Entrapment: “I’m Stuck at the Bus Stop”

Entrapment: “I’m Stuck at the Bus Stop”

Entrapment refers to someone who persistently follows a failing strategy. The more time and money they invest in the strategy, the more committed to it they become. Imagine waiting for a bus to go a short distance; if the bus doesn’t come along after a short while, how long should you wait?

Two competing motivations can develop. One is to leave the bus stop, accept the loss of time and energy, and walk to your destination. The other is to develop a belief system that includes the following thoughts:

  • If I wait long enough, the bus has to come.
  • I’ve seen this bus come before, and I’m sure it will come again.
  • If I leave now, I’ll look foolish and feel stupid.
  • I’ll wait until the bus comes, and then I’ll be proven right.

This entrapment at the bus stop has a direct parallel to gambling. Gamblers, in addition to spending time and energy at gambling, also spend money. The gambler begins to regard this expenditure not as the cost of entertainment, but as an “investment.” The gambler, like the bus rider at the stop, may become increasingly persistent in showing that he is not a loser – that he can and will win. This can result in more and more losses and an increasing urgency to gamble.

Probably the best way to avoid getting caught up in this kind of entrapment is to accept, up front, that gambling is usually about losing. Of course, setting spending and time limits ahead of time is also a great idea.