Maintaining Self-Control in the Casino

Self-control is defined as the ability to function normally
within society while controlling one’s emotions, desires, and
behavior in the face of external demands. Most people manage to
pull off this balancing act every day–those who cannot
sometimes wind up ostracized or incarcerated.

Self-control in the casino works the same way, although the
penalties for failure are often just as severe. Some individuals
have wiped out their life savings at the slots, while others
turn to white-collar crimes such as fraud to fund their
addiction. This is not normal behavior, of course, but it’s
something that plagues millions of casino patrons to one degree
or another.

On this page, we share some of the best ways to maintain
self-control while gambling at the casino. We also provide a
number of tips for enhancing your overall discipline, as well as
listing the signs that someone may be suffering from gambling

Please Note:

The advice on this page should help you to enjoy
playing casino games without getting into any difficulty.
However, it’s important to always be conscious that gambling can
be addictive. If you or someone you know possibly suffers from a
gambling addiction, a wide array of services can help. You can
read our article dealing with this subject to find out more.

Alternatively, just Google “problem gambling” along with your
state or country, and you should be able to locate a number of
websites that offer free evaluations and counseling. While this
won’t solve the situation, it should allow you to determine if
there’s a serious problem and the best way to proceed.

How to Stay in Control in the Casino

The next time you walk through the doors of a casino, keep
the following tips and tactics in mind. You might not be able to
apply all of them during the span of a single trip, but any
serious gambler will be provided with ample opportunities to use
each one over the course of several years.

  • Understand the Rules
  • Avoid Alcohol
  • Take Breaks
  • Bankroll Management
  • Don’t Get Greedy
  • Never Borrow Money
  • Avoid the ATM
  • Don’t Chase Losses

Understand the Rules

How can you expect to win at a game if you don’t understand
the rules? Some casino offerings are easier to learn than
others, so always do your research before sitting down at the
table. This can save you a certain amount of embarrassment
during a game, and it can also ensure that you don’t make stupid
and costly mistakes. A lot of casinos offer practice tables
where you can learn games without paying, and the Internet is
filled with free versions of every casino favorite.

Avoid Alcohol

Drunk people often make fools of themselves, and even someone
who’s slightly inebriated isn’t functioning at 100%. The fact
that many casinos offer complimentary alcoholic beverages should
tell you everything that you need to know. They don’t do it to
make their customers happy; they do it so patrons will become
inebriated and make mistakes when gambling. The casino already
has an advantage over the players. Don’t give them yet another
one by getting hammered.

Take Breaks

Anyone who’s ever been to a casino has seen bleary-eyed
gamblers who look like they haven’t slept for days. The smart
players, however, never put themselves in such a position. Your
body needs sleep to function properly, and depriving it leads to
mental errors that can cost you dearly. Don’t be afraid to head
up to your room for a few hours rest, especially if you’ve been
playing a marathon session. At the very least, take a break
every hour to clear your head and combat the hypnotic allure of
the slot machines.

Bankroll Management

Your bankroll is the amount of money you’ve allotted for
gambling. You should always play within this amount and stop if
it becomes depleted. If you’re gambling over the span of several
days, this total should be divided up by the number of gaming
sessions. If you lose the allotted amount during a session, stop
play and find something else to do. Another strategy is to set a
goal and quit if you manage to win that amount. This might sound
excessive and decidedly dull, but it’s this kind of discipline
that prevents smart players from going broke and spending their
child’s college fund on a Beverly Hillbillies slot machine.

Don’t Get Greedy

Let’s assume a player wins $300 on a slot machine. He thinks
to himself, “Now I’m playing with the casino’s money, so I’ll
see how long I can ride this hot streak.” Then he promptly loses
the $300, as well as another $150 of his own hard-earned money.
When the gambling gods see fit to give you a boon, it’s always
wise to accept it and walk away. The house edge gets everyone in
the long run, so take the money and run when the opportunity
presents itself.

Never Borrow Money

If you’re borrowing money in order to gamble, it’s safe to
assume that you can’t afford to pay for your gambling on your
own. While a winning session might allow you to pay back the
loan and still have a decent amount left over, what happens if
the session ends in a loss? Now you’re broke and in debt to
someone else, which is the kind of thing that can end
friendships and alienate family members. If you can’t afford to
play with your own money, then don’t play at all. Anyone who
can’t adhere to the previous sentence should definitely read our
final section on problem gambling, as they may be in need of

Avoid the ATM

The entire purpose of setting a budget is to avoid foolish
actions such as borrowing money or making additional trips to
the ATM machine. When your allotted amount of money is gone,
take the opportunity to leave the casino as soon as possible. If
you make the mistake of going to the ATM and withdrawing even
more cash, you’re courting the kind of disaster that can impact
your family as well as yourself.

Most casinos will have ATMS on site, but don’t let that tempt you into
spending more than you budgeted for.

Don’t Chase Losses

When a player suffers a number of losses, emotions can often
begin to cloud their judgment. They may get angry, vowing to
“get even” with the casino for having the temerity to take their
cash. This is known as “chasing losses,” and it’s a surefire way
to get even deeper in the hole. A game of chance is always a
risky proposition, and someone who’s just experienced a string
of losses isn’t guaranteed to reverse their luck through simple

Ways to Enhance Self-Control

Some people seem almost inhuman when it comes to exercising
self-control. No matter what the temptation, they can bypass it
without batting an eye. For the rest of us, though, the process
can be a lot more difficult. If you need some extra help in the
discipline department, here are some strategies you can try
incorporating into your daily life.

