Most casino gamblers realize that they’re facing a house edge. And the house advantage means that the casino is destined to beat the average player.
Therefore, it’s wise to choose games like baccarat (1.06% house edge), blackjack (0.5%-2.0%), craps (1.36%), and French roulette (1.35%), where the smaller house edge gives you a better chance of winning.
But the casino’s advantage isn’t the only thing you should worry about when preserving your bankroll and trying to win. In fact, there are 7 surprising reasons beyond the house advantage why people lose.
Being aware of these 7 points prevents you from experiencing big losing sessions. Keep reading as I cover each of these reasons in depth so that you can protect your bankroll.
1 – Using Partial Wins as False Reassurance
Modern slot machines feature colorful graphics, vibrant sound effects, and fun themes. The idea is to keep players entertained so that they continue spinning the reels.
This isn’t nefarious, given that every industry wants customers to stick around so they can make more money. But one of the most surprising tricks that casinos use to keep people playing is partial wins.
A partial win refers to a slots spin where you earn a payout that’s worth less than your total bet. Here’s an example.
- I bet $1 per spin
- I win a $0.30 payout on one line
- The game lights up and sound effects boom
- I feel like a winner
- But the reality is that I’ve lost $0.70 overall
The concept of partial wins is exclusive to slot machines. After all, you don’t see a baccarat or roulette game give you $3 back on a wager of $10.
But partial wins still need to be addressed because slots are the most popular casino game. And more players being aware of the psychological effect behind these small wins means less gamblers overplaying.
Research suggests that sound effects following a win are what give people a false reassurance that they’re winning money. If you can disassociate the triumphant sounds from a losing overall spin, then you’ll be much better at not falling for partial payouts.
2 – Jumping into Skill Games Without Enough Research
Some gamblers hate the thought of playing games like slots, roulette, and baccarat, where they have little to no control over their results. This is where skill-based casino games come in because they give you a chance to control your destiny.
Blackjack, three-card poker, and video poker are examples of house-banked games where you use skill to lower the house edge. The strategy for these games is static and can be mastered by any player.
Daily fantasy sports (DFS) and poker are skilled-base games where you’re competing against human opponents.
These are harder to beat because human opponents are far more sophisticated than a static house edge.
A no-limit Texas hold’em player can adjust their strategy based on how others are playing.
But regardless of whether we’re talking about player-vs.-player or house-banked games, many gamblers lose money because they don’t do enough research.
A common scenario involves a casual gambler going to the casino with his/her friends. Their buddies start playing blackjack, so they sit down at the table, even though they’ve never played.
This is not only painful from the perspective of learning the rules on the fly, but it also hurts your chances of winning.
Here’s an example.
- Player A is a skilled blackjack player who’s facing a 1% house edge
- They’ll theoretically win back $99 for every $100 wagered
- Player B is a novice who’s facing a 5% house edge
- They’ll theoretically win back $95 for every $100 wagered
- Player A is going to earn $4 more than Player B every hour
The good news is that strategy for all the games discussed above can be easily found on the internet. As I mentioned, house-banked games can be mastered because the strategy doesn’t change.
But be aware that it takes far longer to master games where you’re playing human opponents. In fact, you can never do enough research for these forms of gambling.
Whatever you do, though, spend some time researching strategy for skill-based casino games before playing.
3 – Failing to Understand Volatility
The house edge is a very important aspect of gambling because it alludes to how much you stand to win long term. If you bet $100 on a game with a 2% house edge, then you stand to win back $98.
But far too many gamblers fail to account for anything beyond the house advantage. Specifically, they don’t consider how volatility can impact their short-term wins.
Volatility refers to how much results deviate from the statistical average. In casino games, this means how likely it is that your short-term results will fluctuate from the house edge.
The lottery, slot machines, and video poker machines are among the most volatile games in gambling. The reason why is because they pay out a wide range of prizes, including jackpots.
Here’s a fictional slot machine pay table to illustrate this.
- Jackpot = 10,000 coins
- 5 unicorns = 1,000 coins
- 5 leprechauns = 500 coins
- 5 dragons = 100 coins
- 5 fairies = 50 coins
- 5 gnomes = 1 coin
Let’s say that you bet one coin on this game. Obviously, your chances of winning can’t be anything close to 50% due to the payouts ranging from 50-10,000 coins.
Slot machines must make up for the large payouts at the top by offering low win frequency. This is why the average slot only pays around 10%-15% of the time per line.
This doesn’t mean that the long-term house edge changes. But your bankroll will go through more highs and lows when playing high-volatility games.
Some players don’t have a problem with this, as long as they can chase huge payouts. But if you have a small bankroll and don’t want to take much risk, consider low-volatility games like baccarat, blackjack, craps, Pai Gow Poker, and roulette.
4 – Believing That Bad Luck Has to Turn Around
One of the biggest traps that gamblers fall into is believing that their luck has to change during a losing streak.
The reason is simple: if you have nearly a 50% chance of winning a bet, then your losing streak can’t possibly last too long.
This is when players make bigger wagers and/or gamble longer than they originally planned. They feel that by combining larger bets with the idea that their odds are guaranteed to improve, they’ll win back losses.
But the reality is that odds don’t change just because of short- or long-term streaks. Here’s an example to explain my point.
