Common Gambling Myths
Gambling is most likely as old as civilisation itself: people have been placing wagers for millenia, making and losing fortunes in the process. The instinct to gamble is universal: the act of measuring risk and reward, trying to get something for essentially nothing, is the same from a $20 wager with your friend to the dizzying jackpots of high-level poker tournaments.
Also universal, and also very human, are the preconceptions and fallacies we fall into when gambling. These gambling myths range from the fantastical (‘I have a lucky object that makes me win’) to the seemingly rational (‘If I keep playing, I’ll eventually win’), but they are shared by players across history and throughout the world. Separating myths and fact can be difficult, but it is an important step if you want to be a responsible gambler and enjoy the thrill of playing without losing your common sense – and all your money – in the process.
Myth #1: I’m Due a Win
You know your myths and facts, and on a rational level you probably know that this is a myth. But instinctively, you also feel that a win is coming up. You’ve lost so many times in a row now that your luck has to change: it’s pure statistics!
Well, by now you should probably know better, and you should know about gambler’s fallacy, which is pretty much the technical name for thinking you are ‘due a win’. As players, we tend to believe that our odds even out in the long run, and in a way, we are right: the odds will eventually balance out. However, we tend to completely misjudge what ‘eventually’ means. Think of heads or tails: yes, heads is likely to come up half the time, but that’s over thousands of tosses. There is not a mechanism in the coin that says ‘well, heads has come up five times in a row, it’s time for tails’: every toss is independent, and you are, quite simply, not due a win.
Myth #2: The More I Play, the Better I’ll Get
This is a tricky one to distinguish myth and fact, because there is an element of truth to it in some games. For example, no amount of playing slots is going to make you ‘better’ at it: you can learn to manage your money better, but the events of the game are completely up to chance.
However, some games do have an element of skill, which is where this gambling myth becomes blurry; the best and most popular example is of course poker. You can be a good poker player or a bad one, and experience will make you better at things like bluffing, identifying your opponents’ weaknesses and patterns, or even simply doing quick maths in your head. A good poker player is more likely to win than a bad one. But of course, it’s not that simple: like any other gambling activity, it is a game of chance. The worst player at the table can have a royal flush, and in that case there’s nothing years of experience can do for you.
Myth #3: My Lucky Charm/Shirt/Number Will Help Me Win
It almost seems strange to point this out when separating myths and fact, because most players don’t believe in magic, but there is no lucky object that can make you more likely to win. This also goes for lucky numbers, lucky cards, or lucky seats at the table. None of those things have any bearing on your chance to win.
Most players know this, and still like to preserve their lucky rituals anyways. Some people simply find it fun, some feel more confident with their lucky objects, whilst some just use a lucky number because it’s as good as any other. These are all perfectly normal and healthy attitudes – the ‘lucky’ gambling myth only becomes a problem when a player believes so completely in it that they will take huge risks because they feel somehow protected. So remember: it’s ok to like your rituals, but don’t let them give you a false sense of security.
Myth #4: I Have a System
This gambling myth is similar to the previous two, but involves specifically any ‘system’ that a player claims to have developed that will make them win. These are especially popular in completely chance-based games such as roulette, slots, or baccarat. Betting strategies that allow you to manage your money and keep your gambling under control are a valid and intelligent way to play; thinking that they’ll guarantee you a win is not.
A pattern is of course emerging here: never think that you’ve found a way to beat the game. You haven’t. The number of genius players who can say to have ‘beat the game’, whichever game that is, can be counted on your fingers. Any strategy which genuinely guarantees a win is by that very merit cheating, and casinos are better equipped to identify and deal with cheating than you are to develop a game-changing strategy. If you want to enjoy gambling and be a good player, embrace gambling for what it is, and for what makes it fun: risk.
Myth #5: Free Online Casino Games are Harmless
Online gambling websites have opened up gambling to the world, and you can now play pretty much any casino game anytime, anywhere. You can also find and play a free version of any casino game, without any payout of course, in a few clicks. For many, this seems like the ideal solution to people who enjoy the games themselves but don’t want to risk their money.
It is probably most popular on either end of the gambling spectrum: inexperienced players trying to build some confidence and practice, and players who have played so much they have lost large sums of money. Both don’t want to lose money, and understand that they will if they play in regular casinos, so they go to a ‘.net’ free site instead.
However, it is important to remember why these websites exist: they are designed, in every way, to get players to go to a paid website instead. They are easier to win, so that you build a false sense of skill or luck: you see yourself ‘winning’ a lot, and almost feel foolish for not having gambled and made that money instead. But don’t be fooled: these websites are good to teach you the ropes of a game before starting off, but they are not the same as real online casinos, and you will probably find yourself being less lucky when you put real money in.