No matter what kind of gambling game you like to play, you’ll eventually run into someone telling you to believe in your intuition and bet accordingly. In fact, you’ll usually run into someone like that sooner rather than later.
I’ll probably take some heat for this, but I don’t believe in psychic phenomena at all. I have about as much respect for psychics as I do the people selling betting systems. No one has ever presented scientific evidence that anyone who claims to have psychic powers has any true ability.
Sure, some people trust their hunches and win sometimes. Gambling games are, after all, random. If you bet on black at the roulette table, you’ll win 47.37% of the time. That doesn’t make you psychic. It makes you lucky.
That’s the worst of the gambling myths I can think of—that you can somehow use supernatural powers to increase your probability of winning.
Below, I’ve listed 10 more gambling myths and provided you with the actual facts related to each of those myths:
1- It’s Impossible to Be Addicted to Gambling
I hate to admit it, but I used to believe this myth myself. I can only claim ignorance as my defense. I now try to be less opinionated, especially when I’m not sure of the facts.
Multiple scientific and behavioral studies have demonstrated that gambling has as significant an effect on your brain chemistry as alcohol or drugs.
And over time, your brain builds up an immunity to a certain amount of action. You wind up needing to make bigger gambles to get the same “high.”
Gamblers develop the same phenomenon of craving as alcoholics and drug addicts. In fact, people who have already demonstrated a propensity for addiction to alcohol and drugs are more likely to become addicted to gambling.
The same additional symptoms also appear, like denial. It’s better to quit as soon as you notice that you’re starting to behave like a gambling addict rather than to continue to see how long you can go before developing serious life problems.
Just ask any gambling addict who’s lost his wife, his family, and his place to live.
2- The Casinos Rig the Games
In a sense, this is both a fact AND a myth at the same time.
All casino gambling games pay out at odds that aren’t commensurate with the odds of winning. This creates a mathematical edge for the casino that’s impossible to overcome in the long run.
This edge usually hovers between 1% and 5%. That’s the average amount of each bet that the casino expects to win from the player on his action in the long run.
In a sense, this is rigging the game.
But players often think the casinos can and do rig the games in other ways. For example, in the movie Casablanca, Rick instructs his croupier to let one of the players win. In real life, that’s impossible.
A friend of mine suggested to me today that maybe the slot machines know when you’re almost out of money, and they pay off when you’re close to broke so that you’ll play longer. I’m not even sure what the casino’s motivation would be with that one.
But slot machine players are some of the people most likely to believe the most absurd gambling myths. They think machines are programmed to run hot or run cold based on what’s happened previously.
But that’s now how they work. Slot machines are programmed to pay back a certain percentage over time because the payoff amounts are lower than the odds of winning.
For example, you might have a 1 in 1000 chance to win a jackpot of 800 coins.
Why would the casino need to cheat when the payouts are set up like that?
And that’s how all the games are set up. You might have a jackpot of 200 coins, but if the odds of winning that jackpot are 1 in 150, the game needs no other correction, in the long run, to be profitable.
3- The Casinos Place the Loosest Slot Machines on the Ends of Each Row to Attract More Action
This myth seems to come from a book called Break the One-Armed Bandits by Frank Scoblete. He is not the gambling author I’d recommend, so I’m not sure that this was true when that book was first published 25 years ago.
It’s almost certainly not true now. I’ve read reliable reports from people I trust who’ve done both mathematical surveys and discussed with real slot machine technicians the placement of various machines. The results indicate that the placement of these games is almost entirely random.
Even if this were true, it wouldn’t make much difference to your actual results. A “loose” slot machine might have a payback percentage of 95%, while a “tight” slot machine might have a payback percentage of 90%.
Is the amount of each bet that the casino expects to keep, on average, over the long run. It’s the other side of the house edge coin.
If you’re playing a casino game with an edge—and they ALL have an edge—if you play long enough, you’ll eventually lose all your money. Yes, your money might last longer on the looser machines, but that won’t make you more likely to leave a winner.
There are some facts about slot machine placement you can rely on, though. For one thing, the slot machines that are placed in the airports offer lousy payback percentages. The same is true for slot machines in bars or convenience stores.
Since these businesses aren’t competing with other businesses for your slot machine business, they have little incentive to offer competitive payback percentages.
