10 Truths About Gambling that Most People Fail to Consider


More people gamble than don’t, but most of the people who gamble don’t exactly understand what’s going on, either.

This post is made up of 10 truths about gambling that most people don’t consider.

Some of these truths might help you win more often, but the truth is, most of them might just help you lose less money.

Money that you don’t lose is worth just as much as money you win, though, so this post should be useful for the 80% of gamblers out there who ignore these fundamental realities related to the hobby.

1 – Most People Are Gambling at a Mathematical Disadvantage Most of the Time

If you’re a casino gambler, you’re playing games where the house has a mathematical advantage over the player. In the long run, it’s impossible to overcome this mathematical disadvantage.

Some gamblers don’t understand how that mathematical advantage works, but it’s just a function of the probability of winning versus the probability of losing. It also accounts for the amounts you might win or the amounts you might lose.

The classic example of this is roulette.

How does it work?

You have 38 possible outcomes for an even money bet, but you only have 18 ways to win. If you had 19 ways to win, the game would be “fair,” and you’d break even over time. But the casino wouldn’t make any money that way.

With 18 ways to win and 20 ways to lose, the casino has a distinct mathematical advantage in the long run.

In the short term players can win these bets and show a small profit, which is what keeps people from coming back.

The same principle works for all the bets at the roulette table and at all other casino bets, too. The number of ways to win versus the number of ways to lose as well as the amounts you risk versus the amount you lose are all rigged so that the casino always has an edge.

But even if you’re not gambling on a casino game, you’re probably operating at a mathematical disadvantage. Most poker players aren’t good enough to win in the long run. And most sports bettors are also unable to win in the long run.

They just don’t realize that this is the case.

2 – People Really CAN Become Addicted to Gambling

Some people think that because gambling doesn’t involve substance abuse of any kind, you can’t become addicted to it. I used to think the same way, but if you do just a small amount of research into how the brain reacts to gambling, you’ll realize that gambling certainly can be addictive.

The consequences of being a problem gambler can be awful. I’ve read and heard horror stories from people who have completely ruined their lives because they couldn’t control their impulses related to gambling. In fact, the attempted suicide rate among problem gamblers has been estimated to be between 18% and 25%.

One of the seedier aspects of the gambling industry is that slot machine manufacturers are aware of the addictive nature of gambling, and they have a financial incentive to make their games as addictive as possible. Read a book called Addiction by Design if you want the real scoop on how the brain reacts to slot machines and how the casino industry benefits and uses that.

3 – Most People Don’t Develop a Gambling Addiction, Though

Even though you shouldn’t underestimate the seriousness of gambling addiction, you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone who gambles develops a problem. Most people who gamble don’t become gambling addicts, just like most people who drink don’t become alcoholics.

I know people who avoid casinos, lottery tickets, and any kind of gambling because they’re so terrified of developing a problem. This might seem prudent, but I think it’s overly cautious.

On the other hand, if you’ve already demonstrated that you have impulse control problems, you probably should avoid gambling. There’s no reason to replace one addiction with another, and hanging one more addiction on your wall of trophies serves no one, either.

4 – People Who Gamble Outnumber People Who Don’t Gamble

Some anti-gambling types might think that gambling is some kind of seedy activity that only degenerates engage in. Those same people probably play bingo at their local church, but they don’t associate that with the kind of gambling the degenerates are thinking of.

I spent some time recently with a young man who hangs out in a neighborhood called “The Boardwalk.” He told me they play a lot of craps there. My special lady friend explained to me later that they aren’t shooting dice over there. They’re actually smoking crack.

This kind of association with the seedy underbelly of life is inaccurate.

2 out of 3 people have gambled at some time in their life, and probably at least 1 out of 3 people have gambled on something over the last 12 months.

Gambling isn’t a behavior that’s limited to degenerates. Even if you buy a scratch-off lottery ticket at the local convenience store, you’re gambling.

