The influence that players have on the course of gambling is limited – that’s no secret. Nevertheless, the belief that one can gain advantages with the help of certain objects or courses of action, and that certain circumstances inevitably lead to a run of bad luck, runs deep. What is this magical thinking, as psychologists call it, really all about – and can you influence your luck?
Superstitious people are often ridiculed when they reveal their tic and knock on wood three times or pull a horseshoe out of their pocket. But anyone who is honest will have to confess to having a few little rituals of their own that are supposed to contribute to their own luck. Gamblers know about the power of chance and yet they believe they can play better under certain conditions. This can be the wearing of one’s favourite clothes, the preference for a certain table or the little lucky charm in one’s pocket without which no casino is entered.
The possibilities to evaluate the game and its environment as positive or negative are limitless. Every player has at least some preferences and rituals that they have inevitably developed during their gaming career. Some players avoid the main entrance, others keep a dirty cloth in their pocket because this is supposed to ward off bad luck in the game. If you get the four of clubs played, it is not a good omen. And if the ace of spades also falls to the ground, you should stop right away. Even worse: someone dares to approach a player during a lucky streak – all over.
Carrying a four-leaf clover is now somewhat out of fashion, but there are still numerous symbols of luck that people take more or less seriously.
Everyone has their favourite number. But the number 7 seems to have a special attraction. If you ask someone for a number between 1 and 9, the most frequent answer is statistically 7. Behavioural research has scientifically established this phenomenon. The week has seven days, lovers are in seventh heaven and the ancient world counted seven wonders of the world. The world itself is said to have been created in seven days. In many ancient cultures, the number 7 is considered lucky. Europe, India, North and Central America, everywhere the number 7 is a magic number. It is not without reason that the menorah in Judaism has seven arms, Christianity counts seven sacraments and on the pilgrimage to Mecca a Muslim has to circle the Kaaba seven times. It is a number of cyclical renewal, the symbol of a new chance.
It seems to be the most exciting number, why else is James Bond the agent 007?
In Christian mysticism, the number 7 is the result of 3 and 4. The Trinity, the spiritual, combines with the four elements, the material. The “Seven Phanomena” is an experiment already made by philosopher John Locke in the 17th century: It states that the human perceptive faculty can take in seven things without any problem, then it becomes faulty.
The number 7 is also a very familiar number to gamblers, in many casinos a 7 flashes somewhere, many classic slot machines also have the number 7 next to fruits, coins, etc. Or have you ever seen a machine with the number 2, 4 or 6?
The counterpart of the 7 is probably the unfortunate 13. Stronger than the belief in the happiness of the 7 is the fear of the misfortune of the 13.
First, the positive: in Judaism, the 13 is a lucky number, because it stands above the dozen and thus symbolizes God. Otherwise, however, it is almost invariably considered a bad luck number. Especially noteworthy is the fear of Friday, the Thirteenth. This fear is so common that it got the terrible name paraskavedekatriaphobia. So this phobia has people who fear that something bad must happen on this day. However, years of statistics have already shown that there is no increase in accidents. The 13 has something diabolical, although the 6 is supposed to be the number of the ruler of hell.
The thirteenth hour is the ghost hour and when it hits 13, you want to say that something seems unheard of. The fear of the 13 goes so far that this bib number is dispensed with in motorsport, many aircraft do not have a thirteenth row of seats and many hotels do not have a room number 13. Also, the first ICE trains did not have a car 13 and the airport in Washington, D.C. simply omitted the gate 13.
In the 19th century, fear of the devilish dozen even created jobs in France. You could book a quatorzième, the “Fourteenth”, if you expected a table with thirteen guests, but wanted to avoid the unfortunate number at the table. So they invited a fourteenth, who was to keep the happiness that evening in the house.
In the lottery, the 13 is actually not a lucky number. In the Saturday draws it is the rarest number ever, although in the very first draw of the “6 out of 49” it was the first number to tumble out of the drum. After all, the 13 is not missing in any roulette wheel and can thus prove that it is not quite as bad as its reputation. By the way, no statistics can reveal whether you lose more often than usual on a Friday, the 13th, in the casino.
