In this Blog we’ll be taking a closer look at how peoples misconceptions and irrational thoughts contribute to some of the myths and superstitions that some times get attributed to gambling.
But, before we get into that, we need to figure out what is a myth is? Myths are widely held, but false beliefs or ideas. When it comes to gambling, there are many myths that have surfaced throughout time. These stories may sound real, they might even look correct on the surface, but when you dig into them, they quickly start to fall apart and the truth is often very different from the myth being told.
Some of the gambling myths are easy to spot, but some are less obvious. To help you better tell the difference here are a list of some of the more common facilities people tend to believe about gambling:
MYTH: I can win, I have a system.
Reality: Players who have won will remember many details of that win, and will try their hardest to recreate those exact perceived winning conditions.
In reality, there is nothing that a player can do to influence the outcome of the game. This is because randomness is a core element in every single gambling game and there is no way to predict what random event will actually happen. Thus the result of one game will be independent of all other results. That means every hand of poker, every spin on the slot machine, and every go round in roulette, is a unique event, once it’s happened, it can never happen exactly that same way again.
Knowing how certain games work can improve our chances of winning. Someone who knows how to play Blackjack, for example, may have an advantage over someone who has never played before. But, even knowing how the game works, how to bet, and even counting cards can only go so far. You will never know exactly what card will be drawn next and thus, can never guarantee a win.
MYTH: When I win my money back, then I’ll quit.
Reality: Trying to win back money is a sign of trouble. We have to remember that the more we spend, the more we will lose, so chasing those losses is not a safe practice.
If we choose to gamble we need to understand one very important concept, gambling is a business. You would never walk into a restaurant expecting your server to pay your bill, and the same logic should apply when choosing to gamble. You should be playing with money you can afford to part with, in the same way you would expect to pay for a meal when eating out.
Gambling is a form of entertainment, and should never be looked at as a way to make money. Gambling is not investing.
MYTH: Poker is a game of skill, and I’m good at it.
Reality: Poker absolutely contains elements of skill, but that skill does not outweigh chance. At the end of the day, no matter how good or skilled we are, we cannot determine what cards are flipped, that’s just the luck of the draw.
Even card counting is not a guarantee, especially if you are playing any sort of electronic version of the game. Most Casinos also tend to use multiple decks specifically for this reason. So, in both cases, there really is no way to predict the future, you’re still just making a best guess based on incomplete data. Chance and Randomness still easily win out here.
MYTH: So close! I almost won.
Reality: All those “near misses”, or “near wins” give us the feeling that we are getting closer to a jackpot. However, all is not as it appears. Remember, every result is random, independent, and unique. In reality, these “near misses” are built into various games to make them more exciting.
Slot machines, for example, may show matching symbols on 4 of the spinning reals but will be missing the one symbol that would have gotten you a big win. It looks like we almost won, but this is still a loss. Or, a slot machine might allow a player to place a max bet of $1 on all lines (let’s say there are ten lines and we bet $1 on all of them for a total bet of $10), we spin the wheel and suddenly the lights, and sounds of a big win go off, we’ve won! But, our “win” may only be worth $0.50. In reality we’ve lost $9.50 but we still get the feeling of winning because the slot machine ‘rewards’ us with graphics and sounds that look like a big win, this is sometimes refereed to as a “loss disguised as a win“.
MYTH: This machine is due to pay out.
Reality: No machine is ever “hot” or “cold”. All machines are programmed to be random, which makes it impossible to predict when the next win will be. Machines that haven’t paid out in a while are no more likely to pay out than a machine that just had a winning spin. Every spin gives us the exact same chance of winning or, losing.
For an average slot machine, the probability of a winning jackpot spin can range from 1 in 4,000 to 1 in 33,500,000. Remember, if your odds of winning are, say, 1 in 100, and you play 25 rounds, your odds of winning will stay at 1 in 100 for all 25 rounds you play. Each round is independent of the round that came before it. Your odds DO NOT become 1 in 4, that’s just not how it works!
MYTH: Payouts can be changed with the flick of a switch.
Reality: In Saskatchewan, gaming operators do NOT regularly change payouts on machines or use any methods to determine when a jackpot will be won. This is always randomly determined when you hit the “spin” button. However, all VLT and Slot machine games do come with pre-programed “win ratios“, when we talk about House Advantage this is what is meant.
A particular slot machine game may have a win ratio of 90%, meaning every spin of the machine should, on average, keep 10% of the amount bet. Operators know that over the life time of this machine they are guaranteed to come out ahead. The machine may pay out here and there, but there will always be a portion of money kept.
MYTH: I am helpless against these machines.
Reality: There are many helping resources available within Saskatchewan that can provide support if someone is struggling with gambling. Please contact the Problem Gambling Helpline for support or visit our Provincial Resource Page for additional options.
Superstitions are also very common in gambling. If myths are the “stories” we tell each other about gambling, then superstitions are the rituals we perform while gambling. A superstition is any belief or practice in which an individual thinks a particular outcome is the result of some supernatural act. Superstitions tend to arise from the belief that fate or magic has played a role in what has taken place.
Arguably, these superstitions may make us “feel lucky”, however, these are only internal feelings and emotions that do not have any impact on the actual outcome of a casino game. Some common examples of gambling superstitions would include:
• Lucky rabbits foot or other lucky charm
• Touching/Hugging/Rubbing a slot machine for good luck
• Blowing on dice
• Unlucky number 13
• Wearing a lucky outfit or piece of clothing
• Crossing your fingers
• Repeating a mantra or incantation
These superstitions and myths can be experienced by anyone, even if we identify as a low-risk gambler. Becoming more aware of the many myths and superstitions surrounding gambling will help us to better understand what is factual, and what is fictional. Dispelling these myths is a positive step towards becoming a responsible gambler.