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Gambling Styles Reflect Motivations

An encounter last night made we want to write about how different gambling styles reflect a player’s motivation.

I was at a craps table with a former professional football player who was on the same winning team as hall-of-famer, Roger Staubach. Without using his name, you may remember him as a human fire-hydrant with incredibly fast LEGS.  This former running-back was near me, and I had seen him plow through $3,000 in about twenty minutes.  He wouldn’t bet on a player unless he had seen the player shoot the dice on the previous round.  

We happened to be at a table populated solely with random-rollers, except for me.  Mr. Football hadn’t seen me throw previously, so he laid-off betting when it was my turn.  I produced five Come-Out winners and six Pass Line point wins.  With each Pass Line win, he was becoming more upset and agitated because his “rules’ prevented him from betting on an “unproven” player. 

I thought that after the first three or four wins that he might join in, but he was steadfast in his resolve.  Good discipline I thought, but possibly misplaced.  As the dice moved around the table, he would verbally remember how a player had previously performed in his random-rolling.  He said that past random performance was an indicator of future random profit.  I certainly wasn’t going to tell him that his method had more holes in it than a rusty old sieve. 

When it came my turn to shoot again, he was “short-stacked” to the tune of $35 left to play with.  Keep in mind that Mr. Former Football Semi-Star had been betting up to $700 on previous shooters, and lost. He started with $12 each on the 6 & 8, and $5 each on the 5 & 9.  A lone single $1 chip remained in his rack at the start of my hand.  He followed my betting pattern of collecting on a Place bet and then pressing it by one unit on every other hit.  My roll generated the following numbers and profits, where the Come-Out point of 4 was established:


Times Rolled



































I rolled a total of 51 times without making my Pass Line Point number of 4. At the end of the hand he had worked his rack up to $1272 plus his lonely $1 reserve chip.  I was pleased with myself because it looked like I had a new convert to my conservative betting approach.  I figured that in taking him from a measly $35 bankroll to an in-rack profit of more than $1200 on just one shooter, that he would subscribe to my more mundane, but profitable approach to the game.  Of course I was wrong about him.  On the very next random-roller, Mr. Football bet every last dollar that my hand had produced for himself, and he proceeded to LOSE IT ALL!

That got me to thinking…what types of players populate this game where there are lots of random-rollers, a few skilled Precision-Shooters, and an even smaller number of lucky dice-tossers.  It’s not a complete mystery if you look at various players differing motivations.

Experience has taught me to hope for a bonanza, but not to plan on it.  I rely more on my shooting skill, than on the fickle finger of fate or the enraptured kiss of lady luck.  My betting method reflects that philosophy, and I prefer a steady income from craps as opposed to hoping that I’ll get in on the mythical fairy-tale roll of the century.  So here’s the mystery: 

Why do seasoned players who are exposed to similar information and gaming experiences wager so differently? 

     Why do some people chart tables, track results, or follow systems, when there are an equally large number who think that any such practices should be reserved for those recovering from traumatic brain injuries, and “boredom-as-a-torture” aversion-therapy?

    Why do some frequent players want to socialize, gain dealer and player acceptance or approval, and earn comps instead of winning money?

    Why do some craps shooters reduce the house-edge by betting multiple odds on their Pass Line and Come bets, while other veterans go for all the “center” action of the Hardways, and Props?

    Why do some bettors aggressively press their winnings and chase losses, while others never increase their bets even during sizzling hot hands?

Alan Krigman refers to the specialized field of motivational psychology to describe it:

He says that, power, relationships, and achievement are primary motivations.   I personally feel that fear and greed are a lot more basic, instinctual, and primary among chief motivators in life, and in most cases fear and greed over-ride our other incentives.  However, I’m no expert on the subject, but I see it first-hand everyday in real-life casino technicolor.

These incentives influence paths that people follow in life, and whether or not the options they choose are satisfying successes or unpleasant failures.

Power-oriented people need to impress and have an impact on others. Rare, but memorable triumphs are sought and revered, instead of consistent, yet boring modest profits.  Action-junkies fall into this category, partly because of the razzle-dazzle of the “gambler” lifestyle, by taking long-shots, or vigorously pressing and parlaying bets. They like to be the center of attention, even if it is on the losing side of a dramatically-sized bet.

