Well this is a first: An Ed Uncovered piece that wasn’t written by Ed Uncovered. Composed by Christy Keenan and illustrated by Allana Morrison, this is possibly the most useful article you will ever read on EU.
Intermittent reward is a killer. A lot of gamblers win just often enough to perpetuate their denial, but not often enough to beat the house. This is why people jam pound after pound into puggies, knowing full well that it’s mathematically impossible for them to make a profit. In any other walk of life, we’d berate these people for their idiocy.
‘You total bloody spazzmanoid – don’t you know that lumping on accumulators at the bookies is just an entertaining way of setting fire to your money?’ The response is always the same: ‘It’s only a few quid, and it’s fun’. Those last little words are so crucial that they’re worth repeating: ‘IT’S FUN’.
Only, gambling for profit is not fun. It’s a grind, a job like any other. And this is where Ed Uncovered’s first rule of gambling comes into play:
Rule 1: Stop gambling for the sweat. Start gambling to make profit
Sky TV will tell you that Charlton Athletic vs Barnsley is a must-see match. Their trailers will make it seem like El Classico mark II. And then, by half-time, you’ll realise that you’d have been better off sticking on that Man vs Food rerun. But what’s that? Well I’ll be damned; it’s Ray Winstone’s floating, decapitated haemorrhoid of a face urging you to bet on the next throw-in, or how long it’ll take the commentators to discuss smashing in Charlotte Jackson’s back doors. Worth a cheeky fiver, ain’t it? (For some inexplicable reason, everything’s ‘cheeky’ to recreational gamblers.)
Gambling for the sweat or to ramp up the entertainment in an otherwise piss-poor match is playing right into the bookie’s hands. Why do you think they offer prices on such obscure and ridiculous statistics? That’s right; the bookie is gambling that you don’t have a clue about the day-job of Kidderminster Harriers’ mascot. And the bookie is rarely wrong – making you rarely right.
Unless you have intimate knowledge of the subject, you will probably have the crappy end of the wager. Unfortunately, most gamblers bet on sport. Most gamblers are also male. Most males have big egos. Egotists believe they know more about the subject than they actually do. Imagine a party full of posh people on cocaine, giving their ill-informed opinions on subjects that they haven’t truly researched. That, in a nutshell, is your average gambler. A hubristic, self-important, deluded douchelord who makes decisions based on hunches and media reports rather than informed statistical judgements. In short, for most gamblers it is money won, not money earned.
Rule 2: Results are not an accurate measure of your ability
This might seem silly, but it’s a rule that most gamblers fundamentally fail to comprehend. If you sit down as a poker player and clean out everyone else’s money then you’re probably a better player than them, right?
I’ve been a professional poker player for quite some time now, and yet if I sit down at a six-handed Sit N Go table with five total fishbowls, I will still only win that tournament perhaps one time in three. At least 60% of the time, a noob will leave the table having won and believing himself to be God’s gift to poker. In other words, in the short term my skill edge will not compensate for some negative variance. However, if I played that same table a thousand times over, I would expect variance to even itself out to a large degree, and my skill edge would become more pronounced.
Variance is everywhere in gambling. It is what gives the fishbowls an over-inflated belief in their own knowledge and ability, and it keeps the bookies in BMWs. In simple terms, gambling is about decisions, not results. Oftentimes your wager will lose you money, but this does not make it an intrinsically bad bet. By the same token, you might back Barcelona to beat Valencia at 1-10. Now, Barcelona will usually win that match and thus you’ll usually win that bet. However, it was a terrible price and therefore a bad bet. If you can remove your instinct to measure your abilities by your short-term results, you will start to see real progress.
Rule 3: Be honest
Online bookies make it so easy to deposit money onto their site where you can lose track of it in no time at all. The same goes at the casino; request chips and they will be in your possession quicker than it takes to say ‘F U, dealer’. I spend quite a bit of time in casinos, and am always amused by the lack of realism on show from the punters. Ask any degen what their lifetime betting results have been, and ten-to-one they’ll reply ‘I’m probably around break-even’. Here’s a tip: if you think you’ve broken even long-term then you’ve definitely lost. And you’ve probably lost a lot.
Those who beat the games long-term know their results off the top of their head because they are professional in their outlook. They keep their bankroll separate from their liferoll, and don’t make drunken withdrawals from the casino’s ATM at 4am. Results should be kept track of; the house thrives on those who are completely unrealistic about a) their ability, and b) their results.
When you gamble versus the house, you will almost always be an underdog. Most people are aware of this, and do it anyway. This is fine; plenty of folk consider their gambling money a sunk cost and have no real expectation of making any profit. However, there are a staggering amount who cannot watch a football match, pass the puggy’s blinking lights, or see two crippled rabbits hopping around the back garden without feeling compelled to make a wager. These are the people who seek the thrill, who need to have a sweat to make the pastime enjoyable. And these are the people who are the least realistic about their results. Gamble, by all means, but don’t bury your head in the sand. It’s that intermittent reward again, ensuring that you win just often enough to banish all the losses from your mind. Don’t give the house that satisfaction.