When you take stock of the typical buzzing casino crowd, you’d have a hard time spotting someone who looks serene and satisfied whether they’re up or down. The competitive juices flowing on every casino floor, where hopeful players wage war against the dreaded house as decided underdogs, are enough to tilt any gambler’s attitude towards aggression and aggravation.
But what if you took the opposite approach, abandoning negative energy for a more positive outlook? By adapting a few simple techniques to hone your mental health, any casino enthusiast can harness the powers of meditation and mindfulness to their benefit.
1 – Taking Deep Breaths After a Bad Beat
As a self-styled blackjack advantage player, I worked my butt off to master basic strategy and hone my counting skills. Eventually, I found myself capable of consistently squeezing the casino for a modest profit—provided the cards cooperated.
When I decided that I “deserved” to win a hand, watching the dealer coldly deliver the only run of cards that could save them put me into a tailspin. I’d shake my head, mutter under my breath, and angrily stamp my next bet into the baize.
Even worse, that next bet would be for higher than my set limits, or too big given the current count. The phenomenon serious gamblers recognize as “tilt” was a serious problem for me… until I discovered a simple way to stay grounded.
The “take a deep breath” mantra might sound a bit trite, and admittedly, I’ve used it on my crying toddler from time to time. With that said, don’t knock this entry level course in mindfulness until you try it.
Once I began stopping after any bad beat to breathe — slowly and deeply 10 times while focusing on my inhalation and exhalation — I immediately noticed a difference in my overall demeanor. Sure, the unexpected loss still stung a bit, but I no longer succumbed to petulant complaining and deviations from my bet sizing objectives.
If going on tilt is a problem for you too, go ahead and take 10 deep breaths the next time you’re feeling frustrated by your favorite casino gambling game.
2 – Meditating on Your Goals Sets You Up for Success
Check in at the front desk. Run up to the room and shower. Get dressed and head down to the casino in a hurry to start the fun.
And unfortunately for most, that game plan concludes with a similar scene, losing that last bet that forces a “walk of shame” to the ATM.
Before you rush to the elevator and dive into the table game pit, poker room, or slot parlor, it can be helpful to spend a few minutes meditating. I’m not talking about any woo-woo stuff, so you don’t need to light any incense, cross your legs, or start chanting, “Ommmmmm….”
Just have a seat anywhere that’s comfortable and close your eyes. Clear your mind and simply focus your awareness on what you hope to achieve on the casino floor. If that’s winning big bucks, then by all means, guide your mind’s eye in that direction.
Focusing on concepts like having fun, improving your skills, and expanding your knowledge are far more useful in a practical sense.
I like to point my meditating mind towards the idea of playing my best. Just making the right decisions, capitalizing on opportunities when the present themselves, and trying to play the game as correctly as I know how.
And sure enough, my recordkeeping shows a clear correlation between meditation sessions and winning sessions. When I take those brief moments to let my brain activate fully, I find that recalling the right play in razor thin blackjack and video poker spots becomes a lot easier.
3 – Focusing on One Decision at a Time
Gamblers have an odd tendency to constantly look ahead, even when that means taking their eyes off the task at hand.
“If I can double this stack during the first shoe, I’ll start betting $25 a hand instead of $10…”
“Should I keep playing after I get lucky and hit my number in roulette, or cash out and collect?”
“This machine’s cold, I can feel it, but I only need to win $8 to cash out for the hundo I started with.”
Foresight and the ability to see a few steps ahead is obviously a valuable skill to possess as a gambler. With that said, focusing too much of your mental energy on hypothetical scenarios prevents you from playing your best in the moment.
Instead of worrying about what might happen, or the results which could be coming, the best course of action is to work one step at a time.
Choose the best bet size before you worry about the cards to come.
Size up your starting scenario and assess it accurately before worrying about the right play.
Accept that outcome calmly before worrying about your next bet.
By cycling through each element of the game individually, and devoting all of your brainpower and focus to that moment alone, you can block out the noise we naturally want to hear.
4 – Acknowledging Anger After a Losing Session
I talked about tackling tilt earlier. And while breathing exercises are always quite useful in that regard, another coping mechanism to make losses easier to swallow is basic acknowledgement.
When you see your last bet swiped in the dealer’s direction, or that final video poker hand flash a fruitless combination of cards across the screen, the end of a rough run can be disheartening to say the least.
You meditated on your goals, you focused on playing your best each step of the way, and you took a ton of breaths to drown out the brutal beats. In the end, however, the house still managed to beat you senseless and pocket every bet you brought to the fray.
When you book a losing session, take stock of your overall situation and acknowledge the facts. Your bankroll took a hit, variance battered you around a bit, but you’re still standing. Reminding yourself that you’ll live to fight another day should be the objective here, as it immediately puts the previous indignities in the rearview mirror.
And as the losing session fades away, you can start focusing on your rebound run to come.
5 – Consciously Accepting the Odds Against You
Losing sucks, and that’s a fact.
Another fact is that you will almost always be at a statistical disadvantage when playing games of chance or skill in the casino setting. Game designers work tirelessly to calibrate your win probabilities with the payouts on offer, and their work never fails to offer the house it’s coveted edge.
That edge can range from tiny as in blackjack, baccarat, and video poker, or tyrannical on roulette, most craps bets, and the slots. No matter what though, casinos didn’t become multibillion-dollar worldwide enterprises by spreading games that players can easily beat over the long run.
As a final exercise in gambling-conscious mindfulness, do your best to study the underlying odds and probabilities before you take up a particular game or variant. Learn the numbers, reflect on what they mean from the perspective of expected value, and internalize the disadvantage you face.
Then, blessed with the perspective that only acceptance can provide, go out there and try to beat the odds.
I was never one to believe in the power of mind over matter, but as I’ve grown older—and hopefully a hair wiser—I’d like to think that I’ve expanded my worldview. Ideas like the ones presented on this page might not appeal to everybody, and that’s just fine by me.
But if you’ve ever struggled with stress, frustration, or even despair while gambling, practicing a little mindfulness and meditation can’t hurt now, can it? Give these tips a fair shake and hopefully, they’ll be of benefit to you in more ways than one.
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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