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Gambling Superstitions and Lucky Charms – The Irrational Quest to Control Lady Luck

lucky gamblingGambling is steeped in superstition. Since the dawn of casino gambling, players have come to believe in certain rituals and practices that can influence their luck at the tables or slots. While most of these superstitions lack scientific backing, they remain prevalent in gambling culture.

This article will explore some of the most common gambling superstitions and explain why players cling to these beliefs. We’ll also look at some of the origins of these superstitions. While Lady Luck ultimately decides our fate in gambling, these habits give players a sense of control and hope.

Common Gambling Superstitions

Here are some of the most widespread superstitious beliefs and practices among gamblers.

Lucky Charms

Many gamblers have good luck charms or talismans that they always carry when visiting a casino. These objects supposedly have mystical powers that can bring luck and big wins. Some popular gambling lucky charms include:

  • Rabbit’s Foot is one of the oldest and most iconic lucky charms. It originated centuries ago and remains popular, especially with slot players.
  • Four-Leaf Clover – Discovering a four-leaf clover is considered good luck. Players may carry a real dried clover or a plastic or metal charm.
  • Horseshoe – Said to collect good luck and keep it from running out, with points facing up to hold the luck in.
  • Crystals – Various crystals like aventurine, tiger’s eye, and jade are thought to have lucky vibrations.
  • Crickets – Live crickets in small cages are a quirky good luck charm. Their “songs” purportedly foretell a big win.

Some players swear that their charm has brought them wins. It likely serves as a placebo that boosts confidence. But there’s no scientific evidence that lucky charms influence outcomes.

Clothing and Appearance

How gamblers dress and look is rife with superstition. Here are some appearance-related beliefs:

  • Wearing red underwear brings good luck, especially for women players.
  • Dressing up sharp and looking your best brings a winning aura.
  • Wearing your “lucky shirt” or other item of clothing you associate with past wins increases your chances.
  • Carrying new, unscratched lottery tickets can improve your luck.

Like with lucky charms, there is no proof these practices work. But putting effort into your appearance can lift confidence and put you in a winning mindset.

Pre-Game Rituals

Many players engage in quirky rituals before they gamble, hoping to summon Lady Luck. Common examples include:

  • Blowing on dice before a roll
  • Wiggling and caressing slot machine handles
  • Rubbing table cards before the deal
  • Crossing fingers
  • Saying prayers or mantras
  • Bouncing a chip several times before betting

Again, these rituals have no statistical effect. But following the same habits each time can put some players in a focused, optimistic mind. Consistency is more important than the activity itself.


Gamblers also abide by various taboos – actions or behaviors they believe invite lousy luck:

  • Knocking on wood after a win to avoid jinxing your streak.
  • Not changing seats during a hot streak or always sitting in the same “lucky seat.”
  • I’m not betting against active military members.
  • Never say the word “lucky” or “winning streak” aloud.
  • Refusing to continue play after three losses in a row.

As with the rituals, avoiding certain behaviors gives players a feeling of control. The taboos help explain away losses stemming from not following the superstitions.

Origins of Common Gambling Superstitions

Many gambling superstitions spring from ancient practices and beliefs. Here are the origins of some common examples:

  • Four-leaf clover – Thought by the Celts to help humans see through the glamour of fairies and ward off bad luck.
  • Rabbit’s Foot – Ties to African folk magic and hoodoo practices meant to tap into a rabbit’s fertility and speed for luck.
  • Blowing on dice – Believed to imbue one’s essence to influence the roll. It is also thought to ward off unlucky spirits interfering with the dice.
  • Crossing fingers – Traces back to early Christian days when common folk would cross their fingers to form a small cross for protection from evil and misfortune.
  • Knocking on wood – Hearkens back to pagan cultures that believed in tree spirits. Knocking was thought to rouse their power to undo a jinx.

While these supernatural origins are dubious, they reveal how humans have long strived to control luck. Gambling superstitions carry on these ancient traditions.

The Psychology Behind Gambling Superstitions

Though superstitious beliefs lack scientific merit, psychological factors explain their appeal and persistence:

  • Perceived control – Superstitions give players a sense of influencing outcomes despite random results. This psychological control is comforting.
  • Selective memory – Players remember and give undue weight to wins after performing rituals vs. forgotten losses.
  • Confirmation bias – People notice evidence that confirms (“I won wearing red!”) rather than denies superstitions.
  • Self-attribution – Winning because of particular actions rather than accepting it as luck.
  • Communal bonding – Sharing and following common superstitions creates camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

While irrational, superstitions provide a valuable psychological boost. As long as they don’t become detrimental obsessions, they help many players enjoy gambling more.

