The Art of Responsible Gambling

This post is about the art of responsible gambling.

The phrase “responsible gambling” may sound like an oxymoron, but it is not in fact a contradiction in terms.  And there is “art” involved in responsible gambling because tact and subtlety are necessary in delicately balancing chance, cost and entertainment involved with gambling.

The first rule of responsible gambling is that you have to love gambling.  This may sound paradoxical, but responsible gambling and love of gambling go hand in hand because only those who enjoy the thrill of gambling can accept that money lost to a casino is nothing more or nothing less than payment for a cost of entertainment.  And so it is that the casino experience for responsible gamblers is no different from moviegoers who are willing to spend $20 or more for two hours to sit in front of a screen and munch on popcorn, often mindlessly.   

Gambling can’t be about making money because if it is, you become increasingly reckless trying to make money back when you fall into the red.  Chasing profit at a casino is a fool’s errand.  There is one undeniable truth about gambling: if you play long enough against the house, you will lose all of your money. If your goal at a casino is to increase wealth, or for that matter, keep it, the mathematically optimal strategy is not playing at all.

The tricky thing about mastering the art of responsible gambling is that the love for gambling you need to become a responsible gambler places you one false step away from personal destruction.  After all, there is no pre-determined charge to the gambling experience.  The value placed on the experience is left at the mercy of, in most part, your luck on the day you decide to go to the casino.

There are, though, ways to retain some control over the valuation process and here are a couple rules of thumb that I’ve picked up over the course of a decade frequenting casinos to maximize your bang for the buck (or rather, a couple hundred bucks).

  1. Establish a ceiling and walk away if you’ve hit it: this common-sense rule is also the most difficult to implement.  If you love to gamble, you want to keep on playing (and if you’ve lost money, the inclination is wanting to win it back).  But much like how there is a limit to how high you are willing to bid on eBay for that rare antique you can’t find anywhere else, the thrill you experience at the craps table is not invaluable.
  2. Know what you’re doing:  yes, the house always wins, but it wins by different margins, often depending on how you play.  If played correctly, the odds are better in blackjack than in craps, which odds are better than in roulette.  In blackjack, you should never split two 10s because you never split a winning hand.  And if you are going to play craps, play the come bet where the house has no edge.
  3. Maximize entertainment for minimum cost: I once lost $150 playing poker, which some thought was a lot of money until I noted that I was at the table for 14 straight hours.  The key to responsible gambling is to ride as little money as possible for as long as possible.  The easiest way to do this is by only betting the minimum, but there’s always the temptation to bet higher because, well, there’s more thrill when there’s more money at stake.  So I’ve learned to focus on getting the most out of whatever money I put down.  And that means avoiding the casino during the daytime when most people have better things to do than being in a casino.  Playing blackjack alone with the dealer not only goes fast (which is expensive) but is also rather depressing (which decreases the value of the entertainment).
  4. Realize the days when you’re just lucky enough to be unlucky:  The worst days I’ve had at the poker table are not the days when I’ve had no luck; on those days, I simply don’t bet to play a hand.  Rather, the worst days are when I play a straight that gets beaten by a flush, or I go all in with a flush against a full house.  You have to develop a sense for these days that are just lucky enough to be unlucky, and walk away fast because the damage inflicted will be maximum and painful.
  5. Math doesn’t lie, but it can’t explain what happens at the tables, either:  The math says that in American-style roulette, each number should appear once every 38 spins, yet when you look at the last 200 spins at any one time, you’ll often find that two to three numbers have appeared a dozen or more times, double what the law of probability says.  The same goes for blackjack, when you get hot and can’t lose.  You have to develop a sense for these hot streaks and have the guts to bet bigger–and scale it back when the run is over.

I hope all of this helps you learn to appreciate the art of responsible gambling–and to better experience your next trip to the casino.

Or do I just sound like a gambling addict trying to rationalize a problem?


4 Responses to “The Art of Responsible Gambling”

  1. 1 jon porus November 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Agree for most of the article but Rules 4 and 5 have nothing to do with responsible anything. Thats the irrational gambler in you talking and they should be completely dismissed from the decision making process.

    • 2 joesas November 18, 2013 at 10:59 am


      Lol. Of course, one can very well argue that gambling itself is an irrational action, all of this post is idiotic nonesense and the only decision that should be made during the decision-making process is to not enter the casino in the first place.

      • 3 Anonymous November 21, 2013 at 8:52 am

        Well, I don’t know about that either… Gambling only makes sense if, like you said, you’re getting entertainment value from the process, even if you lose. I love playing some poker because it has a lot of skill components. I know the odds are a bit against me but I’m against other humans and I enjoy it. Thats worth my money.

        • 4 joesas November 24, 2013 at 1:03 am

          Indeed! Sounds like a person whose mastered the art of responsible gambling.

          But getting back to your original point, don’t you think there’s a real streak in gambling? I think that’s part of the fun.

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