I never find gambling a fruitful exercise. By the time I leave a casino I feel like I’ve spent the whole time drinking rum infused with cold medication. I never understood how upbeat my friend, Ron, remained the longer we stayed. Now I know where it all went wrong. Where Ron liked to stick with the slot machines, I gravitated towards the roulette wheel.
This made all the difference.
When Ron gambled he only had to pull a lever. I, on the other hand, had decisions: Single number or combination? Red or black? Odd or Even? Rows, sides, corners? What about that green zero?
The options were infinite and a new decision was needed with every spin. I would win and I would lose, but one constant remained: With every spin, I became less and less interested in the results.
The brain is like any muscle in the body in that it becomes tired with use. “The more choices you make throughout the day,” writes John Tierney, “the harder each one becomes.” (Tierney, 2011)
Tierney cites an Israeli study where over 1,800 parole board decisions were reviewed. What the researchers found was a stark contrast depending not on particular case but the time of day: “Prisoners who appeared in the morning received parole about 70% of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less that 10% of the time.”
The old adage is true: The early bird gets parole while the late bird can still fly out the window.
Throughout the day the Israeli judges needed to weigh whether a prisoner still posed a risk to society. At the beginning they were up to the challenge. By the end they were only thinking about fish tacos.
Based on this study you would think all important decisions should be done in front of a rising sun, but that depends. There is growing evidence that waking up teenagers before dawn disturbs their natural sleep patterns. Only a third of adults are firing on all pistons at 8 am.
Knowing when you are at your optimal seems like a good idea when making an important decision. The Israeli judges knew it was best to take a pass at 4 pm for the only other option besides not deciding would be to make a bad decision. Take me for example.
When I started picking numbers at the roulette table I found the whole process intriguing. But the more I tried to unearth a pattern or develop a strategy, the more my energy started to wane. I found myself staring aimlessly across the casino floor. A nebulous cloud replaced crystal-clear thought. The white ball would spin, a number would be selected and I would notice that I forget to place a bet.
In the end none of it mattered for I would get tired and push all my money onto a single number.
“F-it! All on eight!”
Gambling all my money on 1 and 40 odds is not a rational decision. Why didn’t I just get up and walk away? I think frustration played its part, but there was also the time spent. Ian McCammon believes the skiers in his friend’s cross-country skiing party didn’t turn back when they reached the snowy part of a slope for they were already two hours into their trek. (Wray, 2010)
Time served deserves results, whether a big progressive payout for Ron or a daily lunch special for me…