Do you say ‘touch wood’? Are you careful to avoid walking under ladders? Is it panic stations when a black cat crosses your path? Have you got a lucky charm that you always take to the casino?
In February and March this year, there are two Friday the thirteenths. Will you be hiding behind the curtains or throwing caution to the wind and logging on to your favourite online casino?
Always After Me Lucky Charms
Believe it or not, in the USA only 40 per cent of the population believe in evolution. At the same time, more than half have some kind of superstition: from knocking on wood, to opening umbrellas indoors, and lucky charms.
In the world of gaming, luck plays a huge role. Certain classic casino games like blackjack and poker have a degree of strategy which can help the skilled player maximise his or her return.
However, games of pure chance – like roulette or keno – depend entirely on the turn of the wheel and the good will of Lady Luck.
Shakes and Ladders
Superstition is broadly defined as ‘an irrational belief or action that is inconsistent with science’. It’s also completely random, deep rooted in the human psyche, and enduring.
“Halloween is an advertisement for superstitions,” says Tom Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University. “One of the interesting things about superstitions is their seemingly arbitrary nature. Why 13? Why black cats? Why ladders. Don’t walk under that ladder – it has no rational bearing.
“But now you feel like you’re tempting fate and the outcome could be worse because you deliberately did something that people told you not to do. Superstitions have the power to overcome your rational brain,” he said.
When it comes to casinos, superstition, and luck, Chinese gamblers are probably the most wary. They serve up an all-you-can-eat buffet of routines, rules, and rituals to maximise their winning potential at the tables.
If you’re playing craps in Macau, here are some hints to boost your luck and help you avoid incurring the wrath of your fellow players.
Feng Shui plays a huge part in the Chinese game. According to this ancient philosophy, the world is full of both positive and negative chi which can be manipulated.
Entering a casino through the main door is considered unlucky. Players should try to enter from the west and then keep to the west side of the room. It’s also auspicious to find a spot where you can see the door.
Wear red. Red – as you can see from the Chinese flag – is considered the lucky colour and represents joy and good fortune. To ensure a winning streak on the slots, make sure your budgie smugglers or lingerie is of a cerise persuasion.
Avoid books. A lot of Chinese superstition is based on language and words sounding similar. The Chinese word for book sound like the word ‘lose’ making the complete works of Shakespeare a faux pas at the pai gow party.
No Sex Please, We’re Blackjack Players…
No sex and no shoulders: physical contact is frowned upon. It’s considered both rude and bad luck to touch someone’s shoulder when they are at the tables. It’s also unlucky to have sex before hitting the casino.
There are many more Chinese superstitions. Numbers are critical – the number 8 is the luckiest. An inward belly button is auspicious. You must feed the baby ghost behind every gambler. You should leave the lights on at home. The list goes on.
It’s not just the Chinese who are superstitious. Franklin D Roosevelt suffered with paraskevidekatriaphobia and would never travel on Friday the 13th. Guns N Roses singer Axl Rose refuses to play in any city beginning with the letter M, believing the letter is cursed.
Even weirder: Transformers star Megan Fox always listens to Britney Spears when she flies because she believes it is not her destiny ‘to die listening to a Britney Spears album’.
Believe it or not, superstition can make a difference. Researchers found that anxiety and nervousness can affect performance. This is why professional athletes are very susceptible to superstition.
The Good News (Just as Well You Crossed Your Fingers)
If a lucky charm or specific routine can reduce anxiety, it can improve performance by making the player more confident. This has been scientifically tested.
Researchers gave two sets of golf balls to different groups of players. One group was told the balls were ‘lucky’. The lucky group were 35 per cent more likely to make their putts. Perception can aid performance.
Poker players know the phrase ‘in the pocket’ and casino players can be ‘on a roll’. Confidence can improve decision making and – by default – improve the outcome.
So… Don’t by shy. The next time you are enjoying a little online action at your favourite casino, feel free to play with your left hand, wear red pants, glue a lucky horseshoe to the monitor, or walk backwards patting your head after every win. It might just improve your game!