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Gambling and Stress and How They Mix

The bottom line but at the top: men respond to stressful situations by taking more dangerous risks, while women become more cautious.

The University Of Southern California did a lot of research to come up with that little gem but stop and think about it. Why are there more men gambling on racing than women? Think about the last time you spent any time in a TAB - yes, I know, ancient history with the advent of on line gambling - but remember how many more men there were in there than women.

What's the split if you go to the races? (Does ANYONE actually go any more apart from the trainers, owners, jockeys?) The theory on men / women gambling / risk taking is underscored by the cave man and women scenario where it was more beneficial in ancient times

if men became more aggressive in threatening situations while women - who were more likely to be looking after children - became more cautious. True? Well, I guess if you think about it, it would seem logical.

Here's an interesting stress / gambling test done by an American Journal who were experimenting with 48 volunteers to play a gambling game on a computer.

Using a mouse and keyboard, the volunteers were asked to inflate a balloon on the screen using a virtual pump.
They were told that each stroke of the pump earned them five cents and that they could stop and cash in their earnings at any time.

However, they were also told that the balloon would burst once it reached a randomly chosen size - and if it did, they would lose all their money.

The volunteers were then split into two groups. Using an established technique to mimic stress, the scientists asked half the volunteers to plunge their hand in a jug of icy water for three minutes before they carried out the test.
(The icy water was designed to raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream.)

The 'control' group were asked to put their hand in water at room temperature. Their stress levels did not increase.

Among the control group, men and women were just as risky as each other - inflating the balloon about 40 times on average before taking the cash.
However, when the groups were stressed, women inflated the balloon an average of 32 times, while men inflated it 48 times.

So what sort of gambling decisions do you make when you're under stress? And the stress can be caused by any number of events in a gambling situation as you are probably well aware. Guaranteed are things like the word "protest", the murmurings filtering through in words like "don't forget we're going over to Sonya's this afternoon for a few drinks before the school play", or that seemingly unlikely run of outs where everything heads 'em up at the 200 only to get run down "in the shadows of the post" as the breathlessly excited race caller is delighted to tell you, over and over and over again, like he's just called the most memorable race ever heard in the history of mankind.

Now while you are enjoying an afternoon on the punt, it is highly likely (almost unavoidable) that you will enjoy (or probably not enjoy) periods of stress. So do racing car drivers. And golfers. And footballers. (Ever wondered why that is the case that all sport thrives on stress?).

How you deal with it and manage it will UNDOUBTEDLY determine your outcome. And it's not simply a matter of "take a few deep breaths" or "learn to relax more".

You DO need change how you think about stress: we also need to recognise that there are some things in our lives that we can’t control. Try to focus on the things you can control. Remember that being able to accept situations that are beyond your control is, paradoxically, a way of exercising control because you choose to let it go.

You cannot determine if a protest is going to be upheld or dismissed. You can't determine if this jockey or that jockey has had a bad night's sleep last night (for any number of reasons that may or may not be in play in his/her life at the moment - just like in yours) and is likely to make a bad decision or two mid race today, and you can't control if the horse even feels sick. And they often do - just like humans.

You ABSOLUTELY have to accept that there are many factors involved in whether you win or lose that you cannot influence or control in any way whatsoever.

It's why when a horse you've chosen based on whatever method you are employing salutes and pays $4.00 a win, you are getting 300% interest for one or two minutes investment and why the banks only pay 5% for investment for a year. The risk factors in racing are billions of times greater over a year than the risk factors in putting your money in a bank.

If you are gambling and losing at the time and feeling stressed about it - STOP. Stressed people simply make bad decisions because of the "fight or flight" natural hormones that are surging through your veins at the time of high levels of stress. Walk away from the computer. Go outside for half an hour or an hour - clean up the shed. What's that? You'll miss a race or two?

Big *!^^**!* deal! You should never be betting in a manner (read staking plan - oh dear, here we go again) that should matter if you miss a race or two here and there because NO ONE can be there for every race of every day, 365 days a year, NO ONE! Not even me - and I have tried. It can't be done.

The ultimate de-stresser of course is to bet at level stakes on pre-ordained runners - set and forget - but a lot of punters don't like doing that for obvious reasons. But there are other things you really can do to relieve overall stress levels and thereby make more sensible / profitable gambling decisions along the way. Now without going into the loopy world of alternative medicines or the navel gazing hippy world (what is that wonderful smelling incense you've got burning?), here are few things you can do to reduce your overall stress levels.

1. Learn to say NO. You don't have to do everything that is asked of you. Your gambling time is your down time - just like the people who spend all day watching pay TV. (Isn't that wonderful - every 7 minutes some clown is on there flogging death insurance - here's a great programme - now every 7 minutes we're going to tell you you're about to die......good grief)

2. Exercise - and I don't mean getting dressed up in lycra and heading off to some smelly gym watching fat people pretend they're not - just go for walk before you start gambling. Half an hour will make you feel more interested in sitting in front of a screen trying to make a quid - and remind you of why you are doing it - because it's better than working.

3. Meditate - this is where it gets really spooky and "is this guy losing his mind" stuff. It is no big deal. Try it. The idea is to calm the mind by simply being at one with what’s going on, without judging it or reacting to it and without letting your focus drift to the past, the future or anything that’s not happening in the moment. In other words: mindfulness: focussing on absolutely nothing - blank - black - and dismissing any thoughts about anything that keep trying to pop in to you head

You can practice mindfulness in a sitting position like you would with meditation generally, (now while you're reading this on your computer screen - stop - close your eyes - try it - I promise it works) but you can also do it during everyday activities like walking, washing or eating as long as it’s safe and practical to do so. Do that for ten minutes and you will feel refreshed and less stressed and you will make better gambling decisions.

Women however tend to be more adept at doing this than men which is why men take more risks generally than women - especially under stress. So now we're exactly back to the bottom line which is where we started this article.

This article is copyright 2012 . All rights reserved. May be copied freely for personal use and yes you can put it up on your web page providing this copyright notice stays in tact.

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