5 – It’s Harder to Earn a Living Playing Poker than Most People Think

Some people think that if they lose their job, they can just start playing poker for a living. Other people think that poker is all about luck and which cards you get.

There’s some truth to both viewpoints, but the reality lies somewhere in the middle.

Sure, you can make a living playing poker. Plenty of people do. It’s a game of skill, and if you’re skilled enough, you can make a consistent long-term profit playing cards.

But how hard is that?

I’ve seen estimates from online cardrooms that suggested over a year’s time, 95% of the players on the site were net losers.

This means that only 5% of those players were generating a consistent profit.

That’s a small minority.

Could you be part of that minority?


It’s just going to take a lot of work and study. And you might not have the temperament or the mindset to pull that off.

Here’s the reason it’s so hard to make a living playing poker:

Even if you’re better than the average poker player at the table, you still have to make enough money to compensate for “the rake.”

Casinos don’t offer poker rooms and poker games for free. Everything in the casino, including the cardroom, must generate a profit.

6 – It’s Harder to Make a Profit Betting on Sports than Most People Think, Too

Most people overestimate how good they are at picking winners for sporting events. They’re even worse at picking winners against a point spread, too. The point spread is set in such a way that you have a roughly 50% probability of winning your bet.

But most sportsbooks require you to risk $110 to win $100.

This means that winning 50% of your bets won’t even make you break even. Heck, even 51% isn’t even the break-even point.

To profit consistently from sports betting, you need to win 53% or 54% of the time against the spread.

But the people who are setting those lines are expert handicappers. If they weren’t experts, they wouldn’t be working for the sportsbooks. These sportsbooks aren’t in the business of losing money. They wouldn’t pay handicappers if they weren’t producing results.

I haven’t seen estimates of what percentage of sports bettors are profitable in the long run, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s similar to the percentage of poker players who win in the long run.

This means that unless you’re really dedicated, your dreams of being a professional sports bettor are just that—dreams.

7 – The Employees at the Casino Are NOT Your Friends

Sure, casino employees are uniformly friendly. Most of them work on tips. But they’re not there to help you win money. They don’t care one way or the other whether you win.

Some of the employees at the casino understand how the math behind their games work and know you’re going to lose in the long run no matter what. Others just don’t care.

The employees you’re most likely to mistake for friends are the casino hosts, though. If you’re enough of a high roller, you’ll be assigned a casino host whose job it is to keep you entertained and happy while you visit the casino.

Casino hosts are master salespeople. You can (and should) expect them to be good at winning your trust, confidence, and affection.

But they’re there to make a living, and a lot of their living is based on what kind of action you bring to the casino.

And when it comes to high rollers, casinos are all kinds of competitive. Most of them would like nothing better than to steal a high roller from one of their competitors.

8 – Those Comps You Get from the Casino Aren’t Really Free at All

Even if you’re a relatively low-stakes player, you’re probably getting comps from the casino. You probably think this “free stuff” is a great perk.

You’re right and wrong at the same time.

If you’re going to gamble anyway, you should definitely take advantage of any perks and comps that you can get.

But you shouldn’t let these comps influence you to gamble more than you would otherwise.

Let’s talk about the most common perk—the free cocktail.

The biggest effect of alcohol, at least according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, is impaired judgment.

I know if I’m running a casino, I want my gamblers to have impaired judgment, because they’ll gamble more than they would otherwise. Drunk blackjack players are likelier to make basic strategy mistakes, too—which increases the casino’s mathematical edge over the player.

How much does a cocktail cost the casino, too?

Sure, a double Jack Daniels on the rocks might cost $10 or $20 if you order it at the bar, but the casino’s actual cost for that drink is probably only $2 or $3.

If you compare the cost and value of any of the comps that the casino provides you with to the amount of money you’re expected to lose gambling to get it, you’ll find that the casino comes out way ahead with all of them.

