The Battle of the Sexes

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As more women enter casinos, the debate rages on which gender is more successful in gambling.

As women have become involved in the gambling business in ever-increasing numbers the battle of the sexes has begun to rage. Most gambling activities are still associated with men, and some of the old-fashioned among us assume that men tend to be better at them, if not because of innate ability than because of experience.

However, the recent success of many female gamblers has made gambling news, and psychological analysis has put this attitude in question. Clearly there are fewer females among winnings leaders in games such as blackjack and poker, but is this because women are less able to compete, or because fewer of them participate?

There is also a school of thought which argues that neither men nor women are generally better at gambling activities. However, differences in psychological make-up mean that they display different traits in the same situations, making one gender better at certain games. This piece will look at a few different games, determining how each sex responds, and which is more likely to leave the casino with winnings.

The psychology of gender in poker

Poker is doubtless the most explored casino game in the world of psychology. Players sit down in an enclosed space and compete in a cutthroat game of cat-and-house to best all challengers and come away with a pile of money. All pleasantries aside, poker exposes true human behavior when placed in an environment of ruthless competition.

While the majority of top winners are men, analysis shows that per capita, male players lose more than female players. Many argue that women have an advantage because they tend to behave in a more calculated manner, making patient decisions and avoiding the irrationally aggressive moves of men. Patience allows them to survive to the later rounds.

This does not mean that women do not play aggressively. American poker rooms legend Vanessa Selbst is known for playing extremely aggressively, pushing opponents into a corner then overwhelming them. This style is usually associated with men. However, Selbst excels at it because she uses a controlled form of aggression, patiently waiting for the right moment to strike.

This all comes down to the age-old stereotype (which is supported by factual evidence) that men are more prone to taking risks than women, not only in gambling but in all walks of life. In poker this can be beneficial if the player is highly skilled but in most cases leads to large losses. If a woman, ala Selbst, is able to wait out the other players then destroy them when the odds are in her favor, she will have a lot of success.

Females at the blackjack table

• Many argue that women are more patient and calculated, giving them an advantage in poker against men prone to rash decisions

• Experts disagree on whether men or women or predisposed toward success in blackjack

• Women are more likely to engage in low-risk, low reward escape gambling games

Like poker, blackjack is still overwhelmingly enjoyed by men. But more women are taking an interest in the game, and many are having a lot of success. There are competing theories as to whether men or women are biologically predisposed to success in blackjack. There is no way to know for certain, but we will run through the two main strands of thought.

Some neuroscientists assert that the male brain is better designed to excel at mathematics. This should help in blackjack, which generally involves calculating the mathematical odd of winning a particular hand. It also appears that men are more likely to use card counting strategies than women. While the science behind this is disputed by some, if true it would seem to give men the upper hand in blackjack.

Despite that, some argue that women are better endowed to excel at blackjack. Why? As the thinking goes, women are more likely to take their time developing a skill before using it in a competitive setting. Most British female gamblers start out using online gambling sites in the UK, for example. That gives them ample time to hone their skills before trying their luck at a casino.

Women and escape gambling

One aspect of gambling which does not reflect female prowess as much as preference is the games which women choose to play. Women tend to engage in “escape gambling” activities which emphasize entertainment and social interaction over competition and potentially high payouts. The most popular such activities for women are slots and bingo. This goes for online casinos in the UK and elsewhere as well as brick-and-mortar establishments.

Escape gambling tends to be low-risk. From a psychological perspective, this makes a lot of sense as these games involve making smaller bets than poker, blackjack and roulette. The problem is that they are also low reward, and offer very poor odds of winning. You may put only $1 into a slot machine, but most likely you will do that repeatedly, win very little if anything at all, and leave empty-handed.

If the stereotype of the risk-averse female gambler is true, this is one case where it harms their chances at a casino. Irrational, ego-driven risk taking is harmful. However, one who refuses to take risks will never have success in gambling. An approach of controlled aggression is most likely to lead to winnings.

Final verdict

Like most gender-related questions, there is no objective answer to which sex performs better in the casino. Some women are really good, some men are really good. Scientific research cannot prove whether one gender is better than the other at poker or blackjack, although we have heard some fairly convincing arguments. One thing is certain: women are more likely to engage in escape gambling, which while low-risk, comes with very low chances of financial success. Controlled aggression in any game you play is the best strategy.

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