Why are Gamblers Superstitious in the First Place?
Well, because casino games, especially roulette, dice, and slots involve a lot of chance. With no real strategy, method, or any other failsafe system to guarantee a win, what can you do but turn to some unconventional methods? After all, superstitions are intrinsic to human culture – they’ve been ingrained in the human mind for as long as we’ve been a self-aware species. Long before organised religions, there were sacred rituals and spells and although we’ve toned it down a bit from sacrificing virgins to knocking on wood, according to a survey, 54% of all people have admitted being superstitious. Call it selective memory loss, irrational behaviour, or a regress in mindset, but it still influences gamblers’ actions.
The Gambler’s Fallacy
When we discussed gambling psychology, we touched on the gambler’s fallacy – an erroneous motivator in the gambling thinking that asserts a non-existent reciprocation between a series of the same result and an upcoming series of the opposite one. This one is very common in roulette, as players keep betting on the same colour, thinking that after a certain number of successive red or even results, a series of black or odd numbers is just waiting to happen. That’s a blatant misinterpreting of the theory of probability considering the random mechanisms of chance-based games like slots, roulette, and dice. Previous outcomes do not in any way influence the next ones, so the chance of getting red again after a series of red outcomes is still 50:50.
This is exactly what mathematician Stanislaw Ulam proved in 1946 when he designed the so called “Monte Carlo Method.” Using the random results in casino games, Ulam was able to develop a theory which proved that there’s no correlation between the outcomes, showing that even when the ball has landed on black dozens of spins, in the next spin it is just as likely to land on black again with no rhyme or reason.
Lucky in Gambling – Unlucky in Love
Now, we don’t really know what to say about this without insulting or triggering someone – after all, publishing an article online in 2017 is walking on thin ice, so we looked at some of the most successful gamblers trying to establish a connection but the results of our admittedly botched research were inconclusive – for example the inventor of card counting Edward E. Thorp who made hundreds of millions had a happy marriage that lasted more than 50 years, billionaire Bill Benter also has a loving wife and child, and then there’s Dan Bilzerian whose romantic spells include kicking models at night clubs and throwing porn stars off roofs, so we leave this open for interpretations.
How to be Lucky 101
Many a gambler perform a lucky ritual before or during a game or hold dear some kind of a lucky charm to which they have assigned the arduous task of working against the science of reasoning in order to influence the completely random outcome of a chance-based game. Yeah, don’t roll your eyes as if you don’t rub that peregrine talon before every bet. Who doesn’t, after all?
- Lucky charms: These are varied as they come, with particularly popular ones being a horseshoe, a four-leaved clover, and a rabbit foot. *Disclaimer: Dear PETA, we are in no way supportive or approving of this practice, so please don’t come after our derriere just for reporting it. The only mistreatment of rabbits we could ever be accused of is excessive snuggling and nose boops, or posting their fluffy faces on social media without explicit consent on the part of the fluffy domesticated rodent.
- Rituals: You may have your lucky charm and red underwear but just to be safe, many gamblers also perform some action or a routine as a way of attracting good luck. These rituals are usually carried out before dealing hands, spinning the roulette wheel, or rolling the dice. Some of the most popular examples include:
- Crossing fingers
- Blowing on dice
- Knocking on wood
- Stacking chips in a certain way
- Verbally calling for a card/number
- Kissing a companion
- A partner that brings good luck: If you think your lucky charm needs some additional qualities like breathing, for example, you can try bringing along a lucky companion to help win at the casino. Maybe a lucky charm with a fully-functioning cardiovascular system and intact extremities does a better job at appeasing the gambling gods than the detached limbs of a dead animal, who can judge. After all, Bond had his girls to cheer him on or blow on the dice and Monica had Chandler to shout at… Just make sure you bring a loyal companion and not someone who will waltz away with your winnings. We all remember the gentleman who lost $100,000 to his glamorous companion, don’t we?
