A chapter on gambling addiction is a must. The question that you want to ask me must be obvious, it must be imposing: “Are you addicted to gambling yourself? So far you have only thought so, but nevertheless: you do ask yourself, you simply have to ask yourself. But you may even ask me. In this chapter, I would like to make an exception and look at the practical aspects of my own gambling addiction, my experiences with the gambling addiction of others and the philosophical aspects at the same time.
1) General considerations
This is almost the key chapter on the subject of “gambling”. One associates the terms “gambling” and “addiction” almost inevitably, almost automatically. And I am in a position, not only from life experience, but also from the world view that has been formed, which involves playing but also thinking, where I no longer want to judge, let alone condemn, under any circumstances. I merely want to understand. So if you associate it too, no reproach, who am I too?
All action, all thinking has its cause. You can also extend that to the animal world, even to the plant world. There is a cause for everything. Understanding (see also “Pauli ladder”) should always be striven for. Personally, however, I also make the distinction whether a certain behaviour or way of thinking directly affects me. As the most vivid example, I always say: If someone hits me in the street, let’s say, or wants to rob me, or wants to hurt my children, then I am not interested in his motivation and the reason for his actions at that moment and possibly not for a long time. Now it’s first about me, my children. I have to protect myself, save myself or do everything I can to stop him from doing what he is doing and I even have the right to do so.
Nevertheless, it remains the case that one could also understand this action. I only get the right to say once in a while: I could understand it, but I don’t want to understand it at all.
Well, back to the starting point: the automatic association of the terms “gambling” and “addiction”. So there is a reason why people associate them with each other. It is not pure coincidence. On sharp reflection (could even be that less sharp reflection will suffice) you will surely find that you are more likely to know someone who gambled and in the process made himself and possibly his family miserable, went broke, i.e. some tragic or at least sad fate, than you are to know a successful gambler. That is even a question of probability. There are those people, the losers, and there are quite a lot of them because of me. Many of them have gone broke because of addiction.
Even if it is not much different with gambling addiction than with numerous other addictions: people try to hide it as best they can. It is a form of anomaly that one may well feel that way oneself at the time. And one does not necessarily strive to be classified as crazy or at least abnormal. Nevertheless, it often enough comes out one day, almost inevitably. But there is, of course, the positive aspect of addiction that one feels the moment one satisfies it. In theory, however, it is said that the moments of pleasure and satisfaction become smaller and smaller compared to the effort and the damage already done. And certainly not entirely unjustifiably so.
I don’t necessarily want to examine other forms of addiction or other addictions now. There is always a relationship and also a public attitude towards it. Cigarette addiction tends to be played down, alcohol addiction rather exaggerated (anyone who drinks a beer a day is an alcoholic. Then I am a heavy alcoholic, agreed; how is it that people always play down their own addictions). But let’s stay with gambling addiction.
What gambling offers at first is apparent variety of experience, richness of experience. Above all, anyone who has had the (dubious) pleasure of winning a large amount of money through pure luck (in gambling) is a potential candidate. By this frame I mean that if someone earns, for example, 2500 euros a month, then 1000 euros would already be a lot. Because you automatically transfer the monthly salary to one day and the 1000 is then simply far above that. What’s more, it was not only entertaining and exciting, but even very simple. It practically doesn’t get any better than that. A wealth of experience and feelings of happiness. Clearly, it brings with it the potential to want to repeat these experiences.
There is another characteristic that fuels this behaviour and feeling. This is, unfortunately, a very widespread trait, and since I have heard the term just once, it is used by me almost daily, especially and above all professionally. The term is: Judging by results. Judging by results. So you achieve or observe some result and judge the decision that led to the result as decisive. This is absolutely not the case, especially in my business, but especially in my general world view, which involves thinking in terms of probabilities. It may be that when one is forced to make a judgement, one is the most cunning in pronouncing that judgement. But in fact it behaves differently, at least more often than not, as I will show in a moment.
