Why gamblers enjoy even losing

No one likes to lose, not even the pathologically obsessed players. And yet they continue to place bets.

So why tempt fate over and over again if the casino will still win, not the player?

People with an irresistible craving for gambling say that even after a string of losses, they still return to the card table or slot machine to experience vivid emotions.

"I always wanted to play, " the former gambling addict recalled in an interview with Scientific American in 2013. "I loved the process and the ecstasy I experienced while playing."

Recently, a top Wall Street executive admitted that he fraudulently lured

$ 100 million from relatives, friends and clients.

“I needed money to satisfy my need to play, ” he explained in court.

But if the game brings only losses, and due to gambling addiction you can lose your job or home, is the short-term pleasure worth such sacrifices?

First of all, it should be noted that winning in this case is not the most important thing.

Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University and an expert on behavioral addictions, says players attribute their addiction to multiple reasons.

A poll of 5, 500 players showed that their main motive was the opportunity to "win big money."

However, it was closely followed by arguments such as "this is fun" and "this is exciting."

"Even if you lose at a game of chance, your body still produces adrenaline and endorphins, " he says. "People come to gambling establishments to have fun."

These findings are supported by a 2009 study by researchers at Stanford University in California.

They found that about 92% of people have a “loss limit” at which they stop playing.

However, the very fact of losing money after going to the casino, for example, did not always affect their overall gaming experience.

"People seem to be happy with relatively small wins and are willing to accept small losses, " said study co-author Sridhar Narayanan. "They generally understand that in the long run they are more likely to lose rather than win."

In addition, losing can reinforce the positive emotions of winning at least for a short time. The reason for this lies in the changing expectations of players during a losing streak.

Robb Rutledge, a neuroscientist at University College London, and his colleagues conducted an experiment with 26 people.

People were offered situations in which they had to make a choice leading either to a definite or to an indefinite result - that is, in fact, it was a game.

During the experiment, brain scans of the participants were performed. They were also asked to rate their feelings of pleasure after every second or third attempt.

A similar experiment, but without a brain scan, was carried out using a smartphone app called The Great Brain Experiment. More than 18 thousand people took part in it.

The study yielded many interesting results: for example, scientists found that the less participants expected to win, the more they enjoyed it.

This was evidenced by the subjects' own assessment and the data obtained as a result of brain scans.

Thanks to the scans, the scientists were able to detect increased activity in an area of ​​the brain associated with dopamine neurons.

Dopamine, which is a complex neurotransmitter, in this case could cause changes in the emotional state of the participants.

“After a string of failures, expectations are lowered and the person is much happier when they finally win, ” says Rutledge.

This alone sounds tempting. “If you have a few troubles in a row, and your expectations go down, and then you manage to achieve good results, your sense of satisfaction is likely to be more acute, ” he explains. "Although at this stage it is probably worth quitting the game."

But are devices like slot machines capable of manipulating our minds?

Griffiths is the author of works on the features of slot machines and their impact on players. Little is known at this point about how their design affects human behavior, but many machines, for example, are colored red.

Red is widely used in casinos as it is considered exciting.

In addition, sound plays an important role. Griffiths wondered if the lines of the slot machine characters could provoke players.

For example, Waylon Smithers, a Simpsons character in a game about the family, might say, "You're fired!"

"According to the hypotheses underlying the theory of frustration and cognitive regret, this could make playing electronic slot machines more compelling, " Griffiths wrote in one of his articles.

A key determinant of the addictiveness of gambling is the frequency with which gamblers can place their bets.

Griffiths argues that it is the amount of rewards that can be attracted to people with gambling addiction, not the actual money won or even the type of gambling.

In addition, games and slot machines are often designed in such a way as to keep the player interested by offering him a kind of replacement for winning, for example, crediting an additional amount to the account or, in case of a loss, the opportunity to win more than usual next time.

"If you offer the player lots of small rewards - not necessarily cash - as the game progresses, they'll react to them, " says Griffiths.

Interestingly, in some cases, players may try to develop a "pseudo-skill" in order to justify their desire for additional rewards.

Griffiths cites British adaptive logic slot machines as an example.

This means that over a period of time, the sum of their winnings exceeds the sum of their losses, but then their generosity gradually wanes.

In this regard, some gamblers try to determine which machines can give out big winnings, hoping that they will be the ones to hit the jackpot.

All this testifies to the fact that winning is far from the main thing in gambling. The process of the game itself is important, as well as all the attendant factors that make it so exciting.

Of course, this is not the only explanation for pathological addiction to play, since addiction is usually formed under the influence of a number of reasons.

Nevertheless, it would be interesting to know how the style and structure of a particular game affect the level of a player's excitement.

After all, even if addiction to gambling is not painful, those who come home with empty pockets still find something fascinating about them.

So, the question "bet on red or black?" Doesn't seem to make much sense. After all, this is not so important for the player.