Is It a Bad Idea to Use YOLO Logic When Gambling?

By J.W. Paine in Casino
| August 5, 2022 10:51 am PDT
you only live once text with gambling imagery

YOLO—You Only Live Once—has seen a lot of use in the past few years, and even though it is currently in disrepute among the glitterati, it is still a useful term to describe the devil-may-care attitude many take toward life in general.

So what about YOLO at the casino? Is it good? Bad? A little of each?

Incidentally, YOLO seems to be more prevalent among people in crowds or with a gang of friends in attendance. It’s far less likely to show up when one is alone. Hmmm. Maybe a good time to take a look at those safe online casinos we keep talking about.

This phrase has become something of a battle-cry in the past decade or so. It encourages us to take risks, experience new things, and sometimes, to dare to live greatly. First used around the turn of the new century, it identified a certain giddy outlook on an uncertain future.

The Y2K crisis still loomed in the immediate future, and a planet where the dominant species quaked at the thought of all of civilization being eradiated because of what basically amounted to a rounding error.

Suddenly, people who were not supposed to seriously entertain thoughts of their own mortality were doing just that.

And one of their most popular reactions was a shrug of the shoulders and a brave “what else ya got?” For a brief period of time, YOLO was a battle cry against the pessimism inspired by multiple (and often chimeric) crises.

Where did “YOLO” Come From?

Who it was that first coined “YOLO “ is debatable. It might have been a reality show contestant who popularized it in 2004. Or it may have first been used to name a ranch in California in the mid-‘90s.

Or it could have come from a clothing company in Pennsylvania, which began in 1996 as YOLO Sportswear—except that company’s own website attributes the YOLO to a license plate seen in the mid-1980s that read “YOLO”.

Sure, we could just agree with Drake, the Canadian singer who claims to have created and popularized YOLO himself on a mix tape in the early 2010s, and who even “jokingly” considered seeking royalties from “YOLO” merchandise he found being sold in Walgreens and Macy’s.

It really doesn’t matter who claims the created it—the concept has been around for centuries, and many of the terms to describe it are eerily similar to “you only live once.”

Think I’m kidding? The roman poet Horace coined the phrase “carpe diem” (“seize the day”) in 23 BC. Since then, the “devil take the hindmost” attitude has been expressed in a multitude of ways, from ”gather ye rosebuds while ye may” to “here, hold my beer.”

Carpe deim has been around for ages, yet YOLO in its current coinage has already worn out its welcome among the glitterati. Only a couple of years after it achieved popularity, it was already being dissed on Twitter.

So go ahead. Call it what you will—carpe diem, you only live once, YOLO, tempus fugit, or—as the 18th century German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe pointed out in his play, Clarissa: “man lebt nur einmal.”

Oh, by the way, Goethe made a rookie mistake there: “MLNE” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue with the same grace as “YOLO.” Way to blow your shot at meme immortality, Gerty.

The Psychology of YOLO

According to an article in Psychology Today, YOLO is most prevalent in people following a traumatic event in their life, and it results in a beneficial growth of character, in that the traumatized—after the initial period of shock—often develop a newfound appreciation for life.

The article says that these people are also much more likely to devote more time to what they truly enjoy, with a consequent diminishment of concern about things that previously had resulted in stress.

The article concludes that being reminded of the scarcity of life (or its limited duration) results in focusing on more positive and enjoyable aspects of that life.
mae west quote

But it’s not all good news on the YOLO front. That same article also had some more ominous things to say about this phrase.

According to psychologists, some people are ironically encouraged to indulge in self-destructive behavior after being reminded of the scarcity of life. After being reminded of their own mortality, men will often respond by driving more recklessly.

Good or bad, it looks like we’re stuck with YOLO—however we choose to express it. We’re all hard-wired for it, too. We just need to concentrate on the good the attitude can engender and ignore or avoid the destructive behavior it can inspire.

That may be harder than it looks.

Good YOLO in Gambling

Shakespeare, who already said everything worth being said centuries ago—and more eloquently, I might add—pointed out in Julius Caesar:

”Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.”

That said, let’s recognize that not everything considered a YOLO decision is actually someone tapping into that “you only live once” ideology.

Let’s call it Faux-YOLO, but just this once.

Seriously, though, there are decisions that we jokingly call “YOLO” choices that really aren’t risks at all. For instance, changing your hair color from brown to green isn’t life-threatening, and neither is getting a tattoo, nor betting red on the next spin of the roulette wheel.

But we all might still throw our hands in the air dramatically and shout “YOLO!”—if for no other reason than to prove we still have access to irony.