The lucky number of Robert Valle, a croupier from a casino in Pennsylvania, has become his doom in 2014. A player had asked him for his lucky number and he had answered. Probably more for fun he wanted to try to hit this number, although it is clear that this company is too good as impossible. This matter brought him to court and he is no longer allowed to enter the casino. Asking someone for their lucky number can generally be quite fatal in the casino, because who wants to be responsible for the bad luck of the other. By the way, the supposed lucky number of the unlucky bird from the casino in Pennsylvania was the four.
What is certain is that Robert Valle was not an Asian, because he would never have bet on the four. The four is probably the worst bad luck number that can be found in the Asian region. The reason is that the word for four, for example, in Chinese ? (“sì”) sounds almost the same as ? (“s?”) and this word means “death”. The situation is similar in languages such as Vietnamese or Japanese. The phobia against the Four goes further in Asia than in the West the fear of the thirteen. In residential complexes and hotels, even sometimes all floors and rooms with a four are avoided. At weddings you will never find the table number 4. Even with the Taiwanese and South Korean Navies, you wouldn’t find four on boats.
In Japanese, the number 49 is the pinnacle of all unhappiness, the two numbers spoken together sound similar to the phrase “suffering until death”. The game 5 out of 49 was certainly not a Japanese invention.
After all the bad numbers, there is of course a particularly lucky number. In China, that’s eight. Do you remember the 2008 Beijing Olympics? The opening ceremony took place on 08.08.2008 at 08.08. And that’s not a coincidence. The organizers of the Chinese Games wanted luck on their side. On this lucky day, around 17,000 couples got married in Beijing alone. The word “ba” (eight) is similar to the word “fa”, which means “get rich”. The eight promises wealth and, of course, luck in the game of money. License plates with lots of aft are actually auctioned because there are superstitious Chinese who pay millions of Hong Kong dollars for them. 888 is ultimately a synonym for “rich, rich, rich!” And this is exactly why there are well-known online casinos that have this lucky combination as a name.
Every game of chance has to do with chance. However, some games can be influenced more than others. Whole courts have repeatedly determined whether poker has more to do with luck or skill. Gambling was legally decided, but the player still has a certain influence on the game. Even with blackjack you can use your own skill to gain an advantage over the bank. But poker players are also superstitious and like to sit in a different seat after a lost game or want a different set of cards. There is actually no rational reason for this.
In games where the gambler has no influence, he is also often more superstitious. Fans of roulette and craps in particular have their own unique ways of staying in the game. The trends are particularly feared among roulette players. Theoretically there are no trends because with every new throw the chances are exactly the same, every game has a reset button. Now it can happen that the ball hits red six times in a row. It can also fall to red ten times in a row, but the player will believe that his chances of getting black are now higher. The danger with such trends is that you have quickly gambled away your capital in the belief that now black “must” come. By the time black comes, the capital will be used up, the trend has brought bad luck. Probably the most famous trend took place on a summer evening in Monte Carlo in 1913. In the world-famous casino, the ball landed on black 26 times in a row. Hysteria and chaos spread among the guests, because everyone is betting on red, again and again. When red finally fell, almost all the players had lost all of their capital and the casino made millions that evening.
The croupier in particular is considered to be a lucky or bad luck charm. If a strange combination occurs in quick succession or if a trend persists, the players leave the table. Even if the ball slipped or fell off the table, the croupier’s “flow” seems to be gone. As a player it suddenly becomes more difficult to “guess” the next result. It can happen that a croupier suddenly finds himself without a player, even though he rationally has no influence on the fall of the ball.
Even in the craps game of dice, superstition is an integral part of the way you play. For example, if a die falls on the ground, that is a bad sign. The thrower must immediately say “Same cube!”, Otherwise the cube has become “unusable” for the game. Some players also fear the word “seven” and avoid it when possible. One prefers to speak of the “Big Red”. You should also avoid changing hands of the dice before throwing it, as this could cause discomfort among the other players. Craps in particular is known for its superstitious players. This stems from the fact that you play this game together and that a common ritual dynamic always develops in groups. If you play for yourself, you have your own personal happiness theory. Even with craps, the skill of the player has no influence on the result. If something counts, it is the laws of physics and probability. But craps players have their own strategies and theories. A slow, gentle throw should produce a lower result, dynamic throws should throw higher eyes. It even happens that players want to influence the result by snapping their fingers. If the dice is still spinning after the throw, the thrower snaps at the moment of standstill in order to influence the number of points. It should also help to rub the cube or, in the worst case, spit on it. Hopefully the latter remains a symbolic act.
