Journal of gambling behavior

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 81-94

First online:

Adapting to failure: The case of horse race gamblers

  • John RosecranceAffiliated withUniversity of Nevada at Reno

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Exemplifying Goffman's concern with adaptation to failure (cooling the mark), the researcher delineates the strategies used by horse race gamblers to deal with the consequences of monetary losses. Although racing attracts a large number of regular participants, little is known of their adaptations to the stark reality that ninety-five percent of horse players lose money from gambling. Analysis of participant observation data, drawn from several horse betting groups, revealed that the implementation of appropriate strategies largely determines whether gamblers can maintain participation. While these strategies are specialized, they are similar in principle to those used by non-horse players. The research can facilitate understanding of behavior patterns that persist despite frequent failure.