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Gambling Myths

"Trust your Feelings" - Belief in superstition and psychic powers is for weak people who feel they must have control over forces beyond their control.
It has happened numerous times when one plays blackjack that one becomes the advice giver for about half the other players at the table. Usually when this happens either the dealer or another player will rebuke my advice saying, "trust your feelings" to the person seeking advice.

Many people believe, that if one color has won several times in a row in roulette then the other color is overdue and will bet on it. While the ratio of reds to blacks will always approach 50/50 in the long term it can not be concluded that this will happen in the short term. It does not matter what the history of past spins is, every trial in games of luck like roulette are independent, and each color is equally likely to come up every time.

A common myth at the blackjack table is that a bad player, especially one in the last seat, will disrupt the natural order of the cards and cause everyone to lose. It is true that such a player sometimes will make a play that will result in the dealer beating everybody rather than breaking. However in the short run such a player is just as likely to help you as to hurt you and in the long run they won't make any difference. The cards are in random order and they are not prearranged to make the dealer break assuming correct play. If anyone rebukes you for hitting a stiff hand at third base tell them you'll keep doing so when the odds favor it and if they don't like it they can find another table.

People are much more likely to boast about winning than admit to losing. The fact is that no system can beat a game of luck in the long run.


One of the biggest myths about gambling is that games of luck can be beat by methods of varying bet size to manipulate the odds. Depending on how the system works in the long run you will either sacrifice a few large losses for many small wins or many small losses for a few big wins. In the long run you can't help but lose at games of pure luck. Regardless of what form of betting system you use the ratio of money lost to money bet will always approach the same constant the more you play, this is known in mathematics as the 'Law of Large Numbers.'

The system of players doubling their bet after a loss is generally played on an even money game like the red/black bet in roulette or the pass/don't pass in craps and is known as the Martingale. The reasoning behind those who believe in it is that by doubling your bet after a loss you will always win enough to cover all past losses since the last win plus one unit for every time you win. For example if a player starts at $1 and loses four bets in a row, winning on the fifth, he will have lost $1+$2+$4+$8 = $15 on the four losing bets and won $16 on the fifth bet, covering the losses and showing a profit of $1. The fallacy behind the promise of guaranteed winnings using the Martingale is that occasionally the player will lose several bets in a row and will reach a point where he doesn't have enough money to double.

The bookstores, the Internet, are full of betting systems for sale that usually make vague promises of beating the casino at games of luck. Ask for evidence that the system you are considering has been put through a computer analysis over millions of trials and has shown a profit over the long run. If you ask for this you usually will get a reply saying that in real life nobody plays millions of trials in the casino and that somehow their system works in real life but not when used against a computer simulation. Professionals use computers to model real life problems in just about every field of study but when it comes to betting systems computer analysis becomes "worthless and unreliable".