Feed Your Body

Exercising self-control requires glucose for your brain
cells, and you’ll be more prone to bad behavior if you haven’t
eaten in a while. Avoid sugary foods in favor of something like
meat or whole grain rice, and you should be good to go for

Practice Meditation

When you train your mind, it becomes better equipped to
handle the day-to-day stresses of temptation. You’ll be able to
make smarter decisions, especially when faced with traditional
weaknesses. You don’t need any fancy equipment to get started,
and even five minutes of concentration and contemplation per day
can yield noticeable results.

Learn to Forgive

When you succumb to temptation, there’s a tendency to beat
yourself up and engage in additional self-destructive behavior.
Learn to forgive yourself when you slip up and resolve to do
better next time.

Get Plenty of Sleep

You brain needs to draw upon glucose to fight off temptation,
and it’s hard to do that if you’re not getting enough sleep (7
to 8 hours per night). Low glucose levels can also make you
crave items that are high in sugar, and this leads to a whole
other set of problems.

Make Sure to Exercise

Doing any kind of exercise allows your brain to function at
maximum efficiency, and this can be of major importance when
it’s time to stave off unwise impulses at the casino. Even ten
minutes of exercise can make a difference, but we’d suggest 30
per day whenever possible.

Discover Your Inner Foxhole

When soldiers are expecting to be bombarded, they may dig a
foxhole to better protect themselves. When you feel temptation
building up inside you, it’s wise to retreat to your inner
foxhole and wait for the gambling barrage to subside. This might
sound like a lot of new age nonsense, but delaying gratification
by even 10 minutes can go a long way towards establishing better

Self-Control & Problem Gambling

When a person fails to exercise self-control in the casino,
it can sometimes be a result of problem or pathological
gambling. An estimated six million Americans are addicted to
gambling, and this can tear families apart and result in
everything from financial ruin to prison time. In a 2008
Australian survey, problem gambling was found to be the largest
contributor to fraud within the nation, with the average case
resulting in a loss of $1.1 million.

According to studies, a person with a gambling addiction also
has a much higher lifetime risk for suicide. In fact, a report
from the National Council on Problem Gambling stated that one in
five pathological gamblers try to take their own life at some
point. UC San Diego sociologist David Phillips labeled Las Vegas
as having the highest suicide rate in the United States, and the
levels for New Jersey became “abnormally high” only after the
introduction of legal gambling.

In order to prevent financial and personal ruin, as well as
curb the risk of more fatal problems, a person must first be
diagnosed as having a gambling disorder. In order to be
classified as a pathological gambler, the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that at least four
of the following symptoms must be demonstrated within a one-year

  • Gambling has caused the individual to suffer extreme
    financial problems. As a result, they often have to rely on
    friends and family for assistance to meet basic needs such
    as food and rent.
  • When the individual tries to stop gambling or even scale
    back their activities, they experience feelings of
    restlessness and irritability.
  • Instead of admitting their dependence on gambling, the
    person often comes up with elaborate lies to mask their
  • When the person feels anxious, depressed, or otherwise
    stressed out, they frequently turn to gambling as a
    mechanism for coping with their problems (both real and
  • Over time, the excitement derived from gambling begins
    to diminish. In order to recapture this feeling, the
    individual begins to increase the size of their wagers. This
    works for a time, but then the amount must once again be
    increased in order to maintain the desired rush.
  • Due to their gambling, the individual has either
    destroyed or seriously jeopardized a job, relationship, or
    career opportunity. In many cases, however, the person
    blames these setbacks and misfortunes on factors other than
  • The person has tried on multiple occasions to stop or
    cut back on gambling. Each time, however, the attempt is
    ultimately unsuccessful.
  • If the individual suffers financial losses during a
    gambling session, they return as soon as possible in an
    effort to recoup their money. This cycle often continues
    until the gambler has either achieved their goal of “getting
    even” or (more likely) cannot obtain additional funds to
    play with.
  • The person is obsessed with gambling in both word and
    deed. When they’re not playing some game of chance, they’re
    daydreaming about past wins, planning their next gambling
    excursion, or thinking of financial schemes to generate a
    new bankroll.

Fortunately, a problem gambler has a number of means at their
disposal for overcoming their self-destructive behavior. While
the success rate of each option differs based on the individual,
the following have proven to be among the most successful.

  • Self-cure
  • Drugs
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Step-based Program


In this sort of treatment, the individual largely determines
the direction of their rehabilitation. This may be as simple as
exercising willpower and resisting temptation, or it can also
involve online peer support to aid in recovery. Another popular
option involves motivational interviewing, allowing the
individual to emotionally prepare themselves for life without
gambling. According to one study, one-third of problem gamblers
are able to overcome the addiction on their own.


In severe cases, drug treatment may be prescribed to help the
individual overcome their desire to gamble. Two popular drugs
for this type of therapy are paroxetine and lithium.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The emphasis is on identifying gambling-related thought
processes, especially those that make a person vulnerable to
out-of-control behavior. Problem-solving and skill-building are
both emphasized as a way to combat possible relapses.

Step-based Program

The most well-known version of this therapy is Gamblers
Anonymous, and its 12 steps are modeled on those used by
Alcoholics Anonymous. The system emphasizes group support and
individual responsibility, and a significant amount of time is
devoted to helping members overcome financial and legal


Exercising self-control in the casino can pay a number of
dividends over the long term. The most obvious is that you’ll be
able to save money by not chasing losses or making foolish
wagers. Another benefit is the prevention of gambling addiction,
a severe problem that plagues millions of individuals around the
globe. You should also experience a boost in self-confidence,
knowing that you’ve exercised the necessary willpower to make a
smart decision in the face of temptation.

Casino gambling can be immense fun, but it’s best tempered
with realistic expectations. The house edge exists to give the
casino a clear advantage, and even the luckiest player is bound
to suffer through cold streaks.

If you accept these facts and keep a cool head, you can still
enjoy your time spent in the casino. If not, then you may be
headed for disaster.

The choice is yours.