Everyone that likes a bet will know, deep down, that there’s nothing that they can do to influence the outcome of their wagers. Yes, we can cheer on a participant if we’re physically present when something is happening that we’ve had a punt on and we always have the ability to Cash Out a bet, but other than that there really isn’t very much that we can do to ensure that we get the outcome that we favour.
Even so, there are countless different superstitions that bettors engage in in the hope that it will swing things slightly more in our favour. Those that have their own superstitions won’t want to hear that they won’t make any difference, such is the extent to which they’ll do it anyway even in spite of the evidence showing that it’s a nonsense. Whether it be religious beliefs or touching wood, we do these things because they make us feel better.
The Psychology Of Superstitions
If this wasn’t a site focussed on betting, we could write the entire piece purely around the psychology of superstitions. As it isn’t, however, we’ll just give you a rough idea behind why it is that people engage in superstitions. It’s not just in sport that superstitions take hold either; as many as 80% of high-rise buildings don’t have a 13th floor and airports regularly miss out having a 13th gate.
When you were younger, did you take a good luck charm with you when you were doing an examination? If so, you’re not on your own. A study of Taiwanese consumers revealed that they would pay more money for fewer items as long as the number of items that they’d receive was a lucky amount. Superstitions are everywhere, in spite of the irrational nature of them that even those doing them know and accept.
The reality about superstitions is that they offer a soothing effect for those that engage with them, giving anyone that chooses to engage with a superstition a sense of power when there isn’t any. Superstitions give people ‘a false sense of having control over outer conditions’, in addition to helping to alleviate anxiety, which may in turn lead to improved performance in certain aspects.
Superstitions & Gambling
No gambler is on control of the outcome of their bet once they’ve placed it, which can leave some people feeling helpless. There is some evidence to suggest that ‘positive, luck-enhancing superstitions provide a psychological benefit that can improve skilled performance’; a fact that can lead some people to think it will also five them some benefit even when there is no skill involved in the performance.
There is also a sense of ‘tempting fate’, which is clearly not something that people want to do when it comes to gambling. Someone standing near a craps table mentioning the number seven completely lacks the ability to actually influence the outcome of a throw, but craps players will soon tell them to be quiet or move away from the area because they think it does. Here’s a look at some big gambling superstitions from around the world.
Craps isn’t the only game where lucky numbers come into play. Indeed, there are countless different gambling types that have either lucky or unlucky numbers associated with them. It’s not uncommon for the number 13 to be left blank on roulette tables, for example, given that many in Western cultures consider it to be a number linked to the occult and the paranormal. That said, others will bet on it deliberately.
Numbers can influence eastern bettors in a big way, with numerology being key to how some gamblers bet in the casino. The number four is a good example of this, given that it is close to the Cantonese translation of the word ‘die’ and is therefore often avoided by players. The number eight, on the other hand, is a lucky one and is often embraced by players from the east for that very reason.
Don’t Watch Things Happen
Have you ever been to a casino and see someone place a bet and then walk away from the table altogether? This is something that is common at roulette wheels, with punters not keen to watch how their bet plays out. For some, the idea is that watching the outcome of a race will cause it to go wrong, so they’ll come and place their bets on their numbers but then walk away before the wheel is spun.
Interestingly, this is a superstition that has also passed over to sports. It’s not uncommon for a diver to climb out of the pool and not look at the board when their score is shown, for example. As with most superstitions, what works for some people doesn’t work for others and you’ll get those that refuse to look away from the wheel as it is spinning for fear of breaking the spell that they have over it.
Red Is Lucky
Evertonians look away now, but there are plenty of people in Asia that believe that red is a lucky colour. It is one that means prosperity, so Chinese bettors heading to the casino will refuse to place a bet unless they’ve got some red on them. For many, this will involve wearing red underpants or ensuring that they’ve got a red bra on, but the key thing is that they don’t want to place a bet without some red on their person.
Quite where the idea of red being lucky has come from isn’t clear. There are some that believe it comes from the fact that the sun and fire are both reddish, whilst others would suggest that it’s because red is the colour of blood. Red is the colour of choice for Chinese weddings, though whether that is because it is considered lucky or it is considered lucky because it is used in weddings isn’t exactly clear.
Counting & Lending Money
For some, the idea of counting your money in front of other players is bad luck. This might well have come from the fact that it is seen as bad manners and unsporting to sit and count your money in front of fellow gamblers, leading to the idea that it will bring you bad luck. Perhaps this is based around the notion of you ‘rubbing it in’ that you have more money than others, therefore making you open for criticism.
