How to Get Rid of Bad Luck in Gambling

Most of the time, gamblers are playing casino games at a disadvantage. Outside of a few specific situations – card counting in blackjack, certain paytables in video poker – casinos host games that give them a mathematical edge. How to get rid of bad luck in gambling? I’m not entirely sure you can, but I’ll take a shot at it in this post.

Because casino games are designed to keep more of your money than they payout, luck is necessary to get those big satisfying casino payouts.

This post is a thorough consideration of the impact of luck on gambling. It includes my thoughts on common misconceptions about luck, and strategies gamblers use to increase their luck at the tables.

What Is Luck in Gambling?

I’m going to talk about how to get rid of your bad gambling. So, it helps if we agree on what the word “luck” even means.

I like the definition in my desktop copy of the Oxford English Dictionary – “success or failure brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

By this definition, finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk is a stroke of luck. Getting hit on the head by a flowerpot that falls out a window is also, by this definition, “bad” luck.

Getting a promotion at work because you turned in big numbers last quarter isn’t because of luck. It’s the result of hard work or some special skill on your part that deserved a reward. Likewise, getting fired because you fell asleep on the job six times isn’t because you have terrible luck. It’s because you have poor sleep hygiene and you’re breaking the rules at your job.

Let’s take it a step further and talk about things that happen in the casino.

What’s good casino luck? If you play a video poker machine and draw a royal flush on your first hand, that’s good luck. You had zero input on the formation of that hand besides placing a bet and hitting the “Deal” button. Winning a progressive jackpot on a slot machine is all luck, too. It’s the result of computer-generated random chance. All you had to do to win was make a qualifying bet and press the “Spin” button.

Not everything in the casino can be attributed to chance. Card counters aren’t the world’s luckiest blackjack players, they’re skilled gamblers with incredible mathematical skills that get an advantage against the casino and work it until it’s profitable. The world’s best poker players may depend a little bit on the luck of the draw, but their skills go beyond simply waiting for the best hands.

What Causes Bad Gambling Luck?

The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Casino game rules are designed to ensure the casino makes money regardless of the ups and downs of player wins and losses. These swings in what we perceive as “luck” as known as variance, a measure of the unpredictable nature of small sample sizes. In layman’s terms, you can’t use just a few outcomes to predict future performance.

Think of it this way – if you flip a coin just once, and it lands on heads, you can’t then assume that all future flips will turn up a heads result. You don’t even get to a predictive ratio of heads to tails at 10 flips or 100 coin flips. It takes about 1,000 coin flips before your heads and tails results are anything close to a 50:50 ratio.

That should tell you all you need to know about assuming you’re having bad luck because of a few bad results in a row.

On my last trip to New Orleans, I stopped in at Harrah’s downtown and spent a couple of hours playing blackjack on one of those stadium machines with multiple players and a big screen with a computer-generated dealer. I was astonished when the dealer drew three naturals in a row. The other players were downright upset, and most of them left the table after the third one.

But, when I investigated the odds of it happening later, I realized that three dealer blackjacks in a row in a two-deck game like I was playing isn’t all that unlikely. In fact, you should see three successive dealer naturals once every 12,000 hands or so. That’s about once every 60 sessions or so, by my math. When you look at it through the lens of the math behind the game, what looked like bad luck turns out to be just a quirk of probability.

It turns out that most of what people call “bad luck” in gambling is the result of a poor sample size or a poor understanding of probability math.

Methods for Improving Gambling Luck

Here’s a quick breakdown of what people typically do in response to bad luck at the casino:

Some people leave.

This might be the most effective remedy for bad luck at blackjack or roulette. Getting up, grabbing your cash or whatever else, and heading for the exit is as good a fix for a casino-related problem as I can think of. Even if a person’s sense of luck is incorrect, and they’d be better off sticking it out and playing a few more hands, the kind of emotional issues people get when they think they’re having bad luck make a grand exit a good cure-all.

Some people gamble more.

It sounds crazy to bet even more when you think you’re on a bad luck streak, but in some cases, it might work. Remember that what we think of as bad luck is just a side effect of playing a game of chance. If a player has lost a lot recently, continuing to play means patiently waiting for some wins to help them progress towards their mean. Having said that, betting more when you’re frustrated is a bad idea, so you should only consider this course of action if you aren’t already playing on tilt.

Some people get superstitious.

These are the people who pull out lucky rabbits’ feet or whatever when they feel like they’re in a bad streak of luck. Lucky totems, lucky clothing, or even lucky behaviors are probably an older form of spiritual practice than what you find in churches today. It’s tough to convince these people that their magic items don’t have any impact on the game’s designed odds and other features – and why would you want to? If that lucky pair of red socks makes a person feel more confident at the table, I say let them wear them.

Some people get angry.

This is by far the most dangerous reaction to experiencing a series of losses. You run the risk of getting in legal trouble from lashing out at someone or doing something else stupid that you’ll regret later. It’s also true that angry gamblers aren’t very good at gambling. That makes anger over bad luck a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. A gambler gets angry because they lose a few hands in a row, and then they gamble stupider because of their anger, which leads to more losses, and on and on. Don’t gamble angry – get up, take a break, or leave the casino altogether.

Most of these people don’t really understand how to get rid of bad luck in gambling.

How to Beat Bad Luck at the Casino

I’m never going to convince 100% of the gambling public that there’s no such thing as bad luck.

I don’t believe in some mysterious spiritual force doling out wins and losses according to an arcane system of merits and demerits. I do believe in probability math, and I’ve seen the guts inside of a slot machine, so I absolutely believe in the power of computers to produce random gambling results.

If you agree with me, then the only way to beat your bad luck at the casino should be obvious – you have to keep playing.

If I’m playing Jacks or Better video poker according to ideal strategy, and I find myself losing a little bit more than I expected based on the game’s paytable and odds, then the last thing I should consider doing is quitting. That would be like selling an investment at its lowest price point rather than waiting for the price to recover to something profitable.

In short, if I’m down a few percent compared to my expectation, I’ve got to keep playing to experience the wins that will bring me back towards my mathematical expectation.

Conclusion – How to Get Rid of Bad Luck in Gambling

If you have had a string of bad luck outcomes on a slot machine or at the craps table, you have a decision to make about how to get rid of bad luck in gambling. Do you stick around, hoping to swing back toward a winning result? Do you take a break, stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat, and wait to go back and play more? The answers to these questions have as much to do with your bankroll strategy as your constitution.

Remember that luck is a function of probability, not judgment from a god on high. Superstitions are fine if they give you confidence or make you feel comfortable at the table, but ultimately the casino is going to hand you less money than you hand to it. That’s the nature of the business, and the nature of the variance baked into casino game rules.

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