On the other hand, jumping into the pool from the high dive is an actual YOLO—because while you’re almost certainly not risking your life, you are overcoming your fear of heights, your fear of falling, and your fear of being laughed at after you belly flop from a great height.

He was recognizing that people are often too fearful of the unknown or of any sort of risk, for that matter—and they need to man up and take the shot.

chips all in

In that respect, this odd approach does encourage us to try a new experience, and that—within reason—is a good thing. Ah, but there’s the rub: When does reasonable darken into unreasonable?

Life itself is risk—we all know that (or should) and overcoming the fear of failure is often a defining moment in our lives.

This mindset at the casino is particularly prone to disaster as well as success. If thinking like this gets you to sit down at the pai gow table (perhaps discovering a game that you have a natural flair for playing)—that’s a good thing.

If it encourages you to bet red on the best roulette apps after the roulette wheel has hit black 17 times in a row, that’s neither a good nor a bad thing. As long as that’s not the deed to your ranch we see there on the wagering grid…

Overcoming fear of failure in non-life-threatening situations is usually a good thing, mostly because fear is usually a counter-productive emotion.

So, is leaning on the idea that you only live once a philosophy for gambling? No. Heck, it’s not even a philosophy, no more than “have a nice day” is a match for Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Deciding whether taking up this slanted view or not of a particular action is nothing more than a personal choice. It will be good or bad depending on the results of that action. Frankly, by the very virtue of considering whether a YOLO choice will have a good result or a bad result removes it from the YOLO classification.

Bad YOLO in Gambling

Is this a bad strategy when gambling ? First of all, by now you’re aware that YOLO is not in itself a strategy, no more than “smile for the camera” is a strategy for being the President.

A strategy is a plan—a set of actions chosen to arrive at a specific result and modelled to respond to the specific obstacles expected during that particular task.

A strategy is the exact opposite of operating based on only living once. Strategy shows up at the casino with multi-step plans, odds charts, pictures with arrows and circles on them—heck, even entire PowerPoint presentations. Strategy is prepared AF.

YOLO shows up wearing a tee-shirt that says “I’m with stupid.”

Let me put that another way: YOLO is all too often used to short-circuit our reasoning ability so we can do something we may want to do but secretly understand will almost certainly have bad results for us. Going all-in with 7-2 unsuited at the $5/$10 NL Hold’em table comes to mind.

So does making that second visit to the ATM after blowing your initial bankroll on the progressives.

Nobody shouts “YOLO” when they’re winning. It is invariably something said just before making that last bet, the one that ensures you’ll be walking home. In fact, many of the driving characteristics of someone under the influence of YOLO are also signs of a degenerate gambler.

Only poor results require an excuse—and YOLO is far too weak a concept to carry the weight of crushing stupidity. Every time you shrug your shoulders and say “YOLO,” are you honestly trying to accomplish something good—and more importantly, do you have a realistic chance of succeeding?

Betting it all on red might be fine for the person who is down to their last few bucks and needs to score a big win. At that point, the gambler has little to lose and much to gain, and he or she may consider the reward worth the risk.


Remember this: YOLO is not a gambling strategy, and neither is desperation. In gambling as in life, desperation is not a good fashion statement.

Sure, if YOLO helps you propose to your significant other in front of the Bellagio fountains, then it’s a good, benevolent thing. On the other hand, if you only invoke YOLO just before you urinate in that same fountain after your proposal is rebuffed, well, then—good call on choosing your YOLO moment, there, compadre.

Hope you make bail.

Famous Last Words

say yolo again

YOLO is like money: It is intrinsically neither good nor bad. It’s the uses to which it is put that introduce the moral dilemma.

If you use this phrase as your rallying cry to enjoy your life to the fullest, fully aware that you will succeed and fail in direct proportion to your knowledge and skill, then bravo. You are seizing the day as it should be done, with gusto and enthusiasm

On the other hand, if YOLO is nothing more than a hipper version of “Geronimo!” while leap into the unknown, well, that’s not good. That’s whatever the opposite of good is. Bad, I think the word is. Yes, bad. That type of YOLO is bad. Don’t do that.

You Only Live Once logic at the casino is a very bad idea, if for no other reason than gambling is already a risk. Making wagering decisions based on YOLO is like using YOLO to guide your feet across the high-wire. Without a net.

When you’re ready to make the sensible, life-affirming sort of YOLO choices you’re capable of, be sure to start at one of the best online casinos.

Believe it or not, the “you only live once” worldview isn’t the only thing you need to consider when gambling. There’s also that lingering FOMO (fear of missing out). I’ll leave you with my deep dive into that emotional tug-of-war 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...

Read More



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