How to Know if You’re a Gambling Degenerate

By J.W. Paine in Casino
| August 4, 2022 11:38 am PDT
Woman screaming at a slot machine, colored dice

Songs, movies, and even books of poetry have been written about the degenerate gambler, but oddly enough, many people aren’t aware of what a degenerate gambler really is.

They hear someone described as a degenerate gambler, and they think the term is like calling someone an inebriated drunk—you know, kind of an uber-drunk or uber-gambler. But that’s not the case.

Another term for the gambling degenerate would be a compulsive gambler—which more obviously names the malady.

The degenerate gambler has been the subject of many movies. Still, one of the best also happens to be one of the first—the 1974 movie, The Gambler, starring James Caan as a literature professor who also happens to be a degenerate gambler of the first order. And this was all before the advent of the internet and the proliferation of the best online casinos!

Let’s move right along to see if any signs below give you a head’s up if you’re a degenerate gambler or not.

What Is Degenerate Gambling?

Beat-up poker player

People who gamble recreationally—those who don’t live to gamble but certainly enjoy the excitement of risking a couple of bucks on the World Series—are not degenerate gamblers.

Any activity can be overdone, with so much emphasis placed on it that all else fades into the background or disappears. Hardcore degenerate gamblers, like alcoholics, often need to hit rock bottom before admitting that they may have a little bit of a gambling problem.

So, is it bad to be a degenerate gambler? Well, in a word, yes. It’s never good to ignore reality and convince yourself that you have an uncanny knack for picking the winners.

Just because one 10-spot quick-pick in the keno lounge netted you a grand for your one-dollar bet doesn’t mean you are suddenly a keno ninja.

Incidentally, were you aware that the collective noun for gamblers is “talent”? That’s right. There’s a murder of crows, a pod of whales, a bike of bees—and a talent of gamblers. Kinda cool, right?

Do you know what the collective noun for degenerate gamblers is? There isn’t one. Like there isn’t a collective noun for the slowest antelope in the herd.

Unless you count “lunch,” of course.

Are You a Degenerate Gambler?

It’s usually easy to identify a degenerate gambler—they’re the ones who will bet on anything, seem to know the arcane rules of games you’ve never heard of, and spend the fall of each year upgrading their cable/satellite subscriptions for all the NBA, MLB, NCAA, And NFL seasons.

Here are some of the more prevalent signs of gambling degeneration to watch out for below.

Everything’s a Competition

Everyone knows that one horse can outrun another, but which one? And did you know the same holds true for cockroaches, turtles, 747s, and chickens?

If you find yourself betting on a race between two chickens (or two cockroaches), Bill Paxton said it best: “Game over, man! Game over!”

Proposition bets (usually called prop bets) are mother’s milk to the degenerate gambler. These are often bizarre wagers that can (and are) based on anything and everything. Here are a few of the wildest prop bets we’ve seen in the past few years.

It bears repeating: Degenerate gamblers will bet on anything. If you’re at this point, you can give up all pretense of being a conscientious punter with an eye for the hidden value and a head for lightning-quick odds calculations. You are a degenerate gambler.

We Don’t Need No Stinking Bankroll Management

Failure to set specific limits on how much you will wager is life-changing—and not in a good way. It’s common folk wisdom among gamblers (most people) that you should never “bet the farm.”

Of course, you should not bet everything dear to you on a single outcome, whether it be a horse race, a prize fight, an NBA playoff game, or the flip of a coin.

Good Strategy vs. Lucky Penny

Lucky rabbit's foot

That lucky watch your dad gave you has a great story behind it, no doubt, but its usefulness in affecting the outcome of any contest that involves wagering (and don’t they all?) is negligible to the extreme. Or, to put it more bluntly, that lucky watch isn’t lucky at all. And worse, it never was.

And sure, having confidence in yourself can be beneficial to gamblers. Still, any little edge confidence gives you pales in comparison to the power of actually knowing a good solid strategy in wagering, mainly if you gamble for real money online.

And knowing the value of the wagers themselves isn’t enough—you need to understand the game itself and what the players involved bring to the game.

The Thrill of it All

The degenerate gambler isn’t intent on winning (despite what they tell themselves). They are not, as it’s said, “in it to win it.” Instead, they get an emotional high or a physical rush from taking the risk itself.

People with little to no interest in gambling also have similar compulsions. We call them adrenaline junkies and often admire their bravery (*cough*foolhardiness*cough*) from the safety of our recliners.

For the adrenaline junkie, it’s the thrill and excitement of the act itself, not the fame or monetary reward when they succeed. Likewise, a degenerate gambler will often find that a big win seems rather anti-climactic—mostly because he got his happy ending in the wager itself.

Longtime Fan, First-time Gambler

Sportsbook room

Many degenerate gamblers were the first big fans of the sports they now bet on.

They know who Iman Shumpert of the Cleveland Cavaliers is married to, and they know what Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry’s base salary for 2022-2023 is.

The superfluous information the degenerate gambler possesses about the stars of their chosen sports is staggering, phenomenal—useless. Knowing Curry will bank more than $48 million in 2022 is useless in determining how he will perform in a game this season.

At the poker table, the degenerate gambler may be vaguely aware of a concept called pot odds (and may have even heard the phrase “implied odds” bandied about somewhere). Still, they cannot determine whether a call is wise under certain pot conditions and unwise under other conditions.

A good poker player would be aware of this. A degenerate gambler, however, typically goes all-in.

