We’ve all seen them… Those lifelong losing gamblers who still show up to the casino day in and day out, trying desperately to beat the house and break even like Sisyphus rolling his damnable boulder up the hill.
But like that cursed Greek king, losing gamblers never quite do reach the top, struggling in vain only to see their boulder — and their bankroll — drop back into the abyss yet again.
Of course, that’s no knock on them personally speaking.
Over the course of my three decades and counting as a professional gambler, I’ve met plenty of genuine friends who just happen to be incapable of winning on a consistent basis. These folks are wildly successful in the “real world,” building multimillion-dollar business empires from the ground up, raising fine families worthy of respect, and generally contributing more to the world around them than they take.
When they step out onto the casino floor, however, all of that effort and effectiveness goes right out of the window courtesy of a statistical certainty known as the “house edge.”
Simply put, casino gambling games are designed expressly with one purpose in mind — to offer players the illusion that they can generate profit over the short term, all while favoring the house in the long run.
Take roulette, for example. The classic game of chance asks nothing more of the player than a basic guess — red or black, odd or even, and if you’re feeling lucky, a single number between 0 and 36. When you back the even-money wagers like red or black, you’ll face odds slightly worse than 50/50, owing to the green “house numbers” of 0 and 00.
Knowing this, a casual gambler can bring a few bucks to the roulette wheel and spin to their heart’s content, racking up several winning spins over the course of a session. But because of that inescapable house edge — which stands at 5.26% when playing on a double-zero “American” wheel — even those roulette players who adopt the most conservative of strategies will still lose more than $5 of every $100 they wager over the long run.
Suffice it to say, losing is part and parcel of this business we call gambling.
Don’t get me wrong now, as all is not lost. You can always find a handful of players on any given casino floor capable of harnessing perfect strategy, advantage play, and sensible bankroll management in order to squeeze out steady, if not small, profit margins.
I count myself among that select group, and as a result of hard work, patience, and diligent study, I’ve earned a living playing skill-based casino games like video poker and blackjack for most of my adult life.
Unfortunately for many of my gambling pals, however, I’m an outlier by definition. Taking a look at the table below — which highlights data compiled by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) — you can see exactly how much money the Silver State’s thriving casino industry won from players in January of 2019 alone.
Nevada Casino Win in January (By Game)
Nevada Casino Win in 2018 (By Game)
As you can probably tell by now, those glitzy and glamorous mega-casino resorts lining The Strip in Sin City were built on the backs of losing players.
And naturally, it’s the pure games of chance like penny slots and baccarat — both of which require no decision-making from the player to influence purely random results — that rack up the largest win totals by far.
All things considered, losing when you gamble is almost always a certainty when the long run is taken into consideration.
Nonetheless, players of every caliber — from recreational gamblers who visit Vegas once a year to aspiring pros grinding it out on a daily basis — can take one eminently easy step toward reducing their losses (and maybe even becoming a winning player too).
And that step revolves around one basic concept that is essential for every gambler to learn — eliminating excuses.
Remember all of those lifelong losing players I’ve encountered over the years? Well, while they hail from vastly different walks of life — ranging from 20-something college kids to octogenarians on Social Security and everybody in between — they all have one thing in common: excuses.
When things don’t go their way, these players just flat-out refuse to acknowledge their own role in their bankroll falling into ruin. Maybe it was an inexperienced dealer who “mushed” their win streak via misdeal or a tourist sitting in the third base seat at the blackjack table who “took the dealer’s bust card.”
Gamblers have come up with a long lineup of excuses for losing over the years, but in every single case I’ve seen up close and personal, they’re nothing more than masks worn to hide poor play, bad habits, or compulsive decisions.
To help you leave the loser’s excuses behind for good, check out the list below to find seven excuses every unsuccessful gambler uses to explain their losses away. From there, take an honest and objective self-inventory of your own play and ask yourself how many of these excuses you’ve made over the years.
Finally, with this knowledge fresh in mind, do everything in your power to resist the temptation of falling back on excuses the next time you walk away in the red.
When you can accomplish that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see those losing days on the calendar shrink up and be replaced by profitable sessions.
1 – I Just Didn’t Have Lady Luck Smiling Down on Me Today
“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Ever since the first gamblers in ancient China tossed tiles and wagered on their arrangement, human beings have relied on the concept of “luck” to explain random results.
If one particular player wound up winning more than the odds might suggest, he or she was anointed as lucky, while those who parted ways with their valuables were deemed unlucky.
The notion of Lady Luck deciding a gambler’s ultimate fate is prevalent in every culture, from the Roman goddess Fortuna to the Seven Lucky Gods of ancient Japanese mythology.
And despite all of our progress as a species when it comes to scientific inquiry and rational thought, luck still trumps logic in the minds of most modern gamblers.
To see for yourself, just ask any gambler you know to engage in a coin-flipping contest. You can flip and call the result 10 times, while they follow up by doing the same, and whoever makes the most correct calls wins a little dough.
If you manage to beat them in this purely random game of chance, odds are good you’ll hear the losing player call you lucky. They might even mention a horseshoe stuck where the sun doesn’t shine, but you get the idea.
