Why March Madness reveals gambling problem in the US

Sean Mahoney, Managing Editor

It’s March, and you know what that means. March Madness! But, there is going to be enough coverage of the fabled tournament that doesn’t tap into the deep rooted cause of all the hype. It’s something that everyone has  inside of them. It’s called The Winner’s Effect.

The winner’s effect is the thing that fuels Vegas, fantasy sports and all those brackets that people have been filling out for the past two weeks. The winner’s effect is that feeling you get when gambling when you win so confidently that you feel like you can do it again. You have to go that extra step further because you feel like you are just on “fire”.

But it is not necessarily a bad thing. In the spirit of March Madness, when a team wins a lot of games against weaker competition they get confident that they can beat better teams and are more likely to since they have that mindset. That is kind of like frontrunner Gonzaga, whose strength of schedule is subpar, but because they are 30-1 and the number one overall seed in their region of the bracket, they have a high chance of winning it all.

Success actually changes the system in your brain that lets perform certain tasks. It makes you more focused, more confident, and gives you greater coordination which leads to better execution. In a game like basketball that helps cinderella teams get far, and teams who have made it far in the tournament perform at a better rate than they have before.

Yet, when it comes to gambling, or choosing brackets like so many are doing now, just because you win once, does not affect your chances of winning more yet people will think that they are on roll which means they HAVE to win. Mistake.  People lose money every day due to this. They feel confident enough that they can keep going and make more and more money, but how much is enough? The fact of the matter is that you statistically have the same chance of winning money each time, and just because you win in gambling, doesn’t mean your odds of winning get any higher the next time.

When it comes to bracketology, people always think they have the perfect formula for picking games, and that when they get one game right, they are on top of the world and know it all. But the fact of the matter is, no one has ever got more than half the games in the tournament right and there is no perfect way to get all the picks right. It is a game of chance. Anyone can beat anyone at any time.

So for all of you know-it-alls who think that you had the perfect bracket, how does it feel to have your champion out after the second round? (Don’t worry, that’s me too). The next time you go gambling, just don’t put all your marbles into the tray, because you can’t win forever.