Thinking About Gambling

Are your thinking styles the reason you are gambling more than planned?
Read this section to learn about thinking and gambling.

People have different automatic thoughts and thinking styles that make them unique.When people experience gambling issues, their automatic thinking patterns can become distorted or illogical, leading to their gambling spiralling out of control. These thoughts about gambling outcomes are often irrational, which can contribute to gambling more money than is affordable or planned. Our beliefs and thoughts can also impact how we feel, and how we feel influences what we choose to do. For example, thoughts about winning money can trigger urges to gamble, which then leads to the behaviour of gambling.

  • Beliefs:It’s a new moon tonight which means I am going to be lucky” 
  • Thoughts: “I can’t wait to go to the races and place a bet so I can win that $200 to pay off my fine”
  • Emotions: Excitement and strong urges
  • Behaviours: Gamble and chase losses until all money is spent

The dangers associated with gambling-fuelled thoughts are that they are automatic and the gambler believes them even though they are not based on any facts.

In this section, we will look at some of these gambling thoughts and thinking patterns. 

Illusions of Control 

This thinking style occurs when a gambler believes they have skills in gambling which improve their ability to win. 

For example:

“I know I can win, I’m really good at playing the pokies as I have a particular method that always works for me. I can trick the Pokie Machine – If I bet small then place a big bet it’s more likely that my machine will pay.”

“If I rub my dice before I throw it, then I’ll win.”

The illusion of control leads people to assume that we have complete control over the outcome of a situation in an instance when we do not.

For example:

“If I roll dice harder I get a higher number and I roll it softer for a lower number.”

Some gamblers use considerable effort to explain their gambling losses in ways that justify their continued gambling or chasing.

Superstitious Beliefs

Superstitious beliefs are when the gambler believes that certain objects  (i.e. a lucky charm, a footy scarf on the pokie machine or even touching the symbols a particular way) can cause them to win. Some people believe in carrying a lucky charm when they gamble and are attached to certain gaming machines as they are sure they are luckier than others.

Others perform specific gambling rituals like tapping certain features before pressing the play button on a gaming machine or sticking to certain lucky numbers or colours when betting on the horses or sports.

Some examples of irrational / illogical thoughts:

“When I wear my lucky football scarf I always win big.”

“It’s a full moon tonight, so I am feeling lucky.”

“It is my birthday today – I always win on my birthday.”

“My favorite horse is racing today, and the jockey is wearing my favorite top, so I know it will win.”

Selective Memory 

Selective memory is when the gambler only remembers certain information and does not remember other. Many gamblers remember the wins and forget the times they have lost money.

For example: “I always win when I gamble at the Casino.”

Predictive Skills

Predictive skills are when people feel positive about what they think will happen in the future. Predictive skills thinking means a gambler believes their ability to ‘predict’ a win will happen sooner rather than later. The past bets control the future bets allowing the gambler to believe that a win is due.

For example: “I can predict the winner each time by picking the horse that the guide has the best odds of winning.”

Check out your thoughts

By using challenging questions, we can help to stop these irrational beliefs from taking a hold of us. Becoming aware of our unproductive thought patterns with regards to how they can impact our lives allows us to slowly build new productive beliefs and behaviours.

These are some examples to initiate this thought challenging process:

  • Have a think about your ways of thinking when you want to gamble
  • Can you recognise a pattern of these thoughts?
  • Is there any evidence that supports your beliefs? For example that you have always won when you bet on a lucky number?
  • Are you making excuses to have a gamble?
  • Are your decisions based on feelings rather than facts?

Sometimes people say it helps them to write down these types of thoughts and take their time to question what they are saying to themselves.

It can be helpful to think about what you would tell a friend if they told you about the types of thoughts that you are having about gambling. It is always good to speak to someone who can help you to identify and challenge these unhelpful thoughts.

Please call us for a chat if you would like some help with your gambling thoughts.