Why Are Gambler So Superstitious?

Image of a Black Cat and an Upset Man at a Roulette Table

Here is the dictionary.com definition of superstition:

Superstition: [ soo-per-stish-uh n ], a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.

We all have our superstitious beliefs, like don’t cross the path of a black cat, don’t walk under a ladder, or make a wish when the clock reads 11:11.

When we were little girls, my sister and I thought if we held our breath when we passed a cemetery until we saw a church, the ghosts of the dead wouldn’t get our souls.

What happens if there is no church for like five miles?

You pass out, Beth. That’s what.

I know because it happened to me.

You know who a very superstitious bunch is?

Gamblers, that’s who.

Is this because this is really a hobby of luck and chance?

Is it because we are human and want to control things that are not humanly possible to control?

This post looks at the popular superstitious beliefs in gambling and why humans (gamblers specifically) are superstitious.

Top 7 Gambling Superstitions

There are a lot of superstitions within the gambling community. Here is a list of the top seven gambling superstitions:

1- $50.00 Bills Are Unlucky

Many gamblers will not accept their payouts in American $50.00 bills. This superstition has Mafia ties. In the heyday of the American Mafia, when a mob member would kill someone, they would leave a $50.00 bill in the victim’s pocket when they buried the body.

2- Wear Red When Gambling

This superstition is tied to Asian cultures, specifically Chinese culture. The Chinese believe that red represents wealth and luck.

If you look closely, many casinos will have red in their décor. A lot of gamblers will wear red shirts or even red socks when they are gambling at a casino.

3- Don’t Enter Through the Main Casino Door(s)

I couldn’t find any history of the explanation of this one. Many gamblers believe that using a side entrance will increase their chances of winning.

Old MGM Grand Las Vegas Lion Sculpture

When the MGM Grand opened in 1996, the casino’s main entrance was through a large lion. This was lousy juju for many visitors.

Not only were they wary of using the main entrance, entering through the beast’s mouth was even more bad luck to some Chinese gamblers.

The MGM eventually changed the entrance to more traditional doors. They replaced the original lion with a 100,000-pound bronze statue of a lion above the entrance.

4- Don’t Count Your Money at the Table

“You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.” ~ “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

It is believed by many gamblers that it’s bad luck to count your money while still at the table. Some casinos take this superstition so seriously that they advise their visitors not to count their money while at their tables.

5- Don’t Cross Your Legs When Gambling

This superstition most likely has ties that go back to a much more polite time. It is said that if you cross your legs while gambling that you will cross out your luck.

I have a theory on this one, and I couldn’t find any history to back the origins of this superstition. So here it is:

Ladies were discouraged from gambling. They’re still are a tiny minority in real money poker tournaments. Women crossed their legs when they sat as per societal rules.

So, if you’re expected to sit when you gamble at a table, you’re (women) expected to cross your legs. If women were discouraged from gambling, a men’s game, then it would make sense it would become a superstition to cross their legs while gambling.

Just my two cents. Do with it what you will.

6- Unlucky Numbers/ Colors

The number 13 has been bad luck as long as I can remember. It even signifies death in some cultures. This superstition goes deeper than gambling.

Have you ever noticed that hotels don’t have a 13th floor?

It’s because of this long-held belief that this is an unlucky number.

Hotels usually do have a 13th floor. It is just not listed on the directory or elevators. This dreaded floor is traditionally used for housekeeping and maintenance needs.

Many gamblers believe that black is an unlucky color. It’s the color equivalent of the number 13.

This superstition is unfortunate for roulette and card game players because black is a significant color. Roulette only has two color choices, red and black.

Could you imagine never betting on black when playing roulette?

You’re cutting your chances in half.

7- No Whistling or Singing at the Table

Whistling or singing at a table is said to anger the gambling gods. To be honest, it’s kind of just plain annoying.

We are all at this table for the same goal — to win some money. Winning money while gambling takes concentration. If someone is singing or whistling at the table, that is distracting. Come on, man.

So besides possibly angering the gambling gods by whistling or singing during a game of Texas hold ’em, you are probably annoying your table mates. Don’t be that guy.

This is not all the superstitions that gamblers have, by any means.

Do any of these works?

Maybe.

But gambling is a combination of skill and chance.

Who knows if they do work?

Humans like to believe they’re in control, and by believing in these superstitious practices, you might just convince yourself you have a leg up.

Why Do Humans (and Gamblers) Believe in Superstitions?

Humans are weird. Let’s just get that on the table. We are the only species that won’t step on a crack in the sidewalk because it could bring us bad luck.

Maybe it’s our highly developed brains that give us the ability to convince ourselves if we do this one thing, this other thing (that has nothing directly to do with the other) won’t happen.

I did some research. I was reading on the basics behind humans’ propensity for superstitious beliefs. I found some interesting stuff.

Besides the fact that we really like to get ourselves worked up into a frenzy of our own making, superstitious beliefs seem to be linked to when we were new to this planet.

If a human, let’s call him Peter, is out hunting and gathering, and he hears grass blowing in the wind, he might run. Last week, Peter heard the same sound, but it was a lion stalking him for dinner.

It doesn’t matter what caused the grass to make noise, Peter knows it could be a threat to his life. Run or be killed. It is better to run, and it’s just the wind than not running and it being an actual lion.

This is a fight or flight response. Peter goes on to teach his family (possibly the tribe) that you should run if the grass makes any noise. Better safe than sorry.

This newfound tactic against the lions has proven to work. Only two people have been killed by the lions this month. So now humans run if the grass makes noise.

As humans evolve, grass making noise in the wind might become a sign of bad luck because of our ancestors’ need to not be eaten alive.

See where this is going?

Humans do what they must to survive. When we first got here, there were a lot of things and animals that could’ve ended us. Because we have such an advanced problem-solving brain, we can make choices that save our lives.

So that grass blowing in the wind could be why now it’s bad luck to whistle at the table.

I don’t know the historical evolution behind whistling, but it makes sense in my head, right?

Chinese New Year Red Paper Lantern Shrine

It’s just like red being a lucky color. Somewhere in the Chinese culture, it gave someone a leg up over someone else. Their luck continues, and now they only wear red when they need good luck.

Red now equals luck in Chinese culture. These beliefs bleed over into other cultures as time goes on. Now red is a universal sign of luck.

The takeaway is that superstitious beliefs evolved out of the need for survival. The grass blowing in the wind was so ingrained in the early human society that when the threat of being a lion’s lunch disappeared, the fear stayed.

That fear evolved with whatever the new or next threat represented. So, Peter’s running from the grass is now not applicable, but it’s part of our evolution. Just like red, 13 is an unlucky number. You get the gist.

When it comes to gambling, we’re looking for the easiest way to increase your luck. Skill will only get you so far. SO that arcane thing that you think helped you win that one time is now a belief. Gamblers are a superstitious crowd and for a good reason.

Conclusion

There are a ton more superstition that I didn’t include. There are some crazy ones out there. Like did you know in Malta, if your right hand itches you’re about to give away a bunch of money?

I’d hate it if it were true.