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Accurate Thinking Versus Wishful Thinking in Gambling

| July 17, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Positive Thinking vs Wishful Thinking

The premise of gambling is built upon the idea that you risk money in hopes of winning money.

Many people believe that this activity is based on luck. They also think that you can get luck on your side by praying enough, wearing your favorite shirt, or simply being hopeful.

A smaller percentage of gamblers know that the only true way to win money is by making the right decisions. Whether they realize it or not, this falls in line with the concept of accurate thinking.

Famed self-help author Napoleon Hill discussed accurate thinking in his 1925 book Law of Success. This work features 16 “lessons,” with accurate thought being Lesson 10.

Many people recognize Hill from another book that he wrote called Think and Grow Rich. This, as well as his other works, where the result of interviews he did with the most successful people of the early 1900s.

Like self-help authors before and after him, Hill discovered that our success is largely a product of our own decisions. Your thoughts and actions lead to success, poverty, happiness, or sadness.

Gambling falls in line with this concept because the choices you make and games you play determine how much you win or lose. This contrasts another concept called wishful thinking, where you simply hope that luck will be on your side.

Gamblers obviously want to be successful and win more money. And accurate thinking will help you move closer to this goal.

I’m going to discuss how you can get into the habit of making accurate decisions while avoiding the wishful thinking that plagues so many gamblers and causes them to lose.

What Is Wishful Thinking?

Wishful thinking involves anchoring your beliefs on what’s most pleasing to think about, rather than reality and what’s based on evidence.

Research shows that the average person focuses on positive outcomes during decisions while ignoring realistic or unpleasant possibilities. Studies also show that this line of thinking leads to negative results in many cases – the exact opposite of what wishful thinkers envision.

Wishful thinking sounds good in theory because it’s helpful to think positively. Plus, you can’t achieve success if you’re constantly focusing on the negative.

But this concept also differs in certain ways from positive thinking. The latter refers to having a vision, believing you can achieve it, and taking action to make it happen.

Another important trait of positive thinking is understanding the obstacles ahead. A positive thinker doesn’t just ignore potential downsides, but rather plans for how they can overcome them.

Wishful thinking is in many ways OPPOSITE to positive thinking.

The wishful thinker only focuses on creating ideal conditions, ignores possible drawbacks, and waits for good things to happen instead of acting.

English author Christopher Booker states it best, writing that wishful thinking is a fantasy cycle where people are driven by the expected ideal outcome. While one can experience short-term success with this concept, it ultimately leads to the “frustration stage,” where things begin to unravel.

Ultimately, those who venture too far into wishful thinking end up in the “nightmare stage,” where everything goes wrong, and their plan implodes.

Stock and cryptocurrency markets are full of wishful thinkers who pour money into low-market-cap companies under the dream that they’ll quickly take off.

The same investors ignore reality and facts while having blind faith that their holdings will increase. They also dismiss criticisms of their chosen stocks/cryptocurrencies as people trying to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt (a.k.a. FUD).

How Does Wishful Thinking Apply to Gambling?

Gambling is supposed to be about entertainment. And most gamblers can separate reality from fiction when playing casino games.

They may dream about winning a big slots jackpot or experiencing a hot blackjack streak. But they’re also grounded and realize that the average player doesn’t win thousands of dollars daily.

In contrast, wishful thinkers suspend reality in favor of chasing big payouts and identifying can’t-fail betting systems. Wishful gamblers come in multiple forms, from those who play house-banked casino games to players who think they can beat sports betting with only their fan knowledge.

Here are characteristics of a wishful thinker who plays progressive slot machines.

  • Only plays for the biggest jackpots
  • Ignores the low odds of hitting a huge jackpot – e.g., odds of winning the Megabucks slot jackpot are 1 in 49,836,032
  • Believes that they have a better chance of winning on a specific machine
  • Continues betting long past a reasonable amount under the belief that any spin can win

The slots player described above completely ignores the odds of winning a big jackpot.

It’s perfectly fine to get a few thrills from playing for an hour or two. The key thing to understand, though, is that each spin only has around 1 in 50 million odds of winning.

I’ll break down how long it theoretically takes you to win a multimillion-dollar jackpot.

  • You perform 600 spins per hour on Megabucks
  • You have 1 in 49,836,032 odds of winning the jackpot
  • 49,836,032 / 600 = 83,060 hours
  • 83,069 / 24 hours = 3,461 days
  • 3,461 / 365 days = 9.84 years to win the jackpot

You would have to play Megabucks for 24 hours per day for almost 10 years to win this jackpot. And given that nobody can play slots every single minute for a decade, this should be extended to 20 or 30 years to be realistic.

I won’t even get into the costs, because this varies based on the Megabucks jackpot at any given time. But considering that it costs $3 per spin to play Megabucks, few players would have the money to last until they hit the jackpot.

Wishful thinkers ignore logic and math, focusing instead on how any spin can bring them riches.

It’s true that you can get lucky and win a life-changing jackpot. But the key is to be realistic and know when it’s time to quit a gambling session.