A free meal at the buffet might have a retail value of $30, but the food cost is only $10.

A free stay in the casino hotel might have a retail value of $200, but the room is already there at the casino. It might be sitting empty anyway, so why not give it to a gambler. They’re not going to kick out someone who’s paying for that room to give you a spot.

Comps are great. Have fun with them.

But try not to gamble more just because you’re chasing comps. You’ll come out behind on that deal.

9 – Gambling Is a Form of Entertainment with a Cost

The best thing I learned from the best book on gambling I ever read was that the appropriate way to think of gambling is as a type of entertainment. And all forms of entertainment cost money—books, television shows, and movies are all examples of that.

Most of the time, your visit to the casino will involve you losing money. Sometimes you’ll come home a winner, but your losses will compensate for that and then some. That’s how the casino makes money.

Casinos use a simple formula to predict how much money you’ll lose per hour at the casino:

The house edge multiplied by the average bet size multiplied by the number of bets per hour is the predicted hourly loss.

Here’s an example:

You’re playing Megabucks, a progressive slot machine game in Las Vegas, for $3 per spin. You’re making 600 spins per hour, and the house edge on that game is 12%.

This means your predicted hourly loss is $1800 X 12%, or $216.

That might be a fair hourly loss in your mind, but you can find better deals.

Look at roulette as a comparison. The house edge for that is only 5.26%, but you’re going to need to bet more than $3 per round. The minimum bet at most roulette games is $5.

But you’ll see a lot fewer bets per hour at the roulette table, too.

With an average of 45 spins per hour, you’re looking at a predicted hourly loss of:

5.26% X 45 spins per hour X $5 per spin, or $11.83/hour.

That’s a difference of $200 per hour.

Do you really get $200 per hour in extra entertainment playing Megabucks?

But keep in mind that these are long-term expected averages, too. The actual cost of your entertainment in the short run might be much more than this.

Or you might come home a winner.

10 – Most Betting Systems Don’t Work

Lots of people think they can get an edge gambling by using some kind of betting system. Some of these work in the short run, sort of, anyway, but none of them work in the long run.

My favorite betting system is also the easiest—the Martingale System.

In the long run, the Martingale System does nothing to improve your odds.

But in the short run, you could come home a winner.

And as one popular gambling writer points out (Michael Bluejay), the Martingale System can improve your probability of having a winning session in the short run.

But it ensures that you’ll have small winning sessions and occasional big losing sessions.

Here’s how the Martingale works:

You place an even-money bet on a game with a close to 50% chance of winning. Most people make one of the even-money bets at the roulette table, like odd or even.

If you win that bet, great—you’re up one unit.

If you lose that bet, you place another bet, but you double the size of the bet. That way, if you win, you win back what you lost on the previous bet along with a one-unit profit.

If you lose twice in a row, you double you bet again, and so on, until you win.

Here’s a specific example:

You bet $5 on odd, and you lose. You bet $10 on odd on the next bet, and you lose again. On the 3rd bet, you place a wager of $20. This time you win.

You win back the $15 you lost on the 1st 2 bets, and you have a profit of $5, which was your initial betting unit.

If you stick with one-hour sessions, you can probably show a small profit using this system 80% of the time.

But 20% of the time, you’ll hit a losing streak that lasts long enough to wipe out your winnings and then some.

Based on this, take a look at how fast the size of your bets gets really large:

  1. $5
  2. $10
  3. $20
  4. $40
  5. $80
  6. $160
  7. $320
  8. $640

Most casinos have a $500 top limit on their bets at the roulette table, so once you hit a losing streak of 7 spins in a row, the system breaks.

Also, look how much you must risk after 6 or 7 losses in a row just to show a small $5 profit.


Most people don’t understand the truth about gambling. With any luck, this post will expose you to some truths about gambling that you might have been unaware of previously.

What other fundamental facts about gambling should people be made aware of?

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.