My Adaptation of the Martingale System Is Foolproof

Poker chips stacked

I’d be rich if I had a system for determining how useless most gambling systems are. Wait a minute. I already have that system. It’s called the ability to reason and think logically.

And yet, I’m not rich. Hmmm.

Well, that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that there is absolutely no game based on random numbers that a system can predict.

The notorious Martingale System at the roulette table is a perfect example of this.

Sure, it’s very likely the ball will land on red eventually, but doubling your bet every time the ball does not land on red is not going to make you rich when red eventually hits.

No. You’ll get your money back from all the losing bets, plus a small profit equal to your original bet. Incidentally, if you genuinely believe in the Martingale system, then be aware that it has been around since the 1800s.

It was developed on principles first observed by famed Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli, who considered such a wagering system doomed to failure.

If the Choice Is “Go Big or Stay at Home,” You Never Stay at Home

There is no bet that it would not be more attractive if it doubled or tripled. Why three-bet when you can all-in? Man, that’s drama, pal! That’s excitement! That’s sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads!

But as much of a thrill as it is to put it all on the line (and that frisson is inarguably a heady experience), it’s all too often accompanied by immediate depression when the wager goes south.

Everybody You Hang Out with Is a Degenerate Gambler

Degenerate gambler t-shirt

Remember high school when all the goths hung out in one area, the jocks in another, and the ladies out behind the gym?

Well, that’s life in a nutshell, pal. Hanging out with people of similar interests is natural for humans. That applies to people who like to knit, who enjoy watching Game of Thrones, and, yes, who are degenerate gamblers.

Think about it. When you and your friends get together, do you offer another sage advice on new betting systems and must-try parlays? Do your buddies seem to throw good money after bad?

Speaking of which—how’s your bankroll?

Stop trying to convince your pals that they’d have money to burn if they’d go in on the 6-way parlay you worked out this morning. Admit it: All your friends are degenerate gamblers.

It’s Sure to Work This Time

Another characteristic of the degenerate gambler is the skill with which they convince themselves that repeating the same actions that resulted in their losses the last 50 times will somehow result in a big jackpot this time.

Like the associated “one last big heist” syndrome so popular in the movies, the degenerate gambler vows to quit—just as soon as they win this last big jackpot, the one that will erase all their gambling debts and put them on easy street.

Unfortunately, even if they succeed and, against all odds, pull off the big one, they are equally adept, and convincing themselves the big win proves that their gambling skill is unparalleled in modern times. Good thing they have their bookie on speed-dial, eh?

How to Avoid Gambling Degeneracy

If you’ve seen yourself in any of the above-noted scenarios, you might be a degenerate gambler. But don’t despair. Forewarned is forearmed.

Now that you know (or suspect) that you might have a problem, you can begin to work on the solution.

  • Try concentrating on accomplishing the steps below that would counter any “degenerate gambler” attributes you may have noted.
  • Determine a good, workable bankroll amount for yourself that does not require signing over your house, car and firstborn child to somebody named Vinnie.
  • If necessary, cultivate new friends. If everyone around you is losing their minds over a new “sure-fire” gambling strategy, perhaps a book club would make for a pleasant and inexpensive change.
  • Discover the joy of betting smaller. Just like the overeater develops the discipline to enjoy (and be satisfied with) smaller portions, a degenerate gambler must taper off from their habit of big bets.
  • Consider the circumstances under which you have made illogical wagers. Were you drunk? Angry at your spouse? Was it Tuesday?

Whatever triggers you to gamble, discover it posthaste, and then work out ways to avoid that situation. If regular arguments with your spouse seem to be the harbinger of 6-way parlays, stop arguing or stop gambling after arguing.

And since it isn’t likely, you’ll stop arguing and clamp down on the bets tout suite.

Is Solitaire the Only Game in Town?

Solitaire on the computer

So, how do you know if you’re a gambling degenerate? If you tend to gamble compulsively, you will want to stay away from venues that encourage gambling. Unless you meet several of the criteria set out in the “Are You a Degenerate Gambler?” section above, the odds are very good that you are not, in fact, a degenerate gambler.

But if you checked a couple of boxes on that list, perhaps a little caution is warranted.

In the final analysis, there’s nothing wrong with a slight tendency to be impulsive, particularly at the poker table. The introduction of unpredictability can alter your opponents’ impressions of you, and any time you can encourage a foe to believe something untrue, you have an advantage.

And if online sports betting is your game, then your math skills should be among the most well-used tools in your arsenal. The number and complexity of wagers can be daunting, but closing your eyes and taking a wild guess at the appropriate bet will get you into deeper trouble faster.

Fun Fact
Degenerate gamblers represent less than 7% of the entire gambling population.

Impulse won’t do anything but lose your money here, so leave it at home. The trick is to know when and how to use that impulse rather than be directed by it.

Let it be just one of the tools in your growing toolbox of gambling skills, right beside your skill at calculating odds, your ability to see value bets in parlay wagers, and your wisdom in knowing when to walk away.

If, on the other hand, you’ve found this blog to be educational and entertaining—but the subject matter is of little pertinence to you, then, by all means, check out how to identify and curb FOMO at the casino below.

How to Identify and Curb FOMO at the Casino

What is FOMO? Simply put, it stands for Fear of Missing Out, and while the concept is new to the 21st Century, the sensation it describes has been with us since the Ice Age. It’s a side effect of our built-in survival mechanism. Well, that sounds...

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