A Closer Look at Gambling and Superstitions

Harry Coulter | 21 Feb 2018

Friday the 3th, black cats and other superstitionsMost people immediately deny being superstitious, but think about it for a moment… Have you ever crossed your fingers in the hopes that something will happen, or wished upon a shooting star? The Study of Public Opinion and Research Centre reveals that 54% of adults harbour at least one superstition.

Psychologists attribute this number to the human need to find meaning in things, and then forming a very strong connection to beliefs when they appear to be enforced. If you know that a lot of people swear by a lucky piece of clothing and then you get promoted while you’re wearing your favourite shirt, you might attribute your success to the shirt and wear it the next time you need things to go a certain way.

Gamblers Court Lady Luck More than Most

The 54% finding represents a big group, but superstition among gamblers at online, offline or mobile casinos is even higher. Research in the United Kingdom suggests that over 80% of Bingo players in the country are generally superstitious, and that the bigger a gambler’s bet, the more likely they are to be that way.

Since there is always a strong element of chance in gambling, even in games of Poker, it’s easy to understand why there is such a strong belief in good and bad luck. Using items, saying words and performing actions that are believed to increase good luck, and avoiding those associated with bad luck, also gives players a sense of security and control.

Of course, it has been proven that luck plays no part in the outcome of a game, and that all chance-based elements are determined completely randomly. For example, the Gambler’s Fallacy or the belief that after a string of results of one kind the opposite is due to happen very soon, has been shown to be wrong. No matter how many times the ball has landed in a red pocket on the Roulette wheel, it is no more likely to land in a black one on the next spin.

Still, the strong belief in superstitions and behaviours that acknowledge their importance remain popular with gamblers around the world and fascinating to psychologists. They differ wildly between cultures and there’s no way to list them all, but below are some of the more common ideas.

Behaviours to Invite Good Luck

  • Tip all service staff well, including dealers, bartenders, waiters and waitresses.
  • Wear the colour red.
  • Wear a piece of clothing that has personally brought luck in the past.
  • Carry a lucky charm such as a 4-leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe.
  • Chinese gamblers believe that turning all the lights on in their homes before they go out to gamble will cause Lady Luck to favour them.
  • Curse the ball while the Roulette wheel is spinning.
  • Bet on 7 and avoid betting on 13. This probably stems from the associations that these numbers have with old-world rhetoric and storytelling; there are 7 wonders in the world and 7 heavens, while there were 13 men present at The Last Supper, for example.

Behaviours to Avoid Bad Luck

  • Never enter a casino through the main doors. This is especially strong in China, where it is also believed that an entrance that looks like the mouth of a beast should be avoided. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas was rebuilt in 1997 to get rid of the impressive lion’s mouth entrance, in a bid to attract more Asian players.
  • Never leave the table or look away from a game while it’s in play.
  • Don’t ever sit cross-legged.
  • Don’t count your money when you’re sitting at the table, just as Kenny Rogers advises in his song The Gambler!

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