On the other hand, all the casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas are competing with each other in a big way. This is why you can find the best payback percentages in Vegas on the Strip.
The type of slot machine matters, too. A progressive jackpot slot machine keeps a tiny percentage of each bet to fuel the ever-growing jackpot. This comes directly off the payback percentage.
You’re better off playing “flat top” slot machines, which are games with a single, fixed jackpot size.
4- This Other Blackjack Player Is Making Me Lose
Lots of people believe that a player making bad choices can cause the other players at the table to lose. In fact, I know a woman who dealt blackjack in a casino in Oklahoma who was absolutely convinced of this. People playing at 3rd base (the last player to act) are especially likely to be accused of making other players lose.
Sometimes such a player might make a mistake, and the dealer will then win instead of busting.
But it’s just as likely that this player’s mistakes can help you as hurt you.
You must understand that the cards are randomized. There’s no scheme to the order they’re in.
In fact, most of the other players at the table aren’t entirely sure what the correct play is from a mathematical perspective. If you’ve studied your basic strategy (as I’ve recommended in multiple posts on this site), you’ll know the right move in every situation.
And by the same token, don’t ever make the mistake of criticizing another player at the table. Try setting a good example. If you’re smart enough to understand that basic strategy is always right, you’re smart enough to understand that the other players at the table can’t hurt your odds.
5- Putting My Slot Machine Club Card into the Game Affects the Payouts
There’s a well-documented phenomenon in psychology called “confirmation bias.” You’ll find plenty of slots players who claim lots of anecdotal evidence of how much they were winning when they didn’t have their card inserted compared to when they had the card inserted.
This might even be true some of the time, because the results are random. You’d expect there to be some deviation. And sometimes that deviation would coincide with when you didn’t have your card inserted.
But the truth is that the casinos have no incentive OR mechanism to change the payback percentage on the slot machine based on whether you have your card inserted or not.
They have no incentive because they want their players to win a certain percentage of the time so they’ll keep playing. They also want you to use your players’ club card so they can track your results and reward you for your play. They know that the #1 factor in determining a slot machine’s and a casino’s profitability is the amount of time you spend playing.
They have no mechanism because the tracking software is separate from the random number generator (RNG), the computer program that drives the results for the games.
The casinos have the amounts of the rewards set so that they don’t interfere with the theoretical return on their machines.
This is just silly nonsense that slot machine players make up.
6- Someone Else Won MY Jackpot After I Got Up and Left the Machine
Some players think that because they got up from the slot machine, and another player sat down and won a jackpot, that they would have won the jackpot had they stayed there. This demonstrates a misunderstanding of how the results are determined by these machines.
A random number generator (RNG) is a computer program that generates thousands of results per second. When you push the button, it stops on a number.
The probability that you would hit the spin button at the exact millisecond that the other player did is probably 1 in 1000.
Yes, the random number generator is “cycling” through results. But it’s doing so at uncanny speeds. It would be impossible to time or predict results based on that computer program.
7- If Something Happens Multiple Times in a Row, It’s More (or Less) Likely to Happen Again
This is called The Gambler’s Fallacy. It’s the idea that if red was the result on the roulette wheel 8 times in a row, it’s more (or less) likely to land on red on the next spin. Some people think that red has gotten “hot,” so they’ll be red, thinking the streak will continue.
Others think that black is now “due.” This belief is attributed to The Law of Large Numbers, which suggests that the more trials you have, the closer the actual results will come to resemble the predicted results.
Neither of these cases is true in a game made up of independent events.
The formula for an event’s probability is simple. It’s the number of ways an event can happen divided by the total possible number of events.
If we continue with the roulette example, we know that there are 18 different ways to get a red result. There are also 38 possible results. (A roulette wheel has 18 black and 18 red numbers, PLUS 2 green numbers—the 0 and the 00).
The probability of getting a red result is therefore 18/38, or 47.37%.
That probability formula doesn’t change based on the 8 previous results. You still have 18 possible ways to get a red result, and you still 38 possible results.
You can calculate the probability of getting 9 red results in a row. And it is smaller than 47.37%.
When you’re calculating the probability of multiple events, you multiply the probabilities. In this case, the probability of getting red 9 times in a row is:
47.37% X 47.37% X 47.37% X 47.37% X 47.37% X47.37% X47.37% X 47.37% X 47.37% = 0.12%
Those are, indeed, long odds.
