Luck Be A Lady, Tonight...I Hope
Professors W. Scott Wood and Maria Clapham say the two most common cognitive errors are the belief that the player possesses some sort of control over games of chance by their skills or through superstitious influence.
Wood said, "The first belief is an illusion of control. For example, they may believe that if they watch slots closely and see one lose over and over then the machine is 'due' for a payout." Also, the more "skill" the gambler believed was involved, the more the gambler is apt to bet, and continue betting.
In Ellen Langer's "Illusion of Control" study, they noticed gamblers would roll the dice really hard if they needed a high number, and rolled the dice softer if they need a low number. All of these behaviors border on idiotic, and how you throw the dice has nothing to do with the outcome. It's pure probability, but the gambler has this need to feel they have control, and they often believe they have that control.
The Illusion of Control phenomenon is supported by a well known group of misconceptions called The Gambler's Fallacy:
A random event is more likely to occur because it has not happened for a period of time;
A random event is less likely to occur because it has not happened for a period of time;
A random event is more likely to occur because it recently happened; and
A random event is less likely to occur because it recently happened.
Take the coin toss for example, if heads comes up 4 times in a row, people are apt to say, "Tails" because tails is due. This is incorrect, as coin tosses - like gambling - is based on only one thing...probability. Probability, like any math, doesn't bend for anybody. Even if "Daddy needs a new pair of shoes." If the coin comes up heads 100 times in a row, the probablility of it being tails on the next flip is still going to be 50/50.
The second cognitive error is superstition, Wood said. This is a belief that has to do with how lucky you are. Some call it "magical thinking," mojo, karma, or just plain luck. A wiseman once said, "In my experience, there's no such thing as luck" - Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Superstition is a strange thing to discuss, as it makes no sense, yet people hang onto these illogical beliefs. In some forms, the belief you are lucky is a good thing, as it's a form of positive thinking - and there is a correlation between people who feel good fortune continually is bestowed upon them and real success in life.
But when it comes to gambling, there are a couple things to keep in mind:
1) You do NOT have control over the outcome in games of chance, and luck won't make you a winner. It's all based on probability (some games, like Poker, have an element of skill involved). If you win at roulette, for example, the laws of probability say that it was bound to land on Red 33 sometime, and you just happened to have your chips in the "right place at the right time."
2) Overall, the House always wins. The more you play, odds are the more you're going to lose. It's funny how people kid themselves with this fact. You think the House doesn't do well? How do you think the Bellagio paid for that single $500,000 chandelier? Or how do you think Caesar's Palace was able to afford that incredible fountain? It's all built by the gamblers that have paid the price.
3) Numerous studies have shown that there is a correlation between problems in brain chemistry and problems with gambling. "A monetary reward in a gambling-like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine,” reports Dr. Hans Breiter, MD, Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Center in the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Addiction to drugs, food, sex, and gambling all have extremely similar natures, and science is working to discover in detail how all this works and how to help those with addictions.
If you're not addicted to gambling, you'll probably still cling onto one of these cognitive errors anyway. And if you ARE addicted, you're not paying attention to any of this anyway. However, I am one of those that still clings on to the belief in luck, and for those fellow superstitious people out there, here's a list of lucky charms that just might help you win big. Good luck!
From The Gambler's Luck:
chamomile hand wash
horseshoe plastic key ring from Mexico
John the Conqueror root
mojo bag containg gambler's lucky charms
money bags on an American charm bracelet
raccoon penis bone
skull figural candle
skull as gambler's lucky charm
slot machine key ring charm