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Though many of the following concepts have been academically researched, the aim of this piece is to provide a personal narrative for the commonly experienced tricks and traps from over 10 years of experience as a compulsive gambler.

Familiarity in gambling

Regression with childish cartoons and familiar characters from our youth can encourage a level of irresponsibility among players. Whether it’s Jack and the Beanstalk or the Incredible Hulk, the outcome is the same for the player – increased engagement and distraction. Homer Simpson shouting “D’oh” trivialises a losing spin, using humour to numb the pain of loss. Equally, Spiderman defeating his enemies during a bonus is immensely exciting ‘under the influence’.

Availability bias

“25 million people didn’t win the lottery last week” is not a story. “Jennifer from Birmingham changed her life and won £156m” is a story. Technically “it could be you” but you don’t focus on the fact that it’s almost impossibly unlikely. Even the internal narrative playing out in your head can over-emphasise the possibility of an optimum outcome, potentially resulting in play.

Reframing affordability

You win, you play higher stakes. Won £50 on that last £1 spin? What could you have won if you were betting £3 a spin? How about £6? You can afford it because you won the last time.


“Nearly, nearly… DAMN!”  Approximately 37% to 42% ‘near misses’ are programmed into slot machines and scratch-cards for psychological effect. From an industry perspective, even if manufacturers don’t add them, players tend to create them theirselves, turning clearly losing situations into near-wins.

Reverse withdrawals

Even at the point where you have decided to stop playing and cash out, your money may still be available for immediate play and reversal. A second chance to lose everything!

Illogical limit-setting

It was recently revealed by a large online casino that where deposit limits are set, average spend is much higher. This illogical situation may be due to an erroneously perceived level of control.