Most gambling websites these days espouse some sort of ‘system’ to beat the odds, a special strategy designed to help you win real money gambling—and beat the house. Some of these systems are sound, especially when dealing with ways to minimize the house edge. Other systems are mere superstition, like most of the strategies associated with roulette.
However, the single greatest tool you have in your arsenal as a gambler is located right between your ears. Learning how to train your brain is the best way to become a better gambler. The following brain hacks will help you become a better gambler, by reprogramming the way you think and react while gambling.
It’s a Mental Game
Gambling isn’t just about probability, random results, or luck. The decisions you make while gambling need to be logical, calculated, and smart, otherwise you’re well on your way to ruin. Professional poker players have learned that memory and discipline are more important that the cards they draw by chance. Pros didn’t get to where they are by making rash decisions or by following gut hunches. They got to where they are by hard work.
And the brain can be trained like the body. In order to become a better gambler, you will need to break old habits and learn new ones, control emotional responses in stressful situations, and increase your memory. The following basic practices will boost your memory and logical thought processes to make you a better gambler.
Exercise for Body and Mind
Just as physical exercise builds better bodies, it also benefits mental processes. Cardiovascular exercise has the most impact on brain function, as it increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Scientists have studied the effects of cardiovascular exercise on brain function, and have proven that it improves children’s grades. This is why every school has a physical education department; it’s not just for junior athletes in training.
You don’t have to hit the weights or excel in basketball to see the benefits of exercising for your brain’s sake. If you’re sedentary (as most of us who work in offices are), the epic journey starts with the first step. Vigorous walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming all add the benefits of a cardiovascular workout to your routine.
Once you have all that extra oxygen pumping to your brain cells, you’ll find that you’re able to remember things easier, and focus on details more efficiently. You can also exercise your mind by learning new things. Learning to play a musical instrument or speaking a new language adds brain power. Even doing crossword puzzles or playing scrabble with difficult opponents opens up new avenues in your thinking process.
Yoga and Meditation
Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a New Age, kale-munching trend puppet who does yoga and meditates. The main benefit of meditation is to simplify your thought processes by concentrating on breathing. By focusing on one thing at a time (in this case, breathing), you develop mindfulness. This helps you to hyper focus on important details (breathing is really important), while letting unimportant ‘noise’ fall away into the background.
In the chaotic 21st century, traffic noise, chatter, laughter, and the incessant bleeping of our smart devices—all add up to mental clutter. Meditation is a great way to learn how to ‘cut through the noise’ for better mental clarity and peace of mind, two very important traits to have while gambling.
And the whole point of yoga isn’t just striking painful poses with ridiculous animal names. The stretching is good for your body, and when combined with mindful breathing exercises, passes on more power to you in the form of mental energy.
Vary Your Daily Routine
Old habits are counterproductive for a healthy brain. While it’s important to develop habits in order to do important things without thinking about them (like driving to work), repetitive tasks can also make the brain lazy. Try taking a new route to work, cycle instead of driving, or try public transport. Even taking a taxi to work once in a while takes you out of the driver’s seat and lets you relax.
Even changing your bedtime is a way of breaking habits and getting out of a rut. Once you can see things from a wider point of view, your brain will be more receptive to the small details of card counting, blackjack strategy, or reading the ‘tells’ of a bluffing poker player.
A Palace of the Mind
One of the oldest mind hacks dates back to ancient times. Using a mnemonic, a visual reference tool to aid memory, dates back to ancient Greece (hence the funny spelling). Associating imagery and memorable phrases with important concepts allows us to better store, memorize, and retrieve this information. Mnemonics are especially useful for mathematics, foreign languages, or lists.
Use a ‘memory palace’ as a mental playground to store important information. There are 2 basic types of memory, natural and learned. As the brain is capable of quickly learning geographical data (where we live, go to school, work, etc.), it is also capable of learning vast amounts of new data.
A memory palace is an imaginary building which exists in your mind. You can imagine a familiar place, or make one up. Mentally ‘walk’ through this geographic mindscape enough to memorize every part of the ‘palace.’ Next, add various stops on your imaginary tour; in each stop, you can place a fact. An obvious use for this technique would be a strategy chart for blackjack or a starting hands chart for Texas Hold’em.
Resting and Napping
Just as the brain needs blood and oxygen to survive, it needs a good amount of rest to recharge. It’s obvious that prolonged sleep deprivation destabilizes us and causes major breakdown in cognitive functions (which is why it is so effective in interrogations). So make sure to get plenty of rest to ensure your brain is in the best possible condition for learning and cognitive reasoning; you’ll need it at the casino.
Studies have shown that taking a one hour nap after studying can improve your memory retention greatly. We do the greatest amount of our core learning between birth and age 7, during which time we learn to walk, talk, develop our sense of self, and socialize with others. This is why there is so much napping involved in early schooling; naps help young minds learn faster and retain more. So make time for a power nap after a brain hacking session; you’ll be glad you did.
All of these brain hacks are design to improve mental performance, memory retention, and cognitive control. They will not make you smarter, but they will give you the ability to make smarter choices at the card table.
In the end, the best way to become a better gambler is to not be consumed by gambling. Professional gamblers, or ‘grinders’ as some of them call themselves, are applying carefully-proven techniques to give them an edge at the table. They do not gamble for the ‘gambler’s rush’ or the adrenaline of the experience. This would be allowing emotion and gut instincts to rule the day. And this does not lead to playing poker more effectively; it leads to gambling addiction.
What’s the difference between a life-long professional poker player and a gambling addict? Discipline. A true poker pro always knows when to fold ‘em and walk away. There’s always another day.