- I have a 46.36% chance of winning a blackjack hand
- I’ve lost four hands in a row
- It seems that I must win the next hand, considering the recent events
- I double my bet in anticipation of winning
- But what I fail to realize is that the casino still has a 53.64% chance of winning the next hand
Some players will say to themselves, “The odds have to even out because I’ve lost several hands in a row.”
But these same people don’t know what kind of streaks played out at the table before they sat down. Everybody could’ve been on a serious hot streak beforehand.
Long story short, odds will even out in the end, but there are no guarantees in the immediate future. Furthermore, you can’t use past results to dictate what will happen on fixed-odds games.
5 – Using Negative Progression Betting Systems
The two main distinctions between systems are positive and negative progression strategies.
A positive progression system refers to strategies where you increase bets following wins. These are essentially harmless because they don’t call on you to wager more money when you’re losing.
Instead, you’re merely risking short-term winnings for a greater prize. The only potential loss is your wins from previous turns.
Negative progression systems, on the other hand, are far riskier. These call on you to bet more when you’re in a losing streak.
Part of the reason why negative progression systems are so popular is because they actually work in the short run. A perfect example is the Martingale, where you double bets after every loss.
Here’s an example of the Martingale.
- You bet $10 and lose (bankroll at -10)
- You bet $20 and lose (bankroll at -30)
- You bet $40 and lose (bankroll at -70)
- You bet $80 and lose (bankroll at -50)
- You bet $160 and win (bankroll at +10)
Here, you’ve both reversed a losing streak and ended up with a $10 profit – despite only having won 1 out of 5 bets!
This seems like a dream system in theory. But the Martingale and other negative progression strategies will eventually result in a nightmare losing scenario.
The biggest limitation to the Martingale is that you’d need an infinite amount of money to make it work. Players will eventually run into the table limit or lose all of their money (with no betting limit) if they continue using this system.
If you’re going to use a negative progression system for fun, I suggest the Mini Martingale, where you stop doubling bets after 3 losses and return to the original stake.
This at least prevents you from hitting the table limit and/or losing too much in one losing streak.
6 – Playing for Comps
Casinos offer players comps to retain their loyalty and keep them gambling. And it’s perfectly fine to get excited about earning these freebies.
But the problem comes in when players obsess over comps and extend their play just to earn more.
It’s important to understand that these rewards aren’t technically “free.” Instead, they’re worked into the casino’s bottom limit, with the house still making a healthy profit from comped players.
Most online and land-based casinos only comp players on between 0.1% and 0.2% of their wagers. This means that you need to bet $500 to $1,000 just to receive $1 in rewards.
Casinos don’t give players nearly enough comps to counteract theoretical losses. You can see this in the following scenario involving craps.
- A casino comps blackjack players at a 0.1% rate
- I make $10 bets (1% house edge)
- I play 60 hands per hour
- 60 x 10 = $600 bet per hour
- 600 x 0.01 = $6 in losses per hour
- 600 x 0.001 = $0.60 in comps
No sane player would continue losing money at 10x the rate of their comps if they did the math. But this is exactly the problem: players don’t know the math behind how bad comp deals are.
These gamblers are often surprised to see how much they’re losing in the pursuit of rewards. This is why you never want to force gambling action just to earn a certain comp.
7 – Failing to Pay Attention to Your Bankroll and Set Loss Limits
The absolute biggest reason why casino players are surprised by how much they lose involves simply not paying attention.
Many gambling strategy articles preach bankroll management, but gamblers still overlook this factor because it’s not fun to do math before playing casino games.
It doesn’t take much time to perform bankroll calculations, though, especially when you know the odds behind your favorite games. Here’s an example.
- I have $800 in disposable income every month
- I put $400 of this towards a gambling bankroll
- My average bet size is $5
- 400 / 5 = 80 betting units
- I’m playing craps
- I have a 1.36% chance of winning don’t pass line bets
- I make 20 bets per hour
- 20 x 0.0136 = 0.272 units lost per hour
- 20 / 0.272 = 73.53
- My bankroll will theoretically last for 73 and a half hours
I realize that this is a lot of steps. And again, doing bankroll management calculations is one of the least exciting parts of gambling.
But it only took me a few minutes to come up with the above variables and calculate them. I now know that based on my craps habits, I can expect my bankroll to last for over 73 hours.
Of course, you also have to worry about the volatility that we discussed before. This is especially a problem in high-volatility games, where anything can happen in the short term.
In these cases, you want to have a stop-loss limit for when you quit a session. This helps you avoid losing your bankroll in a single session.
A stop-loss limit can be whatever you’d like. But the amount will likely change based on the size of your bankroll.
I personally set my losing limit at 15% of my bankroll, but a high roller may stop after losing 5%, while a low roller might quit after losing 25%-50%.
The key is that you come up with a reasonable limit and stick to it.
Nobody likes feeling like they’ve been blindsided after a losing gambling session. This is why it’s so important to look past the house edge and know the underlying reasons why gamblers lose.
Only two of the covered points relate specifically to things that casinos do to encourage more losses. These include partial wins on slot machines and dangling comps to entice more betting.
The remainder of the surprise losing situations are initiated by players themselves. These include not researching skill-based games, believing bad luck must change, not understanding volatility, using negative progression strategies, and failing to set stop-loss limits.
That said, remember the 7 points I’ve discussed here to keep your bankroll intact.