Relationship-oriented people need to make and keep a slew of friends.  They like to be surrounded by family, associates, acquaintances and friends at all times.  They feel nervous and skittish on their own, and always want to form close emotional ties. They're non-competitive, but take personal rejection as a world-shattering catastrophe.  Casinos today court these frequent players, and make them feel “at home” and special due to the royal treatment that is meted out to even the lowest level regular player.

Achievement-oriented people have a deep-seated need to excel.  They are the “plan-your-work, and work-your-plan” kind of souls.  They enjoy out-doing others on the strength of their own skills, and they are usually careful to follow strategies, which they believe should provide maximum results, optimum rewards, with minimum risk and cost. Achievers want to minimize house edge, and rarely press their bets.   Most are usually satisfied with small profits, but are truly puzzled if they lose playing "correctly". 

All of these inner motivations often show themselves in a casino, where gaming appeals to diverse audiences, and that is precisely why individuals respond differently. The use of alcohol or drugs quite often removes inhibitions, and casino gambling can do the same.  When any of those three things are combined, the results can range from costly to deadly.

There are a number of casino employees that I count among my friends.  There are an even larger number that I would call acquaintances, because of long-term relationships, like being on their Christmas Card list or being invited to their corporate soirees, but I wouldn’t equate them to being friends.  I get about 400 Christmas cards, and maybe 20 to 30 stag and wedding invitations from them.  That being said, casino employees' own motivations shape their perceptions of their customers.

   Casino executives wonder why anyone gambles at all, while on the other hand, some of the most degenerate gamblers I have ever met are in the corporate gaming ranks.  Recent senior management shake-ups at both Park Place Entertainment (Hilton, Caesars, Ballys, etc.) and MGM Mirage (Bellagio, Golden Nugget, Mirage, Treasure Island, MGM Grand, etc.) have been tied to out-of-control gambling by seasoned boardroom veterans.

   Casino Dealers sometimes identify with one type of player and think the rest could save themselves grief by just mailing in their money. They may nod and “mentally approve” when someone they think is adept, makes moves that you and I would consider dumb.

   Casino Hosts pander to the ego need of gamblers while performing a balancing act between keeping a player happy, and living within the constraints of how much a company is willing to comp-back to a player.  Their job is to make you feel welcome, and to commiserate with you on your losses.  The perks are put in place to cushion the blow, and to make losing as pleasurable as possible.  As warped as that sounds, it is way that the casino world operates, like it or not.

   Credit Executives use a formula to determine how much a player “is good for”, or how much credit to extend.  Their real worth to a casino is when a player has tapped-out his line-of-credit, and asks for an “extension”.  The credit executive uses a “stretch and break” formula to determine how much more credit a player may be good for, as opposed to the point upon which a larger amount will become uncollectable.  If you truly “break” a player, he may never gamble again, or at least he may never gamble in YOUR joint again.  On the other hand, if you grant credit extensions that are just out of a player’s current reach, but “recoverable”, the gambler is usually so grateful, that they will be “brand-loyal” to your corporation for life.  Then you can continue to perpetuate that process on the unsuspecting player over and over and over again. Whew, talk about a job where motivation is tied to performance incentives!  Harrah’s, Park Place Entertainment and MGM-Mirage are the world’s leading specialists in this field that was pioneered by Caesars several decades ago.

   Housekeeping and Hospitality workers mostly view visitors as an ungrateful lot with a thin scattering of players who understand that tipping is a vital part of the employees very modest income. Most restaurant wait-staff and hotel-room cleaning staff feel that if you can afford to be on vacation, or be in a casino gambling discretionary income, then you should be able to afford to take care of the people who make your visit more enjoyable.

While power, relationships, and achievement are primary motivations, you can see that how they are perceived by various individuals that you encounter in the casino are quite a bit different. 

So I thought about Mr. Former Star Running-Back, and I understood his motivation a little better.  But I also couldn’t help thinking that on his way home from the casino, whether he wouldn’t rather have preferred to have the $1200 in his pocket from the ego-blast that he had enjoyed for 35 minutes courtesy of the Mad Professor.

Good Luck and Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

By:  The Mad Professor

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