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How to chase fun, not losses

You’re out for a fun night, sitting at a blackjack table and having a good time with friends.

You’ve been betting $5 per hand for the last hour, and while your luck held initially, you’ve hit a losing streak. You’ve now lost $100—the amount you intended to spend for the entire evening.

You decide to up your bet to $20 and play just a little longer. If you can manage to win just a few hands in a row, you’ll recoup most of your losses, taking the sting out of the evening. Surely things are about to change, right?

This is called chasing losses. It’s a quick way to lose more than you intended and a surefire method of taking the fun out of gambling.

The psychology behind chasing losses

The behaviour of chasing losses is rooted in brain chemistry. It’s prevalent in any situation where people take risks.

You can see it when a sports fan quickly places a bigger bet on the next game after losing a wager on the previous one, or when a roulette player bets big on red after the ball lands on black several times in a row.

It’s even apparent in non-traditional gambling scenarios, such as buying more and more random “loot boxes” in video games, hoping the next box will contain something valuable enough to justify what was spent on previous boxes.

According to a study from the University of Nottingham, the tendency to chase losses is about feeling “the need to recoup previous losses” as well as the “failure to process the emotional consequences of those losses.”

Basically, players get tunnel vision and become hyper-focused on imagining what it will feel like if they win without thinking about how much worse things will be if they lose.

Digging a little deeper, an Oxford University study found that people who chase losses experience increased activity in areas of the brain linked to an expectation of a reward. People who cut their losses short, on the other hand, show decreased activity in these areas, as well as increased activity in areas of the brain associated with anxiety and conflict monitoring.

Put another way, it’s brain chemistry, not a personal shortcoming. And if you can learn to identify this sort of behaviour within yourself, you’re one step closer to keeping your gambling on the right side of fun.

The one true strategy for gambling success

There are no reliable strategies to win more than you lose, but there are several proven methods to keep your betting fun and stress-free.

First off, if you’re playing casino games set a loss limit. Online players can access a casino loss limit tool that tracks your play to keep you within your set loss limit for a given day, week or month. Just log in to your account, then click on your profile to access My PlaySmart tools. If you’re playing in a live casino, remember to set your winnings aside from your bankroll. That’s your best bet to ensure you don’t go home empty-handed.

Next, make sure you understand the game before you start playing. When you know how the game is played and what your chances of winning are, you’re less likely to get sucked into the trap of thinking you can beat the odds.

In poker, for example, the odds change dynamically as cards are dealt. That means that the odds will change throughout any game, as cards are removed from the deck. Odds in live sports betting can be dynamic too, getting adjusted in real-time as events unfold within games, such as sudden scoring rushes or athletes becoming injured.

Once you know how wagers work for your chosen game, set your budget. Decide how much you’re comfortable spending for the evening, and stick to that number. If you’re playing online  you can get help with this by using PlaySmart’s My Play Customizer tool, which lets you set a purchase limit. When the money’s gone, you’re done for the night.

Finally, figure out how long each game lasts and how much time you’d like to spend gambling. This will let you tailor your bet sizes to fit your budget. Placing a series of smaller bets rather than just a few big ones will let you play a little longer, helping to ensure your night out doesn’t end too early.

Know when to take a break

If betting is causing you stress, there’s no shame in reaching out for a little help. PlaySmart has information that can help you identify when gambling is a problem and resources available for help and support.

Among the most powerful of these tools is My PlayBreak, a solution designed for people who just want to take a break from betting for a while. You can register at OLG casinos and on It’s voluntary, so you can set your own time parameters, anywhere from a day all the way up to five years.

Stop chasing losses and start chasing fun

Chasing losses is a losing game. Don’t buy into the hype of gambling myths like the martingale strategy, and never get sucked into thinking you’re due for a win. That’s just not how gambling odds work.

Think of gambling as a line item on your entertainment budget; money spent to have a good time, with no expectation of any return. The goal is to have fun, feel a thrill and perhaps share the experience with your friends.

As American sportswriter Grantland Rice said over 100 years ago, it’s not about whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.