Due to their random generator, slot machines have the same reset method. But near-wins still augur for many players that they are about to hit the jackpot. Also “warming up” the coin is a questionable method. Since people now often play with reloadable cards, many coin rituals will die out, but this also makes the game more impersonal.
Pig! This idiom is still a popular means of expressing unexpected happiness. There are two theories as to where the saying came from. One theory holds that the card game is the origin. In the 16th century, the ace was still called ” sow ” and often a pig could be found on this strong card. So whoever pulled the sow had had pig.
The other theory is that the loser of competitions received a piglet as a consolation prize and so did not have to go home empty-handed. In general, the Pig is associated with wealth and satisfaction, not only in Europe, but also in Asia.
Incidentally, the color red is the absolute hit in Asia. It is no coincidence that the Chinese national flag is red, Chinese brides traditionally say yes in red, and the lanterns always shine in bright red. Red is therefore essential in gambling. It is best to wear at least red underwear when playing. If the linen on the body is red, then the gambling gods will also be benevolent.
Many countries know the custom of wearing lucky underwear on New Year’s Eve. In Turkey, people also wear red for good luck in the new year, while in Chile, for example, it is the colour yellow.
The dice in gambling itself are also considered lucky symbols. That is why American women crocheted dice for their husbands during the Second World War to support them. After the war, it became popular to hang these plush dice (fuzzy dice) in the car. The ex-servicemen often held illegal car races and so the plush dice became a signal that the driver of the car was ready to race. The plush dice can still be found on many a rearview mirror today, but few know the reason for it.
The word “Maneki Neko” probably means something to very few people. But everyone knows what a Maneki Neko looks like. It is the little cat figure from Japan that waves at you from restaurants and shops. You have to decide, however, whether she is supposed to bring you luck or prosperity. If it waves its left paw, it promises luck, the right brings prosperity. In the end, both paws are useful for gamblers. Since the cat is a bit cumbersome to carry around while gambling, you can also try a popular handy lucky symbol from the Middle East. “Fatima’s Hand” usually comes as a small pendant in the form of a richly decorated hand that keeps bad energy and bad luck away from its wearer.
A talisman that takes some getting used to is the rabbit’s paw. This should bring luck especially in the card game. Where the custom comes from and why it is practiced in many different countries is unclear. Both in Europe, as well as from North to South America, the alleged power of the left paw is known.
Animal-friendly is certainly the very personal lucky charm that you have been secretly carrying in your pocket for years.
The Roman goddess of fortune Fortuna is probably familiar to everyone. She is the symbol of the game of life, which rewards people with luck or punishes them with bad luck. Fate and chance unite in her, for no one has a guarantee that the goddess with the cornucopia will pour out her gifts upon him. The Romans and also the Greeks worshipped her as the giver of fate. In addition to her attribute, the cornucopia, she is often shown with the “wheel of fate” and an oar, which is supposed to represent the guidance of good and bad luck. In Rome alone, there were a total of 30 temples dedicated to the goddess of guided chance. This proves how popular the goddess was in antiquity and probably also that the Romans could always use a special portion of luck. Almost as popular was her Greek counterpart Tyche, who, however, was particularly reminiscent of merciless chance and its dark sides. Her Amazonian nature gave her a warlike aura. Fortuna, on the other hand, gives everything her cornucopia has to offer. But she chooses the winners very carefully. Even Christianity could not eradicate the belief in Fortuna. On the contrary, in the monasteries of the Middle Ages she was even worshipped as God’s servant, and at the universities of the 13th century she was supposed to give good luck in exams. This was not at all compatible with Christian theology. But who cares about theology when you need luck. Fortuna became the patron saint of gamblers, the wheel of fate became the roulette wheel. Many casinos have images, statues and symbols of Fortuna in some way, so they have become her “temples of modern times”.
