Gambling Psychology

A few things that will give you proper playing attitudes in the battle against Lady Luck:

  1. First, when you enter a casino, you are entering a place of business. And like all successful businesses, the casinos are operated by shrewd businessmen whose job is firstly, to keep you playing and happy and secondly, to separate you from your money as quickly and painlessly as possible. To meet these objectives, they create an atmosphere in the casino that can be described as a “Disneyland for adults.” No clocks to let you know it’s time to leave this utopia, no windows to let you see out to the real world, free drinks at the tables, free lounge shows and plenty of pretty girls to keep you happy and playing.
  2. You must learn to control your emotions in the casino. The real struggle when you are playing is, in most cases, not between you and the casino, but between you and yourself. You will find plenty of temptations to keep you playing and losing, therefore, you must learn to develop a sense of timing or awareness of when to play and, more importantly, when to quit.
  3. The typical attitude of losing gamblers is something like this: They always go to the casinos to have fun and of course, they always expect to lose. They experience an emotional high when playing and are invariably swept up in the exciting casino atmosphere. They always feel obligated to take the free drinks offered by the casino as a way of getting even for their losses. And, of course, when they lose, they always blame it on rotten luck, or poor cards, but the consolation for their losing is “well, I had a good time anyway,” attitude.
  4. Don’t get greedy. One thing that turns winners into losers is the notion that once they win they are playing with the casino’s money. Once you win, it’s YOUR MONEY. Don’t give it back. When you get ahead take half of your winning and put it in a different pocket. It’s easy to leave the casino when all your money is gone. It takes discipline to walk away when you are ahead. Discipline and control is what separates winners from losers.

These attitudes are not always natural. Most of them take an amount of work before you can feel comfortable playing with discipline. But if you develop these proper playing attitudes, you will be able to enjoy the fun and excitement of casino gambling with a minimum risk to your bankroll.


The Extreme Player: For this type of players the money are only a way of keeping score. The real excitement is in the action. For sports they may enjoy rock climbing or sky diving and if they are investors in the stock market you can be pretty sure they are investing in the speculative stocks. In the casino you will find them playing Craps, Blackjack at the high roller tables or playing the high denomination slots.

The Conservative Player:¬†Other players are more conservative. They enjoy the games but are also concerned about their price of entertainment. They want to play but do not feel that they want to risk a large portion of their bankroll on any one outcome or playing session. For sports they may enjoy Golf or bowling or some other competitive sport that doesn’t entail risking their life in the process. If they are investors they may choose Mutual Funds or the Blue Chips stocks to give them a steady and safe return. In the casino these players will be at the five dollar tables enjoying the games or playing nickel or quarter slots.


Poker psychology boils down to your ability to watch how others play, and use that experience to judge how your opponents may be playing in the current hand. It is critical that you never become distracted from the game. For example, do not watch TV, even during a friendly game, for this will deprive you of the information you gain while watching your opponents. Even in a friendly game, your “friends” are trying to take your money from you!

The simplest layer of poker psychology is to watch what your opponents visibly do based on their own cards. For example, keep track of how each player bets. If you have problems doing this, start by only keeping track of those who did not fold, and don’t worry about keeping track of amounts. Simply get a feel for whether the players bet strongly or weakly. During a showdown, note the hands each player had. Were they betting heavily with a weak hand? Was the hand possibly going to “make it?” (e.g., were they drawing to a flush, and just didn’t make it? Was the flush even possible? Was it likely, or was it a long shot?)

This is not a skill learned in a day. You must play THOUSANDS of hands to master it. Gradually, you will build a feel for how players bet in response to what they have in their hands. Then focus on how they respond to other players. Did they come out betting heavily early in the game, then fade away and eventually fold to heavy raising, even if their hand looked like it improved? Did they instead re-raise or cap the betting?

Learn to classify your opponents, and adjust your strategy against how they play. For example, identify whether your opponents are loose or tight. If they are loose, they are likely to bet heavily or stay in for a long time with even a very weak hand, or on a long shot draw. Tight players, however, tend to fold at every breeze. Also categorize them in terms of passive or aggressive. When raised, do they tend to call or fold? Or do they re-raise?

Ultimately, no single strategy will ever teach you the art of poker psychology. You will either learn it over a long period of time playing many hands, or you will go broke trying! It is an art, not a science!