Tips, Warning Signs, and Resources for Help With Addiction
Gambling is meant to be a fun and enjoyable form of entertainment. And while this is what it ends up being for most people, the temptation to let it develop into something unhealthy is always there. When gambling starts to take over parts of our lives or cause us to make choices we normally wouldn’t make, it may be time to get some help.
In this guide, we’re going to cover a lot. First, we’re going to look at some helpful tips to make gambling an enjoyable form of entertainment. If you’re able to prevent it from developing into an unhealthy habit in the first place, it’s the ultimate win. Second, we’ll look at some warning signs that you can be on the lookout for to catch yourself when you might be slipping into some less than ideal patterns.
An Up-Front Disclaimer – It’s Okay to Ask for Help
There seems to be a stigma around asking for help, that it makes you weak or somehow less of a valuable person. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, having the courage to ask for help is the sign of a strong man or woman who is in control of their life.
When we need to lose a little weight, we get the help of a trainer. When we’re feeling sick, we get the help of a doctor. When we need to learn something new, we look for a coach or a tutor. If it’s okay to ask for help in all of these situations, why wouldn’t it be okay to ask for a little help when temptation is getting the best of us?
The bottom line is that it’s 100% okay. Asking for help when gambling turns into an unhealthy habit is the sign of a strong and courageous person who has control over their life.
Does this sound like you? You go to a casino and see everyone else having fun; you look around and think you’re the only one facing this issue. We assure you you’re not alone. In fact it’s estimated that problem gambling impacts 3-5% of all gamblers.
The good news is there are a ton of great online resources available for you to get help with your problem gambling.
Tips to Keep Gambling a Healthy Habit
Gambling whether online or in-person should be a fun and healthy activity. Here are some tips to keep in mind any time you gamble to make sure that’s always the case:
Understand You'll Never Have an EdgeThe key to keeping gambling as a form of entertainment is understanding that you're never going to have an edge over the casino unless you're cheating. While this doesn't mean that you can't walk away a winner, it does mean that over the long run, the house will always win. The more you can understand this concept, the easier it is to keep gambling as a form of entertainment.
If you don't believe this, look up gambling percentage chance of winning charts. Unless you can defy the laws of math, it's not the case.
Treat Gambling as a Form of EntertainmentGambling should only be used for one thing—entertainment. You should absolutely never be using gambling for things like trying to pay your bills, as a source of income, or to catch up on your finances. The second you start doing that is the second you need to walk away from the tables.
It's easy to think that you have a system that can beat the casino or even to trick yourself into thinking you're a long-term winner. If you start feeling that way, start tracking 100% of your sessions with a spreadsheet. After you get a healthy amount of volume in, you'll start to see if you're really up or down. Our brains have a bad tendency to remember the great sessions and ignore or discount the losing ones.
Set Your Gambling Budget Before You Start PlayingDecide how much you are comfortable losing BEFORE you go to the casino or sign into your online casino account. If you wait until after you start playing, you put yourself at risk of letting your emotions control the narrative. Set your budget when you're not caught up in the action and stick to it.
Limit Your Access to Funds You Don't Want to Play WithWhen we say to stick to your budget, we don't mean somewhere close to it. We mean you never wager one penny more than what your budget is for that day. If you're someone who struggles with this, you may need to put processes in place to keep yourself from getting more money. This might be something like leaving your ATM card at home or setting limits with the online casino site you're using.
And if you still are having problems with this, it's time to take a real look at the fact that gambling might not be a good fit for you.
Set Top and Bottom Limits on Winnings and LossesNot only should you be setting limits on how much you're okay with losing, but you should also set some limits on what you want to do if you start winning. For example, let's say that you take $100 to the casino. Maybe you make a rule that if you get over $200, you put $125 away and only play with the remaining $75. That way, no matter what happens, you are walking out of the casino with your original $100, $25 in profit, and the chance at more. These rules can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them.
Only Play Games You UnderstandGambling is supposed to be fun. But if you start playing games that you don't fully understand, you might find yourself getting frustrated and losing quicker than you would like. This, unfortunately, can lend itself to making you want to chase your losses or thinking that you can do better now that you know the rules. Take a few minutes before you play a casino game to ensure you fully understand all of the rules.
Don't Chase Your LossesInevitably, you are going to go on great winning streaks and also some pretty harsh losing streaks. It's the nature of variance. When you win, it's easy to convince yourself to stop. And even if you don't, the risk is only to money that you won and not to money that was originally part of your bankroll.
However, when you lose, you may find the temptation to chase your losses to get even. This temptation can be even stronger when you start to get towards the end of a session and don't want to stop down. Whatever you have to do, put safeguards in place to prevent yourself from trying to chase your losses. If you start to see yourself making larger bets or wilder bets than you normally would, it's time to walk away and take a break.
