Wanna Bet?

I like to gamble. Is gambling unreasonable?

Superficially it seems unreasonable. With a few exceptions, legal gambling is an activity with a negative expected outcome. The more you do it, the more money you are likely to lose. So what good attributes does gambling have that might compensate for this costly expectation?

It’s fun.

Money won is twice as sweet as money earned. That sounds immoral, but it isn’t. Won money isn’t stolen, it’s gained honorably via a voluntary agreement. And there is something sweet about an immediate payoff.

It’s creative.

Betting on an event immediately makes it more interesting. It was a very clever innovation to add this element to life. Also, depending on the game, there can be a considerable amount of skill involved in maximizing your chances to win. This can involve playing the game well (as in blackjack), avoiding really bad bets (all games), and managing your money to reduce your chances of losing your entire bankroll during the session.

It’s a growth experience.

I think gambling helps you learn a lot about yourself, and gives you an opportunity to improve. It shows you how you handle both victory and defeat. You discover whether you have the discipline to limit your losses to what you decided was reasonable. If you’re not satisfied with the way you do these things, you can work on yourself and improve over time. Mastering these skills benefits many areas of life.

It’s dramatic.

Most of our days are rather boring. Gambling gives us a chance to add an exciting element to our lives; to do battle with uncontrollable forces; to risk something; to feel more alive. Some people get this feeling by driving fast, or by jumping out of airplanes, or riding rollercoasters.

I think there’s something noble and courageous about choosing to face risks, so long as we’re not being irresponsible and risking more than we can afford. Living morally might require us to risk our security some day. And success in many areas requires skill at measuring risks against rewards. Gambling can help us prepare ourselves to better deal with those situations.

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