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What Type of Gambling Should You Choose Based on Your Psychology?

2 Feb 2018, 4:03 PM

You may not have heard of Robert L. Custer, but he is one of the most influential figures in gambling of the past 50 years. In the 70s, Custer was the first to identify that compulsive gambling was a form of illness to be treated, and not simply criminal or antisocial behaviour. His research into the psychology of gambling paved the way for gambling addiction treatment, and has helped thousands.

In his research, Custer identified six types of gambling and gamblers. Each corresponds to a type of person, based on their psychology and behavioural patterns. Some types of gambling are better suited to certain games or activities, whilst some gamblers should be avoiding it altogether. So, which type are you, based on the psychological aspects of gambling? And, more importantly, what game should you be playing?

  • Casual Social Gamblers

Casual social gamblers probably represent the majority of people. Gambling is not a big part of their lives, but it is something they indulge in once in a while for a bit of fun. Examples include poker nights amongst friends, placing a bet on a particularly big sports event, or buying a lottery ticket just because the jackpot is at an all-time high.

Casual social gamblers are suited to most types of gambling, since they are not likely to lose huge amounts. What game to choose depends on what you like about gambling: is it the socialisation? Then a casual poker game with friends is a great option. Is it the thrill of winning big for little investment? The occasional scratch card or lottery ticket may be for you.

  • Serious Social Gamblers

Serious social gamblers are gambling enthusiasts, and count it as one of their hobbies. They are not addicted to gambling, but they love the activity and take part in it regularly: the main difference is that they still place higher importance in family, friends, and career. They probably have a circle of friends, online or IRL, with which they like to gamble, and derive some social satisfaction from it.

Most gamblers of this type like to specialise, focusing on one type of gambling. Some may like poker because of the progression of skill and social aspect, whilst others prefer to gamble alone with something more repetitive and hypnotic, such as roulette, slots, or blackjack. The psychology of gambling varies greatly from person to person, so it will depend on what you want to get from the activity.

  • Antisocial Gamblers

Antisocial - or personality - gamblers are not gamblers who don’t like talking to people. They are gamblers who try to make money through illegal means, such as fixing horse races, marked cards, or colluding with dealers.

We are going to keep this one short, folks: don’t cheat, and don’t break the law. Keep an eye out for gamblers whose behaviour you find shifty, and report it to the casino or relevant authority if you think they are cheating.

  • Relief and Escape Gamblers

Everyone has something they turn to when they are having a bad day: for relief and escape gamblers, it’s wagering money. One of the most interesting psychological aspects of gambling is its ability to provide a sense of relaxation and relief, just like drugs, alcohol, or junk food.

Relief and escape gamblers are not compulsive gamblers: they only gamble when they are going through personal hardship, or experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression. Once their issues are resolved, they will lose the desire to gamble.

Whilst gambling is not necessarily the healthiest - or cheapest - coping mechanism, it can be all right to rely on it for occasional relief. However, the psychology of gambling comes into play here: because you are likely to be in an emotional state when playing, you should avoid high-risk games and those prone to tilt, such as poker.

Despite having relatively poor odds, online slots might be a good option: if you are looking to be distracted, you can’t do better than loud colours, music, and characters. Place small bets and practice money management, setting yourself a limit to every session.

  • Professional Gamblers

Professional gamblers are those who have chosen to make a career out of their hobby. They are highly skilled and often highly intelligent, able to use statistics and calculations to overcome the odds. Professional gamblers are not addicted to gambling, and indeed couldn’t be: they need to be able to assess a situation impartially, avoid tilt, and take only the most calculated risks. In that sense, the psychological aspects of gambling barely apply to professional players: they are just doing their job.

If you are, or want to be, a professional gambler, you should focus on games with an element of skill, in which the outcome is not completely up to chance. Games like poker, which relies heavily on skill, or blackjack, in which you can use quick maths to your advantage, are preferable here, which is why you have never heard of a professional slots player.

  • Compulsive Gamblers

One of the worst psychological aspects of gambling is its propensity to addiction, and so lastly, we find the gamblers that should be abstaining from all types of gambling altogether: compulsive gamblers. Compulsive gamblers do not gamble because they enjoy it, or for money, but because they have lost the ability to control themselves: they have an addiction.

Neuroscience has identified that gambling addiction is similar to any other addiction, such as drugs or alcohol, in the way our brain and bodies process it. Compulsive gamblers will gamble at the expense of relationships, health, and careers, and will often have other issues, such as anti-social behaviour or alcoholism.

The psychology of gambling is a complicated science: we know that gambling can be a source of bonding, socialisation, and relaxation. But we also know that it acts like any other addictive substance, in that it can be abused.

How likely you are to be able to enjoy gambling in a healthy manner depends significantly on your brain and propensity to addiction. However, all players should be reminded to gamble responsibly, and to continuously evaluate their relationship with the activity in order to prevent developing a fun hobby into a problem.


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