Another type of wishful gambler is one who thinks that they can beat a skill game without putting in the necessary work. These players experience a successful session and think that this trend will continue, while ignoring previous results.

Here are characteristics of a wishful thinker who plays skill-based casino games.

  • Plays a challenging game like blackjack, daily fantasy sports, poker, or video poker
  • Skims over strategy basics
  • Relies on luck and self-proclaimed instincts to win – e.g., poker player who thinks they have a natural talent for bluffing
  • Profits from 1 out of every 4 sessions
  • Uses a winning session to justify why they’re a profitable player
  • Does little to improve strategy knowledge and skills

DFS and poker see the best players succeed. And it takes work to reach a point where you can become profitable at these games.

Wishful thinkers ignore studying strategy and instead focus on their own perceived natural abilities.

These gamblers also chalk up losing sessions to bad luck or some other uncontrollable force. They continue in this delusional state until they either lose all their money or give up because the game is “rigged.”

A wishful thinker doesn’t always have to be a losing gambler, either. It can be somebody who has some success but is too optimistic about how much money they can win.

Here’s an example.

  • A poker player wins 2 big blinds per hour in $1/$2Texas hold’em
  • They want to become a full-time pro someday
  • They currently only play one table at a time
  • But they fantasize about the ideal situation, where they multi-table 8 tables without suffering a drop in profit margin
  • This would move their current profit from $4 (2bb) to $32 (16bb) per hour

It’s still possible that this person could one day become a poker pro. But their path to making it happen isn’t realistic when looking at their current stakes and multi-tabling abilities.

What Is Accurate Thinking?

Napoleon Hill’s Law of Success features lots of good advice on how to be successful throughout its 16 lessons. But the 10th lesson on accurate thought is especially helpful for gambling and beyond.

Hill teaches readers that they must separate facts from regular information which may or may not be true.

A factual sports betting system is one that you’ve created and back-tested. Back-testing involves finding past games that match your system’s parameters and testing the strategy to see how many bets you would’ve won.

For example, a strategy that requires betting on home NBA underdogs who are coming off a 10-point loss or more must be tested under these same conditions.

Using a betting system based on trivial information could come from a forum user who claims that they’ve made $5,000 in profits within a week. Blindly using their strategy without back-testing would be a mistake.

You have no way to verify their claims. Furthermore, their success could merely be the result of luck, rather than great strategy.

Hill discusses how people should separate the information they come across into relevant and irrelevant.

Important info that’s backed with facts helps you develop a solid plan and achieve a realistic goal.

He further covers the importance of using good information by saying that this allows you to stay in control of your mind. The opposite is those who blindly follow info that they find on forums and websites without questioning if it’s factual or not.

Here are additional points from Hill on accurate thought.

  • You must think accurately to achieve great things
  • Never take opinions and random internet articles/videos as fact until you’ve verified them
  • You have control over your mind, and you choose whether to take good or bad information
  • Free info must be examined with prejudice – e.g., forum user opinions and random YouTube videos
  • Don’t make decisions based on emotions
  • Never allow others to think for you – i.e., accepting bad information without question
  • Develop good instincts to separate fact from opinion

How to Apply Accurate Thinking to Gambling

An accurate thinker works to find the best gambling information and improve their chances of winning. They’re also aware of what they must do to be a good gambler and how to create a plan of action.

Another trait of accurate thought is understanding the potential pitfalls of any game that you play. Knowing the obstacles gives you a more realistic chance of succeeding.

Here are several points that can help you become an accurate-thinking gambler and boost your profits.

Manage Your Bankroll Properly

One of the biggest downfalls of wishful thinking involves ignoring bankroll management. The same players don’t worry about their losses because they think that their luck will change at any minute.

The exact opposite happens in this case, where players continue losing and think that they’re victims of bad luck. An accurate thinker, in contrast, knows that bankroll management is important and can save them from a big losing session.

You don’t need to spend much time coming up with a bankroll plan. Instead, you simply need to think about the game you’re playing and budget accordingly.

Here’s a simple way to do blackjack bankroll management.

  • Find out how much disposable income you have
  • $3,000 in income after taxes minus $2,000 in monthly expenses = $1,000
  • Take half of this for a starting bankroll ($500)
  • Commit 20% of your income ($200) to your bankroll each following month
  • Decide your average bet size – i.e., $10
  • Break your bankroll down into units – 500 / 10 = 50 units
  • Set a stop-loss limit of 15 units for a session
  • Set a stop-win limit of 10 units for a session

Choose Casino Games That Give You Influence Over Results

If you’re just a recreational gambler who’s looking for some entertainment, then you can play non-skilled games within reason. But those who want to improve their chances of winning should consider games with a low house edge that let you influence the results.

Here are skill-based games that give you a good chance to win if you know proper strategy.

  • Blackjack
  • Craps
  • Daily fantasy sports
  • Poker
  • Sports betting
  • Video poker

You’ll notice that this list includes both games with a house edge and those that offer a chance to win long-term profits. You should choose the latter if you really want to be an accurate thinker who wins money.