Not so well known, but revered nonetheless, is the actual Christian patroness of gambling. After all, Christianity has its saints for all walks of life. Corona was an early Christian martyr from the Middle East who suffered the dire fate of being torn in two pieces. However, she did not receive this punishment because she was a sinner who was addicted to gambling. She had supported another martyr and her help was her own undoing. The reason why she became the protector of gamblers is her name. Corona is Latin and means “crown”. A crown is known to be made of valuable gold and many monetary currencies were and are called crowns. The game for money is therefore supervised by the crowned martyr who even has places of pilgrimage in Bavaria and Austria. So if you want to find out whether Holy Corona is actually so generous with money, you should go to the mountains. The so-called “Corona prayer”, to be found in magic books until the 17th century, also helps with treasure hunts.
However, Corona never quite caught up with Fortuna’s popularity. In the 18th and 19th centuries in particular, the image of Fortuna was represented everywhere in European casinos, whether as a statue or token depiction. And even today many gamblers send a quick prayer to the lady with the cornucopia.
Although gambling is strictly forbidden in India, Hindus nevertheless have a time when they are only too happy to gamble for money. They have an occasion for this that the Indian family looks forward to all year round: the Diwali festival, which usually takes place in November. It is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of luck. Lakshmi is the goddess of material luck, so very specifically a lady who brings cash. That’s why people give away gold especially during the time of her festival. And: cosy family homes become gambling dens. At the time of Lakshmi, people bet, play poker and throw dice for all they’re worth. The stakes are usually very high, after all, Lakshmi has been attracted by all the shiny things and now distributes her good fortune. In India, there are a lot of police raids at this time of year in order to stamp out illegal gambling. But hardly any Indian lets himself be dissuaded from the luring profit by his goddess of fortune.
So if Fortuna has only been moderately merciful so far, why not go to the casino for the Diwali festival? Indians swear by it.
Human perception is built on selection. Without selection, we cannot classify the world and its events. The brain usually does this work automatically, without us consciously perceiving it. Positively perceived events settle directly in our head and, of course, the things that were present at this event. As soon as one simulates this situation with its circumstances and succeeds again, it easily becomes a ritual. Everything we do, we put in a causal context. This also means that absolutely every person has a tendency to magical thinking, that is, a tendency to superstition.
A kind of illusion of control makes us believe that we have an influence on the result due to certain factors. Superstition is not quite so nonsensical. He can be a factor in the” Self-fulfilling Prophecy.” This phenomenon says that one’s own behavior and attitude moves events, and the behavior of others to the positive or negative. If you go into an exam with the conviction that you will fail, then you will most likely fail.
Human perception is built on selection. Without selection, we cannot classify the world and its events. The brain usually does this work automatically, without our consciously being aware of it. Positively perceived events become directly fixed in our minds and, of course, the things that were present at this event. As soon as we simulate this situation with its circumstances and succeed again, it easily becomes a ritual. We put everything we do into a causal context. This also means that absolutely everyone has a tendency towards magical thinking, that is, a tendency towards superstition.
A kind of illusion of control makes us believe that we have an influence on the outcome through certain factors. Superstition is not quite so nonsensical. It can be a factor in the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. This phenomenon states that one’s own behaviour and attitude will move events and behaviour of others to the positive or negative. If you go into an exam with the conviction that you will fail, you are likely to fail.
Conviction of control has been proven to make people more successful. There are numerous studies on this. For example, one was conducted in 2010 with a golf ball. One group of test persons was told that they would play with a lucky ball, others were simply given a ball without comment. The group with the supposedly lucky ball consistently played better. Other psychological studies have shown that the more uncertain a situation is for a person, the more he tends towards superstition.
What could be more uncertain than the rolling ball at the roulette table? Gamblers automatically tend to manufacture starting points for their actions. And if they have their mascot with them, have come through their favourite entrance and are wearing their lucky underwear, it can help them to be more focused and calm.
Probably the best advice for superstitious gamblers is to listen to your gut. People will bet on numbers they find more “likeable” than others, regardless of whether they cross their unlucky legs at the game. No one will actually be unlucky because they counted their money during the game. It’s just that anyone who loses confidence and concentration should leave it alone. Anything that makes you feel good while playing brings good luck!