Thursday 18 December 2014

Emotion: The Gambler's Enemy

Bookies rely on emotion to fill their coffers. Think about the big race meeting for example the pageantry, the noise, the carnival atmosphere. Do you think that this evolved by accident? It’s all engendered to create a mob mentality, to get people going with the flow. Logical methodical thought is the bookies enemy. Someone who is having a good time, caught up in the party atmosphere, or indeed they may be scared that they’ll lose the weeks housekeeping if their ‘sure thing’ doesn’t come in. In either case, emotion rules, logical thought and planning doesn’t get a look in.

Professional gamblers, who by definition take a different approach, are regularly banned by bookies up and down the country. Bookies don’t like to lose, and they lose to professionals who don’t play the game by their rules. 

So what’s the trick? Are some people just born cool? Almost certainly. However, being ‘cool’ is a trick that can be learned. A basic understanding of body mechanics and mental control are all that’s required. When people get emotional, whether happy, sad, excited or scared, the way that the blood flows around the brain changes subtly. Without making this a lesson in biology lets just say that those parts of the brain that deal with emotion are most active during these times. However, the problem for us is that these parts of the brain claim the majority of the available resources, energy, oxygen etc. This deprives other parts of the brain and consequently they don’t work as well until the situation redresses and a balance is achieved. This includes those parts of the brain that deal with logical thought and communication, which are separate from the emotional centres. So how to we create that balance ourselves so that we stay in charge of our own brains? Learning a simple process of self hypnosis calms the mind/body system and switches off or calms down unhelpful emotional responses. There follows a set of specific instructions on how to use basic self hypnosis techniques to achieve this, you’ll probably be amazed at how simple it is, and that you probably already know how to do it. You just didn’t recognise it as self-hypnosis.

Start by taking three very slow deep breaths, in through the nose, hold for a mental count of two, then exhale slowly via the mouth without forcing, almost like a sigh. Make the out breath longer than the in breath. Its important when doing this to relax the tummy muscles so that you fill your lungs to the bottom. Most of us breath to the top our lungs, which is shallow breathing. This type of breathing actually predisposes us to an emotional reaction. Slow deep breathing on the other hand is associated with calm.

Once you have calmed your breathing down then you can begin to use the power of your imagination through visualisation exercises.

Imagine yourself being calm and focused. You are not affected by noise, or pressure, or atmosphere. You are about to make a rational decision. You’re going to place a bet on a horse which has a reasonable chance of winning. You’ve either decided this yourself, based on totally logical factors, or you’ve taken advice from someone you trust. You don’t care what the horse’s name is. Nor do you care about any other extraneous factors. You are making your decision based on factors such as past performance, the going that day and the jockey.

Of course physical and mental preparation are only part of the skill set needed to beat the bookies. Professionals make best available use of the skills of other professionals. Once you have mastered the necessary self-control and are no longer controlled by your emotions you make better decisions. I would like to thank Neil for his comment on Twitter: illusion of control: Why gamblers throw dice harder when trying to for a higher number and softer for a low.