To play to the gallery is to behave in a way intended to make people admire or support you. Some of our politicians are known for behaving like this. However many of us are also guilty of playing to the gallery with our money. Being admired has certain perks. You feel good and in turn receive lots of attention, envy, and praise. Like an actor on a public stage you will need to constantly change your act to keep the audience interested and gossiping. You have to change your dress, upgrade your phone, go to fancy places, drive the latest cars, drink expensive wine, etc.
As the crowd cheers you on for the next act, you keep draining your bank account since the crowd is watching a free show which they don’t pay for. Eventually you start borrowing to put on bolder and more impressive shows. As the money dwindles the show becomes boring and the crowd moves on to the next hot thing. When the dust finally settles you realize that playing to the gallery is a fools game.