I would like to support this phenomenon with an example: Germany – England, quarter-final match for the 1970 World Cup, England leads 2:0, the English coach Sir Alf Ramsey substitutes two of his best players (Bobby Charlton and — who was the other?), Germany still wins the match 3:2 after extra time. In England, people still think that England lost because the two players were substituted. But nobody knows what would have happened if they hadn’t been substituted. Maybe he even improved England’s chances by substituting them and still England lost. Let’s say that the probability in the 60th minute at 2:0 would be 90% that England would advance. By substituting, the coach increased the chance to 92%. But still the smaller chance came, the one with 8%. That would be absolutely nothing unusual, happens every day and many times over. But there is no other clue, so you take that one. This is how football matches are judged every day, just because you know the result: “The victory was deserved because the other team didn’t take their chances.” A ridiculous judgement, but that is how it is judged. The true distribution of chances is never considered. There is a result, the explanation or even justification for it is sought. Done is the verdict, “judged by result.”
Before I now examine the effect of such judgement on gambling addiction, I wanted to point out the humanity and naturalness of this reaction (keyword: understanding). In nature, it has proven to be sensible and useful for the respective preservation of the species to act in this way. Especially in the animal world, it is almost obligatory to do so. There is probably no need for me, as a human being, to understand the connections more broadly, even if I may sound a little arrogant in doing so. I am not a behavioural scientist (either), but in my estimation there is really one, immediately obvious main reason why this is so: numerous experiences can really only be had once. This is true in the animal world as well as with humans (there is actually no need to distinguish between cases). If in a herd the lead animal goes into a river to swim across, then it is obligatory for every other animal to do the same. The lead animal is not chosen at random, has its empirical values, no one knows better, so follow. This is how, in principle, all life has prevailed, evolved. If an animal should stop, it will most likely perish. It has only had this experience once and can only have it once.
The fact that it is possible in our increasingly complex world and also with increasingly complex, i.e. adapting brains, to trick them at the same time is also no mere coincidence. The experience in these areas is simply not enough. What’s more, the trick of some (game providers) is to take advantage of the lack of adaptation coupled with the (new) greed: They put out bait. One bait is to wave a lot of money. Money alone is already a modern development (ethnologically speaking, just like man himself) and a kind of perversion. But the fact that wealth sounds tempting is simply the driving force behind our entire economic system, which is called capitalism. The consequence and cause at the same time is that one is encouraged to strive for it (wealth). Greed therefore exists anyway, inherent in the system, while curiosity relates to the allure of gambling. What will the outcome of the game be? Will I win or lose? Oh, win, again. The other lure, of course, is that every organiser tries to present some winner, even as many as possible. That is the shining example. It really does exist, the person who had the 6 correct numbers, here he is. It’s very simple, you can do it too.
And even if then all the people who lose on their first appearance, their first encounter with a game of chance (generally money gambling) were weeded out and “never gamble again, not for money”, according to the behavioural prescription described above, there would still be enough left who all had the sweetness of winning and such, simply received, feelings of happiness at least once and would then logically want to repeat them in the same way. I succeeded, I must do it again. Judging by results. I had a sense of achievement, I’ll get it again.
The whole superstition is actually a consequence of this original thought. What brings success, you have to do it again. Generations, long before humans existed, have survived with this principle. When Udo Lattek has won a game with his famous blue jumper, he naturally puts it on again next week. There are no other criteria, so to speak, and above all there is no impediment. If I have written down a chess game with a certain pen (there is compulsory notation) and I win it, then I simply take (can even do it almost unnoticed) the same pen the next day, for the next game. Me, superstitious? Nonsense.
But if I may examine it a little more concretely: The behaviour may seem logical on the surface. But it is not necessarily so. If we transfer the whole thing to playing, we get completely different results in some cases. I’ll give you an example of a consideration from a game of backgammon: “You’ve already shot me down twice when I left you the shot on the 5. Apparently you are good with 5s. This time I’ll let you have the 6, even though the move is actually wrong.” This or similar can then simply result in wrong decisions that are only deduced on the basis of a few observations. It seems obvious to me that this can lead to bad(er) results in the game.
