The notion of mindful living – being attentive, aware, or careful of things such as kindness, etiquette, eating, and even gambling – has come to the forefront of recent research.
Solitary gambling is a style that some people prefer. Slot players, video poker players, video keno players – basically any machine casino game play – prefer different expectations from their gambling. The need for social interaction isn’t necessarily a criteria for a good time. When gambling alone, it is easy to lose one’s self, so being mindful, or in the moment, can become very important.
Stadium gaming has given some players who prefer solo gaming a chance to play games such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat, getting a social element without the intermingling involved and the ability to play different table games without moving tables. Electronic gaming has even made boisterous team-like games such as craps accessible to the single player.
Zindel Segal, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology in Mood Disorders at the University of Toronto Scarborough, has researched mindfulness in a way to transcend to solitary gambling. His research can be taken to suggest that automatic routines, habitual patterns, and favorite games play into the solitary gambler’s play. Patterns of negative thinking, such as “tight machines,” “low casino payoffs,” and casino superstitions can slip into the players awareness, changing the “in the moment” enjoyment. He suggests seven ways that I believe gamblers can transcend those negative thoughts. Here’s how:
- Living on “automatic pilot” (rather than with awareness and conscious choice). This brings to mind the awareness of your bankroll. Continuous playing on a slot or other machine without a stop limit, or taking a walk for a break can mindlessly cause over-betting your bankroll and gambling beyond one’s means. NETG SUGGESTION – be aware of time and money played. Keep a log, and bring only the money for that session. While playing , set a loss limit.
- Relating to experience through thought (rather than directly sensing). This brings to mind the many times gamblers tend to remember events such as re-occurring close bonuses in slots, re-occurring cards or patterns in video poker, table game card repetition, or even player snafus. The reality it we tend to be aware of certain parts of experience, not the whole. Obsessing over the pair of 6’s that next gets a third can cause thoughts of casino cheating or fixed outcomes. NETG SUGGESTION – be aware of the science, the need for fairness with gaming commissions, how RNG’s work and casino house edge.
- Dwelling on and in the past and future (rather than being fully in the present moment). “I never win at XYZ casino.” That’s the past talking, because we constantly want to see a cause and effect to base our next action by. On the positive side, this includes going back to a particular machine that you won on previously. NETG SUGGESTION – remember your success on the next play’s outcome is not dependent upon the previous play. Every bet placed is an “in the moment” event, with not connection to your previous bet.
- Trying to avoid, escape, or get rid of unpleasant experience (rather than approach it with interest). Going to the casino to gamble is not a good thing to do when you are angry, upset, or in an altered state. NETG SUGGESTION – Gamble when it is your primary interest to do so, and you have calculated your sufficient bankroll. When gambling is your secondary thought or reason to go to the casino, maybe that’s not the time to go in the first place.
- Needing things to be different from how they are (rather than allowing them to be just as they already are). Chasing wins can be catastrophic to your finances. When losing, accept what’s happening, play to only your bankroll, or even call it a day. It can turn in an instant – but the house edge will always play a big part in your continued play. NETG SUGGESTION – accept the results as part of gambling. The casino is there to make money while entertaining you – but they don’t owe you anything. Fight the good fight, but don’t let recent trips or event recent losses in that session wreak havoc with your emotions.
- Seeing thoughts as true and real (rather than as mental events that may or may not correspond to reality). Understanding the science and mathematics involved in gambling is the first step to perception problems. The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that the chances of something happening with a fixed probability become higher or lower as the process is repeated. The idea that a machine is “due to hit,” or is “hot or cold” is a human perception in an in an extremely small amount of time. Correct assumptions of that particular machine can only be expected over long-term play, something none of us have the time to do with one machine. NETG SUGGESTION – Accept the science & math in slot machines with the Random Number Generator. Acceptance is the key!
- Treating yourself harshly and unkindly (rather than taking care of yourself with kindness and compassion). “shoulda, coulda, woulda” – these are the things we tend to be ourselves up over during a session. “I coulda moved to another machine,” “I shoulda taken a break,” “I woulda had a better day if I had studied mt Video Poker strategy more.” NETG SUGGESTION – Take the experience as a learning one. Remember, the best plans for your casino visit still might go awry because of house edge, many casino visitors, availability of your “favorite machines,” and on & on. Remember the things you could have changed, accept the things you couldn’t – and don’t beat yourself up in the process. But if it concerns spending more money than expected, and that becomes a pattern, re-assess your need to gamble.
I hope this has been helpful. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the casino. Just walking in can give you a boost of adrenaline, sending those endorphins screaming for excitement. But try to be in control, in the moment. Being mindful in life can mean being mindful in your gambling.
Special Thanks to Professor Zindel Segal for permission to use his research for this post.
Zindel Segal is Distinguished Professor of Psychology in Mood Disorders at the University of Toronto Scarborough. His guiding professional intention is in using empirical data to advocate for the relevance of mindfulness-based clinical care in psychiatry and mental health. He has carried on a longstanding and valued collaboration with John Teasdale and Mark Williams devoted to the proposition that offering training in mindfulness meditation to formerly depressed people can address relapse triggers and support long-term recovery. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy—the program developed through this work—has now been evaluated in over 10 studies worldwide. He also serves on the Advisory Board for MindfulNoggin.com which offers a digital platform for MBCT.