Home Gambling Outsmarting Yourself: How Cognitive Biases Alter Online Gambling Strategies

Outsmarting Yourself: How Cognitive Biases Alter Online Gambling Strategies

by Nina Smith

Cognitive biases subtly influence our everyday thinking and decision-making, often without us even realizing it. These biases can be especially influential in the high-stakes world of online gambling, where decisions are made quickly and the potential for reward can seem just a click away. Understanding these cognitive biases is not just an academic exercise; it’s a practical tool that can lead to more effective and strategic gambling online. By recognizing the patterns of our own thoughts, we can correct course, avoid common pitfalls, and make decisions that are more informed and less influenced by irrational biases.

What Are Cognitive Biases?

Cognitive biases are the mental shortcuts and errors in thinking that occur when our brain tries to simplify information processing. They’re like optical illusions of the mind; just as an optical illusion can trick our eyes, cognitive biases can trick our judgment. Common examples in everyday life include preferring something only because you’re familiar with it (familiarity bias) or overvaluing the latest information you’ve received (recency bias). These biases are not inherently bad; they help us make quicker decisions in a complex world. However, when it comes to gambling, these mental shortcuts can lead to systematic mistakes and costly errors in judgment.

Cognitive Biases in Gambling

Source: casino.betmgm.com

When we gamble online at NationalCasino online, for example, cognitive biases can distort our perception of risks and rewards. For example, after winning a few hands of poker, you might believe you’ve got a ‘hot hand’ and bet more aggressively, ignoring the fact that each hand is independent of the last. These biases can have serious consequences, such as chasing losses or gambling beyond one’s means. Recognizing the influence of cognitive biases on our gambling behaviors is the first step in developing strategies to mitigate their effects.

1. Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic bias makes us judge the probability of events by how easily examples come to mind. In online gambling, this could lead you to overestimate your chances of winning a jackpot because you recently read about someone’s big win. This skewed perception can result in making larger bets or playing more often than one should, under the false assumption that a win is more likely than the odds would suggest.

2. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias leads us to favor information that confirms our existing beliefs. During online gambling, if you believe a certain strategy works, you’re likely to notice all the times it pays off and ignore the times it doesn’t. This selective attention can cause you to stick with ineffective strategies, overlooking opportunities to adjust your approach and potentially improve your outcomes. For instance, if you win using a certain bet in roulette, you might continue using it, not because it’s statistically sound, but because it worked once.

3. Gambler’s Fallacy

Source: research.tamu.edu

The gambler’s fallacy is the mistaken belief that past random events affect future ones. In online gambling, this fallacy can lead you to think you’re ‘due’ for a win after a losing streak, compelling you to keep playing—and potentially losing—more. This mistaken belief that luck will change or that the outcome will ‘even out’ can result in escalating bets and increased losses. Understanding this fallacy is essential for maintaining realistic expectations and avoiding the pitfalls of chasing losses. It’s critical to remember that games of chance are independent of previous outcomes, and believing otherwise can be a costly misconception.

4. Anchoring Bias

Anchoring bias occurs when we rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive. In online gambling, the initial odds or a starting bet can anchor your decisions, impacting how you perceive subsequent offers or bets. This can lead to less-than-optimal betting decisions, as the initial ‘anchor’ can cloud your judgment of the true value of a gamble. If the first slot machine you play pays out, you might wrongly assume that it’s ‘lucky’ and continue to favor it, even when it’s no longer the most strategic choice. Overcoming this bias requires a conscious effort to assess each new piece of information on its own merits.

5. Overconfidence Bias

Overconfidence bias is when we overestimate our abilities, knowledge, or probability of success. In online gambling, this can manifest as placing larger bets because you’re overconfident in your strategy or ‘luck,’ often leading to significant losses. For example, a few successful poker games might make you overconfident in your bluffing skills, prompting riskier play. Recognizing when confidence is actually overconfidence can help in making more calculated and responsible gambling decisions.

6. Loss Aversion

Source: hitinvestments.com

Loss aversion describes our tendency to prefer avoiding losses rather than acquiring equivalent gains. For gamblers, the pain of losing $50 is often more intense than the pleasure of winning $50. This can influence gamblers to continue playing in an attempt to recoup losses, which may lead to a cycle of increased betting and potentially more losses. The effect of loss aversion can be seen when players refuse to quit after a losing streak, driven by the belief that their fortune must change.

7. Recency Bias

Recency bias is when recent events are given more significance in our decision-making than older ones. For online gamblers, a recent win or loss can overly influence betting choices, leading to decisions based on short-term outcomes rather than long-term odds. This can cause a gambler to make hasty bets in an attempt to capitalize on a ‘winning streak’ or to recover from recent losses, neglecting the independent nature of each bet. Recognizing recency bias can help in balancing the recent outcomes with the bigger picture and making decisions that are grounded in a more strategic understanding of gambling probabilities.

How to Outsmart Cognitive Biases

Outsmarting cognitive biases in online gambling involves being aware of these biases and actively taking steps to counteract them. This can include keeping detailed records of your bets to counteract the confirmation bias or taking breaks to reduce the influence of the availability heuristic. By developing strategies that promote rational decision-making, you can minimize the impact cognitive biases have on your gambling.


Being aware of cognitive biases is essential for anyone looking to improve their online gambling strategies. By understanding how these biases work and the effect they can have on your decision-making, you can start to outsmart them and make choices that are more informed and rational.