In the same way, the general chasing after these, but then probably increasingly sparse, feelings of happiness is the main factor in gambling addiction: “Maybe today is my lucky day. I have to at least try.” The vicious circle that is then triggered by this hardly deserves mention. It cannot be stopped. Often enough, the variety of experiences in real life diminishes even more, because relationships break down, etc. People chase the long lost luck. People chase after the money they lost long ago and the feelings of happiness from gambling. And in fact it happens from time to time that you do win another day. That then sustains the addiction even more. The truth is that for those who are really addicted to gambling, the rolling of the roulette ball, figuratively speaking, is enough to make them excited and forget everything else around them. Why shouldn’t my number come right now?
2) My gambling addiction
For me, gambling has been the companion par excellence since childhood. I always had the one game that I played so intensively that everything else in the world lost importance. When I got to know and learn chess, which was probably not entirely by chance during the period of my parents’ separation, this form of addiction finally found the right channel, as I saw it at the time. I threw myself into the game. Everything else had almost no meaning any more (reading Vladimir Nabokov; Lushin’s Defence, to read up on it and feel it), at least for quite a while. The consequence of this is that you actually see pieces dancing before your eyes even at night, permanently calculating some chess position, which is completely pointless to boot, constructing a new position and on and on like that, it can actually rob you of sleep. And to this day I can’t quite get rid of it, especially as far as chess is concerned. It can come again, can happen even today when I’m not busy with chess or almost not playing at all.
This form of addiction is also anything but harmless. Because, for example, relationships are not so easy to manage when your partner senses that you are actually busy with something else, almost all the time. Moreover, if you are working on something in your mind, which in the end does not bring in any earnings, you still have to live from something. So that can also get in the way of earning a living. I had to take countermeasures in good time and I succeeded to a certain extent, at least in this respect.
Nevertheless, this is certainly not the only thing you meant by your question. First of all, I was pointing out my own susceptibility to this (perhaps any) form of addiction. There is only the one thing that occupies one’s mind. That is already addiction.
Gambling addiction is generally associated with money games. And of course I have this affinity there too, the danger exists. There are also quite a few examples and experiences with which I can (and voluntarily do; keyword “secrecy”) prove this.
In 1986 I had my “solidity attack”. My girlfriend at the time, Ilona, perhaps also had a small part in it. Or was it just advancing age? In backgammon, which was my main source of income at the time, there were a few incidents that also made me dislike playing (see chapter “”). Black Jack, too, was, at least for my limited budget, insufficient to earn money (you needed a budget, as my computer also confirmed to me, of about 25000 DM; and I didn’t have that). So I started my retraining, also in my special field, programming. Later, after a year, I would be allowed to call myself an EDP specialist in business, if all went well.
There were still a few weeks to go before the training started. It was summer. So I wanted to go on a trip with my girlfriend. I had about 3000 DM, which was enough for a nice holiday. And soon I didn’t need the money as a gambling budget any more. My education was financed, I had accommodation (again) with my father, who was of course delighted.
We rented a car and set off for South Tyrol. A wonderful night in a picturesque hotel in Merano. Then onwards, a little way south. We stopped at an open-air swimming pool on a truly glorious sunny day. There we enjoyed a few hours of sun and swimming, in solid balance. But somehow after a while I felt totally bored, dull and insipid. This was not my life. Something was missing. I tried another crossword puzzle. Nothing, boring, dull and insipid. Now I didn’t want to admit this to my girlfriend (certainly not to myself). My insidious plan: I steer her back into the car. I promise her a trip to a dream holiday destination. See Venice and then die, or what was it called?
My devious plan: I knew there was a gambling casino in Venice. And I wanted to lead them there as inconspicuously as possible. We actually reached Venice in the evening. We also reached the casino. However, the holiday mood was soon gone, namely when she saw through my plan. After the mood – my money was also lost. Not much, just a few hundred. But I didn’t even get to the Black Jack table and played a little roulette. The main thing is to gamble.
We left the same evening. No romantic dinner, no overnight stay. I drove through the night, back to South Tyrol. To be more precise, to Klausen. Because that’s where the annual chess tournament was… Keep playing, chess in a pinch.
3) Encounters with the gambling addiction of others