will play out. For example, if you lose three consecutive blackjack hands in a row, it does not increase your chances of winning the next blackjack hand. You should therefore avoid the temptation to increase your stake after losing, unless you are following a specific negative progression system. Try to think rationally and remind yourself that the cards have no memory of what happened previously. Instead, you should focus on the expected value of each blackjack hand, roulette wheel spin, throw of the dice, and so on, and make your wagering decisions accordingly.

How Philosophy Can Help You Play Better

Gamblers can delve into the world of philosophy to refine their strategies and improve their chances of success. These are some of the key branches of philosophy that you could implement when bidding to improve your gambling strategy:

Stoicism

Zeno of Citium founded Stoicism in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It encourages you to differentiate situations that are within your control and those that are outside of your control. Stoicism can help you stay on a virtuous path, act in a mindful fashion, build resilience and react with serenity to everything that is out of your control. This can be useful for a gambler. These are some gambling tips you can learn from Stoicism:

  • Understand that you have no control over how the cards will fall, but you have full control over how you play each hand. You can therefore dedicate yourself solely to making the most astute and mathematically correct play each time, without getting upset about what you have randomly been dealt.
  • Stoics practice a technique called negative visualisation. You can visualise losing all of your money and come to terms with the prospect. That allows you to play without fear and make sensible, rational decisions.
  • Follow the Stoic principles of wisdom, courage, justice and temperance. This helps you set a sensible bankroll and gamble within your means.

Taoism

This ancient Chinese philosophy holds that humans should live in balance with the universe. Its central tenet is that the spirit of the body joins the universe after death, creating spiritual immortality. There are four key principles of Daoism: simplicity, patience, compassion; going with the flow; letting go; and harmony. These can be applied to gambling, whether you are playing a slot machine, betting on sport, enjoying a poker game, or playing roulette or blackjack in a casino:

  • Cut through the clutter and make strong, rational wagering decisions in pressured situations.
  • Realise that it is futile to fight against what is out of your control. Instead, focus on your own decisions, and place bets at opportune moments.
  • Let go of what happened in the past and realise that each hand is a new hand, thus avoiding the gambler’s fallacy.
  • Flexibility is key to success in certain games. The harmony that is inherent in Taoism will prevent you from becoming too rigid and breaking under the pressure.

Hedonism

Many people view hedonism as something depraved that arises from the narrow and ferocious pursuit of pleasure at the expense of everything else in one’s life. However, true hedonism actually practices moderation as a means to achieving happiness. Gamblers can benefit by practicing hedonism:

  • Play with a moderate bankroll and do not take undue risks. This helps you avoid suffering and leaves you more likely to experience pleasure.
  • Enjoy the process of gambling. Some players become so consumed by winning and losing that they forget to actually derive pleasure from the act of wagering.
  • Make sure you hone your skills and your strategy to such a point that you are more likely to succeed and thus derive pleasure and happiness from gambling.

Conclusion

Philosophy and gambling are natural bedfellows. Gambling philosophy underpins the regulations that control the gambling industry around the world, and individual gamblers must develop a particular gambling philosophy in order to make shrewd, intelligent wagering decisions. Philosophies such as Stoicism, Taoism and Hedonism can help you become a better player, and on the flipside, avoiding negative issues like the gambler’s fallacy also boosts your chances of success.

FAQ

🤔 Has the online space changed gambling philosophy?

Gambling philosophy has changed significantly thanks to the advent of online gambling. It is now far more accessible and many of the taboos associated with gambling have vanished. Yet this easy access has also fuelled concerns around gambling addiction, so philosophies like stoicism and Taoism are becoming even more important.

❓ What is the gambler’s fallacy?

The gambler’s fallacy suggests that if a bet goes against you, your next wager will have a favourable outcome. The classic gambler’s fallacy example is expecting a coin to land on heads if it previously landed on tails. However, this is a total fallacy, because there remains a 50/50 chance of it landing on either side.

❓ How does gambler’s fallacy apply to blackjack?

Gambler’s fallacy suggests that if you are dealt a bad hand at the blackjack table, your next hand will be a strong hand. It also suggests that if you go bust after twisting, your next twist is likely to be more successful due to the so-called law of averages, but this is a fallacy.

🌍 What culture gambles the most?

The UK currently has the world’s largest regulated gambling industry, although the United States is projected to overtake it soon following the legalisation of sports betting. In terms of gamblers per head of population, Australia leads the way in many studies, while Chinese culture is also famous for gambling heavily.

⛪ In which religions and cultures is gambling unacceptable?

Islam is the only major religion that forbids gambling. It is considered haram, and Islam generally looks down on it. Gambling is therefore deemed unacceptable in many countries across the Middle East, along with in Islamic cultures in Asia and elsewhere.

🤔 How can philosophy help you become a better poker player?

Philosophy can help players at poker sites avoid what is known as sunk cost fallacy, whereby individuals are reluctant to abandon something they have poured time, money and effort into. Some players may feel unable to abandon a bad hand, but philosophical principles can help you avoid doing so. You can circumnavigate gambler’s fallacy, and develop patience, control, courage, poise and focus.
Casino ProviderBonus OfferReview
1

100% up to NZ$1000 + 5% top up on all deposits

Full T&Cs apply. New players only. Cash reward: 7 days from registration to opt-in from "My Offers" page & with 7 days wagering. Deposit & wager 35x. Only cash stakes qualify & wagering contributions on Casino and Live Casino. 18+. Gamble responsibly.

2

100% Welcome Bonus up to NZ$1,000 + 150 Extra Spins

18+ T&C Apply.

3

Welcome Package of 250 Spins + up to NZ$777 Bonus

Terms and Conditions Apply. New Players only. 18+. Min Deposit NZ$10. Wagering requirement apply 35x. Offer valid for 72hr. Spins expire after 24hr. 250 spins includes 3 deposits. See full terms here.

t