- Leaving the table: A lot of players believe that leaving the table during a game would tamper with their odds of winning while others express the opposing view and feel that standing up, walking or looking away will bring good luck at slots. Which side you join here will most likely depend on the bladder control you can exercise and the frequency of bathroom breaks it necessitates.
- Lucky garments: Many people apply this to different aspects of their life, not just gambling, and ascribe metaphysical capabilities to pieces of cloth which in addition to keeping you warm or cold, hugging your curves at just the right places, accentuating your skin tone, and setting off your eye colour now also have to help you win a jackpot. Yeah… Well, all we can say is, there still hasn’t been a casino challenge on Project Runway so Heidi, we’re looking at you. Make it work!
- Lucky numbers and colours: Okay, now that’s not really a wild one, considering the role and significance of numbers in religion and integer sequences, and what-not, so this kind of comes naturally. 7 is widely regarded as a lucky number, hence the inherent 7 symbol on slots. Many people play the lottery with their own lucky numbers and numerologists can probably put quadruplets through college with the money they make on providing people with their personal lucky numbers. Colours can also be perceived as lucky or unlucky; this is especially true in Chinese culture and many gamblers like to wear red clothes or bet on red at the roulette table.
- Crossing your legs: Crossing your fingers is a universal gesture used to express hope and wishes for good luck, but crossing your legs while making a bet is just the opposite. It’s believed that with this seemingly insignificant action you’re actually ‘crossing out’ your good luck. Yep, there goes your glimpse of hope for rationality if you’d thought that this actually had something to do with keeping a good posture for a balanced pelvis and straight back.
- Using the front entrance: Not so widely popular, this superstition is based on the belief that upon entering the casino, the bad luck of people who are leaving, having supposedly lost, may rub off on you. Chinese customers had a particular problem with the old entrance of the MGM Grand that represented a gaping lion’s mouth and in their opinion, alluded to being eaten alive. By popular demand, it was taken down to ease gamblers’ concerns about being devoured. Which, when you think about it does make a good metaphor for addiction but let’s not delve into that right now. Moving on:
- Counting your money at the table: Fighting your urge to make it rain will not only make you a more considerate and well-mannered player towards the other people at the table, but in addition to being more polished, you’re also avoiding future losses. This superstition is based on the wider belief that pride comes before a fall. Or maybe just someone took Kenny Rogers’ lyrics to heart. Take it away, Kenny.
- Unlucky numbers and colours: The infamous number 13 is widely shunned and feared in many cultures and superstitions based on it go far beyond gambling. Through some association with death, it has become so abhorrent that it even got its own phobia – triskaidekaphobia is not a laughing matter for many people and businesses take it seriously, too, with many hotels or other buildings omitting it from the numerals of floors and rooms. No surprise then that this is the least bet on pocket in roulette. In terms of colours – black is also associated with death and generally considered to bring bad luck.
- $50 bills: While Chinese customers had a problem walking through a lion’s mouth, American gamblers have other concerns. Some people believe $50 bills are extremely unlucky and will even refuse to be paid in this denomination. The bills have been ascribed an ominous meaning since the times when much of Las Vegas was under mob rule, with rumours circulating that gangsters put $50 bills in the pockets of their victims before burying them in the desert.
“Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favouring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid.”
Don’t be Superstitious – It Brings Bad Luck
But it’s not good enough to just gear yourself with good luck paraphernalia and shout numbers out loud. You also need to be well-versed in the superstitious gamblers’ etiquette when it comes to keeping bad luck at bay. Here are some of the things that are considered to be bad omens at the casino table:
Gambling superstitions are just as widespread as they are in all other areas of life, varying from culture to culture, and some can be extremely personal. Certain charms and rituals can have opposite meanings across nations and ethnicities, so the least we can do is be respectful towards each other’s quirks. People have different ways of materialising their wishful thinking and concerns and while for some players common sense and logic are prevalent, others will ascribe immense significance to things that may seem downright ridiculous. But hey, we celebrate diversity and sure had a lot of fun compiling this list for you. Now, where did that rabbit hop off to… Just kidding. Seriosuly, PETA, we really are kidding.