Fun Facts About Gambling Superstitions

  • Prolific poker player Puggy Pearson always carried three oranges for luck during games.
  • John Wayne carried a 1927 silver dollar on all movie sets, citing it as his lucky charm.
  • Famed rapper Drake has been known to blow on dice and use similar rituals before big bets.
  • The number 7 is hugely lucky in slot machine culture, with games packed with seven symbols and features like “777” jackpots.
  • Gamblers often cite birds pooping on them as bringing unexpectedly good luck.

Should You Buy Into Superstitions?

There’s no evidence that superstitious rituals or taboos alter gambling odds or cause-specific outcomes. Belief in luck is down to personal preference and psychology. However, some benefits may include:

  • Fun – Leaning into superstitions can add whimsy and humor to the gambling experience.
  • Optimism – Perceived lucky practices foster a positive attitude.
  • Coping – Superstitions help explain losses as not having your “lucky charm.”
  • Confidence – Quirky rituals can have a placebo effect that instills self-assurance.
  • Camaraderie – Sharing beliefs with fellow players bonds you over everyday habits.

As long as you maintain perspective, a touch of superstition can enhance gambling purely through psychological factors. Just don’t let rituals become unhealthy obsessions. Ultimately, success depends on skill and chance – not actions like rubbing a rabbit’s Foot. But it never hurts to have a little extra magic on your side!

Tips for Incorporating Superstitions

If you want to test out some superstitious practices, here are tips for doing so productively:

  • Adopt rituals you find fun rather than from a sense of obligation. Let them be lighthearted.
  • Use charms and talismans with personal meaning – don’t just buy some generic “lucky rabbit’s foot.”
  • Don’t go overboard. Limit rituals and charms to a few you genuinely enjoy.
  • See superstitions as entertainment rather than a path to guaranteed wins.
  • Be willing sometimes not to follow rituals so they don’t rule your gambling experience.
  • Balance rituals and taboos – don’t just focus on the positives.
  • Don’t take losses during a ritual as a sign it “doesn’t work.” It’s just randomness.
  • If a superstition starts feeling like an unhealthy obsession, step back.

A touch of superstition can be harmless fun. But keep the proper perspective so that magical thinking goes only a little.

Famous Examples of Gambling Superstition

Throughout history, many prominent gamblers integrated rituals and lucky objects into their play:

  • Wild West gunslinger Doc Holliday always wore a cross pendant, silver dollar, and belt buckle during poker games.
  • Billionaire Aristotle Onassis carried a personal “lucky gold coin” with him everywhere.
  • Chess master Bobby Fischer was obsessed with the numbers 13 and 64, demanding rooms on the 13th floor with 64 squares.
  • Tennis ace Serena Williams bounces the ball five times before her first serve of a match.
  • Michael Jordan wore his old University of North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform every game.
  • Legendary horse trainer Bob Baffert has jockeys wear purple when racing in the Kentucky Derby.

While pros don’t think superstitions sway outcomes, habits can help calm nerves and focus under pressure.

Unusual Cultural Gambling Superstitions

gamblingGambling superstitions also manifest in fascinating ways across different cultures:

  • In China, the number 8 is believed to be lucky since it sounds similar to the word for “prosperity.” Elevators often skip the 4th floors but have 8th and 18th floors.
  • Brazilians consider the number 13 highly lucky rather than unlucky. Lotteries offer games specially devoted to the number 13.
  • Many Native American tribes have taboos against playing dice games at night – it’s thought to bring evil spirits and luck.
  • In Japan, Daruma dolls with blank eyes are common casino talismans. You fill in one eye when making a wish and the other when it comes true.
  • In Italian culture, Study coral and horseshoe charms are thought to offer protection from the “Evil Eye” and bring good gambling fortune.

Superstitions reveal fascinating aspects of human psychology and culture. While irrational, they continue to imbue gambling with added charisma and appeal.

Key Takeaways

  • Gambling superstitions like lucky rituals, charms, and taboos remain widespread despite no scientific backing.
  • The origins of many superstitions trace back centuries to early spiritual practices.
  • Psychological factors like perceived control and confirmation bias help superstitions persist.
  • When used responsibly, superstitions can enhance gambling enjoyment through optimism and fun.
  • However, take care not to let superstitions fuel unhealthy obsessions.

So don’t be afraid to engage your inner occultist and embrace some whimsical rituals or charms at the casino. Just keep lady logic by your side, and remember, it’s all just for entertainment. Shakespeare wrote, “The mind makes the body rich.”

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