These games are harder because you’re either competing against human opponents or faced with a situation where the casino doesn’t want you to win. But nothing worthwhile is easy.

I personally spend most of my time with games that allow me to earn long-term winnings. But you can also opt for basic blackjack strategy or non +EV video poker if you want a solid chance to win without putting much time into the matter.

Look for the Best Strategy to Improve Your Game

Finding basic strategy for Jacks or Better video poker isn’t difficult. You can find a lot of accurate information on this game across the internet.

But you must be more selective when trying to beat games like DFS, poker, and sports betting.

You’ll find unlimited information on these games because many people like to give their opinions. But the trick is wading through the bad strategy advice to find what helps you win.

For example, you don’t want to watch just any random poker player’s training videos on YouTube. They could claim to be a winner but not have the stats to verify it.

On the other hand, you can watch successful poker pros on Twitch and know that you’re getting good advice. The same goes for training videos from a player who’s currently playing well in tournaments and/or online cash games.

Another example is an article written by a great DFS player. You can search for their username on RotoGrinders or another site to see if they’re a winning player or not.

This isn’t to say that non-professionals don’t have insight into the games.

Professional writers may develop mastery by continually writing about strategy. But you can’t go wrong with advice from somebody who’s undoubtedly a winner.

Understand the Potential Problems Facing You, and Recognize When You’re Losing

Some gamblers have a problem being honest with themselves when things aren’t going well and they’re losing money. They often lie to friends and family about their success and only discuss their winning sessions.

I don’t fault these gamblers for not wanting to admit that they’re failing. But at the same time, ignoring challenges and lying to yourself is a recipe for long-term gambling losses.

One of the first steps in accurate thinking is identifying the obstacles that you’ll face.

Here’s an example using sports betting.

  • You must win 52.4% of your point-spread bets to break even (assuming 10% juice)
  • The average sports bettor loses money
  • You need to learn good handicapping skills to make informed bets
  • Good bankroll management is a must
  • It’s hard to find soft lines in major sports like football and basketball
  • Look for softer lines in baseball and hockey
  • You should eventually try to develop a winning system
  • Each system must be back-tested for accuracy
  • Most systems fail the back-test, meaning you’ll have to develop multiple strategies

The next step is to evaluate your results on a regular basis and determine what needs to improve.

Gambling results can be volatile in the short-term. Therefore, you can’t put all the emphasis on short-term wins and losses.

But you should look at the process for how you gamble and determine if anything must be changed to improve.

If you’re only dedicating one hour to learning poker strategy per week and don’t feel confident in your game, then you should look to increase this number.

Realize That the Impossible Is Possible

Becoming a profitable gambler isn’t easy. Many people enjoy this activity and dedicate time to improving.

But you must beat the casino or human opponents – depending upon the game/advantage-play method – to be a long-term winner.

This can seem impossible at times, especially when you’re on the wrong side of volatility and experiencing heavy losses. But like Hill advises, you also need to realize that the impossible can be possible.

The wealthy people whom he interviewed for his books thought differently from regular people and overcame immense obstacles to accomplish amazing feats.

Being a successful gambler isn’t impossible. In fact, thousands of pro gamblers are making a lucrative living from the game today.

But if you set your sights on the impossible and create a plan to reach these lofty goals, then you likely won’t be disappointed if you only end up making a good living gambling.

Condition Your Subconscious for Success

Both wishful thinkers and actual thinkers envision positive results. But only one of these groups subconsciously believes that they can reach their goals.

You can dream of accomplishing the impossible all you want. If you don’t believe it on a subconscious level, though, it’s not going to happen.

If you don’t really think that you can win money with daily fantasy over the long run, then you won’t just luck into being a consistent winner. Likewise, you’re probably not going to win a big poker tournament if you can’t imagine it happening.

Henry Ford, one of the men whom Hill interviewed, once said something very apt.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

You must believe that you can become a winning gambler. Otherwise, everything will be off, including your focus, strategy learning, confidence, and handling emotions.

A good way to gradually change your subconscious for the better is by repeating daily affirmations. You can tell yourself in the mirror that you’ll be successful at your game of choice again and again.


Gambling is a great way to compare the actual thinker to the wishful thinker. Progressive slots addicts are a perfect example of wishful thinking, because, against all odds, they believe they’ll win the jackpot.

Those who subscribe to the gambler’s fallacy – where one thinks that past results can dictate future outcomes – are another example.

These people often believe that they’re due for a win after a losing streak because their luck must turn around. But these same gamblers fail to see that the odds don’t change just because they’ve lost a few bets in a row.

Accurate thinking uses the same positive thoughts as wishful thinking, except with more substance and realism.

This concept combines positive thoughts, understanding obstacles, a plan of action, and the ability to overcome adversity. Accurate thought is much more appealing than hoping that divine intervention delivers you a big gambling win.

If you want to be successful with gambling and win more money, then you need to forget wishful thinking and instead adopt the principles of accurate thought.



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