Charles Augustus Fey invented the first slot machine in 1887; since then, pokies have evolved, and you can find them in all of the worldwide casinos. Playing pokies can be thrilling, and it makes a lot of players feel quite satisfied — But what happens when you start using them a bit too often for no good reason?
The Psychology Behind Pokies
Pokies, or slots, as Americans call them, total up to about 70% modern casinos’ total income. Additionally, over 30% of young gamblers prefer slots over any other game — that’s why investing in pokie machines has become the new gold mine. Moreover, the psychology behind the slots grew popular in Silicon Valley as well. As a result, the biggest game-makers in the world started to apply it to their games.
The Skinner Box
Believe it or not, the main principle that keeps players gambling is based on an experiment with pigeons. In the 1960s, professor B.F. Skinner conducted this experiment by putting pigeons in a box that gave them food whenever they pressed the lever. This immediately triggered the award response in the birds’ brains — As a result, they would start pressing the lever more often. The next step Skinner did was randomise when the pellets came out. This meant the birds wouldn’t get the food each time after they pressed the lever. This made the pigeons press the lever even more frequently than before, thus the Skinner Box was created.
Here’s what the genius professor found out — the box works by combining tension, release, and the feeling (or addiction) of reward. If the food popped out rarely, the birds would get bored — If it popped out too often, the birds wouldn’t press the lever too much. The key was in finding that perfect balance. Hence why this experiment laid the foundation for modern pokies and the way they work. Even worse, modern hotels and casinos found a way to track their players’ desires via magnetic cards. The players can use these cards to get extra rewards from casinos, such as trips or expensive hotel rooms. It may sound frightening, but the way most casinos see their gamblers is as birds in a box.
The Theory of ‘Flow’
This is one more experiment that applies to pokies. In his work ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’ professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi determined that people feel the happiest when they’re in the state of ‘flow.’ This state means that a person is completely absorbed by the activity they are concentrating on at a certain time. It is something we all experience to some extent while enjoying our favourite hobbies. You experience flow when you’re reading your favourite book or when you’re watching a good film. The point is that you lose touch with reality around you, and as a result, the time passes by slowly or quickly rather subjectively. Professor Natasha Schüll figured out that she could easily apply this discovery to pokies. Now, to accomplish the flow, you need to satisfy the four criteria first:
- Each moment of the activity needs to have a purpose
- The rules by which a person obtains the goal should not be confusing
- The activity must grant immediate award
- The activity should be challenging
Modern slots have all four of the above characteristics. The new RTP (Return To Player) standards satisfied the third criterium — And with the occasional bonus rounds and mini-games, the fourth criterium was successfully fulfilled as well. And due to years of researching on how to make slots more fun, gambling addiction started to become a burning problem for a lot of Western and Eastern countries.
I Can’t Stop Playing, Now What?
Firstly, don’t panic. You’re not alone in this — A lot of people in the world have the exact same problem. Gambling as an addiction is usually a response to a different problem in your life. At one point, you had too much to handle and you needed to release some steam. It is your brain’s natural response to a burning issue that you encountered. And if you happened to play a slot during this turbulent time in your life, then there lies your reason for addiction. Playing slots became a way for your brain to escape reality, at least for a brief time period. In the end, you probably started to play on a regular basis. Now, all of this would be somewhat ok if it weren’t for the fact that slot addicts gamble up to $15,000 monthly, if not more. So how do you stop using pokies?
Here’s the essential thing you need to know — your family and friends are there for you. So if they offer their help, you should accept it. An addict always thinks of his addiction at any time of the day, no matter what they’re doing. The key to this is to never allow yourself to get bored. If you have nothing to do, go out with your friends. You’re back from work and you feel a sudden urge to test your luck? — Call your mum instead — there’s a 100% chance she misses speaking to you. Even better, go visit your parents, and spend a day with them. You won’t gamble your money away and succumb to your addiction, and you will make the people who gave you so much love happy.
On the other hand, in case you appreciate some ‘me time,’ you can always find a way to entertain yourself. Clean your flat thoroughly, prepare your favourite meal, watch your favourite TV show, or read a book. There are so many things one can do that don’t involve wasting too much money unnecessarily. Your closest friends probably want to help you because they’re worried, and they want you to be happy. So go have brunch with them or go out to a pub. And even a stay-at-home session with your closest friends can help. The point is, if you constantly try to fill your schedule with activities, you probably won’t have enough time to think about pokies.
Use the Self-Exclusion Program
Many online casinos support responsible gambling — that’s why they offer self-exclusion programs. You can get in touch with the customer support of your favourite casino, and have them lock your account indefinitely or for a certain period of time. If you can’t play at your favourite spot, there’s a huge chance you won’t have the need to gamble at all. Some of our darkest addictions are actually triggered by the places where we first developed them.
Control Your Finances
You already knew this — credit cards can often be your worst enemy. That’s why you should have minimum amounts of money on your cards. If you’re going for a night out, bring just enough cash to pay for your drinks and a meal. If your finances are limited, you won’t get to fall into the pokie trap. Never have too much cash on you whenever you go out, at least until your addiction stops going wild and settles down.
Install Casino-Blocking Programs
You can find so many programs to help you block gambling websites on the Internet. They’re usually add-ons that you can attach to your browser, and they will either make the gambling websites invisible in your results or block your access. Gamban, Gamblock, and Betfilter are just a few of many that you can install. Give it a go — they can help a lot in a time of crisis.
Seek Professional Help
It may happen that none of these methods help — And that’s ok. Slot addiction doesn’t discriminate — literally anyone can fall into this trap. If you’re still having difficulties controlling your needs, you can always seek assistance from a therapist. In case this is more than your budget can handle, you can ask around for Gambling Anonymous groups. You can share your experience and difficulties with people who have already been through it all. These people can help, and they want to help — nobody understands your turmoil better than they do. It is crucial that you don’t feel ashamed of yourself — your pride can often stop you from reaching greatness.
Don’t Let the Lights Fool You
Pokie machines attract you by promoting big wins, followed by eye-pleasing lights and animations. Remember that you’re better than that — you’re not just a bird, and you have free will. Hopefully, soon enough, you will be the author of a new text that can help people in their battle against pokie addiction.