But you’re not betting on getting red 9 times in a row. You’re betting on getting red on the next spin, and that probability is still 47.37%.
And 0.12% sounds nearly impossible, but it’s probably more likely than you would think. It should happen once every 833 times you spin the ball 9 times in a row. An average roulette wheel gets spun about 50 times per hour, or 900 times per day, which means that this will probably happen at least one a day in any given casino.
If you were making a bet that the next 9 spins would all land on red, then that would be an entirely different bet than betting on the 9th spin in a series of 9.
8- Online Casinos Are a Scam
This is partially true, because some online casinos are scams. But even those aren’t usually scamming the way you might think. The odds and probabilities that make land-based casinos profitable also make online casinos profitable. They don’t have to cheat or rig their games to make money.
In fact, most online casinos are audited and licensed in some foreign country somewhere. You don’t have to worry about the randomness of the results at most online casinos.
What’s more often a problem is having trouble withdrawing your money from the casino. They know that the longer you leave your money in your account there, the more likely you are to lose it all. So the shady operations will resort to delaying tactics.
They might ask for proof of your identification, then claim they didn’t receive it. You’ll re-send it, then they’ll claim that they couldn’t read it, and they’ll ask you to re-send it again.
Or they might make it really easy to cancel your withdrawal before it’s processed, meaning you can play with that money again. This can be a huge problem for gambling addicts, in fact.
9- You Can’t Make a Living Gambling
If you have a sufficiently large bankroll and a strategy that creates a mathematical long-term edge for you, then yes, you CAN make a living gambling. It isn’t possible with all gambling activities, but it’s certainly possible for the following games/activities:
- 1. Blackjack
- 2. Horse betting
- 3. Poker
- 4. Sports betting
- 5. Video poker
Blackjack players can get an edge over the casino by keeping a rough estimate of the ratio of high cards to low cards left in the deck. When there’s a great probability of being dealt a 10 and an ace, you should bet more. That’s because casinos pay 3 to 2 for a blackjack.
Horse betting experts know how to handicap the horses and the jockeys and compare that to the payout odds to find profitable opportunities. I’m not at all an expert on horse betting, so I’m not sure I could explain getting a profit by betting the horses any more thoroughly than that.
Poker players can get an edge by being a lot better than the other players at the table. But you can’t get an edge by just being a little bit better than the other players. After all, the casino keeps 5% of each pot as part of the rake. So you need to be good enough to overcome the rake AND beat the other players.
Sports bettors find profitable opportunities all the time, in the same way that successful stock market investors find opportunities. That’s because the odds in the sportsbook industry are really just a marketplace. Any time you have a marketplace, there will be inequities in prices. Recognize those inequities, and you can profit big time.
You can’t really make a living playing video poker, because only some games with some pay tables offer you a chance to get an edge over the casino. And most of those games are only available at low stakes. The edge you’d get on such games is so small that you’d be working for less than minimum wage. But I’ve included it on this list because you might be able to live on such a low wager.
10- Gambling Systems Work
You’ll find plenty of people who use betting systems of some kind. Often these are just variations of The Martingale System. Systems like this might work in the short run, but in the long run, they’re no more effective than flat betting.
What these gambling systems don’t take into account is the fact that every time you place a bet at a casino game, you’re betting at a disadvantage to the house. The percent of that disadvantage varies from game to game.
Think about it this way. If I played a coin flip game with you where you won 90 cents every time you win, but I won a dollar every time I won, I’d have a clear mathematical advantage, right?
That’s how the math behind casino games works.
Changing the size of the bets doesn’t alter that.
Using a system like The Martingale System or The Paroli System can be fun, but it can’t turn a negative expectation game into a positive expectation game.
You can find all kinds of myths and misconceptions about gambling, online or off. The best thing to do is ignore as much of the misinformation as possible so that you can make rational decisions based on facts.
Of course, this is just a blog post, so it’s impossible to be comprehensive when listing these kinds of myths and replacing them with facts. If you’re serious about gambling, you should so some thorough research into the subject of probability and how it works.
Probability is just the branch of mathematics that deals with the likelihood of an event happening. I think it’s a branch of mathematics that’s easier to understand that algebra, and certainly easier to understand than calculus.
Once you understand the numbers thoroughly, you’re well on your way to never being fooled by any gambling myth again.