Four Horsemen and the Wicked Witch

Don’t blame the casinos! They have every competitive incentive to run honest and crime-free operations. Any blame for serious losses belongs to us outside gamblers. We tend to destroy ourselves, and the reasons that we do so are easy to enumerate. Other than pandemic ignorance and innumeracy, and more importantly than the casino advantages, there also are emotional reasons why we destroy ourselves at the tables. Even if the casino games were as perfectly fair as a coin toss, gamblers still would permit these internal emotional villains to lure them to their doom. I call these villains the Four Horsemen and the Wicked Witch.

Fear leads the sorry parade. Why don’t gamblers learn superior but unfamiliar games? Why don’t they attack during hot streaks when their familiar games are rewarding every bet? Why do they quit when their luck is good and the trends are favorable? Achieving a preset target is no reason to end a winning streak! Money won during good times can balance money lost during bad times, but you have to get while the getting is good or else the overall result will be negative.

Impatience follows closely behind. The proper play of casino games requires enormous patience because most of the time the game results are inconclusive: win a few, lose a few, back and forth, nothing special. An impatient attempt to boost the drama by increasing the bet size plays right into the greatest strength of the casino: its bankroll advantage. When outside gamblers like us have a limited time to play, such as Sunday afternoon on a weekend trip, the urge to accelerate the proceedings can become very powerful.

Greed is the horseman that you hope to encounter. Suppose that you have won and your table stake has tripled. Can you handle the pressure of being a winner? Greed for a big win (jackpot mentality) may cloud your judgment and cause you to overplay your stake by making overlarge bets. Additionally, your lucky streak will eventually end and then you should drop back to patience mode. If greed prevents you from dropping back then your gain will evaporate.

Anger often follows loss, especially repeated loss. Anger often begins with frustration. Continuing to play during a losing streak is suicide. Even worse, increasing your bet size following a painful loss is called “chasing” or “taking the steam” and is exactly the opposite of the logically correct move. If your anger leads you to making larger bets then you are doomed.

The Four Horsemen (Fear, Impatience, Greed, Anger) have a sister whose romantic song was written by the Beach Boys: Wouldn’t It Be Nice? If I feel her influence during a Craps point, I remember that song and avoid making Place bets. For many vacationers, both their bet types and their bet sizes are influenced by their Wishful Thinking. As a self-aware gambler, you can resist this witch.

Not betting is the instant answer to your emotions. Not betting is always a safe move. Simply freeze for a few rolls or even a few shooters and recognize what is going on inside. Identify the Horseman or Witch who is troubling you and then watch that villain depart. For myself, not feeling my own emotions is impossible. Regardless of my emotions, however, I can always control what my hands do. Until my own internal villain passes away, I make no bets. I let my hands do nothing. My money remains in the rails.


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