Monday, July 16, 2007

Gambling: The Special Relationship

Pure gambling - I exclude betting games like poker where any skill is involved - is always stupid and pointless. The belief that you might win is based on the patently absurd conviction that you have some special relationship with fate and the workings of chance. Promoters of gambling must, therefore, be promoters of this delusion. It is, therefore, quite fantastic that the morally stern Daily Mail should be involved and entirely right that this should be exposed by the Observer, though there seems to be no sign that the Mail is pulling out. It is also entirely right that Gordon Brown should call for a review of  the grotesque super-casinos plan. Meanwhile, there are the horrible TV gambling shows - I wrote about these last year - and all the scandals arising from dumb, rigged games. People want to gamble. It is a form of faith, a belief in the imminent possibility of a transformative event. It is always and everywhere - especially at Monte Carlo - corrupting. 

13 comments:

  1. You mean like Lotto? Yes, what people never take into account when they consider the odds, if they ever do, is the increased odds against a win if you really believe you are going to win. I mean, I think the odds of winning the big money are 1 in 14 million, mathematically. But the chances of actually knowing you are going to win and winning are increased to 1 in 35 billion! So it is always better to think you'll lose. Gambling is for losers, I've always maintained that.

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  2. One more thing, I never understood online Poker. I mean, I thought it was all about the best bluff - poker faced etc. And how do you know the other ''players'' aren't peeking at the cards?

    Could it be like Phone Sex, which to me seems equally absurd but for practitioners might be better than no sex at all? It's not the winning but the taking part?

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  3. You could win by ensuring all the other players have a poached egg in each pocket. There are no known cases of anybody winning a big game with a poached egg in each pocket.

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  4. Apart from Edward G Robinson, but he was only acting.

    Can you imagine a remake of The Cincinnati Kid with online Poker?!
    No, me neither.

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  5. The delusion that there is skill involved is probably the more dangerous, the idea that the nags you've backed have been chosen by insight rather than lucky dip stylee. For this reason, I suspect that the bookies are responsible for more misery than all the Lottos and rigged phone games combined.

    Adrenalin is about the only drug that's still socially respectable. Gambling, of course, delivers the jolt big time - another little problem that usually goes unacknowledged.

    Anyway, I hope we never have super-casinos here. We all deserve better than that.

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  6. No, Bryan, and I bet there are no known cases of anybody having phone sex with a poached egg in each pocket.

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  7. Is it true that the phrase ''The dog's bollocks'' originates from bookie-speak at greyhound race meetings. As is ''putting the squeeze on'', often used in the same sentence.

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  8. The Gambler's Fallacy is probably the most common logical blunder of them all. I tried to explain it to an inveterate gambler in the pub one time but he just didn't get it.

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  9. they say that people experience less fear etc. for negative situations where they feel they have some element of control; so are less worried about being in a car accident where reflexes & awareness may save the day, than they are by cancer induced by breathing heavily-polluted air etc. every day. i guess people like to think they have some control, so will never believe that utterly or nearly random gambling is in fact so - hence lucky charms, etc.

    It seems to appeal to people who like quick fix-solutions & live in day dreams. Regardless of the economic benefits of these casinos, i think gambling inherently corrupts, like crack.

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  10. Susan B., cardplayer,July 16, 2007 9:42 pm

    As a pretty good blackjack player (my dad became a dealer in Vegas soon after my mom split with him), I find gambling a very appealing activity. Of course, there is skill in blackjack, but what turns me on is the moment before the card turns up: There is an intensity of anticipation in that moment that cannot be replicated elsewhere. It's pure, undistilled hope and curiousity -- I think. But that instant gets me even more than when I see what the card is, even if it's the ace that gives me a blackjack.

    However, if you're an addict, what will really get you are the slot machines (no skill whatsoever). Their loud and colorful come-ons are exactly replicated in the brains of gambling addicts. Good article in "Scientific American" a month or two ago on this finding. Check it out, Bryan Brain.

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  11. You can't blame people in patronizing a casino games as you said "People want to gamble. It is a form of faith, a belief in the imminent possibility of a transformative event. It is always and everywhere". Sometimes they just like looking for some fun to relax and switch to the other side of life that they think can make them happy even for a while. To other people money is not important here whether how much they loose but home much fulfillment they had in playing and enjoying the game.

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  12. I completely agree that gambling is corruptive, but how can one deny a chanve to win? People do win time after time. Most of the time, of course, you loose more than you win, but there is also a matter of being able to stop on time. If you just have a little bit of luck and able to stop after you win, there is nothing extraordinary about it. The chances in the rouletter are only 1:37 in the favor of a casino. That doesn't require any super power or super fate to win once in a while.

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