Gamblers might be playing on the latest of tech these days but they look to the past and around the globe when they click spin.
We’re signing into online casino sites via our latest smartphones and will soon be playing 3-D, VR video slots. But we reach back to the ancient past when we enact little rituals or carry charms to bring us good luck – everyone knows it’s nonsense, but that doesn’t stop us going through the pantomime of it.
It’s wrong perhaps to speak of a gambling personality, but gamblers so consistently expect a win after a certain number of losses that that there’s even a fallacy dedicated to this gambling belief. Anecdotally and by observation, it’s fair to say that gamblers – who live their life in games governed by pure luck – love lucky charms and rituals.
Here are 10 from around the globe:
1 – Lucky Number 7
Seven is the world’s favourite number: seven days in a week, seventh heaven, seven sisters, seven colours in the spectrum… this number has considerable cultural heft. It’s ancient too, with the first civilisations numbering seven visible planets in the sky. In the Christian West, God rested on the seventh day after completing his creation. In China, the number seven is also lucky (along with a number of others) because it represents the harmonic unity of yin, yang, and the five elements.
2 – Lucky Number 8
Seven might be a little lucky in China, but odd numbers generally aren’t regarded to well in that culture, and number 8 is the luckiest of all the digits. Apparently this is partly because of the pronunciation of the number, which sounds like a word that means making a lot of money. In-car registrations, building heights, room numbers and more Chinese people love to see a number 8, you can bet they’re going to bet on it too.
3 – Cross Your Fingers
Fingers crossed! Crossing your fingers apparently allows you to lie with impunity (in the UK at least) and it’s also supposed to be good luck. If a player crosses their fingers before picking a card, clicking spin, or chucking a dice then they’re tapping into a long cultural history that may hark back to pre-Christian pagan Europe, or to the early days of Christianity, when believers had to use secret hand signs to recognise each other – the crossed fingers look like the holy “fish” symbol that predates the cross as the prime Christian symbol.
4 – Blowing on Dice
This little ritual may have a practical history. When craps – and other dice games – were played in the streets, a dirty set of dice needed to be blasted clean for a clean roll. Any loading might be applied externally and dislodged via a quick blow.
5 – Unlucky $50 Bills
In the UK, if you see a £50 note you’re very pleased! It’s the largest denomination note in regular circulation. The only downside is that they’re a pain to get changed. American gamblers have a superstitious dislike of the bill with President Ulysses Grant on it that allegedly dates back to the times when Mafia hitmen (the Mob has a long history of involvement in American gambling) would leave a $50 note in the pocket of their victims.
6 – Wear Red
Fans of Liverpool, Manchester United, Bristol City, Wales and many other sporting teams no doubt have an affinity with the colour red – as do communists and socialists – but gamblers in China believe red is lucky. Chinese weddings are red to encourage the “joy, luck, and prosperity” traditionally associated with the colour. The Chinese communist party was unavailable for comment.
7 – The Bad Itchy Hand!
In parts of south-eastern Europe, largely Bulgaria and Serbia, if your hand is itchy it is said to be because you’re about to give away money. If you follow the Bulgarian and Serbian logic you won’t gamble when you have an itchy hand. (This blog is unable to give medical advice, but we don’t think hand-itch is usually serious!)
8 – Unlucky Cards
A couple of cards have a nice historical pedigree to go with their unlucky status. “The Curse of Scotland” is said to be attached to the nine of diamonds, on one of which – it is alleged – John Dalrymple, a government minister, wrote “kill them all” to secretly order the Glen Coe Massacre in 1692. The four of clubs is called the Devil’s Bedposts and is said to turn good hands bad!
9 – Unlucky Combinations
“Wild Bill” Hickok, the legendary gambler of the Old West, was said to have been shot while holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights in a poker hand. So, obviously avoid this “Dead Man’s Hand”. (Also avoid playing with people armed with guns.)
A pair of blackjacks is also said to be unlucky, and a pair of Red jack is said to signal an unknown enemy. Jacks or knaves are linked with untrustworthiness in a number of sayings and proverbs.
10 – Shush!
Whistling or singing while gambling is said to be bad luck. And counting your money is also said to be bad luck.
Both of these superstitions likely fall into a category of “bad luck omens” that are really “bad manners” omens.
If you’re playing in a company, no-one wants to hear your tuneless version of the latest pop hits. And if you’ve just taken a shed-load of cash off someone, don’t fan it out and count it in front of them, it tends to cause ill-feeling.
Superstitions are, of course, nonsense, and we hope you’ll do the sensible thing and prioritise safe play, your own health, and the health of your finances above all. Beyond that, such little rituals can bring a bit of fun and character to your game. Don’t take them too seriously, but if you fancy wearing a four-leaf clover or carrying a particular lucky coin or wearing your lucky pants while you play then, by all means, go for it!