The Gambler’s Fallacy

Gambling involves staking money or something of value on an uncertain event with awareness of the risk and in the hope of gain. It ranges from the purchase of lottery tickets to elaborate casino gambling and it may be legal or illegal. While some people can enjoy gambling, for others it has serious negative consequences. Problem gambling can harm health and well-being, disrupt relationships, impoverish families and lead to criminal activity.

It is estimated that 2-4 million Americans meet the DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling and that many more have mild to moderate gambling problems. Problem gambling has short- and long-term financial, physical, emotional and social consequences for the gamblers themselves as well as for their families, friends and workplace colleagues.

There is no single form of gambling that is more addictive than others, and the risk of addiction can vary from person to person. Problem gamblers may have a variety of reasons for continuing to gamble, including: coping with boredom or depression, escaping reality, reducing anxiety, self-soothing or a desire for excitement. Some people are also prone to developing an addiction to gambling because of genetic or biological vulnerabilities.

Whether you gamble recreationally or for fun, there are ways to get out of the habit if it is causing problems. Seeking help and treatment from a specialist gambling organisation is often the first step to recovery. In some cases, this may be an inpatient program for those who require round-the-clock care to avoid gambling.

It’s important to remember that your loved one did not choose to become a problem gambler. They probably don’t even realise that they have a problem, and they have probably been trying to win their addiction on their own for a long time. The best way to support them is to try and understand what motivates them.

You might notice that they keep spending more money and more time gambling, or they might hide evidence of their gambling activities from you. They might lie to you about how much they are spending or hide their cards and dice. They might also start avoiding family and friends who don’t share their love of gambling.

A common mistake that people make when assessing their own gambling habits is to think that past results will have an effect on future outcomes. This is known as the Gambler’s Fallacy, and it is an example of a cognitive distortion. For example, if the dice have not landed on four in the last five rolls, the chances of rolling a four are reduced, because the odds have been against them.

The problem with this logic is that the dice have no memory and the future is not influenced by the past. There are other healthy ways of relieving unpleasant feelings and coping with boredom, such as exercising, socialising with non-gambling friends, practicing relaxation techniques and taking up new hobbies. It is possible to overcome a gambling addiction, but it takes effort and support from family and friends.