home Casino The Psychology of Luck – How Superstitions Affect Casino Gamblers

The Psychology of Luck – How Superstitions Affect Casino Gamblers

Many gamblers rely on superstitions to improve their luck when gambling, such as carrying the hind leg of a rabbit or an urn with them to bring luck. Others carry lucky coins or amulets for good fortune.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist, conducted extensive studies on luck. His findings include that people who excel at creating, recognizing and acting upon opportunities are likely to be seen as lucky by society at large.


Gamblers desire an abundant amount of cash and good luck. Unfortunately, these two goals cannot be attained simultaneously, so many gamblers rely on superstitions as a means of trying to gain an edge – from touching certain objects or knocking wood to protect against bad luck. Although superstitions might seem silly at first, they can actually help create the illusion of control that allows gamblers to take greater risks.

Psychologer Stuart Vyse’s book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstitions suggests that superstitions provide people with a sense of certainty and predictability. Even nonbelievers follow superstitions because they wish to bring order out of random events even if they do not subscribe to them themselves; the costs involved with adhering to superstitious beliefs are minimal in relation to any potential benefits accruing from adherence.

Vyse and his colleagues discovered in one study that inducing luck-related superstitions improved performance on motor dexterity and cognitive tasks; however, their impact was not uniform across participants; rather it depended upon task type and gender of participants.

Although some superstitions cannot be avoided entirely, many can learn to cope better with them by looking at mental patterns. These patterns could include avoiding certain numbers and days that are considered unlucky in different cultures (for instance the 13 is considered unlucky in some cultures), or considering cultural influences on your beliefs; an anti-pigeon superstition may stem from local culture’s interpretation that these birds represent good luck.

Odds of winning

There are countless superstitions when gambling at the casino, from throwing salt over one’s shoulder or declaring the number 13 unlucky to wearing old North Carolina College shorts under their Chicago Bulls uniform for good luck – these rituals and beliefs can make or break chances at success and some may become self-fulfilling prophecies. Some superstitions can be universal while others are specific – for instance 4 is considered unlucky in Chinese culture as its sound resembles death! Others are more personal: NBA legend Michael Jordan would wear old shorts from North Carolina College under his Chicago Bulls uniform for good luck while refusing performances in cities beginning with “M”, believing this would bring bad fortune.

Psychologists Richard Wiseman has conducted numerous experiments to discover what distinguishes lucky from unlucky people. One experiment involved asking participants to read a newspaper with half pages marked with signs reading “Tell the experimenter you saw this and win PS250”. Wiseman found that more lucky than unlucky participants noticed the sign on half page 1.

Personality and attitude also play an essential role in winning. People who think they’re lucky may take on more challenging tasks, which has an indirect positive effect on their lives by increasing confidence and optimism about the future.

Counting money at the table

Many believe luck to be an arbitrary variable; however, certain individuals can take steps to influence it through superstitious practices. Such habits might include counting money at the table or performing certain rituals or donning lucky clothing in an attempt to increase one’s odds of winning and boost confidence levels – yet these rituals may lead to cognitive errors when reasoning about gambling outcomes.

Researchers found in one study that gamblers who believed in good luck tended to regret losses more than wins they experienced and would imagine how much more they could have won had they bet less; this behavior known as upward counterfactual thinking is considered risk factor for gambling addiction.

Studies examining the effects of luck on gambling behaviors revealed that as upward counterfactual thinking increased, so too did money spent by participants gambling. This finding corroborated previous research indicating that upward counterfactual thinking is more predictive of behavior than actual results of gambling.

Dixon and other researchers have discovered that gamblers who possess strong levels of belief in luck tend to respond more positively than losses in near-miss situations than losses do, since near misses trigger similar brain activity as wins do and these gamblers with high beliefs in luck sense that these near misses represent closer opportunities than losses.


Framing one’s experiences has an immense effect on their perspective of luck. If you are an optimist, a chance encounter might seem serendipitous and be turned into business opportunity or romance rekindled; while pessimists might interpret it as bad luck and fail to take advantage of what it offers them.

People often believe that certain rituals can enhance their luck. For instance, casino gamblers often cross their fingers to increase their luck while gambling and may visit casinos during less crowded hours as they believe machines pay out more frequently during these times.

Recent research by experimental psychologist Jennifer Johnson and colleagues suggests that to truly feel lucky it’s best to focus on positive aspects of your life. They discovered that people who share stories about lucky events were more likely to feel fortunate than those who focused on unlucky ones; optimism can help create more accurate perceptions of our environment.

Luck has long been a focus of discussion both philosophical and psychological circles, though philosophical literature tends to center around two debates related to ethics and epistemic luck respectively.

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