Gamblers are a superstitious lot. For a group of people who, literally, rely on luck every day, they have some pretty interesting ways of trying to give themselves an edge – especially when it comes to habits and superstitions.
Superstitions are a part of being human, an attempt to create orderly patterns in an often-chaotic universe. From famous sportspeople to the ordinary Joe going about his day, we all have quirks that we believe influence how and what will happen to us. There are sportspeople who will only wear a certain pair of underpants in every game because it was the undies that they were wearing when they played their first big, winning match.
There are powerful business people who refuse to have haircuts on certain days of the week because reasons. Black cats, walking under ladders, knocking on wood, holding your breath when driving past a graveyard – all small things we do to either invite good fortune into our lives or to keep bad fortune away from us.
And gamblers – the ultimate followers of Lady Luck – have some of the most.
Gambling superstitions are all the little things that gamblers do or wear or believe in that they think can affect their luck. While there are many very personal and individual superstitions, there are also superstitions that seem to be embraced by a large number of online casino and land-based casino gamblers.
Culture plays a huge part in how ‘lucky’ symbols and superstitions are formed and followed, but there are a few that seem to cross cultures and areas and have become almost universal amongst gamblers.
All gamblers have a lucky number. It could be a birthday or anniversary or random digit that just feels lucky. But there are numbers that seem to have a mystical connection across cultures.
The most obvious one is the number 7. 7 has always been a ‘lucky’ number, especially in the Western world. The number 7 is so popular that early slot machines even used it as a jackpot symbol and we still see it across online and land-based casinos today.
There are many theories as to why 7 is considered lucky but most seem to be because of how often it appears in the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu religions. We have 7 Days of Creation, 7 Deadly Sins, 7 Virtues, 7 heavens and 7 periods of creation in Islam, 7 chakras in Hinduism, 7 Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology.
There are 7 days in a week, 7 colours in a rainbow, 7 seas, 7 continents and 7 Wonders of the ancient world.
13 also has a high symbolic resonance among gamblers – both as a lucky and an unlucky number.
13 is considered unlucky in the majority of Western cultures, often attributed to there being 13 guests at Jesus Christ’s Last Supper and sometimes to the fact that King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar on Friday, 13 October 1307.
In France and Italy, 13 is actually considered lucky and the Italian saying ‘fare tredici’ (literally ‘make thirteen’) means to hit the jackpot.
These are just the two most popular numbers for gamblers. Some cultures have entire belief systems based on numbers and the art of numerology and Chinese numerology are systems that some people base every important decision in their lives on.
We all know lucky charms like the rabbit’s foot, the horseshoe and the four-leaf clover. These charms and amulets often have a very personal connection to the gambler, like a poker player keeping the first poker chip they ever won in their pocket as a lucky charm to help them win again, or a gambler keeping a photo of a loved one in his wallet to keep the riches flowing in.
Interestingly, the horseshoe was also a symbol used on the very first slot machine back in the late 1800s.
Red is seen as a very auspicious colour in Chinese culture and you will often see Chinese gamblers wearing red and betting on red at the roulette table.
Much like the sportsperson and the underwear, clothing can also signify luck for some gamblers. Maybe they won big while wearing a particular jacket and now wear it every time they hit the tables to improve their chances of winning.
These are probably the most common superstitions among gamblers – doing something specific each time they gamble to try and attract Lady Luck to their side.
There are thousands of these little gestures and rituals that gamblers use from blowing on the dice in a craps game to crossing their fingers before hitting spin to stacking chips in a certain way to sitting at a certain table or slot to wearing a certain scent when gambling.
Each gambler has their own unique lucky ritual and their own unique reason for thinking it helps.
The flip side of the lucky coin is obviously the unlucky aspect. Some gamblers believe that walking into a casino through the main front entrance is unlucky which is why most casinos have smaller side doors as well.
Gamblers in the US have a strange aversion to $50 bills. Some say that during the days when the Mob controlled Las Vegas they would put a $50 bill in the pocket of their victims before they buried them in the desert. Whatever the reason, American gamblers avoid getting paid out with $50 notes as they are seen to be extremely unlucky.
The one superstition that seems to cross cultures and games is this: don’t count your money at the table.
Maybe it’s seen as gloating. Maybe it’s rude to the other players. Maybe Lady Luck sees your win and decides it’s time for someone else to have a turn.
Whatever the reason, in the words of the Kenny Rogers song ‘The Gambler’:
“You never count your money, sitting at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting, when the dealings done.”