For players like this, any result that doesn’t align with statistical expectation must be explainable by luck alone.
Circling back to the casino scene, you might find yourself playing blackjack alongside somebody who always seems to make the right play at the right time. But rather than fly by the seat of their pants using gut instinct to determine their wager sizing or how they act on a particular hand versus the dealer’s up card, these winning players simply memorize and master basic casino strategy to reduce the house’s inherent edge.
By utilizing basic strategy alone — anybody in the world can reduce their house edge from 1.50% down to under 0.50%.
Remember, basic blackjack strategy isn’t some sort of closely guarded secret opposed by the casino, either. Handheld strategy charts are sold in every casino gift shop, and they’re perfectly legal at the blackjack table, even while you’re in the thick of the action.
And if you can incorporate general card counting methods into your play, the house’s edge can be entirely erased, creating a player edge of between 1% and 2%.
If you haven’t bothered to put in a modicum of preparation and research before gambling on a casino game, it can be all too easy to chalk losses up to bad luck. But once you learn how skill-based games like blackjack — and even games of chance like roulette or the slots — really work in terms of mathematical probability, you’ll soon realize that luck has nothing to do with it.
2 – I Was Winning, but I Needed to Keep Playing to Reach X Amount of Profit
“Quit while you’re ahead. All the best gamblers do.”
– Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601 — 1658; Spanish Jesuit, writer, and philosopher)
One of the most oft-told tales heard on the casino floor goes a little something like this…
“I was killing the game, playing really well and getting lucky here and there too, but I still needed another $150 to hit my profit mark for the day. Of course, a new dealer comes in and boom, I start getting killed. All of a sudden, a nice day at the tables turned into a disaster, so here I am talking to you…”
For losing gamblers like this, escaping with a modest profit is no match for chasing those memorably massive wins. We’ve all had days where everything goes perfectly — the foolish might even call them “lucky days” — and by night’s end, your pile of chips is overflowing with high-denomination colors.
Outliers like this tend to stick in your memory more so than simply doubling your starting stake, so when you’re feeling good and playing well, it’s only natural to stick around and see if you can run up a huge score.
The only thing is, all casino games involve an inherent house edge which only kicks in over the long run. In other words, the more hands you see or the more spins you put in equals a higher chance of giving back short-term wins.
When you’re fortunate enough to beat the odds and collect a slight profit, by all means, continue trying to punish the house, but only until the winning comes to a close. The minute you feel that proverbial tide turning back in favor of the house, rack up your hard-earned winnings and head home content to count the day as a profit.
If not, you’ll most likely find yourself lamenting what might have been as you tally up an unexpected losing session.
3 – I Simply Love the Thrill of a Good Sweat, Win or Lose
“The roulette table pays nobody except him that keeps it.
Nevertheless, a passion for gaming is common, though a passion for keeping roulette tables is unknown.”
– George Bernard Shaw (1856 — 1950; Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics)
Many losing gamblers try their best to pass off their poor results as par for the course, claiming they don’t really care about winning and losing.
And indeed, if you’re a casual gambler with expendable income to burn, taking this approach is certainly the best way to go.
But if you’re playing to put food on the table, or even just as a serious hobby in which you’d like to succeed, using the “I just like the action” excuse can spell bankroll suicide.
When you step up to the roulette table, you’ll see two distinct groups of players splashing chips across the baize.
The first group consists of tourists and action junkies who bet only on the longshot single-number wagers which come with a minuscule 2.60% chance of success.
These players put a chip or two down on their lucky number or birthday, watch the wheel with hopeful expressions, and see the dealer scoop their chips up only a few seconds later.
While the thrill of sweating such a longshot — and hitting it for a juicy 35 to 1 payout — is definitely real, these folks only get to experience it for a handful of spins before their bankroll is completely depleted.
On the other hand, the second group of roulette players will stick solely to the even-money wagers — red or black, odd or even, and low or high — while avoiding the exotic longshots like the plague. When they guess right, they bring back a modest return of 1 to 1 on their wager, which doesn’t seem like it would offer any action at all.
But watch that second group closely, and you’ll notice that their chips remain on the table far more often than the first group. That’s because the even-money wagers in roulette offer a 47.4% chance of success, meaning they’ll win on slightly less than every other spin on average.
If you’re looking for thrills, sweat, and action, head to the Stratosphere and ride the rooftop roller coaster.
For those looking to win a little more, or at least lose a little less, action is no replacement for securing the best possible odds your game of choice offers.
4 – I Was Trying Out a New Game or Variant on a Lark
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
– Seneca (4 BC — 65 AD; Roman philosopher, dramatist, and writer)
I love hearing horror stories from gamblers who just got wrecked playing a game or variant they’ve never encountered before.
It’s not that I’m into schadenfreude, sadism, or anything of the sort… I just can’t believe anybody would risk money on a gamble they don’t know a lick about.
Let’s say you’re a proficient video poker enthusiast who has long since mastered the basic strategy for the foundational variant known as Jacks or Better. You’ve pored over decision charts and pay tables to learn every intricacy of Jacks or Better, which helps to explain your success at those particular machines.
