Jordan Peterson, a famed psychologist, has a book titled 12 Rules for Life. I haven’t read it all the way through, but I do love the simplicity of its title and concept. Quite frankly, I don’t have 12 rules for life to share.
But I am confident that I know enough about gambling to give some advice. The life of a gambler has a few rules that I can offer from my own personal experience and past knowledge.
So, here are my 12 rules for gambling. (And yes, some of them were maybe inspired by Peterson’s book.)
1 – Follow Your Own Gambling Advice
It’s amazing how many people do all the things they’d advise their kids not to do.
Almost everyone already knows not to gamble with money they can’t afford to lose. And they’re happy to tell their children, family, and friends that they shouldn’t do that.
Meanwhile, they’re pouring money into the lottery on a weekly basis. Or worse, they’re sitting in front of slot machines gambling away their paychecks while complaining that they’re unable to save any money.
Don’t be that guy! Follow your own best gambling advice, and practice what you preach.
2 – Associate Yourself With Successful Gamblers
If you want to fly with the eagles, you can’t spend all day hanging around with turkeys.
How you define success as a gambler is up to you, but let’s say that you define success as winning money consistently over the long run. Hanging out with gamblers who play slot machines all day isn’t going to help you succeed.
The card counters at the blackjack tables are making consistent money, at least some of them are. The good poker players are making consistent money, but you’re likely talking about the top 5% of poker players.
Meanwhile, the good sports bettors are also beating the book consistently. Again, we’re talking about the top 5% here. These are the people you want to hang out with and learn from.
If you want to hang out with my buddy “Brian,” who loves nothing better than to play Q3 suited out of position, you won’t see the kind of success in gambling that you want.
Also, Brian’s the kind of guy who always bets on the Cowboys because he’s a “superfan.” All successful gamblers know to never bet on teams you are emotionally affected by. So, it’s okay not to spend a lot of time learning gambling tips from Brian, unless you want to pick up his bad habits.
3 – Constantly Strive to Improve
Tony Robbins is a self-help guru or life coach who preaches something called “CANI.” That’s an acronym for constant and never-ending improvement.
It’s a great approach to life, and it’s a great approach to gambling. In AA, they talk a lot about progress, not perfection. The idea is that you want to become better at gambling than you were yesterday.
Spending a lot of time comparing yourself with others and competing with the biggest pros in the world probably isn’t helpful. In fact, it would be discouraging to compare yourself to Doyle Brunson all the time.
But let’s say that you switch from slot machines to real money video poker. That’s a big change in your gambling habits, and you should take some pride in that.
Now, get away from the video poker machines and learn how to count cards in blackjack or win at poker!
4 – Don’t Criticize Other Gamblers
You can be one of those obnoxious guys at the blackjack table who has an opinion about how everyone else played the last hand… But guess what? No one likes that guy.
Why would you want to go through life being disliked?
On top of that, if you’re spending your time focused on how other people are doing it, your focus isn’t where it needs to be. You need to concentrate on how YOU’RE doing it.
5 – Don’t Cheat
Cheating will get you arrested, beaten up, and maybe even killed. Who knows!? Either way, that’s not the kind of return on investment you’re looking for when gambling.
If you want to get a mathematical edge at gambling, you can do it in many different ways. Counting cards in blackjack isn’t cheating, but past posting (look it up), can get you arrested. It’s a felony to cheat at a casino game in Nevada. It’s not worth the consequences.
I had a friend who thought that if we got three or four guys together, we could go play poker together and signal each other about what we had in our hands. I didn’t want any part of that. I don’t relish the idea of getting beat up in the parking lot after leaving.
Besides, your honor and integrity are worth more than that. Don’t sell them for a few bucks in a gambling game, please.
6 – Stay Humble and Keep Learning
No matter how long you’ve been gambling, there are still things you don’t know or fully understand. Becoming committed to lifelong learning and improvement isn’t just for self-help and success addicts. It’s for gamblers, too.
The best poker players are always trying to improve their game in multiple ways. They’re reading books, playing online, trying new games, and getting coaching and mentoring.
The ones who get stagnant are the ones who stop winning and start losing.
7 – Get and Stay Sober
If you want to read a terribly sad story about a gambler, do some reading about Stu Ungar. He was one of the most brilliant poker players of all time.
He died young, though, and he went broke. Why? Because he couldn’t stop using drugs.
It’s impossible to make good decisions when you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you’re serious about being good at gambling, you’ll want to get sober and stay sober.
8 – Don’t Gamble Money You Can’t Afford to Lose
This is such a cliché that I hesitate to include it here, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. And it’s important.
You have NO business gambling with money you can’t afford to lose. I’ll go further than that. If you’re making less than $75k a year at your day job, you have no business risking any money gambling.
$75k a year allows you to have most of your basic needs met and more so that you can focus on different aspects of your life. But that’s not to say that you can’t have a proper gambling budget at a lower annual salary. Just make sure that you are living comfortably enough, and adjust your bankroll according to your wages.
9 – Don’t Use Betting Systems
A betting system is a structured way of raising and lowering the sizes of your bets based on the outcomes of your previous bets. For example, if a strategy has you raise the size of your bets because you’ve won two times in a row, it’s a betting system.
Another example might be a strategy where you raise the size of your bets after losing with the goal of catching up. These kinds of systems assume that the “gambler’s fallacy” is true. That’s the belief that previous results affect the probability of subsequent results.
You might think that if black came up four times in a row at the roulette table, the odds of black coming up on the fifth spin of the roulette wheel has changed. Some people might think red is more likely to come up. Others might think that black is “hot” and is likely to come up again.
Both sets of people are wrong, though. The odds of getting black are still 18/38. Every spin of the roulette wheel is an independent event, and in most gambling circumstances, this is true of every bet.
A betting system just makes your results more volatile, but it doesn’t increase your probability of winning.
10 – Always Join the Players Club
I go back and forth on whether you should join the players club at the casino. Some people say you should always join the players club because there’s no point in missing out on the “free stuff.”
Today, I agree with them. But I also see the merits in the arguments against joining the players club.
After all, you’re agreeing to get advertising from the casino. And if that causes you to gamble more often, it could be a bad thing.
11 – Understand the Math Behind Your Gambling Activities
Some philosopher said something about the unexamined life not being worth living. I get that. I think gambling without examining how gambling really works is also not worth doing.
And the math behind most gambling games is easy enough to understand. It’s worth making the effort to understand this math. You can find plenty of information about the house edge for various casino games on this site.
Probability isn’t that hard. It’s easier than algebra.
If you’re going to gamble, figure out what it is that you’re doing before engaging in the activity.
12 – Quit If Gambling Becomes a Problem
Gambling is a great servant but also a terrible master. If you become a problem gambler, your best bet is to abstain from the activity completely.
The horror stories you read about the ravages of addiction apply just as much to gambling as they do to ingesting addictive substances.
Most people don’t become problem gamblers. But if you’re showing those tendencies, don’t break yourself against the rocks of gambling. Quit before you destroy your life.
Anyone who spends a little time in a casino can come up with their own 12 rules for gambling. They might even be rational and make sense, although a lot of casino gamblers are irrational in the extreme.
I hope the 12 rules I’ve offered serve you well. Good luck!
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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