Avoid Playing When You're Drunk, High, or IntoxicatedA key to keeping gambling safe and fun is making rational decisions. When you're sober, the chances are a lot higher that you won't take unnecessary risks like chasing your losses or betting more than you'd normally be comfortable with. While it's generally okay to have a few drinks while you play, it's rarely okay if you consume enough to start inhibiting your rational decision making. Be honest with yourself about what is and what isn't okay here.
Have Regular Honest Self AssessmentsA great way to ensure gambling stays as entertainment is to schedule regular self-audits. Some of the most successful people in the world constantly improve their skill sets because they take the time regularly to assess how they're doing.
Once every few weeks, take a few minutes to ask yourself if your gambling is still just for fun. Make sure you aren't making excuses to hide a problem. And take a minute to calculate how much you're up or down. It's okay to lose money gambling, as long as it's money you're okay losing, and as long as you're getting the entertainment value out of that money you're looking for.
Warning Signs to Be On the Look Out For
- Playing games you don’t normally play
- Betting more than you normally would per hand or roll
- Placing wagers on wild prop bets you normally wouldn’t use
- Chasing your losses
- Staying at the casino longer than you originally planned
- Becoming emotional when you lose
- Betting with money that you can’t afford to lose
- Thinking you have a system that can beat the casino
- Losing track of how much you win or lose
- Discounting losing sessions or making excuses
- Gambling starts to affect other areas of your life
- You start missing social or work engagements to gamble
If you start to see any of these warning signs, sit down and have an honest look at yourself. If you even think there’s the smallest of chances you might have a problem, take a minute to reach out to someone for help. You don’t have to fully commit to getting help right upfront.
Additionally, the sooner you can ask for help, the better. Gambling is a problem that doesn’t just go away. In fact, it gets worse with time and can really start to impact your life, your job, and your family. Be proactive and reach out the second you start to see warning signs that there may be a problem.
What Causes Problem Gambling?
Understanding what some of the more popular causes of problem gambling are can help you better identify what may be driving you to less-than-healthy decisions. Here are a few of the most common causes of problem gambling.
For some people, the chemicals in our brains might be causing things to be harder on us than they should be. Some of our brains are wired a little differently and respond a bit more actively to gambling stimulation. If this is you, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It should come as a welcome answer because it means the mistakes you’ve made are not at the fault of your own.
Ego and Competitiveness
No one likes to lose. And when you’re playing a game where you don’t have a statistical edge (all casino games), this can spell trouble if you have a big ego. Many people take it personally when they lose and want to do everything they can to prove their worth by beating that game and beating that dealer. This is clearly a road to devastation.
The Desire to Feel Cool
That ego can become a much bigger problem when people are watching, and we want to feel cool. If you find yourself wanting to impress those around you that you’re a winner or that losing a certain amount of money is no big deal, you may have an issue that isn’t going to just go away on its own.
Being Results-Oriented from a Small Sample Size
The best thing that can happen for a new gambler is to lose the first time they go to the casino. When they win (or win big), it can be a lot harder to convince them that isn’t going to happen every time. If you start drawing conclusions that you can beat the game from just a few sessions, you’re going to run into problems. When you start to inevitably lose, you’ll blame it on variance and keep digging a hole.
You have got to understand that you’ll never have the edge in the casino, and there are no systems that can beat the game. Vegas wasn’t built on winners.
TV and movies do a great job of making gambling look cool. And it’s no surprise that a lot of people want to look and feel like these superstars do in the movies. The problem? The hands and the outcome in the movies and TV are rigged. They determine whether or not the player winning or losing best fits the script. This means that it produces an unrealistic picture of how gambling really is.
When money gets tight in the real world, some people turn to the casino to try and win the money they need to catch up on their bills. This is probably the worst thing you can do because if you lose (which you are statistically supposed to), you’ll end up in an even worse situation than when you started.
Some people try to use gambling as a form of escape from the troubles of their lives. And while it might temporarily make you feel better, the longer-term problems it can cause are just going to make things worse.
Resources for Gambling Addiction – Get Help
- National Council on Problem Gambling
24/7 Free Gambler’s Hotline: 1-800-522-4700
This is one of the easiest ways to get help out there. It’s a free call, and you can remain anonymous if you want. It’s a great first step if you’re not sure if you have a problem or what your options are to get some help.
This is a great group that you can join in your area where people who have issues with gambling problems come together and share their stories. It’s a fantastic way to build camaraderie and get support from people who have been there before. To find your local meeting, type “Gambler’s Anonymous (your city)” into your favorite search engine.
You can get help from professional sources like gambling counselors, paid programs, or through online therapy programs. While these programs may cost you a few dollars, it could save you a lot in the long run if it saves your family and keeps you from losing everything at the tables.