Then, out of the blue, you spot a Deuces Wild game calling your name from the next machine bank over. For whatever reason — maybe boredom with Jacks or Better or humanity’s natural tilt towards curiosity — you withdraw your winnings from one machine and move over to the other.
It’s still video poker, after all, so what could go wrong?
Well, in a word… everything.
While they both occupy prominent positions on the video poker family tree, Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild are two completely different games. The inclusion of four wild cards in the 52-card deck may not seem like too big of a difference, but now you have a whole host of additional hands to take into consideration like five of a kind, four 2s, and the wild royal flush.
These new hands complicate the pay table accordingly while creating an entirely new set of basic strategy guidelines to govern your decision-making.
Unless you’re prepared to study a new game or variant wholeheartedly, learning every possible angle that separates winners from losers, you’ll inevitably wind up in the latter category when taking “shots” at a gamble you’re unfamiliar with.
5 – I Don’t Have a Chance in Hell Against the House When They Govern the Game
“Remember this: The house doesn’t beat the player.
It just gives him the opportunity to beat himself.”
– Nicholas Dandolos, a.k.a. “Nick the Greek” (1883 — 1966; Greek-born professional gambler and high-roller legend)
After getting knocked down enough times, even a sensible and savvy gambler can succumb to the “woe is me” stance that many losers adopt.
As these gamblers see the world, playing games set up by the house ensures they have no shot whatsoever at winning — so why not at least enjoy the ride?
While it is true that casino games are tilted towards the house, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll win every time out. If that was the case, millions of people wouldn’t flock to Las Vegas each and every year to try their luck.
Of course, some games like keno are built to favor the house by massive margins, making them basically unbeatable thanks to house edge rates that climb above 15%. Even roulette and its 5.26% house edge make the spinning wheel a long-term loser.
But when you spot certain pay tables in the video poker parlor, take the odds bet in craps, or count cards at blackjack, you can easily enjoy a slight player edge that makes things more than fair.
The trick is to avoid those “sucker” games and bets while applying strategic thinking to skill-based games.
6 – I Know It Was a Longshot Bet, But I Was Trying to Impress My Pals or a Love Interest
“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
– Oscar Wilde (1854 — 1900; Irish writer and poet)
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a losing gambler excuse their vanished bankroll away by claiming they took a bad bet for the right reasons.
They might be entertaining buddies in town from out of state or trying to woo a beautiful woman or beau, but in any case, these players love to go for the gusto.
They might splash a few chips around on single-number bets playing roulette, hoping against hope to see the dealer top their stack off with a healthy payout. Or maybe they take the Hard 8 in craps and let the dice fly, intent on reliving those Hollywood dice scenes that James Bond made famous.
When those longshot wagers cash in, the player looks like a hero, impressing their hangers-on in the process.
But more often than not, chasing bad bets leads to a wavering bankroll and wounded pride.
7 – I Don’t Even Care About Losing Casino Chips; It Wasn’t My Money Anyway
“The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the chip was a genius.”
– Julius Weintraub, a.k.a. “Big Julie” — (1919-1997; American jeweler, philanthropist, and gambler)
One of the lamest excuses I hear from losing players involves tricking yourself into believing chips aren’t real money.
As this flawed logic goes, once you hand over a $100 bill for a shiny black chip, that money is no longer yours. The casino owns the funds now, and you’re simply borrowing them on a short-term loan in hopes of securing a nice return by night’s end.
And when the chips invariably dry up into dust, many players decide to wipe the experience from their minds by claiming that they already lost the money when they decided to play.
That’s a defeatist attitude if I ever heard one, and it doesn’t make much sense either.
Casinos definitely introduced chips, tokens, and slot vouchers as a way of detaching players from the physical funds they’re putting at risk. That much is true without a debate, but this fact doesn’t mean you have to fall for the house’s attempt to pull the wool over your eyes.
Whether you’re down to your last few $5 chips at the blackjack table or you only have a few spins worth left on a slot voucher, every dollar counts when you cash those chips in.
Gas money, a nice buffet dinner, or maybe even a trinket or two at the gift shop — you can indulge any number of real-world desires by exchanging your chips for cash.
But only if you still consider a small, colored circular disk as genuine currency and not simply tools of the gambling trade that can afford to be lost.
There’s no shame in losing at the casino, and indeed, most players gamble simply to blow off a little steam and enjoy a nice night out on the town. Those are two perfectly fine excuses for losing as a recreational gambler, but the seven listed above are far from it for those that take the pursuit more seriously.
If you’re out there day in and day out getting your teeth kicked in by the house, making excuses to defend your losing ways only serves to compound the problem.
In the future, try your best to recognize when the urge to make excuses like these comes over you, then do everything in your power to resist that temptation.
Ask yourself honest questions about your preparation, your game selection, your bankroll management, and any other aspects of gambling that actually do influence your long-term bottom line.
When you figure that part of the game out, you’ll suddenly discover that the need to make excuses disappears altogether.
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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