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While many players can't wait to play against the casino, often extending their playing sessions way beyond what they might have intended, casinos have all the time in the world. Casino games move fast. Decision follows hurried decision. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the games continue. This is another tool in the casino's arsenal of weapons. The casino has all the time in the world to play, but you don't. If you play long enough, sooner or later you are likely to engage in one of many player self destruction acts, like betting too large.
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A friend of mine is an inveterate craps player. He loves craps, anywhere, anytime it is played. He is fairly good at beating the casinos for short stretches, but he nearly always loses and goes home a loser. How can that be?
What happens to him is what happens to many players. They are able to get ahead at some point, but they will not stop playing. The siren call of the game is too strong. The casino bosses can afford to be patient. If they can just keep the player playing, the combination of player errors, player fatigue, foolish betting and other aspects of loss of control will cause the player to lose.
Casinos know a lot about human frailty. Gambling can be a pressure cooker environment for most players with great highs followed by even greater lows. Meanwhile, the casino games continue 24/7, but, of course, they let their dealers take a twenty minute break every hour. They know how taxing the game can be. Do you?
The casino atmosphere and the adrenaline rush of gambling are tough opponents for any player to overcome. Players constantly have to fight the twin compulsions of greed and despair.
If you have ever flown to Las Vegas on a plane loaded with passengers all heading to the gambling Mecca of the world, you will notice that the passengers' behavior is much different on the flight arriving than it is on the one returning home.
On the flight coming into Vegas, passengers are revving up for a party. Nearly everyone is boisterous, drinking, talking too loudly or even pulling out cards and playing a few blackjack hands to warm up. As the plane nears its destination, you can almost feel the crowd enthusiasm rising until it has almost reached a fever pitch by the time the plane lands. The would-be players eagerly depart the plane, almost dashing to be the first to hear the sound of the slot machines residing in the lobby of McCarran International Airport.
The return trips are always much different. What talking there is, is subdued, almost like a whisper. Some passengers just close their eyes and press their heads back into the seat cushions, while others quietly pull out the airline magazines and pretend to read. Many of the passengers are almost in a state of shell shock. They are recalling events of the past several days in crystal clarity and wondering how they could have acted the way they did.
One man, who was up almost $5,000, is returning home with a loss of $3,000. He is still not quite sure what happened.
Across the aisle is a lady sitting quietly thinking how she lost her Christmas money. She didn't mean to. Her original plan was to take the $800, win at least $500 and then quit. Her second day she was up almost $400, but decided to keep on playing. After all, she was on a lucky winning streak. A couple of hours later, she was down to her last $100 hoping to at least break even.
There may be a winner or two on the plane, but not many more. Sadly, many of the passengers could have returned home winners or small losers, even playing against games with ferocious house edges. But they didn't.
I asked my friend the craps player why he wouldn't quit while he was ahead. "Hell, I can't quit them, I've got the casinos just where I want them."
I then asked him why he wouldn't pull off and take a break when he was losing.
"I can't stand to quit when the casino is ahead. If I lose all of my money I have to quit, but I don't like to give up and I won't."
Compulsion. It may be the casino's greatest weapon against the players.
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