Almost Counts…

At least for gamblers.  This is the total opposite of a maxim that I used to live by as a child.  You know, that saying, “Almost doesn’t count except for in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

According to recent studies, however, this saying does not apply to gamblers.  The study, which was published in the magazine Neuron, states that for gamblers, a near win (an almost!) may be just as good as a real win.  The report states:

When all three cherries hit the payline and money pours out of a slot machine, select regions of the brain activate. Called the reward pathway, brain cells in these regions signal pleasure by releasing and detecting the feel-good chemical messenger dopamine. “Those same areas are recruited by natural rewards, like chocolate, and by drugs of abuse, like cocaine,” explains coauthor of the study Luke Clark, of the University of Cambridge in England.

It turns out the same brain areas probably activate when only two out of three cherries hit the payline.

Clark and his colleagues wanted to understand why a person will keep feeding money into the slot machine, even though the house usually wins.  The researchers turned to gamblers who nearly won, but didn’t. “The near-miss is quite a paradoxical event,” Clark says. Gamblers who almost win put “their head down in their hands — they can’t believe it. And then the next thing they do is place another bet.”

If you think about it, we didn’t really need the study to tell us all this!  Remember those times that you were gambling.  Every time that you almost won, you would think that hey, maybe the next time around I will actually be lucky and really win, right?

Looking at it positively, though, if we get the same thrill from almost winning as from winning, then almost winning should be just as good.  We wouldn’t have to continue and try to win.  Sorry, but that just doesn’t fly.  I would STILL like to win, wouldn’t you?

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