Finish the sentence, the more you gamble the more likely you will ____. What did you immediately think of?
Many people immediately chose the word “win.” They assume that gambling is about playing for longer periods of time so that you can hang in there through losses to reach the winnings.
For many areas in life the more we go after our goal the more likely we will reach our goal. The more we invest in our retirement account the more likely we will have enough to retire when the time comes.
The more we exercise the better health we will have in the future. The more we study now the better grades we will obtain.
That is why when many people think about gambling they assume that they need to keep gambling in order to finally succeed. But this isn’t the case with most forms of gambling such as two of the most popular forms of gambling - scratch-offs or slot machines.
Scratch-off tickets are designed to make money, not lose it. So they present a small chance to win but print enough cards to know that as long as they sell most of those cards they will come out ahead.
This means that the group handling the lottery is setting it up so that enough people lose for them to make money. In this instance it really is a zero sum game. If the people buying tickets make more than the group selling them, they lose money. If people buying tickets make less overall than the group selling them, the group selling earns money.
So it becomes relatively easy to set up a system where they win and the people playing, overall, lose. But if they told everything they could buy a $2 scratch-off and win $1 guaranteed nobody would play. So they make it random and have a few $2 tickets win big while most win nothing.
Then they can control how much money they pay out.
The slot machines do the same thing. They want to make it exciting and make the player feel as though they could win big. But at the same time they want to make sure they make money, not lose it.
So they use the large numbers of players to make sure they consistently win over time. They use random winnings to create enough excitement for people to keep playing.
In these instances the more you play the more likely the overall odds will be to dictate what you win and lose.
In other words, the more you play the more likely you will be to lose more money than you win.
This is a great example of a system that exists and has very predictable results over a large number of people while providing great variability in each individual instance. Then we can focus on the events of the system, such as someone who won big. We ignore the fact that the system is set up to create a whole bunch of losers and not many winners.
In life, make sure you understand the full system when making decisions. It can help you to see when things are not as they seem. It can help you avoid common traps that seem like a great idea but, in fact, are anything but.