Gambling presents a strange juxtaposition between cold, hard mathematical certainty and concepts such as ‘luck’ and ‘superstition’. In fact, the biggest difference between the amateur and professional gambler. The professional is acutely aware of the ‘math of gambling’ and places his wagers accordingly. The amateur often makes decisions that defy the mathematical realities.
Video poker is a perfect example of a game that operates within a strict framework of mathematical certainty. Despite this, video poker players are among the most superstitious players in the casino. Some superstitions are harmless while others cause players to lose money and need to be avoided. Here are three such superstitions:
“I’M DUE TO WIN”
The ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ is a well known logical fallacy that as the name suggests is frequently used as a rationalization by gamblers. Simply put, it’s the belief that the outcome of a completely random event is influenced by previous outcomes. For example, a coin flip has a 50% chance of landing ‘heads’ and a 50% of landing ‘tails’. Every flip is an independent event. Yet some people believe that if a coin lands ‘heads’ 8 straight times that it’s more likely that flip #9 will be ‘tails’. This is not the case. The probability of a ‘tails’ outcome is the same on flip #9 as it is on flip #1–50%.
This is true on a ‘macro’ level just as it on a ‘micro’ level. A gambler is not more likely to have a winning video poker session if he’s had several consecutive losing sessions. The machine and the math behind it simply doesn’t care about the player or his circumstances. The odds of a winning session are the same for a player that has hit a series of jackpots as it is for a player on a losing streak.
“THE MACHINE IS DUE TO PAY”
Similar to the concept above. There’s a myth that after a player has put a certain amount of money in a machine that it is ‘set’ to go onto a ‘payout cycle’ and give some of it back. Once again, that’s not the case. The video poker machine is governed by a random number generator (RNG) that is programmed to–as the name suggests–deliver a completely random outcome on every hand. The RNG ‘doesn’t care’ if you’ve pumped a few hundred dollars into a machine or hit a jackpot on the previous hand. It is going to spit out a random number and provide a randomized outcome.
There are several corollaries to this superstition–a player who has won some money on a machine can erroneously conclude that it is on a ‘pay cycle’ and that he’ll continue winning money until it ends. A player might also think that he can leave a ‘cold’ machine and find a ‘hot’ machine elsewhere in a casino or even in a different casino.
“THE CASINO ‘FLIPS A SWITCH’ TO MAKE MACHINES PAY AT CERTAIN TIMES”
One of the serious misgivings of many gamblers is that the casino has more ‘real time’ control over payouts than they do. They don’t because they don’t need to. The math is always in their favor. They know that in the long term they’re going to hold a certain percentage of money so all they need to do is keep players betting. They can’t ‘flip a switch’ to make the machines ‘tighter’ or ‘looser’ in real time.