The Psychology Behind Poker Machine Buttons: How They Influence Gamblers

Poker machines, also known as slot machines or pokies, are a popular form of gambling found in casinos all around the world. One of the key elements of poker machines is the buttons that players interact with, which can have a significant influence on their behavior and gambling habits. Understanding the psychology behind these buttons can provide insight into how they influence gamblers.

Button Design

The design of poker machine buttons is carefully crafted to encourage players to keep playing. Buttons are often brightly colored and illuminated to attract attention. They are also strategically placed in easy-to-reach locations on the machine to encourage constant engagement. The tactile feedback from pressing the buttons can also provide a sense of control and anticipation, enhancing the overall gambling experience.

Reinforcement and Feedback

When players press the buttons on a poker machine, they receive immediate feedback in the form of spinning reels and flashing lights. This creates a sense of excitement and anticipation, as players wait to see if they have won. The reinforcement of this feedback can be highly motivating, leading players to continue pressing the buttons in pursuit of the next win. This operant conditioning can contribute to the development of addictive gambling behaviors.

Illusion of Control

One of the key psychological factors at play with poker machine buttons is the illusion of control. Despite the outcomes being determined by a random number generator, the act of pressing the buttons can create the perception that players are influencing the results. This can lead to a false sense of skill or strategy, encouraging players to continue gambling in the belief that they can influence the outcome of the game.

Losses Disguised as Wins

Many poker machines are designed to provide frequent small wins, known as “losses disguised as wins.” This can be achieved through the use of buttons that produce audiovisual effects to create the illusion of a win, even when the player has actually lost money. This can lead to the false belief that they are winning more often than they actually are, which can encourage continued gambling and increase the risk of developing a gambling addiction.


The buttons on poker machines play a significant role in shaping the gambling experience and influencing player behavior. By understanding the psychology behind these buttons, it is possible to recognize the potential impact they can have on gambling habits. This insight can be used to develop responsible gambling strategies and interventions to help mitigate the negative effects of poker machine gambling.

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