Las Vegas: An Interesting Study in Human Behavior

I was at the AHIP conference in Las Vegas and was thinking from a human behavior perspective how interesting this location is as a “study environment” (not to mention the concept of conferences in general).

  • Why do people gamble? Do they think they’ll win? Do they think it’s fun?
  • How do people choose which game to play – poker, blackjack, slots? Penny slots versus dollar slots? Is it based on total opportunity, perceived odds, advice, research?
  • Are people more likely to smoke here? More likely to drink here? More likely to stay up late?
  • Does this encourage an ADHD “culture”?
  • Is poker a “sport” or somehow different from games of chance?

I think poker gives you an additional insight into human behavior since you’re playing against a seemingly random group of people (who in my experience often tend to know each other) rather than chance or a dealer who is following specific rules.

  • How do you read people to know what they have and when to bet?
  • Why do people try to bluff?
  • Why do people believe they’ll get lucky and hit the one card they need?
  • Why do people only remember their big wins not their big losses?
  • How do you build “predictive models” internally that you process on the fly to make calculated bets?
  • Why are some people good at poker?


At one point last week, I was looking around the hotel / casino that I was at and thinking:

  • What recession? This place is packed.
  • How do all these people have all this money?
  • Why do I think I might win? Look at the size of this place…It’s certainly not a non-profit!
  • This is a perfect example of the book Buy-ology by Lindstrom…The casinos understand what makes you buy (visually, sound, smell).

(For those of you interested…I did try my hand at No Limit Hold’Em again (see prior visit). Not as successful this time (i.e., duration at table divided by dollars spent), but I did get to see two of the big name pros at the poker room at the Aria.)

So, could a “healthy casino” survive in this town? It’s an interesting question. I would hypothesize that the two were diametrically opposed to one another since I’m sure there’s a correlation between alcohol consumed and money gambled (lost).

Do the health conscious people come here? I would bet the gym utilization per room night is very low compared to other cities.

One might imagine that reverse engineering the knowledge that the casinos have about driving lack of sleep, gambling, and other activities to figure out how to nudge people to be healthy.

But, the other interesting study is just general conference behavior. Why do people come to conferences?

  • To learn
  • To network
  • To get a paid vacation
  • For free stuff and entertainment
  • To present
  • To work the booths

I’ve been to three conferences this year, and I have yet to make it to a single session. For me, conferences are a centralized location to meet up with people. Rather than fly to a city for one meeting, I can fly to one location and have 10 meetings. It’s very efficient.

One Response to “Las Vegas: An Interesting Study in Human Behavior”

  1. George,

    Funny post!

    FYI, Canyon Ranch has a very healthful restaurant in the Palazzo. Good antidote to the general debauchery of Vegas.


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