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Near misses: Why we keep playing when we (almost) won

Do you know the feeling? You're so close to winning that you can almost taste the victory. Maybe you're just one dice short of breaking the bank in backgammon. Or maybe you're just waiting for the last boar card to appear in your hand so you can go all-in. But then the worst-case scenario happens - the chance fizzles and you lose everything on the sirens' last exhale. Terrified and bitterly disappointed, you desperately consider trying again, hoping to avenge your fate. Why do we do it? Here's an insight into the fascinating psychology behind the «near miss» phenomenon.

Expectation alignment and confirmation bias

From an early age, we get used to the idea that «first come, first served». If we wait impatiently for something, our expectations seem to increase with each passing second. When things are finally close to tipping in our favour, we enter a kind of suspended state. Suddenly, we can almost taste the victory, which you can actually do if you have enough expertise and follow the link for a paripesa app download.

But what happens when fate takes a last-minute turn? Bitterly disappointed, we struggle to accept the inevitable. We've already «invested» so much hope and effort - are we really wasting all that energy? The confirmation bias makes us look for any excuse to continue playing. «It was just a little quirky surprise - I can definitely win next time!»

Probability traps and the illusion of control

The urge to keep gambling after a near miss is also rooted in some more basic psychological mechanisms. Take, for example, the «gambler's fallacy» - the misleading idea that if you've been unlucky for a while, you must inevitably win big soon. Our brains are hopelessly bad at accommodating probability and raw randomness.

We also easily fall for the illusion of control - even when the game is a lottery. «I almost managed to win! I must be able to do something to force that delicious outcome next time.» This thinking makes us keep trying our luck again and again despite the slim chances. Your inner voice stubbornly whispers, «If I just hold on a little longer, my luck will change.»

Feelings like this are rarely broken by cold logic. To our primitive brains, near misses feel both terrifying and tantalising. Haven't you yourself sometimes frantically tried to circumvent a strange curse or superstition by repeating an action over and over again?

Arousal, stress and unconscious forces

After all, near misses can deliver a real emotional shock. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating, and agitated emotions are swirling inside you. No matter how fleeting the «near-moment» was, it has put you in a kind of overheated state of mind full of stress and excessive arousal. And what do people do when they are stressed or agitated? Exactly - they act impulsively and excessively.

For many, the unspoken fear of missing out also comes into play. «What if I stop here and leave just before the delicious outcome?» Things like learned helplessness, superstition and depression aversion also propagate through our reptilian brains and reinforce this urge.

Essentially, near-misses act as a powerful cycle of psychological blocks and unconscious impulses that keep us stuck in the behaviour. We can talk ourselves down with rationalisations like «Just one more chance!» while the «warm» feeling of having been close to winning still burns in our nerves.

What can you do?

Be careful not to put yourself in «almost» situations too often. The psychology behind near misses is quite resistant to logical thinking once it takes hold. If you feel yourself starting to play on after a near miss, take a deep breath and rethink things immediately. Maybe you should cut the bars and change your strategy rather than just keep going?

Near misses are inevitable in life, as are many other psychological stumbling blocks. The best defence is to understand what drives our behaviour. That way, you can better control your impulses and make smarter choices - on the gaming table and beyond. Become aware of the unconscious forces that potentially lurk beneath the surface.

Let's hope this little review doesn't make you start doubting and playing on with blog posts in the wild pursuit of perfection!

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