In addition to not counting money, another thing that bettors should avoid doing is lending their money to other gamblers. The idea that you’d be willing to ‘give money away’ is seen as bringing bad luck to you. It may well seem like a generous gesture at the time that you make it, with the people on the receiving end doubtless grateful for your charity, but if you are no longer encouraging money to come to you then you only have yourself to blame.
Everyone knows that you should cross your fingers for good luck. According to some, this idea comes from the world of Christianity and the idea that invoking Christ’s cross would bring good fortune. Others believe that the Pagans were the ones to do it originally, with the cross being a symbol of good fortune. As with many other things, Christianity merely absorbed this habit when the religion became popular.
It might well be good fortune to cross your fingers, but did you know that it’s bad luck to cross your legs? Strictly speaking, you should avoid crossing your legs when you’re in the process of placing a bet because this action will ‘cross out’ any luck you might be due to receive. It’s why you’ll often see people sitting at casino tables with their legs firmly uncrosses and anyone engaged in crossing them receiving strange stares.
Don’t Go In A Casino’s Front Door
There are some that will leave a casino because they’ve won as much money as they were hoping to win during their time inside, but these people are few and far between. It’s much more common for people to be leaving because they’ve lost all of the money that they were hoping to gamble with, meaning that if you were to cross paths with them on your way in then their poor fortune will rub off on you.
When the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was first opened, it had a giant lion’s mouth as the entrance. To many bettors, especially those from China, this symbolised being eaten alive and was therefore seen as bad fortune. It was replaced in 1998, but many people still don’t like to enter the casino via that door for fear that they’ll be walking past losers and will therefore end up having their bad luck when they set down to bet.
Blowing On Dice
It isn’t always bad luck that casino goers need to think about before engaging with their play. There are numerous things that are thought to bring players luck, with blowing on the dice before rolling them at the craps table being one of them. This might well originate from the film Guys and Dolls in which Marlon Brando’s character explores Lady Luck not to ‘wander all over the room and blow on some other guy’s dice’.
Where exactly this superstition originates from isn’t clear, though some think that it was used by cheats to activate a sticky substance on the side of the dice that they wanted it to land on. Whether that has any basis in reality is unclear, but one thing we do know is that people at the craps table will blow on the dice, ask someone else to blow on the dice or even get anyone they can to blow on them in the hope that it will bring good fortune.
Don’t Get Paid In $50 Bills
Back when Las Vegas was under mob rule, there was a rumour that gangsters would put a $50 bill into the pocket of someone that they had ‘whacked’ before dumping them in the desert. Whether there’s any truth or not in this idea is unclear, but it’s also not that important: the reality is that many American punters are wary of being paid their winnings in $50 notes for fear that it will bring them bad luck.
There’s obviously a bit of a difference between not winning your bet and being murdered and dumped in the sand hundreds of miles from civilisation, but the point is that $50 bills are associated with bad things and bettors really don’t want to be associated with bad things. Obviously those that don’t believe in such superstitions are more than happy to take as many $50 notes as possible before leaving the casino….
Keep The Noises To A Minimum
Gamblers will often chat away to each other or to the dealer, perhaps expressing their nervous energy as they wait to see if their wager will come in. When you attend somewhere like Las Vegas, where everyone is in a party mood, this sense of folk being talkative is even more common. Making that sort of noise is obviously accepted and permitted, but one thing you should never do is whistle or sing.
Anyone that has ever worked in theatre will know that whistling backstage is bad luck, based on the fact that whistles would be used to signal the need to fly scenery into and out of the stage area. When it comes to betting, it’s more seen as being discourteous to whistle and sing around people that are trying to concentrate on making the right decision. Aside from anything else, it’s surely bad luck to anger your fellow players.
Feed The Baby Ghost
Last but not least, it’s another trip to China and this time the need to ‘feed the baby ghost’ before gambling. In China, there is a belief that a baby ghost sits behind bettors at the table and in order to stop it from bringing players bad luck they will feed it sugar. Anyone with kids knows that giving them too much sugar is never a good thing, but maybe it works differently when the ghost is of a supernatural nature?
Regardless, Chinese players will want some sugar that they can use to feed the ghost before the get involved in any gambling. Given that they’ll also be wearing red, avoiding the number seven and doing any other variation of superstitious things, perhaps ensuring that they’ve got some sugar is the least that casinos can do. It’s not just a case of them having a sweet tooth they want satisfied before they’ll play blackjack.