The Psychology of Almost Winning

There is a reason why Friday feels so good.  Some people have even started celebrating Friday on Thursday.   These people call Thursday, Friday Eve.   The weekend is when we get to relax and be with our families.  Friday is the day that comes with the anticipation of Saturday and Sunday.  So Friday feels good because it is the last day before a potentially great weekend.  This feeling is the exact same feeling that we get when we play the lottery and almost win.

The casino takes the concept of almost winning a step further.  The colorful bright lights, and the celebratory noise of the slot machines fill every casino environment.  So when a person enters into the casino, they already fell like they have won.  To add to this effect, there are usually no clocks on the wall at the casino.  So not only do you feel like you have won when you walk into the casino, there are no clocks to keep track of time.

The slot machine has its own mechanisms for almost winning.  Slot machines have been known to trap people with its promise of almost winning for hours and hours.  The slot machine is the siren of the casino.  Its celebratory sounds call you as soon as you enter the casino.  The gateway to gambling often starts through a slot machine.  The price of playing a slot machine is a mere quarter.  In some casino’s there are penny slot machines.  Play a penny, win $500.  Play a quarter, win $1000.  What better way to leverage your spare change than to spend it playing the slot machine.

The slot machine allows you to almost win.  When you pull the lever to a slot machine, you usually have to match three out of three symbols to win the jackpot.  Many times the slot machine matches 2  out of 3 symbols allowing you to experience the feeling of almost winning.  The euphoria felt by matching 2 out of 3 symbols produces enough dopamine from our bodies to keep us playing until we are broke.  The anticipation of the win increases the level of dopamine in the brain.  The dopamine triggers reward-motivated behavior that encourages us to play the slot machine again.

Playing the lottery releases a smaller level of dopamine.  There is rarely a feeling of almost winning because the odds of winning are so much higher than a slot machine.  The higher level of dopamine, the more addictive a game can be.  This reason is why going to the casino is addictive and playing the lottery can be looked on as a hobby and not a bad habit.  So keep on playing the lottery, it is good to have one hobby that could eventually pay off big.

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